Honky Tonk Women: Wikis


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"Honky Tonk Women"
Single by The Rolling Stones
B-side "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
Released 4 July 1969 (UK)
11 July 1969 (US)
Format 7"
Recorded June 1969
Olympic Studios, London
Genre Rock
Length 3:02
Label Decca F.12952 (UK)
London 45.910 (US)
Writer(s) Jagger/Richards
Producer Jimmy Miller
The Rolling Stones singles chronology
"Street Fighting Man"
Honky Tonk Women
"Brown Sugar"

"Honky Tonk Women" is a 1969 hit song by The Rolling Stones. Released as a single on 4 July 1969 in the UK and a week later in the US, it topped the charts in both nations.[1]


Inspiration and Recording

The song was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards while on holiday in Brazil from late December 1968 to early January 1969. Inspired by Brazilian gauchos at the ranch where Jagger and Richards were staying in Matão, São Paulo, the song was originally conceived as an acoustic country song. Richards has said: "[It] was originally written as a real Hank Williams/Jimmie Rogers/1930s country song."[2]

Two versions of the song were recorded by the band: the familiar hit which appeared on the 45 single and their collection of late 1960s singles, Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2); and a honky-tonk version entitled "Country Honk" with slightly different lyrics, which appeared on Let it Bleed. The concert rendition of the song featured on Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! differs from both the hit version and the country version, with a markedly different guitar introduction and an entirely different second verse.

Thematically, a "honky tonk woman" refers to a dancing girl in a western bar who may work as a prostitute; the setting for the narrative in the first verse of the blues version is Memphis, while "Country Honk" sets the first verse in Jackson.[3]

I met a gin soaked bar-room queen in Memphis
I'm sittin' in a bar, tipplin' a jar in Jackson

The band initially recorded the track called "Country Honk", in London in early February 1969.[citation needed] The song was transformed into the familiar electric, riff-based hit single "Honky Tonk Women" sometime in the spring of 1969, prior to Mick Taylor's joining the group.[4] In an interview in the magazine Crawdaddy, Richards credits Taylor for influencing the track: "... the song was originally written as a real Hank Williams/Jimmie Rodgers/1930s country song. And it got turned around to this other thing by Mick Taylor, who got into a completely different feel, throwing it off the wall another way."[5] However, in 1979 Taylor recalled it this way: "I definitely added something to Honky Tonk Women, but it was more or less complete by the time I arrived and did my overdubs."[6]

The song is distinctive as it opens not with a guitar riff, but with a beat played on a cowbell. The Rolling Stones' producer Jimmy Miller performed the cowbell for the recording.

Ry Cooder has asserted that he originated the song's main guitar riff, and has accused the Rolling Stones of "ripping him off".[citation needed] Rolling Stones pianist Ian Stewart said of the track: "It's bloody ten times Keith you hear."[citation needed]


The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks from 23 August 1969. The single was released in the UK the day after the death of founding member Brian Jones. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was the single's B-side. It was later released on the compilation album Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) in September.


  • Drums: Charlie Watts
  • Bass: Bill Wyman
  • Rhythm electric guitar: Keith Richards
  • Lead electric guitars: Keith Richards (incl. solo) & Mick Taylor
  • Lead vocals: Mick Jagger
  • Background vocals: Keith Richards, Reparata & The Delrons, Nanette Newman, Doris Troy
  • Piano: Ian Stewart
  • Cowbell: Jimmy Miller
  • Brass: Steve Gregory, Bud Beadle

Other releases

Concert versions of "Honky Tonk Women" are included on the albums 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!', Love You Live and Live Licks.

Gram Parsons's version of the song, released on the 1976 rarities compilation Sleepless Nights, features a slightly different set of lyrics and an arrangement that combines elements of both Stones versions.

"Honky Tonk Women" was ranked #116 on the list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004.

Country Honk

"Country Honk"
Song by The Rolling Stones

from the album Let It Bleed

Released 5 December 1969
Recorded June and October, 1969
Genre Country
Length 3:10
Label Decca Records/ABKCO
Writer Jagger/Richards
Producer Jimmy Miller
Let It Bleed track listing
"Love in Vain"
"Country Honk"
"Live with Me"

"Country Honk" is a country version of "Honky Tonk Women", released five months after on the album Let it Bleed. As noted above the country arrangement was the original concept of "Honky Tonk Women".

According to some sources "Country Honk" was recorded at the Elektra recording studio in Los Angeles. Byron Berline played the fiddle on the track, and has said that Gram Parsons was responsible for him being chosen for the job (Berline had previously recorded with Parson's band). Producer Glyn Johns suggested that Berline should record his part on the sidewalk outside the studio to add ambience to the number. Sam Cutler, the Rolling Stones' tour manager, performed the car horn at the beginning of the track.[7] Nanette Workman performs backing vocals on this version (although the album sleeve credits actress Nanette Newman). Other sources state that "Country Honk" was recorded at Olympic Studios right after "Honky Tonk Women," with only Berline's fiddle part overdubbed at Elektra Studios; this might be supported by the existence of a bootleg recording that does not contain either the fiddle or Mick Taylor's slide guitar. Richards has repeatedly stated that "Country Honk" is how "Honky Tonk Women" was originally written.


  1. ^ Elliott, Martin (2002). The Rolling Stones: Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002. Cherry Red Books. p. 148. ISBN 1-901447-04-9. 
  2. ^ Appleford, Steve (1997). The Rolling Stones It’s Only Rock and Roll: Song by Song. New York: Schirmer Books. p. 88. 
  3. ^ The Rolling Stones "Honky Tonk Women". Time Is on Our Side. (accessed 19 May 2007).
  4. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Honky Tonk Women". allmusic. 2007 (accessed 19 May 2007).
  5. ^ Appleford, Steve (1997). The Rolling Stones It’s Only Rock and Roll: Song by Song. New York: Schirmer Books. p. 88. 
  6. ^ McPherson, Ian. "Track Talk: Honky Tonk Women". http://www.timeisonourside.com/SOHonky.html. Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  7. ^ Cutler, Sam. You Can't Always Get What You Want - My Life with the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and Other Wonderful Reprobates ISBN 9 781741 666090
The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (fifth edition)
Preceded by
"In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)" by Zager and Evans
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
23 August 1969 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"Sugar, Sugar" by The Archies
Preceded by
"Something in the Air" by Thunderclap Newman
UK number one single
23 July 1969
Succeeded by
"In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)" by Zager and Evans

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