STORY BEHIND THE SONG: "I HATE EVERYTHING"

It was 2 a.m. Keith Stegall pulled into his driveway. He sat in the dark. He'd had a bad day and the thought "I should be a lucky guy, but, right now, I just hate everything" flashed into his mind. A few more seconds stretched out taut, like a rope under tension. Then another thought bounced into his brain: "I think that's a song title." He shut off the car's engine and went inside his home.

"My wife was in bed asleep," recalls Keith, whose hits include Alan Jackson's "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and Mark Wills' "I Do (Cherish You)." "I sat on a stool at the end of the bed and the first verse, and part of the chorus, 'fell out.' I wrote everything on a piece of paper."

Gary Harrison picks up the story. "Keith and I have been friends, welded at the hip, for years. He wandered into my office the next morning and said, 'Man, I've got this idea. I think it's cool, but it's a bit of a downer.'

"He played it for me and I loved it," continues Gary, "because I've heard so many people say, 'I hate everything and everybody today.' But then I thought, 'Who's gonna record it with all the zippidy-do- da, sippy-cup country we're listening to today?' "

Gary, whose hits include Martina McBride's "Wild Angels" and Deana Carter's "Strawberry Wine," worked on the song for a few days. "I wrote the second and third verses," explains Gary. "Then I called Keith and told him I had something to look at."

The songwriters got together for half an hour. "Other than that 30 minutes together to do some 'sanding and tweaking,' " notes Gary, "we were never sleeves rolled up bent over the lyric and music at the same time in the same room."

Keith reveals Gary came up with one of his favorite lines. "I love Red and yellow, purple, blue and green/I hate everything," notes Keith, "because that says it all. And Gary made something positive out of the song by adding the 'up' twist at the end."

Gary laughs. "It was the cherry on top of the sundae."

The day after Keith and Gary wrote the song, Steve Ford, a partner with George Strait's manager Erv Woosley in the Nashville club The Trap, was in Keith's office and Keith played the song for him. "A few nights later a bunch of us were having cocktails at The Trap and Steve asked me to play the song for Erv," notes Keith. "I played it and Erv said, 'I want a "hold" on that for George.' "

The song, written about nine months ago, became the only new song on George Strait's greatest-hits CD, 50 Number Ones, and the single soared to No. 1-making the title of the CD off, since George, thanks to Keith and Gary, now has another No. 1.

- LARRY HOLDEN

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