David Allan Coe: Original Outlaw

David Allan Coe is popular music’s greatest enigma. He has toured with Neil Young, Willie Nelson and his buddy (and sometime collaborator), Kid Rock. Coe has recorded with George Jones, Merle Haggard and recently cut an album with the heavy-metal band Pantera that should be released sometime next year. His songs have been covered by Tanya Tucker, Johnny Paycheck, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, Kid Rock and Johnny Cash – just to name a few.

Besides writing and recording No. 1 hit songs, Coe is also a practicing magician/ventriloquist, deep sea treasure hunter, author and has acted in numerous films, including Take This Job and Shove It, which is based on the chart-topping song which he wrote for Paycheck.

By his own account, Coe spent 20 of his first 34 years in prisons and reform schools. He spent time on death row after killing a fellow inmate who demanded oral sex.

In 1967, Coe was paroled and the following year signed with Sun Records and recorded his first album Penitentiary Blues, a collection of songs he wrote behind bars. In 1973, Columbia Records bought Coe’s contract from Sun and he recorded The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy (several years before Glenn Campbell bastardized Coe’s original stage name). The album yielded the tender “Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone),” which Tucker scored a No. 1 crossover hit with the following year.

Coe’s most famous song recorded during the 1970s is the Steve Goodman country sendup, “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” to which Coe added an extra verse of satire. Coe also hit paydirt in the 1970s with outlaw anthems “Willie, Waylon and Me,” “Longhaired Redneck” and “If That Ain’t Country.” In 1978, Coe published his autobiography, For the Record, a scathing critique of our country’s prison system.

In 1983, Coe scored his first No. 1 hit as a performer with “The Ride,” a moving tale of a mysterious meeting between an aspiring musician and the ghost of Hank Williams. In 1984, “Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile” reached No. 2 on the country charts.

Despite his success (63 songs on the Billboard Singles Chart), Coe has never been welcomed by the Nashville establishment and has yet to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Coe is quoted on his official Web site: “Over the years people have gotten the impression that I am prejudiced. I’m not prejudiced. Sure, I have this thing about controversy. But, I don’t dislike anybody because of their color or sexual beliefs or whatever…” Early in his career, Coe recorded two “X-Rated albums” that are still available on his Web site and at his shows.

Coe’s recent collaborations with Kid Rock and Pantera have distanced him even further from the old guard of mainstream country music.

Unfettered, Coe continues to plow forward, playing a raucous brand of hardcore country and southern rock 200 dates a year in sold-out honky tonks, blues halls, casinos and biker bars (Coe regularly sets up camp at The Iron Horse Saloon in Daytona during Biketoberfest and Bike week.)

Tonight will be the third time Coe has played at Borderline in Tampa.

“We’ve had sell-out audiences the past two times Coe’s played – both shows have been amazing. It’s a great opportunity to see a living legend up close and personal. You’ll be able to see the white’s of his eyes from anywhere in the house,” said club owner, Robert Schouler.

David Allan Coe is not for all tastes. He is a gifted songwriter and an able performer who prides himself in being politically incorrect. Coe draws an eclectic crowd of hippies, hillbillies, preppies and an army of bikers who have elevated him to cult hero status. But, don’t let the endless row of Hawgs out front intimidate you, Coe’s diehards (usually), prove to be a loveable bunch who enjoy and welcome fans of all colors, creeds, shapes and sizes.

  • David Allan Coe will perform tonight at Borderline in Tampa at 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 and $35 for VIP. For information, call (813) 935-5339.

  • Wade Tatangelo is The Oracle Off Limits Editor and can be reached at oracleofflimits@yahoo.com