Paul McCartney’s influence on all modern music is beyond any dispute, but you’d be forgiven for struggling to name the song he recorded that made the US country charts.
It happened on December 21, 1974 when, with Wings, he was already climbing the American pop Top 10 with “Junior’s Farm.” That Apple/Capitol single was, technically at least, a double A-side with a song that was directly inspired by a trip to Nashville with his wife Linda and the other members of Wings, Denny Laine, Jimmy McCulloch and Geoff Britton.
After visiting a club in the town’s famous downtown district, the couple wrote “Sally G,” a romantic story that was even set in the country capital and mentioned the very street where the song was born (“The night life took me down to Printer’s Alley, where Sally sang a song behind a bar”).
“Buddy Killen [studio owner and music publisher] took us out to Printer’s Alley, a little club district,” McCartney remembered later. Referring to the lyrics of “Sally G,” he added: “I didn’t see anyone named ‘Sally G’ in Printer’s Alley, nor did I see anyone who ran her eyes over me when she was singing ‘A Troubled Mind.’ That was my imagination, adding to the reality of it.”
Recorded by Wings in Nashville in July 1974 along with “Junior’s Farm” and several other tracks, the song reflected McCartney’s longtime love of country music, as well as featuring some of Music Row’s finest musicians. Future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Gimble, the revered fiddle player in the classic western swing sound of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Also on the session were “Father of Hillbilly Jazz” Vassar Clements and prolific steel guitar player Lloyd Green.
A one-time country showing
With such impressive ingredients, the track had such authenticity about it that the record company decided to work it to country radio. It began to attract airplay, and gave McCartney his first, and only, showing on the country chart. After debuting at No.91, it would peak at No.51.
Another interesting chart statistic that week in late 1974 was that, for the first time, the Hot 100 contained solo hits by all four Beatles. With “Junior’s Farm”/“Sally G” at No.8, Ringo Starr’s version of “Only You” at No.14, and George Harrison’s “Dark Horse” at No.24, John Lennon completed the set with a No.68 debut for “#9 Dream.”
Buy or stream “Sally G” on the expanded Venus and Mars album.