May 12, 2010 12:00 PM

“These songs made me want to write and made me the singer that I am”

1 “HE STOPPED LOVING HER TODAY”

GEORGE JONES

“Probably the best country song ever. It’s the ultimate love song-love them ’til you’re dead. And Jones is the best. His voice just fits that sad lyric and can’t be duplicated.”

2 “BIG CITY”

MERLE HAGGARD

“You look at Merle’s song list and think about what you want on your favorites, and you can’t narrow it down-there are so many. I could pick 10 favorites. I sang this song a million times, and the lyrics just fit me: ‘Big city, turn me loose, set me free.’ ”

3 “IF YOU’RE GONNA DO ME WRONG (DO IT RIGHT)”

VERN GOSDIN

“Vern might be my all-time favorite singer. They called him the Voice, and he could milk those words. It was another in my repertoire from club days, and it made me the singer I am.”

4 “OLD VIOLIN”

JOHNNY PAYCHECK

“Paycheck wrote this song way late in life about himself. He was ‘the old violin’ and you can’t throw him away. The lyrics are so powerful. You think about that, growing old, will you still be able to sing or will you be put on the shelf?”

5 “ROSE COLORED GLASSES”

JOHN CONLEE

“Back in the early ’80s when I was first singing with a little band, that song was my trademark. When I moved to Nashville the first place I ever sang at was called the Nashville Palace, and this was the first song I sang.”

6 “I’M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY”

HANK WILLIAMS

“That song made me think about songwriting. How an uneducated man from southern Alabama could put simple words like that together and make it sound so beautiful-it’s hard to do.”

7 “FAMILY TRADITION”

HANK WILLIAMS JR.

“Hank gets this rap of being this rowdy guy, but he’s a great writer. It’s a song about him following his daddy’s footsteps and having trouble with that. He had to struggle to make his own way. I’m just a big fan.”

8 “FAREWELL PARTY”

GENE WATSON

“It seems like I love all the sad ones, but they’re the best! They’re the ones that evoke emotion. Gene Watson’s one of the more unappreciated singers from that generation. He’s got a velvet voice and can sing anything.”

9 “THE RIDE”

DAVID ALLAN COE

“It’s a song about a guy wanting to be a singer and Hank Williams’ ghost gives him advice. That song just fit me at the time, trying to be a country singer-if you want to be a star, it’s going to be a long, hard ride.”

10 “STAND BY YOUR MAN”

TAMMY WYNETTE

“I had to throw one woman’s song in here somewhere! I like that she was a songwriter, and I loved her voice. She wasn’t a dramatic singer. She just knew how to phrase words to make them sound honest.”

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