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Billy Ray Cyrus Recalls Hearing ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ for the First Time

Billy Ray Cyrus Story of Achy Breaky
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Billy Ray Cyrus made “Achy Breaky Heart” a local hit within 24 hours of hearing it for the first time. The singer says like true love, he just knew the song was meant for him. He didn’t sit idle waiting for approval.

The newly signed Mercury Nashville artist had marching orders to record nine songs over a week in June, 1991 and he had nine he’d written ready to go. Producer Joe Scaife took a chance and brought him a song called “Don’t Tell My Heart,” Cyrus recalls. That song would become “Achy Breaky Heart.”

"It was either love it or hate it and quite frankly I’d rather have that. It was about passion. Nothing in the middle. Vanilla is easy."

“By the time it got to the verse and the chorus,” he tells Taste of Country, “I physically stood up and said ‘That’s me. I love this!'”

Immediately they left and arranged the song and “(we) started playing it that night at the Ragtime Lounge in Huntington, W.V.,” Cyrus says. “From the first time we played it it just felt really special. The audience immediately gravitated to it and wanted to hear it again and again. I think we played it four times that night.”

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Nearly 10 months would pass before it’d be released as his debut single. Quickly it took on a life of it’s own, with people either loving or loathing the song. “There was something primal about it that people related to,” he says. “But there was no middle ground. It was either love it or hate it and quite frankly I’d rather have that. It was about passion. Nothing in the middle. Vanilla is easy.”

To celebrate 25 years of the song Cyrus has released a new Muscle Shoals version of “Achy Breaky Heart,” as well as a Spanish language version with Caballo Dorado. Soon he’ll release and EDM version with Bootsy Collins. During his conversation with Taste of Country he talked of touring one final time and admitted to being in the fourth quarter of his career, but the 55-year-old hesitated to say anything about retirement. He’s still very active on stage and on screen. The new season of Still the King will debut on CMT this summer.

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