David Lee Murphy’s ‘Dust on the Bottle’: The Story Behind the Iconic ’90s Country Song

by Clayton Edwards
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David Lee Murphy released his iconic song “Dust on the Bottle” in the summer of 1995. It occupied the number one spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for a week. It was Murphy’s only number one hit and would become his signature song. Hank Williams Jr. has “A Country Boy Can Survive.” The Charlie Daniels Band had “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” And David Lee Murphy had “Dust on the Bottle”.

Murphy recently caught up with Marty Smith on the magic of the timeless tune.

David Lee Murphy Wrote “Dust on the Bottle” at His Kitchen Table

Murphy discussed how “Dust on the Bottle” was written and recorded in an interview with Outsider.com contributor Marty Smith.

Murphy was working on his first album “Out With a Bang.” They were on the second day of recording. The previous day, they had put three songs — including that album’s title track — in the can. David Lee Murphy was riding a wave of excitement as he sat at his kitchen table in his Ashland City, Tennessee home.

Murphy was sipping coffee and killing time before heading to the studio that day. He picked up his guitar and started to play. Before he knew it, he was playing the opening chord progression to what would be his most iconic tune.

Murphy had the title and concept in his mind for a while but never did anything with it. That morning he started working on the tune and it all fell into place. David Lee Murphy told The Boot that he wrote the bulk of the song in about fifteen minutes.

When DLM had the song worked out he called his producer, Tony Brown, and played it for him over the phone. He recalls to Smith, ” I played the song I’d just written to Tony Brown, who was my producer at the time. I said, ‘Man, check this out. I know we got all the songs for this record, but I just wrote this song this morning. He said, ‘Man, we gotta cut it.”

They had to record “Dust on the Bottle.” So, the next day that’s what they did.

“Dust on the Bottle” – Raw, Unrefined, and Perfect

When they went into the studio to record “Dust on the Bottle.” David Lee Murphy hadn’t even written the entire song. The bridge was still unfinished. In an era when country music featured big productions, backup vocals, and all manner of embellishment, they decided to keep the song a little raw.

Besides being a great song, this stripped-down production and relatively simple guitar work made the song stand out from other songs on country radio at the time. This distinction not only helped propel the song and David Lee Murphy to the top but it also predicted the direction in which country music would go in years to come.

The Real-Life Inspiration for “Dust on the Bottle”

The story in “Dust on the Bottle” is told from the perspective of a young man preparing for a date. Before going to pick up his lady friend, the protagonist goes to get a bottle of wine. He doesn’t go get anything off the shelf, though. He wants the night to be special so he goes to pick up a bottle of the finest homemade wine he can find.

In case you haven’t heard it in a while, the opening lines of the song are, “Creole Williams lived down a dirt road/ Made homemade wine like nobody I know.”

It turns out that Creole Williams is a real person.

When talking about the iconic song, David Lee Murphy told Outsider.com, “It was about an old guy that I knew who actually made homemade wine named Creole Williams.” That might be the coolest part of the story. Creole Williams was a friend of Murphy’s cousin and a local character. According to Murphy, when he started writing the song, Mr. Williams was the first thing that came to mind. It was natural and he just went with it.

“He popped into my head as soon as I started writing that song. And it just fell out,” he told Marty Smith.

The Song Aged Like Fine Wine

The iconic song may have only stayed at number one for a week but it hasn’t lost relevance over time. It made David Lee Murphy a star performer and sought-after songwriter. Honestly, with a few adjustments in production, the song would feel right at home on country radio today.

In fact, you can see the track’s influence all over modern country tunes. Think about all the songs about backroads and pretty girls that have been hits in recent years. “Dust on the Bottle” is like the mature older brother of a good chunk of modern country songs.

Murphy told Outsider.com that he was recently in the studio. While there he cut new versions of “Dust on the Bottle” and “Party Crowd” as well as a few songs that he wrote for other artists. He says he doesn’t know how he will release the songs. A new album is a possibility but he may just drop the tracks on streaming services to give the fans something “new and bigger new and bigger to listen to.”

David Lee Murphy Still Writes Hit Songs

David Lee Murphy may have only recorded one number one single, but he has written several. In fact, he recorded his own rendition of three of those number ones while in the studio. “Big Green Tractor,” “Anywhere With You,” and “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?” were all number ones for their performers. We will soon get to hear Murphy’s versions of the tunes.

Murphy has also written songs for several country greats. The list is long but includes stars like Hank Williams Jr., Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, and Kenny Chesney.

Taking “Dust on the Bottle” on the Road

Sometimes Murphy will hit the road with an artist who he writing for if they’re on tour. More often than not, that artist will eventually talk him into getting on stage with them. They inevitably perform “Dust on the Bottle.”

Without fail, fans go nuts before the vocals come in on the first verse. All it takes is that opening guitar riff to get them on their feet. Murphy spent an entire summer on tour with Kenny Chesney. They would play a few songs together but “Dust on the Bottle” always got huge reactions from the crowd.

“I remember the first night of the tour, we did Dust On the Bottle and everybody went nuts,” David Lee Murphy told Outsider.com. “It was really loud. And Kenny’s looking over at me like, ‘Can you believe this sh-?’…” He went on to say, “It was huge for me. And Kenny was so proud for me. I’ve sang it with a bunch of guys. And it’s the same every time – everybody holds up their beer and sings their hearts out right along with us. That touches me more than anything. That gets me.”

Chesney isn’t the only performer to share the stage and the song with Murphy on multiple occasions. Justin Moore has had that honor a few times as well. Of the experience, Moore says, “From the moment the song kicks in, there’s an energy that flows through any venue you play it in, that just simply wasn’t there before. It’s a spiritual type of experience. And we’re talking decades after it came out. Pretty special stuff.”

David Lee Murphy Caught Lightning in a Bottle

“Dust on the Bottle” was released over twenty-five years ago. Many people who loved it when it was released have grown and aged with the song. To many people, it means even more today. Much like the bottle of wine in the song, it might be an older track but people still love it. It was streamed over 20 million times this year just on Spotify. Murphy knew from the start that this song was different.

In the Outsider.com interview, he said “I think I knew it was special right when I started writing it,” he said. “You write so many songs – and I’ve written a bunch of ‘em, some that were good and some not so good. And that one, it’s honest. It’s basic. I wish I knew why it was iconic, because I’d write it again tomorrow.”

In short, Murphy followed his heart and creative instinct to capture lightning in a bottle. “Dust on the Bottle” is a once-in-a-lifetime song and we cannot wait to hear the new version. Until then, we’ll just listen to “Out With a Bang” on repeat. Like good wine, it keeps getting better with age.

Outsider.com