31 Best Songs About Tennessee: The Volunteer State

Tennessee is one of the most important places in the US when it comes to music. From the blues of Memphis to the country twangs of Nashville, the state is the mecca of several musical genres. But life there is also more simple and, for many, better than elsewhere. In this article, we’ll look at the 31 best songs about The Volunteer State that just might make you feel a bit homesick for the Smoky Mountains. 

1. Rocky Top – Osborne Brothers

Rocky Top was first written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant in 1967 and was recorded the same year by the Osborne Brothers. In the years since it was first recorded, dozens of artists have taken a turn with it, from Conway Twitty to Rascal Flatts. The track’s narrative is essentially the singer lamenting that they’ve moved away from their simple life in the hills of Tennessee in favor of an urban existence.

Tennessee may have 10 official state songs, but this is probably the most recognizable of them all. Today, it remains a classic staple in the state and is forever tied to Tennessee University’s athletics program. Since the 1970s, the school’s band has played a version of the track at every one of their sporting events. The Osborne Brothers’ original version of the song was a moderate success and is remembered as one of the most important tracks of the South. 

2. Tennessee Whiskey – Chris Stapleton

Chris Stapleton - Tennessee Whiskey (Official Audio)

Tennessee Whiskey was first written in 1981 by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrave. After it was initially offered to George Strait, David Allen Coe recorded his initial version of the song and used it as the title track of his 1981 album. It became a modest hit, making it to number 77 on the country chart, and is a perfect example of traditional country music.

George Jones would also record a cover of the song in 1983 that became a major country hit. But there’s just something about Chris Stapleton’s voice singing the classic track. His version was released in 2015. After performing his rendition of the song at the CMAs, his track became a major hit and topped the country charts while breaking into the top 25 of the Hot 100 that year

3. Walking In Memphis – Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn - Walking in Memphis (Official Music Video)

Walking In Memphis quickly became Marc Cohn’s signature song after he released it in 1991. Cohn took a trip to the city to try to overcome a bout of writer’s block he was going through, looking for some inspiration. He certainly found it in Memphis, taking in the culture of the city and the major attractions found there.

Elvis Presley’ residence Graceland, the downtown area, and a church where Al Green was preaching all served as major influences for the track and helped get Cohn out of his funk. It ended up being his only top-40 single, peaking at number 13 on the Hot 100 and number three in Canada in 1991. 

4. Dixieland Delight – Alabama

Alabama - Dixieland Delight (Official Video)

Dixieland Delight was released by Alabama in 1983 as the lead single of their album The Closer You Get. It quickly became a fan favorite, rising to the top of the Hot Country Songs chart. The track even became notable within the college football traditions of the Southeastern Conference, especially in Alabama and Tennessee.

But the song discusses a man finding peace in the backwoods of Tennessee and many of the forest animals that he finds comfort in seeing while on his drives. As famous as the band may be, this has been one of their most enduring and popular singles. 

5. My Tennessee Mountain Home – Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton - My Tennessee Mountain Home (Official Audio)

My Tennessee Mountain Home was the title track of Dolly Parton’s 11th studio album and was the most important song on that 1973 concept album. It mostly draws on her experiences growing up in the state’s rural area and eventually became one of her most important and memorable singles. It peaked at number 15 on the US Country Singles chart, but it also became something of a signature for her. She ended up re-recording the song for her 1994 live album as well.

6. Tennessee Waltz – Patti Page

Tennessee Waltz started out as a pop country song in the 1940s. Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King finished writing it in 1946 and released it in 1948. In 1950, the track became a sensation, largely thanks to Patti Page’s version that came out that year. By 1964, it had become the fourth official song of the state of Tennessee, and her version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.

Inspired by the track Kentucky Waltz, this somewhat mirrored the famous Bill Monroe song. There were quite a lot of cover versions for this track, including stylized versions from The Fontanes Sisters, Manfred Mann, Otis Redding, Norah Jones, and Kelly Clarkson. 

7. Tennessee River – Alabama

Alabama - Tennessee River (Official Audio)

Tennessee River is another ubiquitous southern song from Alabama. It was written by Randy Owen. lead vocalist of the band, and was released as the third single from their 1980 album My Home’s In Alabama. It was also the very first track from them that made it to number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. It’s a song about loving where you’re from and the regret of wanting to roam around, centering on the Tennessee River that flows through the state and near their home base in Fort Payne, Alabama. 

8. Smoky Mountain Rain – Ronnie Milsap

Smoky Mountain Rain

One of the most famous features of the state of Tennessee has to be the Smoky Mountains, a cloud-covered and stunning portion of the Appalachian Mountain range. Smoky Mountain Rain was released by Ronnie Milsap as the only single to come from his 1980 Greatest Hits album and eventually became his signature song.

In the state, the track became so popular that it was made the eighth official state song of Tennessee. It has even been voted among the greatest country tracks of all time. It was a country chart-topper for him, who recorded his 16th number-one single on that chart with this song. 

9. Visit Me in Music City – Bobby Bare Jr.

Visit Me in Music City

Perhaps even more than the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee is famous for music. Nashville and Memphis may have different music scenes, but they remain two of the most important music meccas in the US today.

Bobby Bare Jr.’s Visit Me In Music City is a cynical take on the Nashville music scene. It’s obvious that he isn’t a fan of modern country music or the artists currently making music there. But hey, there’s a lot of that going around in the traditional crowd, so who can blame a native who was around for all the legendary names in the genre?

10. Sundown in Nashville – Marty Stuart

Sundown In Nashville

Sundown In Nashville was written by Dwayne Warwick and recorded by Marty Stuart. It’s another song about the city, but it has a slightly brighter perspective of Nashville than our last entry.

This one views it as a city of dreams during the daytime, but a place full of broken people at night. Because while Nashville is a place where many people realize their music dreams, it hides a darker and lonelier existence than one would expect to find. For Warwick, it’s a city where dreams get broken more often than realized, which is likely an accurate portrayal of all the artists to have walked Nashville’s streets. 

11. Tennessee Rose – Emmylou Harris

Tennessee Rose is a beautiful song about the people of the state, originally written by Karen Brooks and Hank DeVito. Emmylou Harris recorded and released the track in 1982 as the second single to come from her album Cimarron. It was a pretty big country hit, reaching number five on the US Hot Country Songs Chart and number five on Canada’s RPM Country Tracks Chart that year. 

12. Memphis Tennessee – Elvis Presley

Memphis Tennessee was originally recorded by Chuck Berry and released in 1959. He found a solid hit with the song, as it rose to number six in the UK in 1963. A version by Johnny Rivers also rose to number two in the US the following year. But it was the king of Memphis who recorded one of the most successful versions—outside of The Beatles of course.

Elvis Presley released his version of the track on his Elvis For Everyone! album in 1965, an album that took over 10 years of recording sessions across several studios. It was essentially a collection of big hit singles sung by him and made of mostly scrapped recordings, and it was one of the few albums of his to not sell particularly well. 

13. Murder On Music Row – George Strait

Murder On Music Row

Murder On Music Row was originally written by Larry Cordle and Larry Shell and was first recorded by Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time. But it would be George Strait and Alan Jackson singing it as a duet that made it famous.

Their version was never released as a single but received so much airplay that it made it to number 38 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart. The song as a whole is another lament over the trends within country pop music that essentially ended the reign of traditional and neotraditional country music. 

14. Crazy Town – Jason Aldean

Crazy Town might have been one of the songs that started the beginning of that murder on Music Row. Jason Aldean released this one as the fourth and final single of his 2009 album Wide Open and earned glorious mainstream approval. A major rock country hit, the track became his 10th consecutive top-20 single on the Hot Country Songs chart, only being held out of the top spot by Miranda Lambert’s track The House That Built Me.

Crazy Town is another look at the Nashville music scene, but this one simply describes it as being crazy and always shifting, as you have to stand out to make it anywhere there because everyone is aiming for the same goals. 

15. Tennessee – Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash released Tennessee on his album Out Among The Stars, an album full of lost recordings from his 1980s sessions with Billy Sherrill. While a posthumous release of these forgotten recordings, it was a surprising success for the Cash estate.

The song in particular was a celebration of the state that he called home for long portions of his life. From 1967 onwards, he had a residence in Hendersonville, Tennessee. The track itself is a bit of an ode to the state from one of its most famous residents. 

16. Maybe It Was Memphis – Pam Tillis

Pam Tillis - Maybe It Was Memphis

Maybe It Was Memphis was originally recorded by Phil Seymour and was written by his bass player Michael Anderson. Pam Tillis recorded the song on two different occasions, making it one of the best country singles of the early 1990s.

Her second recording of the track was released on her 1991 album Put Yourself In My Place and was the fourth single to come from the album. It rose to number three on Billboard’s country charts and earned a nomination for Best Country Vocal Performance at the Grammy’s and Song of the Year at the CMA’s.

17. Back Where I Come From – Kenny Chesney

Back Where I Come From

Kenny Chesney eventually became synonymous with beachy country music and the Florabama area, but he isn’t from either of those states. He was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, a fact that he is particularly proud of. His cover of Back Where I Come From was released as the first single from his Simple Life album in 1990. While the original song was written about a small town in Mississippi, it became about Tennessee for him. 

18. Nashville Blues – The Everly Brothers

The Everly Brothers’ Nashville Blues is a quintessential song for the music scene in the state. Combining elements of country, bluegrass, blues, and early R&B, the track seems to span the powerful genres that call Tennessee home. But the inclusion of a blues guitar and a stride piano makes it sound undeniably like the state, even if it verges on being more of an early soul song.

The track isn’t about being sad in Nashville—like some of our other entries—this one is about wanting to be back in Tennessee and mourning having ever left such a wonderful place. 

19. Back to Tennessee – Billy Ray Cyrus

Billy Ray Cyrus - Back To Tennessee - Official Music Video

Back To Tennessee was the title track of Billy Ray Cyrus’ 11th studio album in 2009. He wrote it after learning the Hannah Montana film he would be starring in would be set in Tennessee. It mainly talks about returning to your roots after leaving home, something he both knew about and thought his family needed at the time. It turned out to be a pretty solid success for him as well, rising to peak within the top 50 of the Hot 100 at the time. 

20. Tennessee Homesick Blues – Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton - Tennessee Homesick Blues (Official Audio)

Dolly Parton drew on the success of My Tennessee Mountain Home and her time growing up in the state’s rural area to pen Tennessee Homesick Blues for the 1984 film Rhinestone. The song ended up being released as the lead single to the movie’s soundtrack, topping the US and Canadian country charts that same year. It saw her reminiscing on fond memories of her childhood while still connecting it to the protagonist of the film. 

21. Wrong Side of Memphis – Trisha Yearwood

Trisha Yearwood - Wrong Side Of Memphis

Wrong Side Of Memphis was originally recorded by John Berry for the 1990 independent album Saddle The Wind. It was later released by Trisha Yearwood in 1992 as part of her Hearts In Armor album. It sees the narrator moving from Memphis to Nashville in order to pursue a dream in country music, something she knew a little bit about, and by placing her stamp on the song, she ended up producing a top-five country track. 

22. This Ain’t Tennessee – Garth Brooks

This Ain't Tennessee

While the title may be a bit misleading, Garth Brooks is undeniably singing about Tennessee exactly the same way Dolly Parton has over her music career. This Ain’t Tennessee is both a lament and a love song. It spends time mourning the fact that the place the narrator has found themselves is nothing like their home in the Smoky Mountains, all the while playing up the things he loved about it when he was there. 

23. Tennessee – Arrested Development

Arrested Development - Tennessee (Official Music Video)

There aren’t many hip hop songs on this list, but Arrested Development nailed one of them by producing Tennessee. The melodic rap track was a huge hit from their debut album, peaking at number six on the Hot 100 and bringing home a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1993. It’s another ode to the state, and the pull it has on anyone who grows up there and eventually leaves, hoping for greener pastures. 

24. Tennessee Stud – Johnny Cash

Tennessee Stud was written by Jimmy Driftwood in 1959, and it may be his most recorded song. It tells the story of a man and his horse on a series of adventures that spans portions of Tennessee and the surrounding states. Several artists produced notable hit versions of the track, from Johnny Cash to Hank Williams Jr. and Chet Atkins to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. 

25. Nashville Without You – Tim McGraw 

Tim McGraw - Nashville Without You

There are few songs that capture the likeness of Nashville the way Tim McGraw is able to in Nashville Without You. He lists all the things that the city is known for, from the river to the music, and throws in plenty of references only old-head country fans know immediately. But he goes on to say that none of those things would have any meaning without his lover, making it a touching love track for both the city and his wife. 

26. Tennessee – Sugarland 

Sugarland released Tennessee on their 2004 album Twice The Speed Of Life. It’s a great mixture of classic country sounds and modern rock and roll, serving as both a love story and an ode to the state by referring to a girl by that name. 

27. Tennessee Song – Margo Price 

Margo Price: 'Tennessee Song' SXSW 2016 | NPR MUSIC FRONT ROW

Nashville might be a music center but not all parts of it fall into the corporate music sector. Margo Price sings about going back to Tennessee, just like many of the other artists on this list, but she wants to go back to where she grew up away from the music. It’s all about living a simpler life in a simpler time and getting away from wasteful societal pressure. 

28. Girl Named Tennessee – NEEDTOBREATHE

NEEDTOBREATHE - "Girl Named Tennessee" [Official Video]

Girl Named Tennessee wasn’t actually inspired by a girl whose name was Tennessee and was meant to be a metaphor, don’t let that stop you from thinking of this song as an ode to the state. Written as if finding Tennessee was a breath of fresh air, it’s a good thing this band in particular found their way there. 

29. Southern Comfort Zone – Brad Paisley 

Brad Paisley - Southern Comfort Zone (Lyric Video)

Drifting away and coming home seem to be a very common theme among songs in this article. Southern Comfort Zone may be a track of the South as a whole, but it’s specifically about all the things that make Tennessee such a great place to live. No matter where the narrator goes or what they do there, they’ll always miss the comforts of their home in this state. 

30. Tennessee River Run – Darryl Worley 

Darryl Worley - Tennessee River Run

If you’re looking for a song that lauds the summertime activities of Tennessee, look no further than Daryl Worley’s Tennessee River Run. It discusses all the great things to do along the rivers once it warms up, from fishing to BBQing and swimming and tubing down the river. 

31. Tennessee – The Wreckers 

The Wreckers’ Tennessee seems to be a bittersweet love song about a simpler life and a simpler way of loving each other. It muses on whether leaving the state had been the right choice, ultimately thinking things were a lot better there than they are elsewhere.

Recommended Next:

The best songs about Kentucky

The best songs about Alabama

The best songs about Virginia

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