David Allan Coe, unlike some of his peers, didn't have to manufacture outlaw cred to qualify for the outlaw-country movement of the 1970s. Coe essentially grew up incarcerated, first tangling with the system at age nine and then spending the next 20 years, more or less, behind bars. When he emerged, he had taught himself how to play music, developed a haunting lyrical gift, and cultivated a 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 racially and sexually rank, X-rated underground albums put yet another black feather in his cap.
Despite 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," "Longhaired Redneck," and "Take This Job and Shove It" (popularized by Johnny Paycheck).
In some ways, Coe's style of boasting presaged the megalomania of gangsta rap. Not surprising, then, that Kid Rock, a white-boy rapper known for considerable braggadocio, 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: Tennessee Waltz, a live compilation, and a two-CD audio book of his life titled Whoopsy Daisy. He also has taken on another live persona, often wearing long beads in his wildly colored beard and blond dreadlocks, and looking less like a cowboy and more like something out of Mad Max.
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