The Girl Who Got Away

Bob McDill wrote the song ‘Amanda’, and he described it as an “apology to my wife”, he married Nancy Whitsett on October 6, 1971, but they divorced 1991.  I see this song as being about somebody who was living his life as a musician, not worrying about anything but his music and he did not realize how much time was going by, until it was too late and he missed his chance of being married to Amanda, a woman who stuck by his side.  He looks in the mirror and realizes that he’s gotten older and he is still not very prosperous and he has left Amanda in limbo and she deserved better than that.  Bob McDill became acquainted with singer Don Williams, the man who would turn many of the young songwriter’s works into hits, recording more than 30 of his songs and more than a half-dozen of his No. 1s, so McDill let Williams record the song ‘Amanda’.  However, before Don Williams’ recording attracted attention, McDill pitched it to Waylon Jennings.  McDill went to Jennings’ office, but unfortunately, he was out at the time of his visit.  McDill left the song with his receptionist and told her to make sure that Waylon Jennings gets a chance to hear the song when he gets back.  However, Waylon Jennings never heard the song, well not before he heard Don Williams’s record being played on the radio.

After hearing the song, he called Bob McDill and said, “That’s the story of my life, Hoss. Why didn’t you give me that song?”  McDill replied, “If you look on your receptionist’s desk, I’ll bet you’ll find a copy of it. I tried my best.”  Then Waylon Jennings said, Well, I’m gonna record it someday anyway.”  Waylon Jennings recorded the song the following year on his 1974 album, The Ramblin’ Man, however, it wasn’t released as a single until his Greatest Hits album in 1979, a little over four and a half year later where they added new overdubs.  ‘Amanda’ hit the top of the charts on June 30 and remained at No. 1 spot of the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart for three weeks and became Waylon Jennings’ eighth No. 1 hit.

Originally ‘Amanda’ consisted only of two verses and the chorus consists of only two lines, repeated twice, but they deliver volumes in their simplicity.  One month before the birth of his son Shooter, Jennings added different lyrics to ‘Amanda’, for his Greatest Hits album.  The new version including the revised line “I got my first guitar when I was 14 Well, I finally made 40, still wearing jeans.”

Country music legend Waylon Jennings died in 2002, but he left an indelible mark on the genre.  Along with scoring several chart-topping hits as a solo artist, Jennings also found success as part of the supergroup the Highwaymen, a quartet that also included Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash.  Throughout his illustrious career, Jennings released more than 80 albums and charted over 60 singles.  Jennings said that the line in ‘Amanda’ “Fate should have made you a gentleman’s wife”, always hit him hard every time he sang it, because it would make him think of his fourth and final wife Jessi Colter who he had had been married to for more than 20 years at that point.  Singer-songwriter Jessi Colter had set aside her own promising career to stand at his side during long periods of career frustration and cocaine addiction.  Colter’s devotion not only helped Jennings tame his demons, but also filled him with an inner richness that enabled him to bring a deeper dimension to his music.

Before he retired in the early 2000s, Bob McDill landed 152 hits on the Billboard country chart, more than any other songwriter in history.  He hit the Billboard Top 10 an astounding 55 times, and 31 of those singles climbed all the way to #1.  In 1985 for at least one week, he had six songs on the country charts with four of them being in the Top 10.  That same year he was inducted into Nashville Songwriters Association International Hall of Fame.  McDill got his first hit in 1972 when Johnny Russell recorded his song, ‘Catfish John’, which he co-wrote with Allen Reynolds and which was later covered by The Grateful Dead.  McDill said that he usually found songwriting to be a long and exacting process, but that the only song that he was able to write quickly was ‘Amanda’, which came to him in about 30 minutes.

When it comes to music, only you can decide what type you like to listen to and although I am not a big fan of country music, I do enjoy the lyrics that make up the stories in some of the country music songs.  The ones I enjoy the most describe situations where the songwriter laments about the woman who left, the dog that died, the truck which broke down and then they drink whiskey to cheer themselves up.  In country music, it is OK to say the words Redneck and Hillbilly, as these are things that instill pride in this lifestyle.  Good country music leaves behind memories of what could have been and these memories which can either make you sad or make you smile and these memories are contained in this song.

I’ve held it all inward, God knows, I’ve tried
But it’s an awful awakening in a country boy’s life
To look in the mirror in total surprise
At the hair on my shoulders and the age in my eyes

Amanda, light of my life
Fate should have made you a gentleman’s wife
Amanda, light of my life
Fate should have made you a gentleman’s wife

It’s a measure of people who don’t understand
The pleasures of life in a hillbilly band
I got my first guitar when I was fourteen
Well I finally made forty, still wearing jeans

Amanda, light of my life
Fate should have made you a gentleman’s wife
Amanda, light of my life
Fate should have made you a gentleman’s wife

10 thoughts on “The Girl Who Got Away

    1. Boston covered the same song and it was their biggest hit. I was not familiar with the Green Day Amanda, but I just listened to it and it is nice. The obscure Stones song ‘Miss Amanda Jones’ was supposedly written about a fling that Brian Jones had with Amanda Lear, a companion of the Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Also, The Everly Brothers did a song titled ‘Amanda Ruth’.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Nice tribute to Waylon, McDill, and country music. Mom had several country LPs growing up that got a lot of listening. When I lived out in the sticks as a late teener (drinking age was 18 at that time) I hung out at a little country bar. Got to know quite a few tunes and remember when Waylon had hit after hit on the jukebox. “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” was the bar’s most sung-along-with song at that time. Had forgotten, “Amanda” until today and recall it fondly. I also have to laugh at the last paragraph’s caveat 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Li. I saw Waylon Jennings in concert as he opened up for the Grateful Dead at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I have written about Jennings before, but that was associated with him playing bass for Buddy Holly and him giving up his seat to the Big Bopper on the plane that crashed.

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