A lifetime spent listening to music has taught me a lot about Saturday night. It is, for example, all right for fighting or going to the movies, not to mention a good night to simultaneously keep dancing to the rock and roll and work on one’s spelling, and those are just the pop songs. Nobody does a Saturday night song quite like a country singer, though, so here are 25 of ‘em.
Honorable mentions: Brad Paisley, “American Saturday Night,” Don Rich, “Saturday Night,” Jo Dee Messina, “Saturday Night,” John Fogerty, “Almost Saturday Night,” Robyn Ludwick, “Saturday Night,” Rodney Hayden, “Living Everyday Like It’s Saturday Night,” Scott Miller & The Commonwealth, “Ciderville Saturday Night.”
A song about a country singer who “never got the big hit.” He did, however, have an extensive library of songs about mamas, trains, dogs, and yes, Saturday nights. Watson’s twang and irresistibly catchy chorus make this one (from 2005′s Live From the Texas Hall of Fame) a keeper.
She ain’t bright enough to find the knob on a washing machine, but she can mix a mean margarita and just might pop out of a cake. That’s a pretty fair trade off. Billy Currington recorded “She Knows…” for Doin’ Somethin’ Right, but Summar’s version is the better one. Be sure to check this one out from one of the best under-the-radar country singer/songwriters out there.
Here’s a piano thumping rafter rattler from 1997 that’s perfect for any rowdy Saturday soundtrack. According to Parnell, when you’re in love, every night is a Saturday. Just wait ’til the honeymoon is over: then every day’ll be a Monday morning.
Supported by Bernie Leadon’s mandolin, the harmony-driven country rockers reach new levels of mellow on this cut from Desperado.
21. “Calico Saturday Night” – Kenny Rogers and The First Editi
Kenny Rogers Concept Album. Depending on your proclivities in country music, these are either the greatest or the most horrifying four words you’ll read all day. The (underrated) 1972 album about the silver mining town of Calico, California, and its inhabitants includes this five minute instrumental which incorporates everything from peppy harpsichord and horns to classical string arrangements.
Alt-country Burch, joined by his excellent band the WPA Ballclub, sounds simultaneously timeless and modern on this Cajun-tinged shuffle from Still Your Man (one of the best releases of the past year). The goodtime fella in this song has changed his ways, now choosing to reserve Saturday nights for one woman.
Here Ely tells his significant other “I’m going out where the lights don’t shine so bright/When I come back you can treat me like a Saturday night,” later realizing that “knowing she’s going to lose/might give my baby the blues.” Perhaps this isn’t the healthiest relationship in the world, but a little dysfunction goes a long way in creating a good country song.
Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind is one of country music’s essential albums. Written by Sanger D. Shafer (who cowrote “That’s the Way Love Goes”), “Honky Tonk Saturday Night” is a classic Strait ballad, and when it comes to killer opening lyrics, you can’t get much better than “Angels and devils share the same tables/And that’s not so wrong if you get it done right.”
On the opening track from the Southern rock band’s 1975 album Nuthin’ Fancy we learn that firearms, gambling, intoxication, and poor impulse control don’t mix. But maybe you already learned that the hard way.
“Church on Saturday Night” (from the Hank Williams tribute EP Montgomery on My Mind) has old soul Hill longing for the days when Hank, Red, and Minnie Pearl filled the pews at the Ryman. Opry-goers might worship the Lord on Sunday, but back then, “church was Saturday night.” Fan of the Hillbilly Shakespeare? Be sure to give this one a listen.
If you, Wayne Hancock’s girl, treat him right, he’ll take you out dancin’ two nights a week and then sing about it in his trademark juke joint swing style. Because you can never have too much Wayne the Train, check out “It’s Saturday Night” as well.
On one of my favorite tracks from Good Thing Going, the All-American bluegrass girl sings about doing what she loves best: cage fighting. Or singing bluegrass for the fans, backed by a crack band and a busload of Martha White products.
I’ve never been to Texas on a Saturday night, but Willie and Mel sure make it sound like a good time. Enjoy this version of the Mundo Earwood song from the Time Jumpers.
9. “Saturday Satan, Sunday Saint” – Ernest Tubb
The title’s a bit of a tongue twister, but the message in this song from Tubb’s 1969 record Saturday Satan, Sunday Saint is crystal clear: you ain’t foolin’ anybody with your impeccable church attendance; they see what you do the other six days of the week.
Remember the halcyon days of 1996 when retro-enthusiasts BR549 burst onto the scene with their debut album? Frontman Chuck Mead wrote this excellent Saturday song about sleeping all day, playing all night.
7. “I Got Religion on a Saturday Night” – Webb Pierce
The legendary Pierce may be ragged, but that’s all right: besides Saturday night religion, he’s got a silver dollar-studded Bonneville and a guitar-shaped swimming pool.
Waits is one of music’s finest lyricists, conjuring up crystal clear mental pictures of urban ennui: “You comb your hair and shave your face/Tryin to wipe out every trace/Of all the other days in the week/You know that this’ll be the Saturday you’re reachin’ your peak.”. His extra gravelly voice seems to be an acquired taste, so if he’s not your cup of tea, try Jerry Jeff Walker’s cover.
There’s a little hideaway in Tennessee whose residents are normal, civilized folk, at least until Saturday night, when they “go native,” to the sound of fiddle and guitar. There’s square dancing, moonshine, and maybe a funeral if somebody gets out of line. Foley took this Billy Hughes-penned song to #1 back in ’49; since then, several acts have covered it; be sure to check out Jerry Lee Lewis’ mighty fine version.
Don Williams may have recorded this Bob McDill song first, but McDaniel’s version was one of his most successful singles. If you’re in the mood for more Louisiana Saturday nights, Dave Dudley has a different song with the same title.
In 1956, the Singing Sheriff took this single to #4. Crappy job? Ragged pants? Pshaw! You’ve got a couple bucks and a long, boozy night in front of you. Let those other folks worry about what the future might bring.
This single from Ketchum’s major-label debut Past the Point of Rescue went all the way to #2 in 1991. Those from a small town will feel the sharp pang of recognition as Ketchum sings “Lucy, you know the world must be flat/’Cause when people leave town they never come back/They go 90 miles an hour to the city limits sign/Put the pedal to the metal ‘fore they change their mind.”
Juli Thanki is the editor of Engine 145 and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Bluegrass Unlimited, and M Music & Musicians Magazine. In 2011 she received the International Bluegrass Music Association Print Media Person of the Year award.