Two of a Kind, Workin' On A Full House

Album: No Fences (1990)
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Songfacts®:

  • This was the third single and third consecutive Country #1 hit from Garth Brooks' second album, No Fences. Co-written by Dennis Robbins, Bobby Boyd, and Warren Haynes, the song was originally recorded by Robbins in 1987.

    The name Warren Haynes may well be familiar with those of you who are blues-rock aficionados. Haynes is vocalist and songwriter of the southern band Gov't Mule and a longtime member of the Allman Brothers Band. No mean axeman, he was named at #23 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
  • The B-side to Robbins' version was "Church On Cumberland Road," which was covered in 1989 by Shenandoah and became a #1 hit for the country band.
  • Haynes told The Boot the story of this song: "I was living in Nashville at the time co-writing with other songwriters. That's how that song came about. We were in the process of working on a song and one of the writers had a bunch of ideas written down but he didn't have a title or a chorus. He just had the beginning stages. I asked if I could look at his notepad and I looked at all the lyrics he had jotted down and one was 'Two Of A Kind, Working On A Full House.' I kind of circled it and said 'That is the song. That's what we need to write.'

    We had to start from scratch with some of the lyrical ideas he already had and incorporate them into 'Two Of A Kind, Working On A Full House.' It was just one of those moments. Once we homed in on the actual idea, it came together in a few hours. A lot of times some of the best songs come about that way. They either happen really quickly or they take forever. There is very seldom any middle ground."
  • For those not au fait with this dubious American contribution to culture, two of a kind and full house allude to the game of poker. If you can't play, don't learn! The rankings of poker hands in ordinary high only games is as follows: 5 odd cards, one pair, two pair, trips - also known as a set, three of a kind or a prial, straight or run, flush, full house, four of a kind - also known as quads or pairs royal, straight flush or running flush, and finally a Royal Flush - 10, J, Q, K, A in the same suit.

    In most variants of poker, the strongest hand a player is likely to be dealt in a session is a full house. Two of a kind - i.e. one pair - is a fairly weak hand. The title of this song suggests, obviously, that the pair will hopefully be augmented by maybe as many as three offspring. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England
  • Brooks first heard this as an artist demo by an aspiring country singer named John Northrup and it immediately perked up his ears. Northrup was still trying to land a record deal and Brooks congratulated him on what was bound to be a surefire hit. But Brooks made his own deal with the singer: If Northrup didn't get his recording contract, he wanted a crack at the song. Northrup agreed and, true to his word, gave it to Brooks when his deal didn't pan out.
  • When Brooks contacted Robbins asking if he'd put the song on hold for him, Robbins had already given it to Shenandoah but didn't know if they were going to record it yet. Luckily for Brooks, Shenandoah's producer told them they couldn't record any more "Hank Williams-sounding songs," so it was up for grabs.
  • In his 2017 book, The Anthology Part 1: The First Five Years, Brooks weighed in on the tune's significance: "I don't know what it is, because it's classic country, timeless. The beat, I guess. But I swear, more than any other song, when you are going to publishers for a record, the first thing they say is, 'Is there going to be a 'Two Of A Kind' on this record? It seems to be a pretty simple, straightforward beat, but finding something what that kind of feel… it's eluded me for 20 years afterward."
  • While this represents classic country, Brooks felt more freedom to bring in elements of his other musical influences, namely '70s and '80s classic rock, on his second album, which is why he titled it No Fences.

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