Bobby's One Hit Wonders, Volume 24: Larry Boone - Don't Give Candy To A Stranger

This week's One Hit Wonder story is a bit of a misnomer in the case of Larry Boone as after his career as an arist was "over," he continued to have a lot of success, particularly as one of Tracy Lawrence's favorite co-writers. Take a look here to learn more about Larry's artist and songwriter career here!

Born in Cooper City, Florida in 1956, Boone is a "great-great-great grand-nephew" of Daniel Boone, according to The Insider's Country Music Handbook. After attending college, he made the move to Music City in 1981. His first break came when he signed with the publishing division of MTM Records, a short-lived division of Mary Tyler Moore's MTM Enterprises. Boone's first cut came when Marie Osmond broke an eight-year recording hiatus to cut "Until I Fall in Love Again". (The other writer on the song was Dave Gibson, who would later join onetime Bob Seger guitarist Blue Miller in the Gibson/Miller Band.) Another early cut came in the form of Keith Whitley's "I've Got the Heart for You". 

Despite the low peaks of those two songs, was enough to pave the way for a singles contract with Mercury Records. He released five singles between 1987 and 1988, and while none of these made the Top 40 ("Roses in December" coming closest, at #44), Mercury still released Boone's debut album. It went on to produce two more singles: "Stop Me (If You Heard This One Before)", and "Don't Give Candy to a Stranger", which in mid-1988 beame both his first Top 40 and Top 10 entry. With its big swelling strings and steel guitar, "Candy" is unabashedly honky-tonk, and boasting one of the best lyrical twists the 80s could've produced. Seeing that his ex is about to remarry, the singer expresses concern for their daughter: "And I'm still her daddy, and once more / Darlin', I still love you too / So please don't give Candy to a stranger / God gave her to me and you." 

In 1988, the likes of Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, Earl Thomas Conley, Vern Gosdin, and Dwight Yoakam were beginning to tip the scales back in favor of a more traditional-oriented sound, following the post-Urban Cowboy doldrums of the decade's first half. The change wouldn't fully cement until the explosion that was the "Class of '89", but the first signs of diminished returns were evident for the likes of Ronnie Milsap, Alabama, and Restless Heart. (Not that they were completely out of the picture yet; the week that Boone hit #10, Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam, Kathy Mattea, and even Tanya Tucker all had very traditional-sounding songs just above him, but between them and Boone was Ronnie's all-synth "Button Off My Shirt.")

As an aside, some sources state that Boone appeared in a 1988 film called Music City Blues opposite Catherine Bach (aka Daisy Duke), but all sourcing for that film seems to come from within the span of a couple months, and it's not on IMDb, so my gut tells me that the film was never finished. His second album, Swingin' Doors, Sawdust Floors, got him into the top 40 three more times with "I Just Called to Say Goodbye Again", a cover of Faron Young's "Wine Me Up", and the superb "Fool's Paradise." The album's title came from the opening line of its sixth track "Beyond the Blue Neon", which George Strait later used as the title track of an album less than a year later. Also in 1989, two songs written by Boone were hits for other artists: "Burnin' Old Memories" by Kathy Mattea and "Old Coyote Town" by Don Williams, which Boone himself also cut as the B-side to "Wine Me Up." John Conlee sang Boone's "American Faces", which also provided him an album title, at the 1988 Olympics. Boone was also nominated for Favorite New Country Artist at the 1989 American Music Awards. Even so, the aforementioned "Class of '89" was starting to heat up, allowing little room for relative neophytes like Boone, whose third album, Down That River Road, produced only one chart single in "Everybody Wants to Be Hank Williams" ("…but nobody wants to die"), perhaps a subtle dig at his own lack of success.

With the new decade, Boone moved to Columbia Records. The chugging "To Be with You" from One Way to Go made #34 in 1991. Boone's swan song as a singer was "Get in Line," the only single from his album of the same name. But, like so many failed singers before him, Boone quickly made the transition to songwriting. Ricky Van Shelton, whose bread and butter had been mostly in covering obscure songs from other artists, notched his penultimate Top 40 hit in 1993 with Boone's "Just as I Am." George Jones, Conway Twitty, Confederate Railroad, and Collin Raye all cut some of Boone's songs to keep him in the black. (Confederate Railroad's cut was "Roll the Dice," originally cut by a band named Shurfire, whose origins are so obscure that I can't even verify who was inthe band. Anyone wanna take that one for me?) Another notable cut in this era was Rhett Akins' debut single "What They're Talkin' About."

In the mid-1990s, it was the twangy traditionalist Tracy Lawrence who went to the Boone well the most. "Renegades, Rebels and Rogues" (from the Maverick soundtrack), "I See It Now", "Stars over Texas", "How a Cowgirl Says Goodbye", and "Lessons Learned" were all big hits for Lawrence between 1994 and 2000. Doug Stone also cut "I Never Knew Love" in the fall of 1993; Emilio (who should've been a contender) got some chart action with "It's Not the End of the World" in 1995; 1996 saw hits for Boone in the form of Wade Hayes' "On a Good Night", Rick Trevino's "Learning as You Go", and George Strait's "King of the Mountain" (previously cut by George Jones); and Ricochet put out "He Left a Lot to Be Desired" in 1997. Lonestar did back-to-back Boone songs with "Say When" and "Everything's Changed" a year later, along with Trace Adkins' inexplicably underperforming "Big Time".

Boone's prowess as a hit-making songwriter fizzled out with Brooks & Dunn's 1999 flop "South of Santa Fe," although he appeared on a handful of album cuts afterward. Lonestar gave Boone one more hit in 2006 with the Top 10 "Mountains," a mostly-solid tale of people overcoming obstacles ("The good Lord gave us mountains so we could learn how to climb") brought down slightly by a too-strident vocal from Richie McDonald and the corny use of "dang" in the previous line. Other than that, his last songwriting entries appear to be Lawrence's "Til I Was a Daddy Too" and the title track to Brooks & Dunn's Cowboy Town, both in 2007. Some detective work shows that Boone currently lives in Brentwood, Tennessee, and has two daughters named Kylee and Kennedy.

Boone's style is unabashedly country, relying heavily on turns of phrase that never try too hard (especially on "Don't Give Candy to a Stranger"). His baritone voice was full-bodied and honky-tonk influenced, never sounding derivative. After his singing career wrapped up, his songwriting showed an equally traditional bent, still hung on clever wordplay ("I guess it's not the end of the world / But it's a damn good start" and "As long as there's stars over Texas / Darlin', I'll hang the moon for you" being but two great examples). I've enjoyed literally everything of his that I've listened to in researching this article, and I'm at a total loss as to why he wasn't bigger. But sometimes, that's just the way it is — even the artists who seem like they should fit right in just fail to take off for some unknown reason, thus leaving them as lost treasures that music writers such as I find themselves happy to discover.