Our top 10 David Allan Coe songs introduce us to an American singer and songwriter whose musical style is derived from blues, country, and rock music traditions. David Allan Coe pursued a music career after spending the better part of his earlier life in reform schools and prisons. Initially, David Allan Coe started as a street performer in Nashville, becoming one of the most reputable artists. His official music career was marked by the release of his debut album Penitentiary Blues in the early 1970s. A sophomore album, Once Upon a Rhyme, would follow shortly in 1975, releasing some definitive songs in the album. While his first two albums failed to lead David Allan Coe to mainstream success, songs in the album have achieved charting success after cover releases by other artists such as Tanya Tucker and Billie Jo Spears.
Penitentiary Blues and Once Upon a Rhyme prominently feature blues vibes. However, David Allan Coe took a turn in his music career with the third album having him show full commitment to country music. His third studio album, The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy, referenced the gimmick Coe adopted some while before “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell. David Allan Coe played a significant role in the evolution of outlaw country music. By 1976 outlaw country was quite popular, with artists like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings enjoying commercial success. David Allan Coe hit commercial success with his album Castles in the Sand, with this music charting immensely on the country tracks charts. Here are the top 10 David Allan Coe songs which bring out his signature throaty baritone voice.
#10 – A Country Boy (Who Rolled the Rock Away)
Opening up our top 10 David Allan Coe songs list is the country ballad “A Country Boy (Who Rolled the Rock Away).” The song came at a time country music was entering a new phase appreciating younger country stars such as Randy Travis and George Strait. At this time, even the synonymous countryman Johnny Cash had already been dropped by Columbia with whom David Allan Coe recorded his song “A Country Boy.” David Allan Coe went on to release a full-length album Son of the South, where he featured this song and nine other country ballads.
#9 – Take This Job and Shove It
David Allan Coe was not only a great musician but also an awe-inspiring songwriter. He wrote the lyrics the hit “Take This Job and Shove It” for Johnny Paycheck, becoming Paycheck’s number one hit on the country charts. The song’s lyrics allude to the bitterness of a gentleman who has invested both time and effort with no apparent reward. David Allan Coe released his recording for this song in 1978 on the album Family Album. Other versions of the song were released by the Dead Kennedys, Canibus, and Chuck Barris.
#8 – She Used to Love Me a Lot
“She Used to Love Me a Lot” is an original release by David Allan Coe on his album Darlin’, Darlin. In the song, the narrator cannot believe it is over between him and the lady, considering how much in love the lady was with him. He doesn’t think it will be difficult to get the lady back in love with him again due to their strong love earlier. The 1984 hit was brought to light again when Johnny Cash released his version of the song in 2014 on his album Out Among the Stars. David Allan Coe’s version peaked at number eleven on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
#7 – Tennessee Whiskey
The hit “Tennessee Whiskey” was penned by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove, having it pitched first to country icon George Strait. However, George Strait turned it down, leaving David Allan Coe to become the first country singer to cut the song. David Allan Coe went ahead to make it the title song of his 1981 album. Coe’s version peaked at number seventy-seven on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. However, George Jones’ rendition performed better than David Allan Coe’s version peaking at number two on the same chart.
#6 – Willie, Waylon and Me
Number six on our top 10 David Allan Coe songs is the hit “Willie, Waylon and Me.” The song serves as the lead single to David Allan Coe’s 1977 album Rides Again. In the song, David Allan Coe references The Eagles, who were the first country-rock sound to reach the mainstream. He makes use of a metaphor to describe The Eagles becoming popular through the lyric “And The Eagles flew in from the west coast.” David Allan Coe mentions other bands in the song, such as The Beatles, The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers.
#5 – A Sad Country Song
Earlier, we mentioned that David Allan Coe had started his career as a blues artist. However, his third studio album, The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy, marked a shift to country music. “A Sad Country Song” is a definitive hit featured in the band’s third studio album. The song takes you back to the good old country vibes of the 1970s, where rip-roaring vocals met awe-inspiring lyrics and iconic personalities such as David Allan Coe.
#4 – Time Off for Bad Behavior
“Time Off for Bad Behavior” is one of the best David Allan Coe songs from his 1987 album A Matter of Life… And Death. As deciphered from the song’s lyrics, David Allan Coe barely considers himself a good man, but he had been masquerading as one for a while. He tried to act being good by doing right at work, watching his tongue, and doing right with his beloved wife. The timeless ballad “Time Off for Bad Behavior” alludes to now taking a break from being a good person. After all, being good can be tiresome when it’s faked or not motivated by the inner self.
#3 – If That Ain’t Country
With David Allan Coe starting his music career as a blues-rock artist, many folks out there dismissed his country music path. What else would you ask for from David Allan Coe in terms of country music with his sound, looks, and attitude oozing country vibes? In the hit “If That Ain’t Country,” David Allan Coe responds to his critics that they can go to hell if his songs don’t feel country enough for them. The song added spice to his album Rides Again, helping him establish his country music path even better.
#2 – Longhaired Redneck
“Longhaired Redneck” is a hit by David Allan Coe, famed for its reference to the outlaw movement in country music. The chorus of the song finds David Allan Coe impersonating iconic country artists such as Merle Haggard, Ernest Tubb, and Bill Anderson. “Longhaired Redneck” also references Johnny Rodriguez stealing a goat from a ranch. The song peaked at number seventeen on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
#1 – You Never Even Called Me by Name
Number one on our top 10 David Allan Coe songs list is the hit “You Never Even Called Me by Name.” The song was written by John Prine and Steve Goodman, having it released on Goodman’s eponymous debut album in 1971. It took David Allan Coe’s cover of the song from his 1975 album Once Upon a Rhyme to have the song receive critical acclaim. The song became David Allan Coe’s first top ten hit song on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, famed for its humorous self-description as “the perfect country and western song.”
Feature Photo: Matthew Woitunski from Amesbury, MA, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 David Allan Coe Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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