When it comes to music, there’s country…and then there’s country. What might be termed “outlaw” country. The real deal. Not Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley. We’re talkin’ Merle Haggard, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Paycheck. And underneath some of this music, there lies a songwriter, a poet – a grizzled guy buried in grizzled hair and beard who emerges from backstage at B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill held up by a cane and a similarly-bearded assistant. The guy’s name is David Allan Coe. And he’s responsible for the legendary fuck-you-to-the boss anthem of Americana – “Take This Job and Shove It” – which rose to the top of the country charts in early 1978 as recorded by the notorious Johnny Paycheck. The song, introduced as “a song I wrote 52 years ago” (whoa) comes along about halfway through Mr. Coe’s incredible set at B.B. King’s this past July 13.
But before David Allan Coe takes his drudgery job and shoves it in the foreman’s face, he kicks off with Merle Haggard’s “Ramblin’ Fever,” then lets loose with a medley of sorts…of drinkin’ songs (“Whiskey and Women,” “Jack Daniel’s If You Please,” “Tennessee Whiskey”), breakup songs (“If You’re Gonna Do Me Wrong (Do It Right),” “Chiseled in Stone”), breakup and drinkin’ songs (“This Bottle (In My Hand)”), and even breakup and drug songs (“Cocaine Carolina”). Oh, and a cover of the Dave Loggins 1974 classic, “Please Come to Boston.” All while seated with electric guitar in hand…and accompanied by trusty backing band the B.B. Lee 3: guitarist B.B. Lee, bassist Frizzy, and drummer D.O.G. With names like that, now that’s a trusty backing band.
David Allan Coe in black…and white
The set continues with the endearing “Waltz Across Texas,” popularized by Ernest Tubb and written by Tubb’s nephew Billy Talmadge (with the most endearing – and most drunken – version coming from Alex Chilton on his 1979 album Like Flies On Sherbert), followed by the location-appropriate “N.Y.C. Streets” from Coe’s 2006 collaboration with heavy metal gods Pantera, Rebel Meets Rebel (Coe hit it off with Pantera’s late guitarist Dimebag Darrell). Then a bit of Dobie Gray’s ’73 hit “Drift Away” and a handful of Kid Rock numbers (another soul-mate of Coe’s). In between are song snippets – country music vignettes – as Mr. Coe the storyteller relates and reminisces.
To top the evening off, Coe tosses out the crowd-pleasin’ sing-along “If That Ain’t Country” (yeah, if that ain’t country, well…as he says, you can kiss my ass), the tale of a meetup with Hank Williams’ ghost entitled “The Ride,” and the top-ten hit penned by Steve Goodman and John Prine, “You Never Even Called Me by My Name.” At that point it’s time for David Allan Coe to take up his cane and – with the help of his, uh, helper – leave the stage. As the surprisingly not-that-rowdy crowd chants “D.A.C.! D.A.C.!”
David Allan Coe was born 78 years ago in Akron, Ohio, spent much of his early life in and out of prison, and has released over 40 albums in as many years. And if that ain’t country, you can…yup.
images courtesy panicstream.net, 45cat.com, stageshottz.com, davidallancoe.com, bbkingblues.com