Alan Jackson, ‘Chattahoochee’ — Story Behind the Song
Alan Jackson and Jim McBride co-wrote the song 'Chattahoochee' for Jackson's third studio album, 'A Lot About Livin' (and a Little 'Bout Love),' released in 1992. The album draws its title from a line in the song, and 'Chattahoochee' was released as the record's third single in May of 1993. It hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, earned CMA Awards for Single of the Year and Song of the Year and claimed the No. 1 spot on the year-end Billboard Country Songs chart. Below, McBride talks with The Boot about the classic hit.
I knew about the Chattahoochee River because I was raised in Alabama. Sydney Lanier was a poet who had written a poem called 'Song of the Chattahoochee' that was in high school literature books. I was sitting in my home office in Nashville one day, and I had just read a book about the Chattahoochee. I started playing a little melody, and then I got the first two lines of the song.
By that time, Alan was a big star, so there was no more writing on 16th Avenue anymore -- we wrote on the road. I'd go out with him on his bus, and we would write out there. I kept a separate notebook, and any time I had a song idea I thought Alan would like, I'd put it in that notebook. I got a map and found out how close the Chattahoochee was to Newnan, Ga., where Alan was raised. I stopped right there, and I put the song idea in that notebook.
I went out on the road shortly after that with Alan, so I showed the song idea to him. I sang the first couple lines, and he was all over it. We stared working on it in Tallahassee, Fla., and then we finished it the next afternoon in Thibodaux, La. We finished it before sound check, and he showed it to the band. They actually worked it up in sound check and performed it that night!
When the song was released as a single, I had never experienced anything like it before. It was amazing what happened and is still happening. The truth is, if Alan's had a bigger impact single than 'Chattahoochee,' I wish someone would tell me what it is.
Here's what that song did: It wasn't the first single. The album had already gone to No. 2 on the country album charts, and when 'Chattahoochee' came out, it was at No. 15 and had sold 500,000 copies. The single sold half a million copies, and Alan sold six million more albums. The album went straight to No. 1.
People just associate with that song. With most people, there's a river that they have memories about.
This story was written by Vernell Hackett, and revised by Angela Stefano.