"Honky Tonk Women" is a 1969 hit song by The Rolling Stones. Released as a single on 4 July 1969 in the UK and a week later in the US, it topped the charts in both nations.
The song was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards while on vacation in Brazil from late December 1968 to early January 1969. Inspired by Brazilian gauchos at the ranch where Jagger and Richards were staying, the song was originally conceived as an acoustic country song. Richards has said: "[It] was originally written as a real Hank Williams/Jimmie Rogers/1930s country song.
Thematically, a "honky tonk woman" refers to a dancing girl in a western bar who may work as a prostitute; the setting for the narrative in the first verse of the blues version is Memphis, while "Country Honk" sets the first verse in Jackson.
Recorded in London in early February 1969 without Brian Jones, the band initially recorded the track called "Country Honk". The song was transformed into the familiar electric, riff-based hit single "Honky Tonk Women" sometime in the spring of 1969, prior to Mick Taylor's joining the group. Taylor was quoted in Sean Egan's The Making of Let It Bleed as stating that the basic backing track was already recorded before he added his lead fill overdubs.
Ry Cooder has asserted that he originated the song's main guitar riff, and has accused the Stones of "ripping him off". Rolling Stones pianist Ian Stewart said of the track: "It's bloody ten times Keith you hear."
The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks from 23 August 1969. The single was released in the UK the day after the death of founding member Brian Jones. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was the single's B-side. Concert versions of "Honky Tonk Women" are included on the albums Love You Live and Live Licks, as well as the aforementioned Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!.
According to some sources "Country Honk" was recorded at the Elektra recording studio on La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles. Byron Berline played the fiddle on the track, and has said that Gram Parsons was responsible for him being chosen for the job (Berline had previously recorded with Parson's band). Producer Glyn Johns suggested that Berline should record his part on the sidewalk outside the studio to add ambience to the number. Sam Cutler, the Rolling Stones' tour manager, performed the car horn at the beginning of the track. Nanette Workman performs backing vocals on this version (although the album sleeve credits actress Nanette Newman). Other sources state that "Country Honk" was recorded at Olympic Studios right after "Honky Tonk Women," with only Berline's fiddle part overdubbed at Elektra Studios; this might be supported by the existence of a bootleg recording that does not contain either the fiddle or Mick Taylor's slide guitar.