Don't Call Me Darlin'!
By: Wayne Brown
(Writer's Note: I wrote this piece as a request for my friend, Colin (epigramman). I hope he likes it! )
“A friend of mine named Steve Goodman wrote that song” is what David Allan Coe was heard to say as he explained the lyrics of Goodman’s song “You Never Even Call Me By My Name”. Now, when Goodman, who is now deceased (RIP), wrote this song and sent it to Coe, he told him that it was “the perfect country and western song”. Well, according to Coe, after reviewing it, he sent it back to Goodman and informed him that it was not any such thing because it had not mentioned anything about “trains, trucks, prison, or getting’ drunk, or mama.” As the story goes, Coe sat down and wrote another verse to the song and include those subjects thus making it the “perfect country and western song”. Let’s break it down and discuss why that would be the case.
There are a lot of songs about trains that have been written since back before there was a label called “country and western music”. They called Jimmy Rodgers, “The Singing Brakeman” because he sang so much of trains and the hobos who rode upon them. Arlo Guthrie saluted the “City of New Orleans” and sent us off down the track on that ride describing all that was about us. Kenny Rogers met up with “The Gambler” as he rode the train sharing his last drops of whiskey and furnishing smokes all in the name of getting a little advice on living. Johnny Cash sang of trains in every shape and form it seems logging in with “Hey Porter”, “Blue Train”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, and many, many others. Guy Clark wrote and performed “Texas 1947” detailing the excitement of living in a far west Texas town as a child and awaiting the arrival and passing of one of the speedy new trains on the line. In the chorus, Clark wrote, “Look out here she comes, she’s comin’, Look out, there she goes, she’s gone, screamin straight through Texas like mad dog cyclone.” Why every time I hear him sing it, I feel like I am standing there watching just caught up in all the excitement and speed. Trains make you feel country, feel free, feel cowboy. That’s why it is so important to sing about trains if you are singing the perfect country and western song.
Trucks are another important element of good country music. Who can forget Red Sovine singing “Phantom 309” or “Teddy Bear”? What about Dave Dudley’s great song, “Six Days On The Road”? Jerry Reed hammered out “Eastbound and Down” for the “Smokey And The Bandit” soundtrack. He had us all walking around humming that song for days on end. Then there was old C.W. McCall who showed up right in the middle of the CB radio craze and gave us “Convoy”. Man, there are some good words there like, “Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June in a Kenworth haulin’ logs. Cabover Pete with a reefer on and a Jimmy haulin’ hogs…”. Aw, we loved it man! The song is still a classic today. There’s no way you can be country and not sing about trucks and truckin’, no way!
Of course, what would country do without prison? Man it would be a drag! Cash sang “Dark As A Dungeon” which told about a “prison” of sorts, at least to all those folks working deep in those dark old coal mines. They all felt like prisoners. Lefty Frizzell sang of “Miller’s Cave”, another prison of sorts to the men who inadvertently became lost in it. Merle Haggard gave us “Branded Man” and “Mama Tried” both outlining the hardships of men who have ended up spending time in prison. Cash sang “Folsom Prison Blues” and gave us a double-dose perspective of both trains and prison. Grand Ole Opry star, Webb Pierce, sang “He’s In The Jailhouse Now” and made it a big hit with folks. You start thinkin’ prison, buddy, you are thinkin’ hit song…that’s what I say!
Then there’s that popular pastime that many of us have enjoyed over the years called “gettin’ drunk”. Country music is about drinkin’ and country music singers not only sing about it, they do it with great gusto. Webb Pierce sang “There Stands The Glass”, Jim Ed Brown did “Pop A Top Again”, George Jones came along with “White Lightnin’” and Johnny Cash sang sadly of the damages of alcohol on the Indian, “Ballad of Ira Hayes”. Waylon Jennings offered “Drinkin’ And Dreamin’” which came with the lyric, “Drinkin’ and Dreamin’ knowin’ damn well I can’t go. I’ll never see Texas, L.A. or Old Mexico. But here at this table, I’m able to leave it behind. Drinkin’ And Dreamin’, a thousand miles out of my mind.” Hank Thompson sang “I got time for one more round and “A Six Pack To Go”. The list is almost endless, the situations different, but all involve gettin’ drunk and all of them have added up to some hit music on the country charts.
Last but not least of course, there’s “mama” who just by simply thought can bring a tear to the eye. Mama has been the subject matter of some songs that have gone straight to the heart on their way to becoming country hits. Merle Haggard sang of “Mama’s Hungry Eyes” in his tune about the rigors of camp life in the dust bowl era. He also spoke of mama’s importance in the song “Daddy Frank” when he sang, “Daddy Frank played the guitar and the French harp; sister played ringin’ tambourine. Mama couldn’t hear the pretty music but she read our lips and helped the family sing. That little band was all a part of livin’ and our only means of livin’ at the time. But wasn’t no ordinary combo for Daddy Frank, the guitar man was blind”. Steve Wariner and Glenn Campbell sang, “Hall Of Fame For Mamas”. Willie and Waylon pleaded “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Be Cowboys” and the Judds did “Mama, He’s Crazy”. Mama knows how to make country music, that’s for sure!
Well, that pretty much covers the five most important things in the perfect country and western song according to Mr. David Allan Coe. I think Mr. Coe pretty well got it right although some would argue there is a sixth with the subject being “Love” or the lack there of. I can give credence to that argument and there are plenty of good songs out there to prove it. But, based on the five highlighted by Coe, it was all he could do to make that last verse (included below) that part which indeed did make it "The Perfect Country & Western Song". All I can do is close out this article with a statement made famous by Coe when he said, “Now, if that ain’t country, you can kiss my ass!” Night, Darlin’.
"I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up, in the rain
But before we could get to my pickup truck
She runned over, by a damned old train
So I'll hang around as long as you will let me
And I never minded standing in the rain
No, you don't have to call me darlin', darling,
You never even call me by, I wonder why you don't call me,
Why don't you ever call me by my name" - Steve Goodman
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