The Perfect Country Song

I like David Allan Coe. Is that enough or do we need more? Okay, he did prison time with Screamin’ Jay Hakwins who helped him with his songwriting (Hawkins may be the only songwriter more self referential and self parodying than Coe himself). He lived for a time in a hearse parked in front of the Ryman. After the IRS seized his possessions the man then went and lived in a Florida Cave. How about that? You can tell a lot about a guy from where he hangs his hat.

Coe is one of those funny singer songwriters that made other people famous with his songs while he himself got famous by singing other people’s songs. Highlights of his include Take This Job and Shove It sung by Johnny Paycheck, Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone) with Tanya Tucker, The Bottle In My Hand sung by George Jones. Some of his great covers include songs from Linda Hargrove and Dean Dillon: Tennessee Whiskey, J.J. Cale: They Call Me the Breeze, Eddie Rabbit: Long Haired Redneck and Steve Goodman (and maybe John Prine): You Never Even Called Me By My Name.

You Never Even Called Me By My Name is well known to be the greatest country song ever written. We know this because when Steve Goodman gave it to David Allan Coe he said “David, this is the greatest country song ever written.” After listening to it Coe disagreed and sent it back saying Goodman had failed to mention anything about Mama, trains, trucks, prison, or getting drunk. Goodman made a last verse addition sent it back and Coe relented and said yes, in fact this was the perfect country & western song.

Well, I was drunk the day my Mom got outta prison.
And I went to pick her up in the rain.
But, before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got runned over by a damned old train.

David Allan Coe, You Never Even Called By My Name

Happy birthday DAC.

Steve Goodman

Post Script ~ Goodman sang the last verse a bit differently, well he sang the whole thing differently, but what I mean to say is that the words are different in the last verse and I have no idea who actually wrote what.

Ever since the dog got drunk and died and mama went to prison
Ain’t nothin’ round this old farm that’s been the same
You know when mom broke out last Christmas
She drove the getaway laundry truck right into a train

I’m going to give you two versions of Goodman singing. The first is the studio recording and it is kind of funny and more or less pretty good. Goodman though absolutely shined on stage and everything he did was better in front of people. The second version comes from a live concert released in 1983 a year before his much too early death and it is a glorious and beautiful thing. If you’re a really important person with very little disposable time you may jump directly to the second version. Otherwise, listening to both is a great example of how songs change from studio to stage.

Goodman’s studio recording of You Never Even Called By My Name

Goodman’s live recording of You Never Even Called By My Name


About Iaan Hughes

Iaan Hughes is a deejay on 91.3 KBCS in Seattle. He plays country & western music.
This entry was posted in Country, Honky Tonk, Music, Radio, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Perfect Country Song

  1. I’ve always loved this song-the backstory makes it even better!

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