Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues

Album: Danny O'Keefe (1970)
Charted: 9
Play Video


  • Danny O'Keefe's biggest hit, this song struck a cord with restless young people who were stuck living dreary lives in dead-end small towns while their friends were moving away to better things. "Charlie" is a fictional character, but O'Keefe was managed by Charlie Greene, who also managed Buffalo Springfield and had the ear of Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records. After hearing O'Keefe perform the song on a steel guitar, Ertegun signed him and produced his 1970 debut album, with included the first version of this song.
  • The first version of this song was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama, which is where Atlantic Records had many of their artists record (great musicians, few distractions, excellent rates). Another song from the album, "Covered Wagon," was chosen as a single but stiffed.

    "Good Time Charlie" was re-recorded for his second album, O'Keefe, which was released in 1972. This time, it was recorded at American Studios in Memphis with Arif Marden producing. This time, the song was released as a single and became a big hit.

    As the song was climbing the charts, O'Keefe was sent on the road on a bill with the Hollies and the Raspberries. Unfortunately, he didn't have a second single and was not a good fit for the tour. "It wasn't really a brilliant way of building me as an artist," Danny told us. "I didn't do the coffee house circuit until some years later."
  • This song that tells the tale of a man the good life left behind and who takes "pills to ease the pain." In an interview with Mojo magazine July 2010 O'Keefe recalled the writing of this song: "It was very simple and got to the heart of the matter," he said. "It was written in not much over an hour. I think I hoped that a country artist would cover the song, but it made reference to pills and those references were taboo for country singers then."
  • O'Keefe told Mojo about the song's lyrical content: "Maybe it was about hipsters drawn to the high life. I lived in interesting times and there was a lot of experimentation with every kind of drug. There were a lot of damages and strange intersections of lives that provided much grist for a young songwriter's mill."
  • O'Keefe on the song's legacy: "The success of one's dreams is always exhilarating. Elvis cut the song with the same group of musicians I had, so there was a pride in continuity, but I didn't think he brought anything new to it. Over the years I've come to appreciate it more as part of the song's great legacy."
  • This was to be O'Keefe's only hit but he is also known for penning "The Road," a song recorded by Jackson Browne on his 1977 album, Running On Empty.
  • Elvis Presley recorded this song for his 1974 album Good Times. Some of the musicians who recorded the hit version of this song in Memphis with O'Keefe had played on various Elvis recordings.

    Other artists to cover the song include Willie Nelson, Charlie McCoy, Waylon Jennings, Dwight Yoakam, Charlie Rich, Conway Twitty, Leon Russell and B.J. Thomas.

Comments: 20

  • Steve from SeattleAlways thought this song referenced the Boeing bust in Seattle in the late sixties and early seventies. The freeway out of town had a billboard that read ...”will the last person leaving turn out the lights”
  • Atticus from West Coast I was just about to enter college in 1972 when this great record was released. I bought the 45 (ask Gramps and Meemaw to describe them to you) and have always loved this melancholy song. I have been frustrated, though, trying to find that original 45 release on CD (Everybody’s gone away/Said they’re movin’ to LA). I have purchased three Danny O’Keefe CDs (Home; O’Keefe; and Breezy Stories) with Home promising the original version, but all 3 have the other recording. Any suggestions my friends? CDs to me are the state of the art....I don’t download tinny recordings via smart phones or other inferior devices.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenO'Keefe could be very funny onstage. His cover of "The Scotsman" is a riot.
  • Susan from Atlanta, GeorgiaI saw Danny in concert during his tour with the Hollies and the Raspberries; I was 15 and a male relative I love was 19, but I really saw him in the role of Good Time Charlie. He is 65 now and complains about not having any money put away for retirement. Seems I was right. (You're not a kid at 65, either.)
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 27th 1972, "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues" by Danny O'Keefe entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #87; and on October 29th, 1972 it peaked at 9 {for 1 week} and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
    It was his only Top 100 record.
  • Gary from Scotland, United Kingdomcome on....we all know who wrote the song...Peter Allen...stole it ...but he is a good man...should have sued you!
  • Human from Anywhere, DeMy best friend, Charley, committed suicide last week. He was 47. Now I can't get this damned song out of my head. Too many of the lines are too chillingly applicable to his life. Rest in peace, Charley. I love you.
  • Terry from Colchester, VtHere's a new link to a video montage with O'Keefe's "Ghosts of the Ascent". There is also an excellent explanation by O'Keefe about the song and the deep feelings that drove him to pen it.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhThis song was popular when I was a teen. My parents both suffered from depression but it wasn't something anyone at the time knew much about. In hindsight, this song seemed to reflect the underlying feelings of our household at the time. It has bittersweet memories for me.
  • Buck from San Francisco, CaOne version (the "most played" one) has the beginning lyric "Everybody's gone away, said they're movin' to LA". It also has slightly lusher instrumentals including harmonica and some kind of hand drum.

    The other version has the beginning lyric "Everybody's gone away, I believe this time they're gonna stay". (No harmonica or hand drum that I could hear.)
  • Scotty from Cheyenne, WyChet Atkins and Earl Klugh did a gorgeous instrumental of this on the TV special "A Tribute to Chet Atkins." I the show is still available on DVD.
  • Cindy from N Yarmouth, AlbaniaI have a brand new 2 month old granddaughter, Sat I was driving home and I heard Good Time Charlies Got the Blues and it stuck in my head, when I got home my grandchildren were there, and I was holding the baby and started singing this and she smiled and cooed like I hadn't seen her do before, I think she also likes the song or else it was for a brief time I was 18 again!
  • Mrcleaveland from Cleveland,Don Meredith sang a bit of this song during a Monday Night Football telecast. Hilarious.
  • Timothy from Worcester, MoWow! I haven't heard this song since high school and I'm 53! The song has always crept up in my brain, trying to recollect all the lyrics. Of course, the chorus, "Some gotta win, some gotta lose, good time charlie's got the blues" was easy, and the line "ya play around you lose your wife, you play too long you lose your life" came back. I haven't heard it until now, and I will probably listen a few more times. This is a great site!
  • Ted from Phoenix, AzThis is one of my favorite songs (I guess I like sad pieces). The chorus, "Some gotta win, Some gotta lose, Goodtime Charlie's got the blues," classically expresses the feelings I hold about the U.S. economic system.
  • Reed from New Ulm, MnFred from Laurel,MD-----Was wondering if you have ever heard one he wrote called " The Road " ?
    Jackson Browne covered it excellently on the Running on Empty album---if you get a chance, listen to it.
  • Frank Luna from Tucson, AzHi there & Greetings from Tucson!:

    .....aah, what memories this song brings ...both good and bad. I can see here that I'm not the only one who likes this song. For those of you who are looking for a copy, it's on Rhino's "Have a nice Day" cd series, vol.17 and also on some time-life compilations as well. This song was released on "Signpost" records. NOTE: there are Two (yes!) versions of this song. the 1st. (and the most played) is the LP version, which was also the single released. The second is what was released on the CD's I just mentioned. The differences between the two is the the second version has "more music" added to it and is longer than the 1st. version/Lp version. I'm lucky to have them both. If you get a chance to listen to them, try to listen to them both. It's amazing how different yet the same. Either way, this is a song that's always a treat to listen to. Enjoy!
  • Jodi from London, OnFred: I found a free download of "Ghosts of the Ascent" at Danny's website. Here you go:
  • Fred from Laurel, MdThis is an excellent song, and he has quite a few more, some of them better. His album, Breezy Stories (1973), has several, including "Angel Spread Your Wings" (also covered by Judy Collins), "Magdelena," and "She Said, 'Drive On, Driver.'" While searching for some others of his songs, I happened upon the lyrics to "Ghosts of the Ascent," and was floored. I've never heard the song, and can't seem to find the album it's on, but I'd love to hear it. Anybody know where it is?
  • Jim from Gainesville, TxThis song is also on Dwight Yoakum's "Under the Covers"-excellent version.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

N.W.A vs. the World

N.W.A vs. the WorldSong Writing

How the American gangsta rappers made history by getting banned in the UK.

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s Edition

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s EditionMusic Quiz

You know the scenes - Tom Cruise in his own pants-off dance off, Molly Ringwald celebrating her birthday - but do you remember what song is playing?

Artis the Spoonman

Artis the SpoonmanSong Writing

Even before Soundgarden wrote a song about him, Artis was the most famous spoon player of all time. So why has he always been broke?

Grateful Dead Characters

Grateful Dead CharactersMusic Quiz

Many unusual folks appear in Grateful Dead songs. Can you identify them?

Pete Anderson

Pete AndersonSongwriter Interviews

Pete produced Dwight Yoakam, Michelle Shocked, Meat Puppets, and a very memorable track for Roy Orbison.

Song Cities

Song CitiesMusic Quiz

Nirvana, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen are among those who wrote songs with cities that show up in this quiz.