The Story Behind the Song – Am I A Fool

Finding The Way - Lonesome River BandAm I A Fool was written by Keith Tew and then-spouse Danette Gilley and recorded by the Lonesome River Band. The song won the 2000 SPBGMA Song of the Year award.

Born in 1966, Tew is a native of Florida who started playing guitar and singing when he was nine years old.

By the time he was 12 he was playing professionally with the Auburndale, Florida based bluegrass band The Bluegrass Little Bits. After recording two albums and touring the southeast until he was 15, he then joined the group Hickory Wind. The group included bluegrass legend Larry Rice.

It was not long after graduating high school that Keith moved from Lakeland to Jacksonville, Florida. In 1991 he joined the nationally recognized band High Strung. The group recorded two CDs and their most notable appearance was at the Telluride Colorado Music Festival. He also performed regularly at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. This led to a six month stay in Tokyo, Japan, performing at Disneyland as one of the Big Thunder Mountain Boys.

In 1996 Tew was nominated for a Grammy award for his performance on The Stanley Tradition album.

In 1997 he put everything he owned in a moving van and headed for Nashville, Tennessee. There he opened his own publishing company and recording studio in the heart of Nashville on Music Row.

While enjoying his song writing success Tew toured with the likes of Vassar Clements and Rock County. He realized a lifelong dream not once but twice while performing on the Grand Ole Opry during his time as a member of Rhonda Vincent & the Rage.

Keith is a Grammy nominated singer/songwriter who has written songs recorded by many artists including Mountain Heart (It’s The Love) Lou Reid & Carolina (I Don’t Remember When and I Stood and Watched You Go), Ernie Thacker (Momma Prayed and Daddy Plowed), Kim Robins (Born To Roam), Scottie Sparks (The Old 109).

Another song, Counting the Days, is included on the soundtrack of the night time TV series Navy CSI.

Currently, Tew plays guitar in The Farm Hands Bluegrass Quartet.

Keith Tew shares his recollections relating to the writing of Am I A Fool ….

Keith Tew“Am I A Fool was written in September of 1997 by Danette Gilley and myself. We set out to write this song with the Lonesome River Band in mind. I mean what writer of bluegrass music wouldn’t love to have a Lonesome River Band cut.

The original idea was I’m a Fool for Hanging On but as the song developed it presented itself as more of a question than a statement. I think the song appeals to so many people because many of us struggle with letting go of relationships that are unhealthy, and despite the heart’s desire to cling to what once was, the mind knows we’d be better off without the drama and unfaithfulness.

Am I A Fool was written in about an hour with very few lyrical changes once completed. It was almost as if you could hear Ronnie Bowman singing it as we wrote it. Once the song was completed the rush was on to record a demo in time to pitch it to Lonesome River Band at the IBMA’s in Louisville, Kentucky. I was living in Jacksonville, Florida. at the time so I called on fellow Jaxvillians Steve Pruett on mandolin and banjo master Allen Dalton to help me record the demo. I sang the lead and baritone vocals as well as playing guitar and bass. Co-writer Danette Gilley sang the high harmony.

I have to admit, the demo turned out great considering it was recorded on an old Tascam 8 track reel to reel and a couple of cheap microphones in my home studio.

After arriving at the Galt House in Louisville for the IBMA’s we caught Ronnie Bowman in the parking garage and told him we had the next Lonesome River Band hit. He kneeled down outside the door of the car as I slid the cassette in and crossed my fingers. The next words out of his mouth were, ‘That’s a Lonesome River Band song!!’

The rest is history. Sammy, Ronnie and the rest of Lonesome River Band went on to cut an unbelievable version that became song of the year in 2000 at the SPBGMA Awards in Nashville, Tennessee.”


Am I A Fool 


I never thought I’d ever see you again

I was sure we had come to an end

Now here you are back at my door

My foolish heart is going to let you in once more


Am I A Fool for hanging on

How many times will I sing the same old song

I’m gonna love you til all hope is gone

Am I A Fool for hanging on


You made the promise that you’d never leave

How many times I wanted to believe

I’m I just setting myself up to take the fall

Cuz here I am again just waiting for your call



My head is telling me that I should walk away

But this heart of mine is saying love you one more day


© Keith Tew and Danette Gilley
Publishing by Doobie Shea Music/BMI

Share this:

About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.