Waylon Jennings once sang, “If we all sounded like we wanted to we’d all sound like George Jones,” in “It’s Alright,” from the album Music Man. In that line, he summed up how much of the country music world feels about Possum. Fans and artists alike remember Jones as a legend. However, he had a rough start. In fact, the country icon cut several singles that never saw the charts before he finally built some momentum.
66 years ago today, George Jones changed that when he stepped into the studio to record his first charting single. “Why Baby Why,” hit the Texas airwaves in September of that year. It peaked at number four on Billboard‘s country singles chart later in the year.
According to the 1997 book I Lived to Tell It All, “Why Baby Why,” was popular in Texas before it found its way to the rest of the country. In fact, it was number one on KIKK out of Houston. They sent their charts to stations around the country. As a result, other stations started picking up the single. By the end of the year, the song found its peak on the national chart.
George Jones co-penned the song with Darrell Edwards. So, Jones cut the song first. However, Red Sovine and Webb Pierce released a duet cover of the song in 1956. Their version went to the top of the charts and halted Jones’ version at number four, according to Allmusic.
George Jones included “Why Baby Why,” on his debut album Grand Ole Opry’s New Star in 1977.
Looking Closer at George Jones’ First Hit Song
Lyrically, “Why Baby Why,” is a classic cheating song. George Jones sings about an unfaithful woman that he can’t bring himself to leave. However, he won’t take the infidelity lying down. At one point, he says he’s going to go out honky tonkin’, get good and hammered, and see if that makes her appreciate him a little more. Later, he hints at getting some retribution for her cheating ways.
“Well, now I don’t know, but I’ve heard say. / That ev’ry little dog is a-gonna have his day. / You’d better pay attention, don’t you dare forget. / ‘Cause I’m just a little bitty puppy yet.”
However, pain is at the center of this George Jones classic. He really just wants to know why his baby wants to make him cry.
Sonically, “Why Baby Why,” sounds like it lives on the border of Texas and Louisiana. It’s a marriage of Cajun dance music and Texas honky-tonk. Today, you can still hear this marriage of sound. For instance, Charley Crockett, an up-and-coming Texas singer-songwriter regularly blends the two distinct sounds.