Billboard #1s for the Week Ending August 17, 1985

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 Shout Tears For Fears 3
R & B Freeway of Love Aretha Franklin 3
Country Highwayman Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson,
Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson
1
Adult Contemporary Everytime You Go Away Paul Young 2
Rock Money For Nothing Dire Straits 3
Album Reckless Bryan Adams 2

Highwayman(men)This week sees an all-star quartet top the Country charts. Superstar songwriter Jimmy Webb wrote Highwayman for his 1977 album El Mirage. A brief bio-epic about a soul that wanders through four adventurous incarnations, it’s a classic Webb tune: reflective, mystical, and energetic. Frequent Webb collaborator Glen Campbell recorded the song in 1978. He wanted to release it as a single but was stymied by long-time label Capitol, an event that made him leave the company after 30 albums there.

A few years later, Campbell played the song for Johnny Cash, who thought it would be perfect for a collaborative project he was beginning with Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. Coincidentally, Webb had offered Jennings the song earlier but he “just couldn’t see it.” Campbell played it again for the whole group and they agreed that the structure — four verses and four souls — was a perfect fit for four singers. It inspired them enough that they named their collaborative album Highwayman and nicknamed their quartet the Highwaymen.

The superstar version of Highwayman entered the Country chart in May 1985. This week, its 14th of a 20 week run, it hit the top. Given the star power of the song — and the weekly turnover at the top of the Country chart for most of the 80s — that peak is no real surprise. It added more weight to the significant chart legacies of all four performers.

  • Johnny Cash notched his last of 14 Country chart-toppers with the song, giving him 68 total weeks at the top. With 135 Country hits, he’s the 4th biggest performer on that chart. His biggest hit, 1958’s Ballad of a Teenage Queen, spent 10 weeks at the top and went to #14 on the Hot 100. His biggest of nearly 50 pop hits was the novelty song A Boy Named Sue [#2, 1969], which also topped the Adult Contemporary charts for two weeks, his biggest of a dozen hits there.
  • Waylon Jennings, another all-time top 20 Country chart legend, made the song his 14th of 15 chart-toppers (three of which he shared with Willie Nelson). He’s logged over 100 Country hits and crossed over to the Hot 100 a dozen times. His biggest single was 1977’s Lukenbach, Texas, with six weeks at #1 Country and a #25 peak on the Hot 100.
  • Kris Kristofferson has a smaller chart footprint but a long musical legacy. His biggest hit is 1973’s Why Me, which topped the Country chart for one week. It was a slow monster on the Hot 100; although it only peaked at #16, its record-setting 38-week run landed it at #6 in the year-end countdown.
  • Willie Nelson ranks #9 on the Country charts, with over 120 charting singles, 20 of which went to #1. Highwayman was his 16th chart-topper. A frequent collaborator, he had his biggest hit in 2002 with Beer For My Horses, a six-week #1 duet with Toby Keith. He’s had respectable crossover success as well. His cover of Always On My Mind was his best non-Country success, going to #5 as one of his dozen Hot 100 singles and to #2 in a similar run of Adult Contemporary hits.
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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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