Country Clichés Unraveled: Tailgate Parties

By Kurt Wolff

In our series Country Clichés takes a look at common subjects that have populated country songs for decades. This week the subject is tailgating.

Turn on country radio these days and it seems every other song mentions tailgate parties, ice-cold beer and pretty women dancing under the moonlight. But not that long ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a single song that mentioned this kind of fraternal revelry.

Related: Country Clichés Unraveled: ‘Mama Tried’

Tailgate parties are a hallmark of so-called “bro country,” a backward-baseball-cap-wearing trend in country defined by trucks, parties, women in tight jeans and a seemingly unlimited supply of beer. These tailgate parties are less about barbecues with friends at sporting events and more about raging down a dirt road or cutting loose in a farm field on a warm summer night.

In recent years, tailgates are seemingly everywhere in country, having been referenced in such hits as Luke Bryan‘s “That’s My Kinda Night,” Randy Houser’s “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight,” Brantley Gilbert‘s “Kick It in the Sticks” and Jason Aldean‘s “My Kinda Party,” an anthem whose lyrics and powerhouse chords helped define the trend. “You can find me in the back of a jacked-up tailgate,” Aldean sings, “chillin’ with some Skynyrd and some old Hank.”

Not everyone is happy about the trend, though. “If I hear one more tailgate in the moonlight, daisy duke song, I’m gonna throw up,” Zac Brown famously said during a radio interview last year. He went on to call Bryan’s song “That’s My Kind of Night” (which was at that point rising fast on the charts) “one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard.” Ouch.

Unlike other common tropes populating today’s country music, though (trucks and beer, for instance, or even tributes to Hank Williams), tailgate parties are a recent phenomenon.

Ten years ago, such references were few and far between, and a generation ago, if a singer mentioned “tailgating,” it was of the “following too close” variety. “I got a memory on my tailgate, and old Smokey’s on my rear,” sang Johnny Paycheck in “his 1980 hit “Drinkin’ and Drivin’.”

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