4 Songs Vince Gill Wrote During His Pure Prairie League and Cherry Bombs Days

In 1978, Vince Gill auditioned for Pure Prairie League—named after the women’s Christian union featured in the 1939 Errol Flynn film Dodge City—and by the end of the year, he was the band’s new vocalist and guitarist. Gill played on three Pure Prairie’s League albums: Can’t Hold Back (1979), Firin’ Up (1980), and Something in the Night (1981), the band’s final release before disbanding in 1988.

After leaving Pure Prairie League, Gill accepted Rodney Crowell‘s second offer to play guitar in his backing band The Notorious Cherry Bombs (also known as the Cherry Bombs), and ended up working alongside his future producers and collaborators Tony Brown and Emory Gordy Jr., while refining his songwriting skills.

Throughout the ’80s, Gill was working as a musician and songwriting, playing guitar and collaborating with Emmylou Harris, Reba McEntire, Bonnie Raitt, Dire Straits, and Crowell’s then-wife Rosanne Cash, who later co-wrote and sang on his 1985 hit “If It Weren’t for Him” from his debut The Things That Matter.

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NASHVILLE, TN – NOVEMBER 5: Host Vince Gill performs onstage at the “37th Annual CMA Awards” at the Grand Ole Opry House November 5, 2003 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images)

By 1989, Gill released his breakthrough album When I Call Your Name, featuring the title track, a duet with Patty Loveless, which went to No. 2 on the Country chart and earned Gill a CMA for Single and Song of the Year, and his first Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male. Throughout the 1990s, Gill picked up a Grammy each year from 1990 through 1999 and has won 21, in total.

Well before Gill’s solo success, he wrote songs for Pure Prairie League and the Cherry Bombs. Here are four songs Gill wrote during his early run with both bands.

[RELATED: Top 10 Pure Prairie League Songs, Featuring Vince Gill]

1. “I Can’t Believe” (1979)

Written by Vince Gill

For Pure Prairie League’s seventh album Can’t Hold Back, Gill contributed five tracks including the title track, “Misery Train,” “I’m Goin’ Away,” and “Jerene.” Gill also penned the soft-rock ballad “I Can’t Believe” and the astonishment of finding just the right person.

I can’t believe I’m falling so deep in love with you
And I can’t believe I’m so happy, so happy I found you
I found
You, I found you
Oh I found you
I found you

And I can’t believe when you told me that you love me so
And I can’t believe when I told you well I’ll never let you go
Let you go

“When I started playing with Pure Prairie League, they asked me if I had any songs,” said Gill in an interview with American Songwriter in 2019. “I wound up getting five songs on the first album I did with them. That shocked me. I had only been writing for about a year and didn’t write a lot back then, but that inspired me to write a lot more.”

2. “I’m Almost Ready” (1980)

Written by Vince Gill

On his second album with the band, Firin’ Up, Gill wrote six of the 10 tracks, including the uptempo “I’m Almost Ready.” Pure Prairie League even performed the song on an episode of Solid Gold (see below) in 1980, backed by the Solid Gold Dancers.

I’m almost ready
To let you know just how bad I feel
I’m almost ready

To let you loose and find another heart to steal
My friends tell me that they see you
Runnin’ around all over town
Please don’t make me out to be your fool

Please don’t make me out a clown
I don’t know who you think you’re foolin
I hope you don’t think that it’s me
It’s plain to see that you don’t love me anymore

[RELATED: Reba McEntire Regretted Never Telling Kenny Rogers That Vince Gill Was Chosen Over Him For Her 1993 Duet “The Heart Won’t Lie”]

3. “Hold on to Our Hearts” (1981)

Written by Vince Gill

Gill’s third album with Pure Prairie League, the band’s ninth, Something in the Night, produced one of the band’s biggest hits, “Still Right Here in My Heart.” Written by Dan Greer and Jeff Wilson, the song peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and the top 40 (No. 28) of the Hot 100. On the album, Gill also penned half of the tracks, including “Hold on to Our Hearts.”

Well I got a notion that you love me
I got a notion you’re thinkin’ of me
An’ I got a feelin’ about you from the start
An’ I got a feelin’ we will never part

‘Cause we gotta hold on (we gotta hold on)
We gotta hold on to our hearts, to our hearts
To our hearts, to our hearts

When I first saw you it was then that I knew
That you wanted me as bad as I wanted you
Well I gotta have you, I gotta have you now
So bring me lovin’ baby and let me show you how

4. “Let It Roll, Let It Ride” (2004)

Written by Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell

By the early 1980s, Rodney Crowell left Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band to start his solo career. For Crowell’s backing band, he took along some Hot Band members, along with Gill, and called them The Cherry Bombs. Working with the Cherry Bombs, Gill reconnected with friend Tony Brown, who had previously played in Emmylou Harris’ band. Brown later signed Gill when he started working for the A & R department for RCA Records before moving on to MCA. Gill’s albums at RCA were produced by Patty Loveless’ husband and former Cherry Bombs bassist Emory Gord Jr.

“Getting to know Rodney [Crowell] and some of those guys,” Gill told American Songwriter, “it became apparent that was a pretty neat part of being musical.”

Though the Cherry Bombs played together nearly two decades earlier, they didn’t release an album until 2004. The Notorious Cherry Bombs features 12 original tracks, most written or co-written by Crowell and Gill, including the opening “Let it Roll, Let It Ride” about someone losing themself in fortune.

You used to be drop-dead funny
Then you married into all of that money
And I don’t have to tell you, man
There’s nothing ’bout you seems the same
You tell me that your shoes don’t fit
You tell me that the blues won’t quit
I love you like a brother
But you only have yourself to blame

Let it Roll, Let it Ride
Come on over to the other side
Let it ride, let it roll
Loosen up before you’re too damn old
You’ve got to let it roll

[RELATED: The Writer’s Block: Rodney Crowell’s Reservoir of Songs Keeps Filling Up]

Gill continued to collaborate throughout the decades. They even play fiddle in each other’s 1994 music videos—Crowell’s “Big Heart” and Gill’s What The Cowgirls Do.”

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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