On This Day: Tim McGraw Releases ‘Don’t Take the Girl’ in 1994

by Katie Maloney

Twenty-seven years ago, country superstar Tim McGraw landed his first number one hit song.

The first song that landed Tim McGraw a spot on the charts was, “Indian Outlaw.” The song ranked on the top 10 country singles chart and became his first crossover hit. However, it wasn’t until he released “Don’t Take the Girl” that McGraw snagged his first number one hit song. The song soared to the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. It also ranked number 17 on Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100 chart. “Don’t Take the Girl” solidified Tim McGraw’s country music stardom.

The song is about how the phrase “don’t take the girl,” changes meaning as McGraw grows from a little boy into a husband and father. During the song, McGraw sings, “And there he prayed, ake the very, breath you gave me. Take the heart from my chest. I’ll gladly take her place if you’ll let me. Make this my last request. Take me out of this world, God please, don’t take the girl.”

The entire song is enough to leave listeners in tears. But the last verse of the song had people wondering if his wife survives. Luckily, the music video provided clarity as it shows the couple happily fishing with their son at the end of the video.

What’s the Story Behind Tim McGraw’s ‘Don’t Take The Girl?’

“Don’t Take the Girl” appeared on Tim McGraw’s second album, Not a Moment Too Soon. The song was co-written by songwriters Craig J. Martin and Larry Johnson. Johnson passed away in June 2020 and Martin passed away the following month at 52-years old. In 2017, Martin released a video opening up about how “Don’t Take the Girl” came to be. He said that his record deal with Mercury Records was falling through at the time and the only thing that was keeping him stable was his girlfriend.

“I came home recording one day, and I was sitting on the couch,” said Martin. “She was going to make me a homemade pizza to try to cheer me up a little bit. It was a very, very small apartment in Madison, Tennessee. You could see the kitchen from the couch. I was sitting there watching her make this homemade pizza, which I saw the Chef Boyardee box out there. The thought was what counted.”

He started writing and later teamed up with Johnson to finalize the hit song.

“I had this melody in my head, and at the same time I was a little depressed and was thinking about how this record deal was going,” said Martin. “I was kind of talking under my breath to God, and I thought. ‘You can take this record deal or this great publishing deal or any of my possessions. Take any of it. Just don’t take her.’ She was that important to me. We ended up staying together for 17 years, though I had a terrible, terrible brain cramp one time and messed it all up.”

McGraw Teamed up With Blanco Brown to Re-Record the Song

“Don’t Take the Girl,” is still considered one of Tim McGraw’s biggest hits. In fact, rising star Blanco Brown, who sings “The Git Up,” said that it was one of the first country songs that taught him about the importance of storytelling for songs. McGraw and Brown even teamed up to rerecord the song together.

Blanco Brown and Tim McGraw perform “Don’t Take the Girl.”