George Strait scored his 14th No. 1 hit when “Baby Blue” topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart on Aug. 6, 1988. The King of Country was on a chart-topping roll at country radio in the late 1980s. Starting with “Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her” in 1986, George went on a run of 11 consecutive No. 1 hits that capped with 1989’s “Ace in the Hole.” Of course, over his career, George scored 44 No. 1 singles on the aforementioned chart.
In the middle of the mix was “Baby Blue,” a tune penned by Aaron Barker. Featured on George’s eighth studio album, If You Ain’t Lovin’ You Ain’t Livin’, “Baby Blue” was the album’s second single. Following his lead single “Famous Last Words of a Fool,” which reached No. 1 on April 9, 1988, “Baby Blue” was released on April 25. Less than four months later, George had secured his 14th No. 1 hit.
As mentioned, “Baby Blue” was penned by songwriter Aaron Barker. The tunesmith went on to write a number of hits for George, including “Love Without End, Amen,” “I Can Still Make Cheyenne,” “I’d Like to Have That One Back,” and “Easy Come, Easy Go.” But Barker’s serendipitous songwriting success started with “Baby Blue,” a tune that almost ended up in the garbage can.
Texas native Aaron played guitar in the rock band American Peddlers in the 1970s and 1980s, while trying to break through as a songwriter. But Aaron wasn’t having much luck on the songwriting front, so he started cleaning shop in 1984 by tossing out a bunch of his compositions.
“A policeman friend, Ernie Lobello, came in,” said Aaron to Country Weekly in 2000. “He asked if he could take my tape to a song publisher.”
While the publisher didn’t dig Aaron’s songs, he “accidentally” sent the tape to George Strait’s manager, Erv Woolsey. Seemingly out of nowhere, Aaron was contacted because George wanted to record “Baby Blue.”
“Since I knew nothing about the songwriting business, I didn’t know how important it was that George wanted my song,” said Aaron. “I figured he might send me $500.”
In 1988, as the American Peddlers fell apart, “Baby Blue” started its climb.
“I was broke and ended up selling oranges off the back of my Chevy Suburban when my first royalty check for ‘Baby Blue’ came in,” said Aaron. “It was for only $6. I still thought George would send me $500.”
The second royalty check was for $54,000.
“For the first time, I thought I had a shot at writing songs for others,” said Aaron. “I moved to Nashville in 1992.”
In addition to penning a number of hits for George, Aaron wrote Clay Walker’s “Watch This,” Doug Supernaw’s “Not Enough Hours in the Night,” and Lonestar’s “What About Now,” among others. The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted Aaron in 2016.