Tracy Byrd toasts Great Frederick Fair for ‘Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo’ before doing ‘Watermelon Crawl’ home

Country music star Tracy Byrd joins Jo Dee Messina at the Great Frederick Fair in Frederick, Maryland, this Friday.

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

WTOP’s Jason Fraley previews Tracy Byrd at the Great Frederick Fair (Part 1)

Country music star Tracy Byrd joins Jo Dee Messina at the Great Frederick Fair in Frederick, Maryland, this Friday.

Together, they’ve had so many hits that, to steal a phrase, I lost count and started counting again.

“We’ve done three shows together this year and we did three or four last year,” Byrd told WTOP. “It’s worked out well to book us together, for us to do shows together, and of course, Jo Dee is about the coolest gal I know, so I love working with her. … She’s on another roll now after the Cole Swindell song, so she’s really doing great. (Cole) played my hometown in Beaumont not long ago … and in the middle of his show he did ‘Watermelon Crawl.’”

Born in Texas in 1966, Byrd grew up listening to country legend George Jones as a hometown hero.

“I grew up listening to Merle Haggard and George Jones,” Byrd said. “George is from my hometown, so I grew up listening to George, and then George Strait came along when I was just about to go into high school and I really fell in love with his music and I kind of tried to mirror him for a long time, so those guys were my heroes — and still are. I just love traditional country music with steel guitar and fiddle. That’s what I enjoy and what I was meant to do.”

Early in his career, he filled in for Mark Chesnutt before signing with MCA Records in 1992.

“When Mark headed out on the road, I took over playing with his band,” Byrd said. “When he went to record his first album, I left the band I was with and kind of just played with his band as a guest at his house gig here in Beaumont. Then once they headed out on the road, I put my band back together and took the house gig that Mark had for several years. Then I got signed by MCA right behind mark, so we ended up on the same record label too.”

His first self-titled album “Tracy Byrd” (1993) featured the No. 1 country hit “Holdin’ Heaven,” but his second album, “No Ordinary Man” (1994), was even bigger with the smash hit “Watermelon Crawl” — its lyrics teaching tipsy folks how to get home safely: “We got a hundred gallons of sweet red wine, made from the biggest watermelons on the vine, help yourself to some, but obey the law, if you drink, don’t drive, do the watermelon crawl.”

“‘Watermelon Crawl’ is hands down the most popular song that I’ve got with the fans,” Byrd said. “It’s the one they start screaming for when the show starts and they don’t stop screaming until I do it. It’s just been a crazy song. When I cut it, I really didn’t think it would be as big or lasting as it has been, but it’s been an amazing ride and I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at without it. … It won Line Dance of the Year, but I can’t do it. I’m no dancer.”

The same album also featured “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich & Famous,” but its most acclaimed tune was “Keeper of the Stars,” which won Song of the Year at Academy of Country Music Awards. Written by Dickey Lee, “Keeper of the Stars” was the original “Bless the Broken Road” about a divine plan bringing two lovers together: “I tip my hat to the keeper of the stars, He sure knew what He was doing when He joined these two hearts.”

“Dickey is a great Hall of Fame songwriter,” Byrd said. “Dickey recorded his song ‘Patches’ here in Beaumont. … Dickey wrote ‘She Thinks I Still Care’ for George Jones, which is a classic country song, so at that age, even in the ’90s there, he was still writing hits. … It was a pretty amazing ride for Dickey. I was lucky to get ahold of ‘Keeper of the Stars,’ because it’s that kind of classic song that’ll live on forever. … It still is used all the time in weddings.”

His third album, “Love Lessons” (1995), delivered a hit title track and the catchy “Walking to Jerusalem,” while his fourth album, “Big Love” (1996), gave us a hit cover of Johnny Paycheck’s “Don’t Take Her She’s All I’ve Got.”

“If you go back to my first album, I had a Top 20 hit on ‘Someone to Give My Love To,’ which was an old Johnny Paycheck song, and when I went into the studio, me and Tony Brown, my producer, had both of those songs with us on our first album and he said, ‘Let’s remember to come back and do ‘Don’t Take Her She’s All I Got,’” Byrd said. “Six years later, we were sitting in studio and I said, ‘You know, we never did ‘Don’t Taker Her She’s All I Got.’”

Byrd’s fifth studio album, “I’m from the Country” (1998), gave us a great title track.

“‘I’m from the Country’ is one of those anthem-type songs where everyone who is truly from the country, that’s how they feel,” Byrd said. “That’s another song that we had on an earlier session and didn’t cut and we came back and cut it later on the later session for another album and it ended up being the title track. … The crowd pretty much sings that one for me. I can just turn the mic and let the crowd sing on that one. They sing every word.”

After his sixth album “It’s About Time” (1999), delivered “Put Your Hand in Mine,” Byrd’s seventh album, “Ten Rounds” (2001), featured the smash drinking song “Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo,” which went to No. 1.

“It’s just one of those party songs,” Byrd said. “It’s all about fun, it’s all in jest. Of course, we’re not encouraging people to try to drink 10 rounds of Cuervo, because tequila will get you quick. … It’s just one of those songs that once again is just a great singalong country party song that everybody tends to gravitate to. A lot of them are written, but there are certain ones that are a little better than others. I was lucky to get ahold of that one.”

His eighth album, “The Truth About Men” (2003), included a hit title track featuring Blake Shelton, Andy Griggs and Montgomery Gentry, but its biggest hit was another drinking song with the catchy radio hit “Drinkin’ Bone.”

“Same writers as ‘Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo,’” Byrd said. “My buddy Casey Beathard, he wrote ‘Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo’ and we were sitting and getting ready to do the other record, and they literally wrote it that morning, he and Kerry Kurt Phillips sat down and said, ‘Let’s write a song for Byrd’s album, he’s about to cut.’ They sat down and wrote ‘Drinkin’ Bone’ in about 20 minutes. … I said, ‘Oh, that’s in.’ That’s kind of almost like a nursery rhyme.”

He’s since released two more albums, “Different Things” (2006) and “All American Texan” (2016), and if you add them all up, this Friday night is fixing to be one heck of a concert with countless greatest hits to choose from.

“We’ll have a heck of a show for you,” Byrd said.

WTOP’s Jason Fraley previews Tracy Byrd at The Great Frederick Fair (Part 2)

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

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