David Allan Coe has always been known in the country music industry as ‘outlaw’s outlaw.’ With his eccentric personality, rebellious music, and unconventional lifestyle, he won himself thousands of fans but it was also exactly why he still did not break through mainstream success. Nevertheless, at 81 and five decades of music career, he remains an iconic and influential name in the industry.
And if you don’t know how badass and controversial David Allan Coe is yet, then dig into this list.
1. He spent his childhood in a reform school.
In an exclusive interview in 2003 with Kristofer Engelhardt, David recounted the strange story. Back then, his father remarried and his stepmother already had two boys and decided she didn’t need another one. So she took his sister but told his father to go down the court and tell them he couldn’t control David.
They sent him to Starr Commonwealth For Boys Reform School in Michigan at the age of nine. According to David, there he was disciplined using paddle punishments where they would beat kid’s hands until they bled.
David was born in Akron, Ohio. Later in life, he had two children namely Tyler Mahan Coe, creator of Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast which explores the history of 20th century country music, and Shelli Coe Mackie, who was married to the late Michael Mackie of Texas band Thunderosa.
2. He was an ex-convict.
After his stint in the reform school, he spent the next of his years jumping from other reformatory schools to detention homes until he was eighteen. And then he also stayed in the Ohio Penitentiary and Marion Correctional Institution until 1967 for robbery and grand theft auto.
There were claims of his back then that he was put on death row after killing a fellow inmate who made sexual advancements towards him. But these claims were later on refuted by journalists, penitentiary workers, and legal experts. And in response to a ‘70s article published by The Rolling Stone refuting his claims, he wrote the song I’d Like To Kick The Shit Out Of You.
David is also a founding member of the Seventh Step Foundation which was a re-motivation program for ex-convicts like him. And in 1982, he wrote a book titled Ex-Convict: How To Pull TIme and Parole.
3. He lived in a red Cadillac hearse in front of the Ryman Auditorium.
In 1967, after he got out of prison, he moved to Nashville to pursue a country music career (Back in prison, he was encouraged by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins to begin writing songs). Since he was homeless, he lived in a red Cadillac hearse parked in front of the Ryman Auditorium, also known as the Mother Church of Country Music.
As a form of advertisement of himself, he busked in front of the venue and it worked. He caught the attention of the owner of independent record label Plantation Records, Shelby Singleton, which released his first two albums, Penitentiary Blues and Requiem for a Harlequin. He later signed on with Columbia Records.
4. He was the first country music artist to have an all-girl country backup band.
This was one of the rarest facts about him because as far as history goes, Porter Wagoner was credited for it. But for a short time before Wagoner, David Allan Coe had an all-female backing band named the Ladysmiths. In one interview, David mentioned that the band was from New Jersey, but because he wasn’t popular at that time, nobody paid attention when he did it.
Although it’s worth noting that David Allan Coe was also known in the industry as its biggest misogynist, he also claimed to be part of the Mormon Church as justification of his alleged polygamous relationships.
5. He was branded as country music’s outlaw of the outlaws.
Despite his resume, which looked like a rap sheet, as well as accusations of racism and misogyny and an unfiltered language, he is still undeniably influential in the industry. He was unapologetic of his style and earned himself a number of hits like Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile, The Ride, You Never Even Called Me by My Name, She Used to Love Me a Lot, and Longhaired Redneck. But there were also a number of controversial and X-rated. The most notable one was his Underground album which contained the song Nigger Fucker.
According to David, he didn’t know about country music before Nashville. He was into Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rhythm and Blues. He didn’t care much about it until Kris Kristofferson and others started writing songs that were more than just ‘Oh baby I miss you’. And when he got into it, he really did his research and could do impersonations of many country music artists.
6. He wrote songs for other artists that became hits.
One of the most popular songs that he wrote was Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone) recorded and performed by Tanya Tucker. This song earned Tucker her third number one song on the US Country chart in 1974. In 1975, David also recorded the song as a b-side for his 1975 single You Never Even Called Me by My Name. The song was also covered by Australian singer Judy Stone, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash.
Another one was Take This Job and Shove It recorded by Johnny Paycheck. In 1977, it earned Paycheck his first and only hit on the country charts. It also inspired a film of the same name in 1981.
7. He was part of the 1% Outlaw Motorcycle Club.
If he wasn’t badass enough yet, David Allan Coe is a retired member of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club. He was with the Outlaws MC chapter in Louisville, Kentucky but also known to ride with outlaw bikers in Dayton, Florida.
In one event, he rode his motorcycle up on stage while Waylon Jennings was singing and then he started singing with him. And then Willie Nelson also came out to join them.
8. He was married 5 times before settling with longtime girlfriend Kimberly Hastings.
In 2010, he married his longtime girlfriend Kimberly Hastings, 48 (he was 71 at the time) at the Little White Chapel in Las Vegas with American singer-songwriter Toby Keith as official witness. Kim had joined him several times on stage as backup/duet singer and the couple dated for ten years before settling down. This was his 6th marriage, while it was Kim’s second.
In an interview, when he was asked why he decided to get married again, he simply responded that he was tired of making decisions for himself.
9. He collaborated with Pantera for Rebel Meets Rebel.
David Allan Coe and Pantera members Dimebag Darrell, Rex Brown, and Vinnie Paul collaborated for this album which featured songs about drinking, getting stoned, and other serious matters like criticizing the US government’s treatment of Native Americans.
This album was considered a groundbreaking collaboration of country and heavy metal released in 2005 under Big Vin Records owned by Vinnie Paul and posthumously after the murder of Dimebag Darrell in December 2004.
10. He survived a car crash in 2013.
David Allan Coe, who was driving a 2011 black Suburban into a nearby parking lot ended up on its side, wrapped around a cement pole after getting broadsided by an 18-wheeler truck. The accident happened in Ocala, Florida and David sustained crack ribs and bruised kidneys. He spent a few weeks in the hospital but just after a few months, he was back performing on stage.
David Allan Coe
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