David Allan Coe Biography

The Father of Outlaw Country Music?

The Essential David Allan Coe album cover
David Allan Coe - The Essential David Allan Coe. Image Courtesy of Columbia Records

David Alan Coe was born in Akron, Ohio, on September 6, 1939. The country music star is well known for making outlaw country music. 

He was influenced by Hank Williams, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, and Buck Owens.

Like Haggard before him, Coe served time in prison before setting his dreams on becoming a country music star. He headed to Nashville in 1967 and found his first big success over five years later -- as a songwriter.

Coe wrote Tanya Tucker's controversial hit "Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)."

In 1975, Coe came into his own as a solo artist with the self-proclaimed perfect country-western song, "You Never Even Called Me By My Name." He later wrote the outlaw anthem "Willie, Waylon and Me." He experienced success as a songwriter once more with  Johnny Paycheck's "Take this Job and Shove It" in 1977.

While part of the outlaw country movement, Coe was even more extreme than many of his counterparts -- releasing the sexually explicit albums Nothing Sacred and Underground.

After hitting a dry spell, Paycheck returned in the '80s with the mainstream hits "Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile" and "The Ride."

Coe did face his scandals throughout his career. In 1982, his independent album, Underground Album, featured his most controversial song, "Nigger Fucker." As a result of the song, he was accused of racism but pointed out publicly that his drummer was black.

 

Urban Legends about David Allan Coe -- True or False?

There have been a few urban legends about Coe:

  • Legend: Coe secretly recorded racist records under the name Johnny Rebel.
    False: Although Coe has recorded songs with racial slurs (notably "If that Ain't Country"), the Johnny Rebel records are not him. For what it's worth, Coe maintains he is not and never has been a racist.
  • Legend: Coe served time on Death Row for killing a fellow inmate.
    False: Coe made this statement in interviews, but no one has backed up the story -- including prison officials and a Rolling Stone reporter.
  • Legend: Coe once belonged to a motorcycle gang
    True: Coe was a member of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club in the '70s.

Popular David Allan Coe Songs

Here are a few of Coe's most popular country music hits:

  • "You Never Even Called Me By My Name"
  • "If that Ain't Country"
  • "Willie, Waylon and Me"
  • "Take this Job and Shove It"

Popular Quotes

These are a couple of quotes that Coe is famous for saying:

  • (About country music) "I didn't really care for ... country music until people like Kris Kristofferson ... started writing songs. They had a little more to say than just, 'Oh baby I miss you,' or whatever. I don't do anything halfway."
  • (About outlaw country) "The reason that Nashville called us outlaws was because they had taken Ray Price and added all of these strings to his music... they were lookin' for crossover music to reach a larger audience and make more money. We did not wanna do that... we wanted to record with just our bands."