Who Wrote “Tennessee Whiskey?”

You’re as smooth as Tennessee whiskey / You’re as sweet as strawberry wine…Since 2015, Chris Stapleton’s soulful rendition of “Tennessee Whiskey” has been a staple on country radio. Though the song has been recorded a number of times, Stapleton’s version was so unique it gave the track a whole new life —one that blows the past recordings out of the water.

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It’s hard to separate Stapleton’s name from this song, but it was actually penned decades before the Kentucky native got his hands on it. Who wrote “Tennessee Whiskey?” Find out below.

Who Wrote “Tennessee Whiskey”

Dean Dillon co-wrote “Tennessee Whiskey” with Linda Hargrove over 35 years ago after a long night at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe.

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“I wrote the song 35 years ago,” Dillon told Nash Country Daily. “It was 4 o’clock in the morning and I had been drinking all night and I met a young lady by the name of Linda Hargrove and we decided to go home together—but not for what everybody thought. I had the idea for the song and we sat at her house at 4 o’clock in the morning and wrote that song. And the rest is history.”

The song has been recorded by the likes of George Jones, Brad Paisley, and of course, Stapleton.

“I pitched it first to [George] Strait, but he turned it down. I pitched it to [George] Jones and he had a number [two] with it,” Dillon said. “David Allan Coe cut it, and Brad Paisley cut it, and then a couple of years ago Chris Stapleton was messing around with it during rehearsals and started playing it the way he plays it, and it had a whole new life of its own.”

He continued, “I was blown away when I heard Stapleton’s version. I had written with Stapleton and I knew what kind of throat he had, and the first time I heard him sing it, I thought, ‘Man, that’s got some big ol’ legs on it.'”

In addition to “Tennesee Whiskey,” Dillon has many cuts with George Strait, including, “The Chair,” “Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her,” “It Ain’t Cool to Be Crazy About You,” “Ocean Front Property,” “Famous Last Words of a Fool,” “I’ve Come to Expect It From You,” “If I Know Me,” “Easy Come, Easy Go,” “Lead On,” “I Believe” and more.

Dillon got his start in music early on in life. Growing up in Lake City, Tennessee, he began playing guitar at the age of seven. After graduating from high school, Dillon hitchhiked to Nashville with hopes of starting a music career.

He found success as a recording artist himself. Between 1979 ad 1983, Dillon charted eight times, including earning one Top 30 hit, “I’m into the Bottle (To Get You out of My Mind).” It was these early songwriting efforts that earned him a record deal with Capitol Records.

Chris Stapleton’s Version

Stapleton released his version of “Tennesee Whiskey” back in 2015 as part of his debut solo album, Traveller. The song reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Songs chart. He notably performed it as a duet with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 CMA Awards.

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“It’s always been a favorite song of mine,” Stapleton told Fader. “We had a show in Charlottesville, and we were sound checking, waiting around for the mics to get set up. Me and the guys in the band started playing a little bit and got into that groove, so I started thinking, ‘Man, what song could I sing over top of this?’ For whatever reason, I started singing ‘Tennessee Whiskey.'”

“At the time, we had a steel player by the name of Steve Hinson who used to play with George Jones on the road—maybe that was part of the equation,” he continued. “But we decided to do the song that night and every night since. By the time we got into the studio, it was something we all enjoyed playing. It’s a part of the fabric of things that influenced me over the years.”

Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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