By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
David Allan Coe, unlike some of his peers, didn't have to manufacture outlaw cred for the outlaw-country movement of the 1970s. Coe essentially grew up incarcerated, first tangling with the system at age 9 and spending the next 20 years more or less behind bars. When he emerged, he had taught himself how to play music, developed an undeniably haunted lyrical gift and cultivated strong desire to see his name up in lights.
Despite his obvious talents, Coe and country radio never understood one another. His wild stage shows scared conservative Nashville -- for a while he appeared as the Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy, donning a rhinestone suit, a big black hat and a Zorro mask, wielding a bottle of Jack and swearing at the audience. His warts-and-all songs and his "If that ain't country, I'll kiss your ass" attitude -- that's a real lyric from a song of the same name -- didn't help him commercially, either. His decision to release several underground, racially and sexually rank X-rated albums put yet another black feather in his cap.
Despite all of these self-inflicted wounds, Coe did find success as a songwriter, virtually launching the career of Tanya Tucker in 1973 when the 13-year-old covered his "Would You Lay With Me" and took it to the top spot on the country charts. A laundry list of A-list country musicians covered his work, and he wrote such classics as "Please Come to Boston" and "Longhaired Redneck." He also wrote "Take This Job and Shove It" -- Johnny Paycheck popularized it, but Coe wrote it.
In some ways, Coe's style of boasting presaged gangsta rap in its megalomania. Not surprising, then, that braggadocio white-boy rapper Kid Rock gave the fading rebel props in the song "American Badass" and later had Coe open for him on tour.
These days, the longhaired redneck seems to be reinvigorated, having released several new albums over the past year, including the new material of Tennessee Waltz, a live compilation and a two-CD audio book of his life titled Whoopsy Daisy. He also has taken on another persona live, often wearing long beads in his wildly colored beard and blond dreadlocks, looking more like something out of Mad Max than a Dallas Cowboy.