Gretchen Wilson Reflects on Her Breakout Hit “Redneck Woman” Twenty Years After Its Release

Gretchen Wilson introduced herself to the world with her debut single “Redneck Woman” in March 2004. It topped the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart for five weeks, giving Wilson her only No. 1 on the survey. A little more than 20 years later, it remains her signature song. However, getting the song on the radio was an uphill battle.

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Recently, Wilson sat down with Billboard to reflect on her breakout hit. During the conversation, she revealed the fight she had to put up to get her song on the radio and her fans made it a hit.

[RELATED: The Meaning Behind the Faith Hill-Inspired Country Anthem “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson]

Gretchen Wilson Broke New Ground with “Redneck Woman”

Gretchen Wilson grew up in a small town, the daughter of a teenage mother. When she released “Redneck Woman” she was in her early 30s and raising a daughter of her own. She was already living the life she sang about in her breakout hit. As a result, many of the glossy pop-crossover songs released by other women in country music didn’t speak to her. So, she sat down with John Rich to craft a song that celebrated women like her.

“I remember sitting down and saying, ‘I can’t really relate to what I’m seeing on CMT, GAC, all the popular music video channels, and this is not real life,” Wilson said of the inspiration behind the song. “That’s kind of the mindset we had that day. It was like, ‘If I’m not that, then what am I?’ And the best I could come up with was I’m just a regular ole redneck woman,” she recalled. “It was about as honest as I could get. I knew at the same time that it was going to speak to so many women that were feeling frustrated just like I was,” Wilson added.

The Fans Made “Redneck Woman” a Hit

“I felt validated, but mostly with the fans because radio put up quite a fight,” Wilson said of the song’s success. “Radio was like, ‘Who is this white trash hillbilly chick coming at us with 13 cuss words in the first song?’ My argument at the time—and I had a valid argument, even though it was 20 years ago before a lot of feminine movements had happened—my argument was, ‘I’m on the same label as Montgomery Gentry who just had a hit with ‘Hell Yeah’. So, is this just because I’m a female and I can’t say ‘Hell yeah’ in my song?’ So, that kind of got em. They shut up real quick about that,” Wilson recalled.

However, Wilson doesn’t credit the song’s success to her strong—and valid—argument. Instead, she puts it on the fans. “It was really the fans who called their local radio stations. They called and basically said, ‘You will play this song or I’ll be switching to the other guy’s station,” she said.

“Redneck Woman” topped the charts for five weeks. Wilson’s debut album Here for the Party went to No. 1 on the Top Country Albums Chart. Additionally, the song brought her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. She also won New Artist of the Year at the 2004 CMA Awards and Female Vocalist of the Year in 2005.

Featured Image by David A. Smith/Getty Images

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