"And if it looks choose we to be scared come death/ favor a pair of youngsters just tryin" to save each other/ girlfriend should"ve seen it in color."

Jamey Johnson"s award-winning 2008 hit "In Color" — a song about looking back at old black and also white photos from people War II and beyond — was actually first inspired by old shots displayed at Nashville"s annual BMI Awards.

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The song"s co-writer, Lee cutting board Miller, carried up the image in a conversation with Jamey Johnson. A lightbulb instantly went off for both songwriters, and also once they lastly got in a room together (along v James Otto), a contemporary country classic was born.

Lee cutting board Miller told the "Story Behind the Song" come Bart Herbison the Nashville Songwriters association International.


Bart Herbison: “The Story Behind the tune for the bsci-ch.org this week (features) one of my favorite humans, Lee thomas Miller. And also it important is a story song. ‘In Color.’ You created it v Jamey Johnson and James Otto. What is the story behind it?” 

Lee cutting board Miller: “They’re a tiny younger than me, so their grandfathers to be in the korean War. Mine was in Germany in WWII. Yet that really wasn’t where the idea started. Jamey was having actually a lot of success as a songwriter. He was having a number one party for, ns think, ‘Ladies Love country Boys.’ mine office was close to BMI in ~ the time and also I simply happened to finish (writing) early. Ns was going to walk end to Jamey’s number one party. Simply the previous year, he had winner ‘Song of the Year’ with ‘Give it Away.’ Whispering Bill (Anderson) was (a co-writer) on that song. Us all love Bill. He is just one of the critical people (still composing songs) from that generation. Ns walk end to Jamey Johnson who is standing external BMI, cigarette smoking a cigarette, as he has tendency to do. Ns just walked up, and we began chatting.


I said, “Man, ns thought about you. Have actually you speak to invoice Anderson? A couple weeks earlier at the BMI Awards, mine wife and also I to be sitting there, and top top the screens they will certainly run images of past BMI Awards. They may be from last year and then they’ll go earlier and you may see part from the "60s. You’ll have lots the black and white pictures. Girlfriend would have Kitty Wells (standing beside) two civilization in suits. Gift the complete country music nerd that ns am, i told my wife that I would love to understand who all the world are in all those old pictures. "Who space the suits? i wish we were sit close to invoice Anderson. He is the just one in this room who can tell united state who all of the human being in that picture are."" Jamey never says a word. He listens to the entirety story and also he take away a huge drag off his cigarette and says, “There’s her idea, Hoss. Think that’s something, you shoulda’ seen the in color.”

BH: Wow! 

LTM: i said, "You may be as good as you think friend are. Don’t compose that with anybody else. And the said, "Call me tomorrow."


Of course, it took 3 months come actually obtain him pinned under to carry out it, but he referred to as me ~ above the way in that day and also said, “I think we got a great idea.” 

I think the had (cancelled a compose with) James Otto the day before. He gained there (to the creating appointment) and he is looking at his phone. He said, “Do you understand James Otto?” ns said, “Yeah!” the asked if ns cared even if it is James came in with us due to the fact that he had cancelled the job before. I said, “I nothing care.” 

About 15 minutes later, James comes in and also by 3 o’clock, we had a song.

BH: ns bet rose oil was appreciative.

That is a song.” 

LTM: I think the goes back to the idea. Ns think the was additionally the record. It was so unique. It probably took three hours to write. Ns remember the the bridge said, “That’s the story of mine life, right there in black and white.” We had actually that happening in ~ the finish of every verse and one the the last points we did to be take that out and also put it together the bridge. We functioned a lot on the language.

We had actually a lengthy conversation around how normal people were sent out away to war. My grand was a tobacco farmer in Kentucky, and he was drafted. That went in together a Private and came out as a Private. He literally went and saved the world and went back to the tobacco farm. That was the beautiful thing about those that serve. Lock are just normal people. There to be a the majority of that conversation. Together you do (though), it at some point needs to be about the girl.

...Things have happened since then that are special to me. Five or six years ago, well after the track (was released,) we visited the WWII Museum in brand-new Orleans, i m sorry is probably the finest collection that WWII memorabilia. The made that component of the song that much more real come me. I constantly say that it winner awards and also did every those things. The song adjusted my life and my career. Every now and then, people will tell me that their grand put it in his will certainly to have actually that song played at his funeral.


BH: This was simply laying here. (Holds up photo) This to be my grandpa, Barton Pullen, who served in may be the toughest battle in American battle History, he was in the Argonne Forrest in WWI. It was just laying there, a black and white picture. Because that him and for her grandpa, and also for everybody that ever before served, I give thanks to you. This tune summarizes the feeling.

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About the series

In partnership with Nashville Songwriters association International, the "Story Behind the Song" video interview series features Nashville-connected songwriters stating one of their compositions. Because that full video interviews with every one of our subjects, visit www.bsci-ch.org/music.