Harlan Howard had been a paratrooper in the U.S. Army and wrote songs in his downtime to amuse himself. Heartaches By the Number was born from doing everything, as a soldier would say, by the number.
The guy in the song is kind of a sap really in this piece of country heaven. A pre-ordained sap, at that. He’s had this happen to him so often he’s got it down cold, but still “with hopeful heart, he waits by the door.” The best line is the lie he tells himself when she never shows back up in the end: “she must have lost her way.” Man, what a sap.
Ray Price snatched the song up and today is the anniversary of when he recorded it back in 1959. He had a nice No. 2 hit with it, too. Later that year pop crooner Guy Mitchell also picked up on it and, I would imagine much to Price’s irritation, took it to No. 1.
Nothing will ever beat that fiddle kicking off Price’s version of the song, but I must admit to smiling every time I hear Mitchell whistle.
Heartaches By the Number, Ray Price
Heartaches By the Number, Guy Mitchell