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Famous Whiskey Songs


Published: 05/24/2011

by Benjamin Evans


Whiskey songs have been around for years, telling tales of sadness over a breakup, or boasting about living a hard-partying lifestyle. Ever try to see how many popular whiskey songs you can name off the top of your head?

One of the oldest American whiskey-related songs is “Little Brown Jug” written in 1869 by composer Joseph Winner. The song is about a man who is happy with his simple, country lifestyle as long as he has his “little brown jug” by his side. Even though the lyrics don’t mention what is in the jug, it is certainly moonshine whiskey (also known as “white lightning”). Moonshine whiskey was usually made from corn mash and bottled in jugs. Most moonshine was a potent 100 proof or better. The song’s popularity got a surge during the prohibition era. In 1939, Glenn Miller recorded a swing instrumental version, which was instantly recognizable, even without the vocal.

Country music icon Hank Williams Jr. penned and recorded “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” for his 1979 album of the same title. The song hit number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and all the way to the top spot in Canada. In the song, Hank Jr. tells his own tale of partying on the road while his good woman is at home thinking he does “no wrong.” In one verse, Hank Jr. mentions Jim Beam, said to be his favorite whiskey.

Marty Stuart and Ronny Scaife wrote Travis Tritt’s “The Whiskey Ain’t Working” from Travis’ 1991 album, It’s All About to Change. The song tells the story of a man who used to be able to drink the memories of past lovers away but now he feels the real cure for his troubles is not a bottle but a good woman who will stand by his side because “the whiskey ain’t workin’ anymore.” The song hit number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and number four on Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart.

Country is not the only genre to have famous whiskey songs. Several rock artists have celebrated their favorite drink of choice through song. All the members of the Scottish hard rock band Nazareth had writing credits on their song “Whiskey Drinking Woman” from their 1975 Hair of the Dog album. The lyrics paint a very clear picture of a woman who hits the bars every night, has bottles of whiskey all over the house, and is driving her man, who is not a drinker, to the limits of his patience and his money.

In 1980, the Pat Travers band released the single “Snorting Whiskey” off their Crash and Burn album. Written by guitarists Travers and Pat Thrall, the lyrics insinuate that the singer is so mixed up, he says he is “snorting whiskey and drinking cocaine,” rather than drinking whiskey and snorting cocaine. He acknowledges his mixed-up revelation by saying, “I may be confused but you know I sure ain’t down.”