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33 Years Ago: Ricky Skaggs Hits No. 1 With ‘Highway 40 Blues’

Ricky Skaggs Highways and Heartaches
Epic Records

Thirty-three years ago today (July 9, 1983) was a memorable day for Ricky Skaggs: It was on that date that the singer soared to the top of the charts with his single “Highway 40 Blues,” from his No. 1 Highways & Heartaches album.

“Highway 40 Blues” was written by veteran songwriter Larry Cordle, but Skaggs changed one line from “My eyes are filled with bitter tears / Lord, I could use could an ice-cold beer” to “Lord, I ain’t been home in years” to accommodate his devoutly Christian parents. In his autobiography, Kentucky Traveler, Skaggs says that he never wanted to record a song he wouldn’t have felt comfortable singing in front of them.

Highways & Heartaches became Skaggs’ first platinum-selling album and spawned two other No. 1 singles, “Heartbroke” and “I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could.” Skaggs performed “Highway 40 Blues,” along with “I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could,” on the syndicated TV show Hee Haw. He included the song on both 2000’s 16 Biggest Hits and his 2011 double disc, The Essential Ricky Skaggs; he also later re-recorded it for his Country Hits Bluegrass Style album.

“Highway 40 Blues” is available for download on iTunes.

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