By now, Joe Diffie’s “John Deere Green” is easily one of the most popular ’90s country songs out there. Pretty much any country fan can tell you exactly who Billy Bob loved or what the town thought about his artwork up on the water tower.
Written by the incredible Dennis Linde, “John Deere Green” is still covered live by a ton of today’s biggest country stars, and American Aquarium even included the Joe Diffie classic on their ’90s country cover album, Slappers, Bangers & Certified Twangers, Vol. 1.
But back in the early ’90s, Diffie wasn’t so sure about the song – and it even made his mom cry when she first heard it.
Diffie talked about the song in a 2019 interview with CMT, and admitted that he hated the song when it was first pitched to him:
“I didn’t really care for the song when I first heard it. I was like, ‘That is horrible.'”
Well luckily he came around, and recorded the song for his 1993 album Honky Tonk Attitude. But when he played the song for his parents, his mom, Flora, was horrified by the song – and even started crying:
“I played it for my parents and my mom started crying and I’m like, ‘What’s the matter?’
And she was just crying and crying. I said ‘Well what is it?’ She said ‘Nothing.’ I said ‘Well what’s the matter?’
She goes ‘You’re singing rock and roll.’
I’m not singing rock and roll. I was like ‘I can’t believe you’re crying over this song and that you think I’m singing rock and roll.’ But that’s what she thought.”
Apparently Mama Diffie warmed to the song – although she probably didn’t have much of a choice, because it would eventually go on to become one of her son’s most popular songs, even though it never hit #1 on the charts.
The chart performance didn’t seem to matter though, because the song obviously became a fan-favorite, and may be even more popular almost 30 years later than it was when it was first released. Diffie even admitted that it was the first song that fans would yell for at concerts.
And it just goes to show you that the debate around what’s “country” and what’s not isn’t new. If “John Deere Green” was “rock and roll” in the ’90s (at least according to Joe Diffie’s mom), you’ve gotta wonder which songs that aren’t considered “country” now will eventually be looked at as country classic.