Red Foley’s ‘Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy’: Country’s First Million-Seller?

The 1949 recording is listed by some sources as the first country disc to sell a million copies.

Published on

Red Foley - Photo: GAB Archive/Redferns
Red Foley - Photo: GAB Archive/Redferns

The song listed by some sources as the first million-selling country disc was recorded on November 7, 1949, by a 39-year-old Kentuckian called Clyde Julian Foley. He was a household name among country and western fans by his stage first name, Red, with a catalog of hits dating back to the last days of World War II. Foley’s career that had started some 20 years before this new landmark, “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy.”

Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy

Click to load video

Red Foley had first come to prominence way back in 1930 on the show National Barn Dance, then on another leading into wartime called the Renfro Valley Show. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for eight years from 1946, by which time he’d already scored his first country chart-toppers with “Smoke On The Water” (positively no relation to the Deep Purple song) and “Shame On You.”

Listen to uDiscover Music’s Country Music In 20 Songs playlist.

Another No.1, “Tennessee Saturday Night,” with the Cumberland Valley Boys, followed in 1947. Foley had many other popular releases on Decca for years to come, with the group, solo and collaborators such as Ernest Tubb, Evelyn Knight, and the Jordanaires.

He went into the studio on that early November day in 1949 with Owen Bradley, already one of the touchstone producers on the country scene, and guitarist Grady Martin to record “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy.” Written by Harry Stone and Jack Stapp, it was also recorded by Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and many others.

The single entered the Billboard country listings in January 1950 at No.1, where it stayed for a mighty 13 weeks. Foley remained a country kingpin through the first half of the 1950s, with four more chart-toppers as a solo artist and another with “One By One,” among his many collaborations with another country trailblazer, Kitty Wells.

Buy or stream “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy” on the compilation True Country.



  1. Lonnie L. Krause

    November 7, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    I remember the song well and Red Foley and The Ozark Jubilee!

  2. Gail

    November 7, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Great music

  3. Don Erickson

    November 8, 2015 at 12:18 am

    From my understanding, the first million selling Country recording was Vernon Dalhart’s recording of “Wreck of Old 97” and “Prisoner’s Song” in 1924 for Victor. It sold several million copies.

  4. Darren Mullins

    December 19, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Vernon Dalhart had the first million seller in country and Jimmie Rodgers scored a million seller with T For Texas, also known as Blue Yodel #1. Both of these happened more than 20 years before Red Foley sold a million.

  5. Foul Quince

    May 9, 2022 at 5:43 am

    Up until “White Christmas” came along, “Wreck of the Ol’ 97 was the biggest selling record ever. Some say it sold 30 million copies but they were suing for share of the royalties – the real figure is more like 7 million. It was in Victor/RCA’s catalogue for a dozen years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Billy Idol - Rebel Yell LP
Rebel Yell (40th Expanded Edition) (Marbled Limited Edition) 2LP
Def Leppard - Pyromania 2LP
Def Leppard
Pyromania 2LP
The Who - Live At Shea Stadium 1982 3LP
The Who
Live At Shea Stadium 1982 3LP
Keane - Hopes And Fears 20th Limited Edition 2LP
Hopes And Fears 20th Limited Edition 2LP
Abba - Waterloo 50th Anniversary
Abba - Waterloo 50th Anniversary (Limited Edition 3 x 7" Box Set)
Bob Marley - Songs Of Freedom Limited Edition 6LP Box Set
Bob Marley - Songs Of Freedom Limited Edition 6LP Box Set
uDiscover Music - Back To Top
uDiscover Music - Back To Top