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In the wee hours of the morning a couple of years ago, Toby Keith's tour bus was barreling up I-95 after a winter show in Boston. The roads were slick and dangerous, and many of those onboard were too anxious to sleep.
So Toby and frequent songwriting partner Scotty Emerick found themselves huddled up front in the lounge area of the bus. With little to watch on the satellite TV at that hour, Toby picked up his guitar and Scotty followed suit.
Scotty started fooling around with a simple guitar riff with a rock 'n' roll groove - and despite the unusual hour, the creative wheels started turning for the two drowsy songwriters.
"We wanted to write another drinking song," explains Scotty. But the two pledged to come up with a clever spin, and eventually arrived at the idea of a beautiful woman with a down-home redneck streak - a country girl who could "hold her liquor" and keep up with the guys.
"She's just the epitome of a redneck girl who ain't into wine and beer or tequila," Scotty continues. "It's not strong enough for her. She didn't do anything but sip on whiskey." The chorus came easily, but the two really had to work to come up with an opening that set the right image for their character.
"We wanted to make her sound like a really good-looking gal who's also kind of rough - but not some slobbering binge drinker!" Scotty laughs. "We just thought it would be cool to open with how fine she looks in those blue jeans, with a tattoo and belly button ring."
Scotty once thought that everything in a song had to rhyme all the way through. But Toby convinced him years earlier that if a line is a perfect fit for a tune and says what it needs to say, then rhyming isn't necessary. "Whiskey Girl" became a perfect example of that when they kept the line ragged-on-the-edges girl/But I like 'em rough.
"We just hung that line out there," says Scotty. "It doesn't rhyme, but it works." Within just a couple of hours, the partners put on the finishing touches. Toby included it on his next album, Shock'N Y'all, and it went on to become yet another chart-topping hit penned by the Keith/Emerick team. Their previous smashes include "Beer for My Horses," "I Love This Bar" and "I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight."
"We weren't thinking about anybody at all when we were writing this piece," Scotty reflects. "We just wrote this in honor of the thousands of whiskey girls out there."
- ALANNA HORNER