"Tennessee River" is a song written by Randy Owen, and recorded by American country music band Alabama. It was released in April 1980 as the third single from the album My Home's in Alabama. The song eventually became the group's first No. 1 song on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart.

Song history[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song was officially Alabama's first single release by RCA Records after they had signed with the label in March 1980. The song is part of the band's first RCA album, My Home's in Alabama, which also includes two earlier singles: "I Wanna Come Over" and the title track; the earlier songs had originally been released by the small MDJ Records, even though there were later RCA pressings of "My Home's in Alabama" offered for retail sale.

A fiddle-heavy celebration of growing up near the Tennessee River (which flows fairly close to Alabama's home base of Fort Payne), the song expresses the regrets of having gotten the urge to roam, gratitude of the few times the singer gets to enjoy spending time by the river, and a desire to eventually settle down and raise a family in the river's vicinity.

Country music historian Bill Malone, in his essay included in the liner notes for Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection, noted that "Tennessee River" was among those songs where they "exhibit a deep love for their state and region ... and in the unpretentious sense of place and loyalty to home and family that they display in their personal lives and performances." Other songs in their repertoire - including "My Home's in Alabama," "Song of the South" and "Born Country," plus their Christmas song "Christmas in Dixie" - would exhibit those same sentiments.

"Tennessee River" began Alabama's string of 21 consecutive No. 1 singles in as many releases, a string that spanned from 1980 through 1987 and is generally considered not to include the 1982 Christmas song, "Christmas in Dixie".

Alternate Versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

RCA demanded that the, "Original" second verse in the song be dropped when the song was released as a single. When the song was performed live, the second verse was added and two extra jams are included. A live version with the extra verse is included on Alabama's first greatest hits album, while the original version is available on their third.

Chart performance[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1980) Peak


U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1
Preceded by

"Stand by Me" by Mickey Gilley

Billboard Hot Country Singles

number-one single August 16, 1980

Succeeded by

"Drivin' My Life Away" by Eddie Rabbitt

Preceded by

"Love the World Away" by Kenny Rogers

RPM Country Tracks

number-one single September 13, 1980

Succeeded by

"But It's Cheating" by Family Brown