After being included on Waylon Jennings’ 1979 Greatest Hits album, “Amanda” became one of the classic country songs of the 1970s. Its continued popularity makes it easy to forget that it took over five years for one of songwriter Bob McDill’s most significant works to get its due as a single.
Don Williams first recorded McDill’s musical apology to his wife as the B-side to another McDill composition, 1973’s “Come Early Morning.” Despite the fact that Williams’ version of “Amanda” peaked at No. 33 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart (and its A-side cracked the Top 15), the song still needed the right storyteller. It happens: McDill’s “Song of the South” failed to chart as a single three times (for Johnny Russell, Bobby Bare, and the duo of Earl Scruggs and Tom T. Hall) before Alabama immortalized it.
One year later, Jennings first recorded the song for his album The Ramblin’ Man. “I’m a Ramblin’ Man” and “Rainy Day Woman” got released as the album’s two singles, positioning “Amanda” to once again be one of the best songs sitting outside of the Top 10.
The pairing of the right country singer with a can’t-miss country love song finally paid off in 1979. An overdubbed version of Jennings’ recording got issued as a single. It not only topped Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. It also reached a respectable No. 54 on the all-genre Hot 100 and No. 40 on the adult contemporary chart.
Other talented singers to cover “Amanda” since then include Chris Stapleton, as heard on the 2017 compilation Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams and from a duet version sung at the Opry with Stapleton’s wife and musical partner, Morgane.
McDill’s country music standard “Amanda” is not to be confused with the power ballad “Amanda,” written by Tom Scholz for Boston’s 1986 album Third Stage, or the Dennis Quaid song from the 1981 film The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.