LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Willie Nelson is such an iconic figure that it might seem he is always hanging out on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs tally.
But this week’s No. 56 debut of “That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day)” -- credited to Kenny Chesney with Willie Nelson -- is the first chart appearance by the country legend in almost five years. Nelson was last on the survey in January 2004 with another Chesney collaboration, the holiday song “Pretty Paper.”
The debut of “That Lucky Old Sun” expands Nelson’s country singles chart span to more than 46 years, dating back to the March 1962 debut of “Willingly.” “That Lucky Old Sun” is Nelson’s 121st chart entry, and while that sounds like a huge amount, it’s good enough to rank him only fourth among artists with the most entries in the 64-year history of this survey. The top three: George Jones (165), Eddy Arnold (143) and Johnny Cash (135).
Nelson first recorded “That Lucky Old Sun” in 1976. The song was written in 1949 by Beasley Smith and Haven Gillespie and was No. 1 on the Billboard pop singles chart that year by Frankie Laine. There have been many recordings since, including covers by Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles. Nat Stuckey took the song to No. 66 on the country chart in 1978, the only version of the tune to appear on this list before the Chesney/Nelson duet. Most recently, “That Lucky Old Sun” has served as the title track of a Brian Wilson album.
Chesney’s latest album is titled “Lucky Old Sun,” and it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 on Wednesday, becoming his fifth chart-topper. On Top Country Albums, “Lucky Old Sun” is Chesney’s eighth No. 1 set.