David Allan Coe (born September 6, 1939) is an American country singer who had his greatest popularity in the 1970s. Composer and singer of hundreds of meaningful songs, he is often overlooked when naming the "greats" of country music. It is said that he was too "rock" for country music stations and too "country" for rock stations, although he eventually enjoyed modest country music success.
Known for his outlaw persona, Coe spent most of his youth in various prisons until releasing his debut album, Penitentiary Blues in 1968 and touring with Grand Funk Railroad. His concerts were wild and unpredictable, as Coe began calling himself the Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy and he wore a rhinestone costume and Lone Ranger mask, riding into concerts on a motorcycle.
He was not able to expand beyond a cult following, however, and other artists found more success than him with his songs. Tanya Tucker, Billie Jo Spears, George Jones, Tammy Wynette and Willie Nelson all recorded Coe compositions. Johnny Paycheck made a short career out of Coe's "Take This Job and Shove It", letting people think he had written it and never mentioning Coe.
Coe finally hit the Top Ten with "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" in 1975. The song, written in conjunction with Steve Goodman, is known as "the perfect country and western song". It includes a narrative in which Coe explains that the perfect country and western song has to mention "Mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or gettin' drunk", whereupon he sings the last verse:
- Well, I was drunk the day my Mom got out of prison,
- And I went to pick her up in the rain,
- But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck,
- She got runned over by a damned old train.
His songs are known for strong rock arrangements, often with a Caribbean touch ("Divers Do It Deeper"), a tough band with tough guitar solos ("Longhaired Redneck"), a personal touch ("Willie, Waylon, and Me"), and verbal facility. His "X's and O's", for instance, strings together every secret lover's code that any teenaged girl ever put on the back of a letter, starting with the title ("kisses and hugs") and opening line, "Deliver de letter de sooner de better". Coe is also known to many for his humorous, x-rated and unabashedly offensive songs of the 1970s such as "I'd Like To Fuck the Shit Out of You", 'Fuck Anita Bryant," "Finger Fucking Sally" and "The Three Biggest Lies In the World." David Allan Coe is considered a racist by critics after hearing his X-rated "Nigger Fucker". He denounces this saying he never meant for those songs to become so well known (they were sold through Easy Rider magazine) and that it wasn't racist because he in fact has a black drummer in his band who is married to a white woman. He states that the songs off his X-rated albums were only recorded to be funny and controversial and did so with the help of writer Shel Silverstein. He is also known for his top country hit, "The Ride", which chronicles a driver picking up an Alabama hitch-hiker, who turns out to be the ghost of Hank Williams.
Coe's long career has included 26 LPs, with 1987's Matter of Life... and Death being one of the most successful and critically acclaimed. He even put out a concept album, Compass Point that threads his autobiography (or that of his persona) through an encounter with the famous Caribbean studio for which it was named and where it was recorded.
Tax trouble contributed to his career's instability, though Coe has continued touring throughout the 1980s and '90s, also doing some writing and acting work. He played a crooked bounty hunter in the movie, "Buckstone County Prison".
After Paycheck's brief and strife-filled career ended, Coe made fun of him in his sequel, "You Can Take This Job and Shove It Too" with the line, "Paycheck you may be a thing of the past". He also made fun of Glen Campbell's singing a song called "Rhinestone Cowboy" with the line: "I've been the rhinestone cowboy for so long I can't remember."
Coe's concerts, particularly in the 70's and early 80's, often attracted a rough and rowdy crowd, and Coe seemed to feed off the energy of his fans: a mixture of bikers, cowboys, and hippies.
In concert, he frequently said after one of his hard-rocking numbers, "Take that, Bill Monroe!" Monroe is a country traditionalist, but so is Coe in his own way: "I can sing you every song Hank Williams ever wrote, and I can sing all them songs about Texas...".
- David Allen Coe Official Website (http://www.officialdavidallancoe.com)
- Unofficial fan web site (http://users.aol.com/acushen/songs.html) with lyrics, brief biography, and audio of "You Never Even Call Me by My Name".