One month shy of her 14th birthday in July 1996, LeAnn Rimes released her debut album and was climbing the country charts with its title track, “Blue.” Listeners were impressed by the remarkable maturity of Rimes’ voice and also responded to the single’s throwback sound. The tune was reminiscent of vintage Patsy Cline, which made sense as the song — penned (and first recorded) by DJ Bill Mack in 1956 — was later pitched to Cline to record but she died in a plane crash before that could happen.
The track was cut in 1966 by country singer and “King of the Yodelers” Kenny Roberts, who came up with the idea of adding the distinctive yodel that Rimes would use on her version. Before signing with Curb Records, 11-year-old Rimes had recorded “Blue” for the independently released LP All That, which also included the young Texan’s versions of songs from Dolly Parton, Paul McCartney and Patsy Montana, among others. Another of the tracks on that album, “I’ll Get Even With You,” was re-recorded for her Curb debut. “Blue,” which sold 100,000 copies on its first day of release, eventually reached Number Ten on the country chart, while the third single from the LP, “One Way Ticket (Because I Can),” was Rimes’ first Number One hit.
On January 6th, 1997, Blue was certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum, earning Rimes her first sales awards from the RIAA. One day later she would be nominated for two Grammys, eventually winning both for Best New Artist and Best Female Country Vocal Performance for “Blue.”
The youngest individual winner of a Grammy that year (and first country act to win Best New Artist), Rimes would also make Grammy history the following year when she and Trisha Yearwood were both nominated in the same category for the same song (“How Do I Live”). Yearwood won the Grammy but Rimes’ version stayed on the Hot 100 for a record-breaking 62 weeks, making it one of Billboard‘s biggest hits of all time.
Rimes went on to win the CMA and ACM new artist honors in 1997 and Blue would sell more than eight million copies worldwide. In December 1998, the singer traveled to England to perform “Blue” on the popular BBC music series Top of the Pops. The Blue LP also briefly entered the U.K. chart.
In 2011, on her collaborative album Lady & Gentlemen, Rimes re-recorded “Blue” with western swing band the Time Jumpers.