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Country Disco: 15 Great, Wild and WTF Songs

From Conway Twitty’s “Tight Fittin’ Jeans” to Dolly Parton’s “Baby I’m Burnin'”

conway twitty dolly parton country disco

Conway Twitty and Dolly Parton both married disco with country music during their careers.

Mike Prior/Getty Images, AP/REX Shutterstock

One of the instant head-turners on Kacey Musgraves’ new album Golden Hour was the disco-hyped track “High Horse,” which generated such buzz that Musgraves made her Saturday Night Live debut this weekend with an elaborate performance of the song.

But it’s hardly the first time that country music has embraced the Seventies dancefloor. Thanks to disco’s success on the charts and the popularity of both Saturday Night Fever and, later, Urban Cowboy, country artists were all too happy to dabble in those contemporary sounds: a four-on-the-floor beat, rubbery basslines and jittery hi-hats. The results were interesting, to say the least. Here’s 15 songs – some good, some head-scratchingly weird – that defined country-disco.

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Billie Jo Spears, “I Will Survive”

As anthems go, the original late-Seventies version of this screw-you tune spoke not only to the broken-hearted but to feminists, gays and anyone else suddenly feeling empowered in the Equal Rights Amendment era. Spears, a twangy Texan best known for the provocative “Blanket on the Ground,” released this zippy remake just months after Gloria Gaynor, making it the title cut of her 1979 LP. With the familiar piano opening by Hargus “Pig” Robbins and backing vocals from the Jordanaires, the Grammy-nominated country-meets-western-meets-Studio 54 concoction remains deliciously odd and totally irresistible. S.B. 

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Barbara Mandrell, “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed”

Barbara Mandrell may have started her country career as a 12-year-old steel-guitar prodigy sharing a room on the road with Patsy Cline, but by the late Seventies her sound was slick as snot on a doorknob – listen to this Number One country hit from her 1978 album Moods. “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed” inverts that classic disco trope of starting off slow with a ballad feel before kicking into a zippy disco beat. Barbara jumps right into the extra-peppy chorus at the top of the song and brings you back down for the verse. The lyrics about drinking over a lost love are definitely country, but that beat and “La La La” background vocals are late Seventies pop gold. For more proof Barbara had her finger on the pulse of the R&B and pop worlds, check out her smooth 1980 cover of Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall ballad “She’s Out of My Life,” recast as “He’s Out of My Life.” H.K.

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Emmylou Harris, “On the Radio”

What happens when you combine the queen of disco and the queen of Americana country? A reworking of “On the Radio,” of course. A signature song that originally appeared on Donna Summer’s 1979 greatest-hits album of the same name (it was first written for a movie soundtrack), Emmylou Harris reinterpreted the Top 5 hit in 1983 for her project White Shoes. In Harris’ version, which is stripped bare of the bells and whistles that producer Giorgio Moroder placed on Summers’ original, the track takes on an affecting vulnerability that adds striking dimension to country’s relationship with disco. B.M.

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