Gary Stewart tragically died in 2003 at the age of 58. However, he would have turned 77 today. So, to celebrate the birth of the King of Honky Tonk, we’re going to look back at some of his biggest hits and best tracks.
“Ramblin’ Man,” the Song that Started it All for Gary Stewart (1973)
Gary Stewart’s first single was a cover of The Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man.” The original song dropped in August of 1973. It was the lead single from their album Brothers and Sisters. They took the song to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Stewart idolized the Allman Brothers, according to CMT. So, recording their most recent single seemed like a natural first step for him. His cut didn’t make it to the top 40. It did however introduce the world to Gary Stewart. At the same time, it got his foot in the door and laid the groundwork for his career.
“Drinkin’ Thing” – Out of Hand (1974)
Gary Stewart pressed his first album, Out of Hand, in 1974. “Drinkin’ Thing” was the lead single from that album. Wayne Carson wrote the song. He also wrote hits like Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind,” and Conway Twitty’s “I Can See the Want To In Your Eyes.” So, it’s no surprise that the combination of Carson’s writing and Stewart’s performance created a top-10 hit. The song peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
Chart success and legendary writer aside, “Drinkin’ Thing,” is one hell of a song.
“Out of Hand” – Out of Hand (1974)
We just don’t get good cheating songs anymore. Now, I’m not endorsing infidelity. I am, however, saying that I love songs about stepping out. “Out of Hand,” proves that they used to be a hot commodity on country radio.
The title track to Gary Stewart’s debut album is a sad, regretful cheating tune. It went to number four on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
“She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” – Out of Hand (1974) Gary Stewart Tops the Chart
It’s hard to talk about Gary Stewart without bringing up “She’s Actin’ Single.” It was his first and only chart-topper. At the same time, it is another testament to the magical combination of Stewart’s performance and Wayne Carson’s powerful pen. The track was the third single and third 10-ten hit from his debut album. It became his defacto signature song.
If you’re in need of a sad drinking song, this should be near the top of your list.
“I Got a Bad Attitude” (1984)
Gary Stewart released two non-album singles in 1984. “I Got a Bad Attitude,” was the second of those singles. This song didn’t make it very high on the charts. In fact, it peaked at number 64 on the Billboard Country chart. Chart performance aside, it’s too good not to mention.
This is a classic 12-bar blues with plenty of harmonica and walking bass as well as some killer guitar work. The opening line, “I got a razor in my pocket and a steel toe on my shoe,” sets the tone for the whole track.
“Rainin’ Rainin’ Rainin'” – Brand New (1988) Gary Stewart’s Final Chart Appearance
To some extent, Gary Stewart lived the songs he sang. He had some serious substance abuse issues. In the mid-80s, Stewart stopped recording and went back to playing in bars here and there. Then, in late 1988, he came back with a new album, aptly titled Brand New. Stewart was clean, sober, and ready to get back at it.
Chart performance isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality. If you need any proof of that, check out Stewart’s last single. It peaked at number 77.