Story Behind the Song: Restless Heart, ‘The Bluest Eyes in Texas’
In May of 1988, country band Restless Heart released "The Bluest Eyes in Texas" as the lead single from their third studio album, Big Dreams in a Small Town. The eventual No. 1 single was written by future BlackHawk members Dave Robbins and Van Stephenson, along with ace songwriter Tim DuBois.
Robbins, Stephenson and DuBois were longtime friends, who met through their publishing company, when they wrote "The Bluest Eyes in Texas," after trying -- and failing -- to complete something during a writing session. Below, Robbins recalls the story behind the song, in his own words.
Tim, Van and I were old songwriting buddies from [the publishing company] House of Golden Music, which is where we all started in Nashville. I was 21 when I signed there, and their youngest writer.
Van, Tim and I had written the song "Restless Heart," which Restless Heart named their band after, and a song called "'Til I Loved You." Both of those songs were on Restless Heart's first album, [1985's Restless Heart]. A couple of albums later, when they were getting ready to work on a new record, Van, Tim and I got together again to write for it. We wrote "Big Dreams in a Small Town," which ended up being the name of the album.
We were writing one day, and struggling through it. We knew it wasn't really going anywhere. We were about ready to give up for the day when Van started telling us about an old girlfriend from high school, who he had bumped into recently. Van grew up in Nashville, and they had been dating when her family moved to Texas. He told us it had broke his heart. He hadn't seen her in 10 or 12 years, but she was back in Nashville, was happy, had started a family and all that.
He said, "As we were sitting there talking, I'm looking at her thinking, 'Gosh, I had forgotten how blue her eyes were.'" Van then says, "I've got this idea for a song, "The Bluest Eyes in Texas," because that's what I was thinking about while I was looking at her." He knew when she got to Texas, [the people there] had to have been thinking she had the bluest eyes in Texas! [Laughs]
We ended up writing the song, with the title being about this girl. What we tried to do with the rest of the song was paint a picture that could be for anybody listening. She was the inspiration behind it, obviously, but we tried to write it in a way that everybody could relate to it.
After we demoed the song, Van took it home and let his wife hear it. She listened, then exclaimed, "Oh my gosh! That's so beautiful, but you obviously didn't write it about me because I have brown hair and brown eyes." After Van admitted he hadn't written it about her, she said, "Well, you know what? That's okay, as long as the checks come to my mailbox." [Laughs]
I remember sweating a little bit about the song when it came out and went to radio. When it got on the charts, I looked and the two songs above it had debuted that same week, one of them being George Strait's "Baby Blue." Of course, it was a song about eyes, too. I thought, "Awesome. We've got a Restless Heart song that everyone is saying is going to be great, and now there's George Strait." I thought our song was just going to die, but it worked its way up to No. 1, thank God!
That song, consequently, for me, has been one of the biggest songs I have ever been a part of. When I first started in BlackHawk, we all went out visiting radio stations. I can't tell you how many radio station program directors, music directors, on-air personalities -- everybody -- would look at our bio and go, "You guys wrote "The Bluest Eyes in Texas"? That song got me into radio, specifically country radio. I was in pop radio and was on the fence. When I heard that, I thought, if that's what country music is, then I'm in." A lot of fans and friends in Nashville tell me that they moved here because of that song, or that it made them decide to write songs.
It's been really cool, because you don't realize how much a song is going to affect people's lives. It's always nice when you hear stories like, "It changed my life." I have songs that do that for me, too.
This story was originally written by Alanna Conaway, and revised by Angela Stefano.
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