Friends in Low Places

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For the 1965 British novel, see Friends in Low Places (novel).
"Friends in Low Places"
Single by Garth Brooks
from the album No Fences
B-side "Nobody Gets Off in This Town"
Released August 6, 1990
Format CD
7" vinyl single
Recorded 1989
Genre Country
Length 4:18 (album version)
3:45 (single edit)
Label Capitol Nashville 44647
Writer(s) Dewayne Blackwell
Earl Bud Lee
Producer(s) Allen Reynolds
Garth Brooks singles chronology
"The Dance"
(1990)
"Friends in Low Places"
(1990)
"Unanswered Prayers"
(1990)
Music sample

"Friends in Low Places" is a song performed by American country music artist Garth Brooks. It was released in August 1990 as the first single from his album No Fences. The song spent four weeks at #1 on the U.S. country singles charts, and won both the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association awards for 1990 Single of the Year.

"Friends in Low Places" was written in 1989 by songwriters Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee. The two songwriters had given the song to Brooks to record as a demo soon before the release of his self-titled first album, when he was a relatively unknown singer. Enamored with the song, Brooks recorded the official version the next year.

Writing[edit]

According to Earl Bud Lee, one of the song's co-writers, the idea of the song was born when he and some songwriting friends gathered for lunch one day at Tavern on the Row, a popular Nashville eatery.[1] When the check came, Lee realized he had forgotten his money. He was asked how he was going to pay for the meal, and he replied, "Don't worry. I have friends in low places. I know the cook."[1] Lee and his songwriting partner, Dewayne Blackwell, immediately recognized that the line "friends in low places" had potential, but they didn't act upon it immediately.[1]

Some months later, Lee and Blackwell were at a party, celebrating a recent #1 hit by another songwriter. They began to talk about the dormant "friends in low places" idea, and "at that very moment, it all started to come together in a song," Lee said.[2] Because nothing else was available, they wrote the song on paper napkins.[2] When the songwriters polished "Friends in Low Places", they contacted Garth Brooks to see if he would record a demo for them.[2]

Guitarist Jim Garver would add the name of the bar in the song, "The Oasis", after an establishment in his hometown of Concordia, Kansas.[3]

Song structure[edit]

"Friends in Low Places" is in a moderate tempo and the key of A major. The song begins with arpeggios on the chords A, Bdim7, Bm7, and Eadd9, a pattern which is repeated throughout the verses. The intro was not originally part of the song, but was improvised by session guitarist Mark Casstevens.The author of the intro has been debated since the arpeggio pattern is seen in many of Blackwell's other songs. [4] The chorus uses A-Bm-E twice before ending on an A chord.[5] An electric guitar solo with pedal steel guitar flourishes is played between the first chorus and second verse.

"Friends in Low Places" requires an unusually wide vocal range spanning over two octaves to be sung properly. The song spans from a low note of E2 to a high of F4. (Most artists who attempt cover versions or parodies of the song alter the E2 to a more singable note, reducing the range to a still wide, but more manageable, A2 to F4.)

Brooks' demo[edit]

Lee and Blackwell had met Brooks when he was a shoe salesman in a Nashville store, looking for his big break. The two struck up a conversation with the struggling musician, and upon learning his background, they gave him some work making demos of their songs. They were impressed with his voice and talent, but there wasn't much else they could do for him.[2]

When Blackwell contacted Brooks to make the "Friends in Low Places" demo, Brooks explained to Blackwell that he was newly signed to Capitol Records, and that his first single and first album were already scheduled.

The demo of "Friends In Low Places" was recorded at Windwalker Studios, in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. Musicians on the demo were John Beland (of The Flying Burrito Brothers) on acoustic and electric guitars, along with session aces Steve Turner on drums, and bassist Larry Paxton. Frank Green was the recording engineer. The actual master recording of "Friends in Low Places" borrowed quite a lot from the original demo, copying Beland's now famous acoustic guitar intro, as well as his electric guitar solo note for note.

After recording the demo (the last he would ever make),[6] Brooks thanked Lee and Blackwell for all of their help. He then expressed his liking for the song, wishing aloud that he had heard it several weeks earlier, when he was recording his new album.[2]

Shopping the song to other artists[edit]

Garth provided the following background information on the song in the CD booklet liner notes from The Hits:

""Friends in Low Places" was the last demo session I ever did as a singer. The demo was for Bud Lee and Dewayne Blackwell. I sang the session out in Hendersonville, and for the next two weeks the chorus to this song kept running through my head. I knew it would be a year and a half before the release of No Fences because Garth Brooks was just getting ready to be released. I asked Bud Lee and Dewayne if I could hold on to it and, without a blink of an eye, they both said yes. Putting that kind of faith into an unknown artist is unheard of. Thanks Dewayne and Bud for believing in me." [7]

While Brooks claimed in the liner notes that "Friends in Low Places" was held for him, Mark Chesnutt also recorded it.[2] His version appears on his 1990 debut album Too Cold at Home (released only a month after No Fences), and was the B-side to his late-1991 single "Broken Promise Land".[8]

Recording[edit]

After the success of Brooks' eponymous debut album, he contacted the writers of "Friends in Low Places" to ask if the song was still available, and they said it was.[2] In keeping with the raucous theme, a large contingent of backing vocalists accompanied Brooks as the chorus was repeated until a fadeout. Among the members of the group were Brooks' then-wife, Sandy, and both songwriters, Blackwell and Lee.[6] At one point near the end of the song, one of the musicians opens a beer can, which is picked up by a microphone. When the album was being mastered, the sound of the beer can was originally mistaken for an audio glitch. Later on, one of the crowd members shouts "Push, Marie!" in reference to Garver, who was in the hospital while his wife was giving birth.[4]

Recognizing the song's potential, producer Allen Reynolds, in consultation with Capitol Nashville president Jimmy Bowen, decided that Brooks' rendition was going to be the first single from his new album, No Fences.[9] In July 1990, Brooks' mother, Colleen Carroll, inadvertently leaked the unreleased song to an Oklahoma radio station, setting off a frenzy and forcing the single and album to be rush-released.[10]

Reception[edit]

"Friends in Low Places" entered the Billboard country chart on August 18, 1990. It took only eight weeks to reach #1, where it stayed for four weeks, making it one of the biggest hits of the year.[11]

By then, the song was already causing a stir. Brooks told a reporter from USA Today in October 1990, when the song was still at its chart peak, that he had received letters from high school students saying that they wanted to use "Friends in Low Places" as their "class song," only to have it opposed by their principals because the song is about escaping into drinking. Brooks agreed with the principals, saying, "We've had a lot of fun with that song, but it's nothing to base your values on."[12]

In April 1991, Brooks' recording won the 1990 Academy of Country Music award for Single of the Year, and on October 2, 1991, it won the same honor from the Country Music Association.

It made the Top 40 on the British music charts in 1995 as a double-sided reissue hit with "The Dance". The song also appeared on Brooks' 1994 compilation The Hits. In 2003, the song was listed #6 on CMT 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music broadcast. [13] and the #1 spot on the network's 40 Greatest Drinking Songs: Morning After. [14]

Starting in 2008, "Friends in Low Places" became the traditional sing-along song during the sixth inning at Kansas City Royals home games at Kauffman Stadium. Garth Brooks has recorded dozens of different introductions to be played on the Jumbotron display before the start of the song.

In a 2009 essay on Brooks, Chuck Klosterman reflected on the song's success. Brooks, he argued, had filled a void in popular culture left by Bruce Springsteen during the 1990s:

...[H]e made songs that satisfied all the same needs as Bruce's did, except with a little less sincerity and a little better understanding of who his audience was. "Friends in Low Places" was as effective as pop music ever gets: It's a depressing song that makes you feel better. Singing along with that song was like drunkenly laughing at a rich person and knowing that you were right ... It's a song that makes me want to get drunk out of spite. Garth told stories about blue-collar people who felt good about what their bad life symbolized ...[15]

The "third verse"[edit]

The original version of "Friends in Low Places" has two verses. In 1991, Brooks added a "third verse" to the song in live performances. His spiel leading to the new verse claimed that he thought the song's original verse didn't reflect how he would really act in that situation. It is basically a rewrite of the second verse, with only the last few lines changed, culminating in "Just wait til I finish this glass / Then sweet little lady, I'll head back to the bar / And you can kiss my ass".[16]

Track listing[edit]

US promotional 7" single Capitol Nashville, 1990

  1. "Friends in Low Places" (Edit) 3:45 7PRO-79216
  2. "Friends in Low Places" (LP Version) 4:18 7PRO-79239

US promotional CD single Capitol Nashville DPRO-79217, 1990

  1. "Friends in Low Places" (Edit) 3:45
  2. "Friends in Low Places" (LP Version) 4:18

US 7" single Capitol Nashville NR-44647, 1990

  1. "Friends in Low Places" (Edited) 3:45
  2. "Nobody Gets Off in This Town" 2:17

US 7" single (live) Liberty S7-57883, 1992

  1. "Friends in Low Places" (Live Version) 7:00
  2. "Thunder Rolls" (Live Version) 4:45

US promotional CD single (live) Liberty DPRO-79365, 1992

  1. "Friends in Low Places" (Live Version) 7:00
  2. "Thunder Rolls" (Live Version) 4:45

UK 7" single Capitol CL 609, 1991

  1. "Friends in Low Places"
  2. "Not Counting You"

UK CD single Capitol CDCL 609, 1991

  1. "Friends in Low Places"
  2. "Not Counting You"
  3. "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)"

The Netherlands CD Single Capitol, 1995

  1. "Friends in Low Places"
  2. "The Dance"
  3. "The River" (Live acoustic version)

Chart positions[edit]

"Friends in Low Places" entered the charts on August 18, 1990. It reached number one on October 6 and remained there for four weeks.[17]

Chart (1990) Peak
position
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[18] 1
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[19] 89
Irish Singles Chart[20] 3
UK Singles Chart[21] 36
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[22] 1

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1990) Position
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[23] 4
US Country Songs (Billboard)[24] 28

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Collins, Ace (1996). The Stories Behind Country Music's All-Time Greatest 100 Songs. New York: Boulevard. p. 276. ISBN 1-57297-072-3. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Collins, Ace. The Stories Behind Country Music's All-Time Greatest 100 Songs. p. 277. 
  3. ^ "On the Road with Green River Ordinance". Washburn University Center for Kansas Studies. Fall 2010. p. 6. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Bale Cox, Patsi. The Garth Factor: The Career Behind Country's Big Boom. Hachette Digital, Inc. 
  5. ^ ""Friends in Low Places" sheet music". Musicnotes.com. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  6. ^ a b The Hits (CD booklet). Garth Brooks. Nashville: Liberty. 1994. CDP 7243 8 29289 2 4. 
  7. ^ Garth Brooks - The Hits: transcription from the CD booklet (bar code 7-2438-29689-2-4)
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 92. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 
  9. ^ Collins, Ace. The Stories Behind Country Music's All-Time Greatest 100 Songs. p. 278. 
  10. ^ Harbrect, Gene (1990-12-07). "Charting the peaks of country music / Garth Brooks heads for high places". The Orange County Register. p. P-6.  Accessed via ProQuest 2007-06-06.
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2005). Top Country Songs 1944-2005. Menomonee Falls, Wis.: Record Research. p. 56. ISBN 0-89820-165-9. 
  12. ^ Zimmerman, David (1990-10-16). "Riding high with Garth Brooks / Country singer vaults 'Fences' to stardom". USA Today. p. D1.  Accessed via ProQuest, 2007-06-06.
  13. ^ "CMT's 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music". Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  14. ^ "CMT's 40 Greatest Drinkin' Songs: Morning After". Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  15. ^ Klosterman, Chuck (2009). Eating the Dinosaur. New York, NY: Scribner. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-4165-4421-0. 
  16. ^ Randall, Lee (1992). The Garth Brooks Scrapbook. Carol Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8065-1300-3. 
  17. ^ Garth info at PlanetGarth.com
  18. ^ "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 1305." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. October 13, 1990. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  19. ^ http://books.google.ca/books?id=-BEEAAAAMBAJ&lr=&rview=1
  20. ^ http://www.irishcharts.ie/
  21. ^ http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/_/garth%20brooks/
  22. ^ "Garth Brooks Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Garth Brooks.
  23. ^ "RPM Top 100 Country Tracks of 1990". RPM. December 22, 1990. Retrieved August 23, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Best of 1990: Country Songs". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 1990. Retrieved August 23, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Jukebox in My Mind"
by Alabama
Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks
number one single

October 6-October 27, 1990
Succeeded by
"You Lie"
by Reba McEntire
Preceded by
"I Meant Every Word He Said"
by Ricky Van Shelton
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single

October 13-October 27, 1990