Going Viral: The Birth of a Radio Hit?


As a confirmed cyclist, I am not hit quite as hard by the continual escalation of oil and gas prices as most of my friends and colleagues are. Every day I hear comments about how tight things are getting because of gas. One friend, for whom driving is an integral part of his work day, just finished doing his finances and discovered that gas now accounts for 20% of his expenditures. So what?

What does the rising cost of petroleum have to do with radio? It offers us a chance to see the birth of a hit song, thats what. Country singer Ronnie McDowell, the man behind those 1980s hits “Wandering Eyes,” “Older Women” and “You’re Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation,” has put his finger on the pulse of the nation. His most recent song, “Hey, Mr. Oilman,” is going viral in a big way and can probably be heard on your local station soon.

Beverly Keel reports for The Tennessean on July 3:

“Hey Mr. Oilman,” which began airing on local radio stations Tuesday, includes the chorus, “Hey, Mr. Oilman, we sure could use a break/Old glory is cryin’, how much more can we all take/Our wallets are getting thinner while yours is getting fat/and me and all my neighbors are mad as hell about that.”

Inspired by the fact that he now has to pay approximately an extra $400 – $500 per week in gas for his tour bus, McDowell has taped into a topic that seems to become more emotional by the week. His bus now now takes $1,000 to fill up at the pump, a pain he shares through his music.

Much like the topical (but hardly politically correct) hit “Bomb Iran” by Vince Vance and the Valiants back in the late 70s/early 80s, “Hey Mr. Oilman” seems to have tapped a source of public outrage and turned into an anthem.

On July 7, Ms. Keel brings us an update:

After witnessing the momentum of Ronnie McDowell’s anthem against rising gas prices, “Hey Mr. Oilman,” Curb Records executives on Thursday sent it digitally to nearly 4,000 radio stations in numerous formats, including talk radio, and are rushing to release his album by the same name.

It is a testament to the technology of the day that a song can go from inception to distribution in a matter of days. “Hey Mr. Oilman” should make a great case study on the evolution of a hit single. I know I will be listening for it locally down here in New Orleans!

Photo courtesy of Marshall Astor, used under its Creative Commons license


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One Response to “Going Viral: The Birth of a Radio Hit?”

  1. Clay Says:

    We need to get together and request Ronnie’s song on all our radio stations. That way, maybe someone in Washington will listen and impose a tax on the unfair profits of the oil companies then sink that money into exploration and production of oil and research on alternate fuel sources to bring the oil price back down.

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