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Country Music’s Best Opening Lyrics

Waylon Jennings
Rusty Russell, Getty Images

You know the old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Well that’s just as true in music as it is in life! Very few songs really grab the listener from line one, so we commend those that do with this countdown of the best opening lyrics in the history of country music.

20. “Picture perfect memories scattered all around the floor” – ‘Need You Now,’ Lady Antebellum

This Grammy-winning smash brings unlikely justification to the ‘booty call,’ as Lady A have crafted lyrics that make a drunken phone call to an ex seem perfectly reasonable … and irresistible.

19. “Busted flat in Baton Rouge, headin’ for a train / Feelin’ nearly faded as my jeans”

Roger Miller and Kris himself recorded this, but it was the famed songwriter’s girlfriend, Janis Joplin, who made it a No. 1 classic. The opening lyrics set a downtrodden stage, but the song actually takes a happy turn … and then bookends itself with heartache.

18. “I can make anybody pretty / I can make you believe any lie” – ‘Alcohol,’ Brad Paisley

This 2005 hit from Brad’s ‘Time Well Wasted’ CD promises not only to make someone more attractive, but also to “cause a few break-ups” and “help white people dance.” A self-proclaimed tee-totaler in real life, if Brad is caught with a lampshade on his head, he only has himself to blame.

17. “Stuck at a red light outside an adult bookstore / He said, ‘Daddy, what are all those xxx’s for?’” – ‘What Do You Say,’ Reba McEntire

Reba details a few parental nightmares, including explaining pornography and underage drinking to young children, making this song somewhat of a self-help guide for speechless moms and dads.

16. “Well, I woke up Sunday morning / With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt” – ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down,’ Johnny Cash

Who hasn’t had those painful mornings that follow a night of indulgence? Johnny’s version of this Kris Kristofferson classic makes Mondays look more attractive than sad Sundays.

15. “Becky was a beauty from south Alabama / Her daddy had a heart like a nine-pound hammer” – ‘What Was I Thinkin’,’ Dierks Bentley

This song starts with a visual fit for a movie screen. Dierks knows “there’ll be hell to pay” for taking out the girl in the “little white tank top,” but chooses romance over repercussions — which includes some bullets to his taillights.

14. “I’d gladly walk across a desert with no shoes upon my feet” – ‘Love Can Build a Bridge,’ The Judds

This emotionally-charged ballad was written as a goodbye love letter to the Judds’ fans, before they the pair were forced to call it quits upon Naomi’s diagnosis of hepatitis. Right from the first line, the duo show selfless love that knows no limits.

13. “He had plastic bags wrapped ’round his shoes / He was covered with the evening news” – ‘Almost Home,’ Craig Morgan

This BMI Song of the Year winner tells an emotionally captivating story of a homeless man whose daydreams of warm childhood memories help him brave frigid temperatures.

12.”A candy-colored clown they call the Sandman / Tiptoes to my room every night” – ‘In Dreams,’ Roy Orbison

The late country-rock icon cleverly starts this sad love song off like a lullaby. Finding his lost love only by falling asleep and seeing her in his dreams, waking up is just as solemn as breaking up.

11. “I said, ‘Grandpa, what’s this picture here / It’s all black and white and ain’t real clear’” – ‘In Color,’ Jamey Johnson

Released in 2008, Jamey’s award-winning single takes us back to the Great Depression with vivid imagery that bring shades of gray to living color. For four minutes, we travel along with Jamey to a few generations past.

10. “Maybe I didn’t love you quite as often as I should have” – ‘Always on My Mind,’ Willie Nelson

Actions may speak louder than words, but these lyrics — also recorded by Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley — grovel just beautifully enough to make a neglected lover swoon. Apology accepted.

9. “Well I’m an eight ball shooting, double-fisted drinking son of a gun” – ‘Here for the Party,’ Gretchen Wilson

These opening lyrics come at you like a slap in the face. I’m Gretchen Wilson, and I’m here to party just as hard as the boys. Deal with it.

8. “She put him out like the burnin’ end of a midnight cigarette” – ‘Whiskey Lullaby,’ Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss

The emotion of this stunning 2004 song starts out with a bang, as listeners smell the smoke of a lover’s regret. As the haunting lyrics progress, both the cheater and the scorned are sent to an early grave after too many swigs from the whiskey bottle.

7. “Hello, walls / How’d things go for you today?” – ‘Hello Walls,’ Faron Young

A depressing story about a jilted lover who commiserates with the walls in his house, the tune was not only a success for Faron, but also for a then-twenty-something new writer, Willie Nelson, who counts this as one of his first hits.

6. “Tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen / Pour myself a cup of ambition” – ’9 to 5,’ Dolly Parton

Dolly wrote this as the theme song for the 1980 movie, ’9 to 5,’ but it’s also pretty much the theme of every working man and woman’s life. Why someone hasn’t started a coffee company called ‘Ambition’ is beyond us.

5. “He said, ‘I’ll love you ’til I die’” – ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ George Jones

The Possum released this poignant ballad in 1980, and made it one of the biggest songs in his 50-plus year career. A tragic tale of a brokenhearted man who carries his pining love to the grave, it tops several lists of the greatest country songs of all time.

4. “I hear the train a comin’ / It’s rollin’ ’round the bend / And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when” – ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’ Johnny Cash
He may have “shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” but we still somehow feel bad for the guy.

3. “Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots” – ‘Friends in Low Places,’ Garth Brooks

When he’s performing this live in concert, you can barely hear Garth. The volume of the audience singing along from word-one is simply too loud. The superstar’s ‘roots’ are planted at the start of one of the most beloved country songs of all time.

2. “I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin / I wouldn’t let my dear Savior in” – ‘I Saw the Light,’ Hank Williams

Waxing poetic on his internal struggles, Hank Sr. was only 25 years old when he figuratively ‘saw the light.’ His untimely death four years later, allegedly due to substance abuse, never allowed the early star to fully appreciate the success of this classic.

1. “The only two things in life that make it worth livin’ / Is guitars that tune good and firm feelin’ women” – ‘Luckenbach, Texas,’ Waylon Jennings

This 1977 song about going “back to the basics” evokes the urge to trade in our modern-day gadgets and travel with “Waylon and Willie and the boys” to this tiny Texas town.

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