Fred's Country Fried Rock: David Allan Coe, “Longhaired Redneck” (1976)

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So usually I try to focus this feature on the new kids on the block, but sometimes you’ve just got to dip back into the classics. Waylon Jennings may be the king of the outlaws, but without David Allan Coe, the Bob Wayne’s and Hank III’s of the world wouldn’t have the template.

Waylon was considered an outlaw because of the way he approached the music business. Coe was simply an outlaw. He was in reform school by the age of nine and spent much of his early life in and out of prison. There’s even a story out there that he killed a man in prison and convinced another inmate who had no hope of getting out to take the rap. Coe, of course, has never confirmed nor denied the truth of that one.

While in the pen, Coe was urged to write songs by fellow inmate Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and after getting out in the late 1960s, he moved to Nashville where he lived in a hearse outside the Ryman Auditorium, wore a mask and called himself The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy. His earliest songwriting success came from the mouths of other singers – Tanya Tucker with “Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)” and Johnny Paycheck with “Take This Job and Shove It.”

Then there was that song. The song that most everyone remembers him for these days. If you’ve ever been buzzed late on a Friday or Saturday night in a college hangout, you’ve probably sung along with it. As much as I enjoy Coe’s take on Steve Goodman’s “You Never Even Called Me by My Name” and as many times as I’ve sung along, I always go back to “Longhaired Redneck” as the essential Coe tune.

This song encapsulates what DAC is all about. No one has ever accused the man of an abundance of humility or kindness, and this song bears that out as he, more or less, brags about his time in prison and his ability to knock the “loudmouth in the corner” off his chair. Like many of Coe’s songs, “Longhaired Redneck” is about him, and he makes no apologies for that. Maybe that’s why, at the end of the song, you end up kind of liking the guy instead of thinking he’s an obnoxious prick.

It doesn’t hurt that the first line of the chorus – “my long hair just can’t cover up my redneck” – is on my list of favorite country music lines ever. Maybe it’s because I spent a portion of my life trying to cover up my redneck with my long hair. These days, though, my redneck is pretty much exposed in all ways.

Though Coe wrote and recorded some fantastic songs – classics like “The Ride” and “Jack Daniels If You Please” – he’s never quite reached the revered status of the Waylons and Willies of the world. Much of that, I suppose, is his own fault, with his checkered past, present and, likely, future. Certainly you don’t endear yourself to the country establishment by releasing a couple of X-rated CDs as he did in the late 1970s or by recording a heavy metal record with members of Pantera, as he did in the early 2000s.

So, years later, when many of the other outlaws have been embraced as heroes, Coe remains as much an outlaw and outsider as he ever was. I’m sure he wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelse reviews.com.
Fred Phillips
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