The top 10 songs for bartenders come from a collection of tunes that either makes some kind of reference to an alcoholic beverage they’d serve or an incident that. Whether the song itself is about the consumption of alcohol or is used as a metaphor to describe something, there are some really cool tunes that stand out as popular favorites. With all the tales bartenders have been told by their patrons, the same can be said for the stars who’ve got a few songs to share that give those tales a musical twist, turning them into beloved classics. It’s time to raise a glass to those stars and some of the best songs that make ideal music for in-home and professional bartenders.
Top 10 Songs for Bartenders
#10 – Tequila (by the Champs)
In 1958, The Champs recorded “Tequila,” a surf-style instrumental written by Chuck Rio that became a number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 as well as the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. In 1957, Dave Burgess signed with Challenge Records and recorded a series of singles for Gene Autry’s label that failed to produce positive results. He’d later be put in the recording studio with Gene Alden, Buddy Bruce, Huelyn Duvall, Danny Flores, and Cliff Hils. Alden, Bruce, and Flores were part of a group known as the Flores Trio, and “Tequila” was merely a jam by the three musicians that was based on a Cachao Cuban mambo song, “Como Mi Ritmo No Hay Dos.”
Throughout the course of the song, “Tequila” is spoken by Flores three times. Originally, this was released on the B-side of a record to A-side’s “Train to Nowhere.” After the intended single failed to win any attention, a Cleveland-based DJ flipped the record and played “Tequila.” It wound up becoming a number one hit and the course was set to turn this song into an all-time classic.
#9 – Spill the Wine (by War)
Released as a single in 1970, “Spill the Wine” was a song performed by War with Eric Burdon as its lead singer. This was a song that came by accident, literally. Keyboardist Lonnie Jordan accidentally spilled wine on a mixing board that served as an inspiration to write a song. In the original long version, there is a woman speaking in Spanish in the background. As for the single version, it was edited to make it radio-friendly.
It became the one and only hit for War with Burdon as its lead singer as it peaked as high as number thirteen on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. It was also a global favorite, peaking as high as number two in Australia, number five in Mexico, and number ten in New Zealand. In the US, “Spill the Wine” also became certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
#8 – Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers (by ZZ Top)
1973’s “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” by ZZ Top witnessed Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill take turns as lead vocalists in a song that became a classic. Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and “Fast” Eddie Clarke did the same with their version, which was released as part of an EP in 1980. It was actually a release the group didn’t authorize but they weren’t about to put up a fuss about it, either. As it turned out, it became a number forty-three hit on the UK Singles Chart. Originally, “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” was recorded on ZZ Top’s album, Tres Hombres. Both versions are great but the song itself wouldn’t have become such a beloved classic by both bands if ZZ Top hadn’t come up with it first.
#7 – Gimme Three Steps (by Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant, “Gimme Three Steps” became a classic hit for Lynyrd Skynyrd when it was released as a single in 1973. It was part of the newly named group’s debut album, (Pronounced ‘Leh-’nerd ‘Skin-’nerd). This Southern rocker was based on a true story Van Zant experienced while he was dancing with a woman in a bar in Jacksonville, Florida. Before the dance was over, her jealous lover entered the premises with a loaded gun and had it pointed at them. This inspired lyricist Gary Rossington to come up with a musical approach to share Van Zant’s story.
#6 – Red Red Wine (by UB40)
“Red Red Wine” was a Neil Diamond classic UB40 covered in 1988, giving it a reggae flair that would turn this song into a number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. Written by Neil Diamond and recorded in 1967 for his second album, Just for You, it was a song about drinking one’s troubles away and it seemed “Red Red Wine” was the perfect beverage to do it. His version was performed as a somber ballad while UB40 lightened the mood somewhat as a recording for its album, Labour of Love. Unknown to UB40 at the time when the group recorded the song this was written by Neil Diamond. Ali Campbell and his bandmates only knew about the song from a performance by a musical artist known as Tony Tribe. For Diamond, he admitted UB40’s version is one of his personal favorite songs that’s been covered by another recording artist.
#5 – Tequila Sunrise (by the Eagles)
“Tequila Sunrise” became a gentle classic after it became a number sixty-four hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song was released in 1973 from the Eagles’ second studio album, Desperado. Written by the songwriting team of Glenn Frey and Don Henley, “Tequila Sunrise” was a song about a man’s effort to use a bit of liquid courage before approaching women to engage in a bit of conversation that could lead to romantic possibilities. This was folk rock at its finest that also had a bit of a country-style flair. Alan Jackson covered this as a country tune in 1993 as part of his tribute to the Eagles. It also became a number sixty-four hit for him, but on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
#4 – Margaritaville
Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” was a single he released in 1977 from his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number eight hit while this single shot straight to the top on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart. It also became a crossover hit, peaking at number thirteen on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. It was Jimmy Buffett’s best charting solo single. After he passed away in 2023 “Margaritaville” returned to the US Billboard Hot 100 and peaked as high as number thirty-eight.
This served as a testament to how loved the song about a tropical cocktail has been throughout the course of time. The lyrics made reference to just sitting back and enjoying a tropical climate. Jimmy Buffett’s signature song was inducted into the 2016 Grammy Hall of Fame while in 2023 it was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress into the United States National Recording Registry. It was chosen for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance. Since the release of the song, Buffett also invested in and maintained “Margaritaville” as a resort chain.
#3 – Have a Drink on Me (by AC/DC)
From AC/DC’s iconic album, Back in Black, “Have a Drink on Me” was a song that became part of a legacy of a 1980 recording that would be one of the highest-selling albums in history. The song was about buying a buddy another round of drinks. According to a 2021 interview with Angus Young, it was originally recorded as part of a demo by Bon Scott as he began his career as a drummer with The Spektors.
After his tragic death in 1980, Angus and Malcolm Young managed to find a way to move forward and recruited Brian Johnson as AC/DC’s new lead singer. It was never released as a single as a 1991 interview, also with Young, pointed out that Back in Black was intended to serve as a memorial album to honor Bon Scott by opting to only make a profit off original content instead of using any of his old material as singles.
#2 – One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer (by George Thorogood and the Destroyers)
When life seems to dish out nothing but lemons, sometimes the best course of action to take is to drown out the sorrows with some alcohol. At least this was the case for George Thorogood’s performance behind “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.” Before he turned the song written by Rudy Toombs into a rockin’ hit, Amo Milburn recorded it first in 1953. It became a top ten hit on the R&B charts for him when he released it as a single. For John Lee Hooker, his 1966 version altered the original layout of the song that would usher in a classic rock version performed by George Thorogood in 1977. What Thorogood and the Destroyers did was give “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” a full story of why he wanted equal shots of each.
#1 – Whiskey in the Jar (by Thin Lizzy)
In 1973, Thin Lizzy performed what became a classic rock version of “Whiskey in the Jar.” This was originally a traditional Irish folk song that began to circulate in the 1950s before it was further popularized by the Highwayman in 1962. Thin Lizzy’s version would become a number-one hit on the Irish Singles Chart and a number-six hit on the UK Singles Chart. It also became certified gold by the UK’s British Phonographic Industry (BPI). This song would inspire Metallica to cover it as a heavy metal favorite in 1998 that would become one of the group’s biggest hits.
Between 1999 and 2000, Metallica’s version of “Whiskey in the Jar” became a colossal hit as it shot straight to the top of the UK Rock & Metal chart. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number twenty-nine. In Ireland, at number seventeen. On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart, it peaked as high as number four. Metallica’s version also won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance. This group’s version became certified silver in the UK, as well as gold among the nations of Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden. “Whiskey in the Jar” has been a favorite song to record for many artists, even as recently as Bryan Adams’ 2019 version on his fourteenth studio album, Shine a Light.
Top 10 Songs For Bartenders article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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