Neon lights, jukeboxes, a smokin' band and a bartender ready to get whatever you want. These are important, and most would probably say required, elements of the Honky Tonk experience. However, what really makes the country bar unique is the strength of its bond to the music that pours from the stages and speakers; a music that is quite often about the actual Honky Tonks themselves. In no particular order, here's our list of the Top 20 Songs about Honky Tonks.
The autobiographical title track from Toby's 2005 album, Honkytonk U, keeps pace with an outlaw thump as it depicts a young Toby working as a bar back in his grandmother's Fort Smith nightspot. The video, featuring a classic set and some stellar early-'70s threads, follows Toby from sitting in with the band during those early days through playing coast to coast as one of the genre's biggest stars. Yet it all goes back to those humble beginnings and time spent surrounded by music. His grandmother's bar, by the way, serves as the inspiration behind the title of Toby's 2011 album, Clancy's Tavern.
Seriously now, is there a better twang than that of Hank Sr.? The man practically invented it. And on this classic 1948 cut, the legendary icon breaks the chorus melody with a vocal pop that made barroom dance floors go off with a bang. According to the advice in this song, whether you're sad and lonely, or you and your baby had a fallin' out, it's time to go honky tonkin' 'round this town.
With thick telecaster guitar tones, a shuffling chorus and lyrics about jukeboxes and callin' up the misses after a few tall ones, it's more than a night out – it's a lifestyle. Just ask Mr. Yoakam, who's down at the bar in this excellent 1986 video (Dwight's take on the 1956 Johnny Horton classic), playing cards and givin' all the girls a whirl before it's time to go home.
This hard-country anthem still rocks the joint as hard as it did the day it was released. The song, which was a Top 5 radio single in 2003, gives shout outs to rednecks and Wall Street types alike as Eddie and Troy welcome everyone to the party. With sweet harmonies that go down easy, MG sing, Take me back to where the music hit me, life was good and love was easy.
Okay, so here's a song that had people all up in arms in 2005. So much so that they carried this hip-hop inspired Honky Tonk romp to No. 2 on the country charts. The song, which was actually penned by outlaw traditionalist Jamey Johnson, celebrates all those dancing derrieres down at the bar on a Friday night, and we can't blame 'em. So, in the words of Trace, Turn it up some.
There's just something about that stuttering guitar riff and slow, pounding bass drum that acts like a match to the TNT loaded in this twanged-out tune. It's all about a girl's night out, and as she says in the song, she didn't come here to hear somethin' thumpin' from the city. Line dancing, shots, and "Hankin' it up" make this No. 1 hit from 2005 a modern day Honky Tonk classic.
Miranda's first music video, "Kerosene," follows her down a path of revenge – pouring out a can of gas along the way. Leaving the house where she lives with her boyfriend, Miranda struts with a don't-mess-with-me attitude as she creates a trail of gas leading back to their home. Black and white shots of her and the band cranking out the hard-hitting tune are split with scenes of her boyfriend in bed with another woman. "Now I don't hate the one who left, you can't hate someone that's dead," she snarls just before reaching the cheating couple with a match book in her hand.
Once his lady kicks him out in this 1966 cut, Merle's got a new home; one with swinging doors, a jukebox and a bar stool. It's tough down at the bar for the lovesick, especially when there's a cooler stocked with everything needed to drown the sorrow. And this time around, all Merle can do is offer an invitation to his ex to stop by and see him if she has the time. Now that's some quintessential Honky Tonk heartache.
Chris' current single is pure Honky Tonk. Acoustic guitars, pedal steel and vivid descriptions of the most beautiful colors found in nature are just a send up for Chris' true favorite color?neon. As in the bright colors found in dark bars. With a little Johnny Lee on the jukebox and a double on your troubles, this neo-traditional tune pays warm homage to the local watering hole
A deep cut off her current album, 100 Proof, Kellie's got fire in her voice as she demands the doors be opened. It may only be Tuesday night, but flick on those neon lights and get the good stuff from the back, everyone's ready for a good 'ol time. Oh, and you better not forget to bring the band.
A sturdy, traditional stance from the early '90s, this No. 1 hit still serves as a rallying cry for those wanting to hear nothing but a little Jones on a Saturday night. With a boot-tapping beat and some fine pedal steel, this classic song represents why there's nothing better than country music and a great Honky Tonk.
No recent music video has showcased Nashville's Lower Broadway, aka The Honky Tonk Highway, quite as well as this fun little groove. With cameos from Jake Owen and Lee Brice, Jerrod hits some of Music City's most famous establishments while paying tribute to the beer, buds, bartenders and all the great characters that make a spot one of a kind.
The title-track from Gretchen's 2005 sophomore album is a rowdy one full of distorted electric guitars, quick pounding drums and wild fiddle. Stopping by the bar for a drink or two after work undoubtedly turns into an all-night rager when Hank Jr., Kid Rock, Larry the Cable Guy and Charlie Daniels show up in the video. It all makes for one crazy night down at the bar.
One of the most revered classics of not only country music, but music in general, this controversial hit from 1952 defied gender roles and pointed a finger at unfaithful men for their part in causing women to stray. The song, a response to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life," was the first No. 1 Billboard country hit for a solo female artist and effectively opened the door for other strong female country singers. Kitty's voice rises and falls beautifully with a deceptively sweet melody in this true American treasure.
Blake describes some of the perils of fueling up for a good time on this piano-laced Honky Tonk tune. Getting loud and breaking out embarrassing moves all over the dance floor are just the start in the story of how one drink can lead to another. Sung with a smile, the bluesy tune reached Top 20 radio status in 2007 while most certainly being heard on college campuses across the country.
Sometimes, it just works. Neal shot to radio's Top 10 with this bouncing track from 2005 with a funny angle that most all of us have probably experienced at some point. It's that ultra-relatable element that makes people smile when they hear it. The classic video, starring comedian and good friend Rob Schneider, follows Billy through the bar as life looks good, good, good – no matter what the reality may be.
It's hard to believe that this was Lefty's debut single. The song, which became a No. 1 country hit in 1950, features a timeless Honky Tonk beat paired with clean electric guitar and lyrics that flow about a night out on the town. For this Country Music Hall of Famer, though, it's all about gettin' while the gettin's good, because if you run short of money, [Lefty] will run short of time.
Written by Billy Joe Shaver, the title track from Waylon's 1973 album is torn between heading for the neon lights and leaving well enough alone because he knows firsthand what waits. Matching this dichotomy, the song itself is even split between a slow, sing-songy first half and high-energy barnburner to close it out.
A deep cut from Kenny's 1997 album I Will Stand, this fiddle-driven, 3/4 –time mountain of twang serves as a cautionary tale for the temptation found down at the Honky Tonk. Tracy Lawrence and George Jones do a masterful job supporting and the three-part harmony through the chorus sparkles with solid country gold.
A word to the wise – never saddle up next to a lovely lady at a Texas Honky Tonk and expect an eager reaction when you buy her a Sex on the Beach. Those sorts of actions, as documented in Kevin's good-natured video featuring a string of star cameos, will invite a barrage of proclamations for nothing but an ice-cold tall boy. With a traditional sound and lively pedal steel, this happy-go-lucky tune is the perfect jukebox complement.