20: Golden Ring

20: Golden Ring

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Golden Ring

Story by Bobby Braddock

Song written by Bobby Braddock and Rafe Van Hoy

Recorded by George Jones and Tammy Wynette

I got the idea for “Golden Ring” from a made-for-television movie I saw around 1976. It was a biography of a handgun. The gun started off belonging to a police officer. Then someone stole it and committed a murder with it. Then it ended up in a pawnshop. The last scene in the movie showed a little child standing on a bed, finding the gun and looking at it. That’s how it ended.

I thought it would be pretty interesting to write a song based on the history of a wedding ring. Normally, when I write a song, I just write it and then figure out later who it would be good for, but in this instance, I knew George and Tammy were recording, and I wanted to write something for them that would sound like a gospel song. There was a band I used to love called the Chuck Wagon Gang, and they did Pentecostal-sounding songs. I wanted to write a song like that that for George and Tammy. I thought it would be a new twist for them. I called up Curly Putman. He was on his farm out near Lebanon and I asked him if he wanted to write a song with me, and he said he wasn’t coming in to the office that day.

About that time, Rafe Van Hoy came in the front door of the publishing house, and I said, “Do you want to get in on this song I just started?” He said, “Sure.” His mom worked at a jewelry store and I remember we called her for technical advice about rings. We finished the song together, and Rafe did the demo for me.

Buddy Killen was producing Bill Anderson then, and he couldn’t find him for some reason, so he sent the song over to producer Billy Sherrill to play for George and Tammy. It was recorded in a few days and it was playing on the radio within two months of writing it. Today, the trip from the pen to people hearing it is at least a year, but back then, things were different.

There was no reason I set the song in Chicago. I just liked the way “Chicago” sounded. Billy made one small change in the lyric. I wrote the last couple of lines in the second verse as “as they fought their final round / He says ‘You won’t admit it / but I know you’re runnin’ ’round.” Billy didn’t want to rhyme “round” and “’round” even though it’s really two different words — “round” and “around” — but he didn’t look at it that way, so he added, “I know you’re leaving town.” Usually when Billy did that, he made it a better song, but in this case, I liked the original lines better. When I do it live, I always sing the original lines. I think “running ’round” has a little more impact than just “leaving town.” Even though it’s getting to be a pretty old song now, it always gets a good response when I sing it live.

Golden Ring

In a pawn shop in Chicago

On a sunny summer day

A couple gazes at the wedding rings

There on display

She smiles and nods her head

As he says, “Honey that’s for you,

It’s not much, but it’s the best

That I can do.”

CHORUS:

Golden ring, with one tiny little stone

Waiting there, for someone to take it home

By itself, it’s just a cold metallic thing

Only love can make a golden wedding ring

In a little wedding chapel later on that afternoon

An old upright piano plays that old familiar tune

Tears roll down her cheeks

And happy thoughts run through her head

As he whispers low, “With this ring, I thee wed.”

CHORUS

In a small two-room apartment

As they fought their final round

He says, “You won’t admit it,

But I know you’re leavin’ town.”

She says, “One thing’s for certain,

I don’t love you any more.”

And throws down the ring

As she walks out the door

CHORUS

In a pawn shop in Chicago

On a sunny summer day

A couple gazes at the wedding rings

There on display

Golden ring.

More stories from our partners