Given my love and fascination for the MC world, I want to try and cover famous characters from various clubs. Here’s the very first one: David Allan Coe.
Let me know what you think in the comments!
David Allan Coe, a.k.a. DAC, is a retired member of The Outlaws motorcycle club, and has had a tumultuous life, from a broken home to a series of incarcerations.
Born on September 6, 1939, in Akron, Ohio, Coe was sent to reform school when he was nine and spent much of his youth in similar institutions. Eventually, Coe discovered his passion for music while in prison and started performing for his fellow inmates. Upon his release in 1967, he pursued his music career in Nashville, Tennessee, where he penned raw and harshly realistic lyrics that reflected his experiences.
Coe’s path to stardom began when other artists started recording his songs, and he quickly gained attention from major record companies. His music often satirized the trials of a performer who did not fit the public’s expectations of a country singer, and Coe won acclaim for his unique artistry.
Table of contents
- Key Takeaways
- Early Life and Struggles
- Finding Success in Country Music
- The Outlaw Biker Life
- Conclusion and Legacy
- David Allan Coe’s difficult upbringing led him to pursue music while in prison.
- Coe’s raw, realistic lyrics resonated with other country artists, leading to major record deals and success in the music industry.
- Despite legal troubles and his outlaw biker lifestyle, Coe left a lasting impact on country music and his audience.
Early Life and Struggles
David Allen Coe was born on September 6, 1939, in Akron, Ohio, and came from a broken home. Due to his early anti-social attitude, he faced many difficulties growing up.
At the age of nine, Coe was sent to a reform school in Michigan because of his behavior. He spent most of his youth in several similar facilities, struggling to find a stable environment.
Every time Coe was released from a reform school or other institution, he managed to get himself incarcerated again. His early crimes included possession of burglary tools and car theft. This cycle of imprisonment and release continued until he was 20 years old.
Coe began a series of prison terms in the Ohio State Penitentiary, and during one of these terms, he killed a fellow inmate who made a homosexual advance toward him. Despite a possible self-defense motive in the incident, Coe was sentenced to death. However, while on death row, he was reunited with his foster father, who had also been convicted of murder.
During his time in prison, Coe learned to play the guitar and began writing songs with his foster father. Eventually, Ohio reduced his death penalty, and Coe’s term was commuted to life.
As a result, he started to take an even greater interest in his music and was allowed to perform for his fellow inmates. This constructive activity helped the parole board view him more favorably, and he was granted his freedom in 1967.
Finding Success in Country Music
Move to Nashville Tennessee
After being granted his freedom, Coe headed straight for Nashville, Tennessee. He began his initial days sleeping in his old car and performing for food. Despite his raw and harsh lyrics, Coe managed to get signed to the small SSS label, which led to the release of his debut album, the aptly titled “Penitentiary Blues.”
Although it wasn’t a popular success, it received favorable notice from many music critics. Soon after, Coe switched to the Plantation Label, where his compositions began to gain attention from other artists and gave him the momentum to build his music career.
Under the Plantation Label, one of his releases was a spoof called “How High is the Watergate, Martha?” and a minor hit, “Keep Those Big Wheels Running.”
After being released from prison in 1967, David Allan Coe headed to Nashville, Tennessee, where he tried to sell the songs he had written in prison. Despite the raw and harshly realistic lyrics, he was signed to the small SSS label and released his debut album, “Penitentiary Blues.” Although not popular, it received favorable notice from many music critics. Coe then switched to the Plantation label during the early 1970s, releasing a spoof called “How High is the Watergate, Martha?” and a minor hit, “Keep Those Big Wheels Running.“
Compositions Recorded by Other Artists
Coe’s first major break came when other artists began recording his compositions. Many famous country singers gradually added Coe’s songs to their albums or performed them in concerts. When Tanya Tucker included his song “Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone)” in one of her albums, it became a huge hit in 1973, drawing attention to its composer.
Major Record Deal
Impressed by Coe’s talent, Columbia Records asked him for some demo tapes. Satisfied with what they heard, the company signed him, and Coe released his first major album, “The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy.” This was quickly followed by “The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy Rides Again.”
Ironically, his first smash hit in 1975, “You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” was not one of his own compositions but rather Steve Goodman’s. The song featured Coe’s imitations of various famous country singers and became a hit with fans.
Collaborating with Famous Country Singers
Coe’s follow-up hit, “Longhaired Redneck,” satirized the trials of a performer who doesn’t fit the public expectation of what a country singer should be. During the late 1970s, Coe released other singles, such as “Willie, Waylon, and Me” and “If This Is Just a Game.” One of his greatest triumphs occurred when Johnny Paycheck recorded his composition “Take This Job and Shove It.” The song struck a chord with many fans, receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Country and Western Song of 1978.
Reportedly, Coe would often ride his motorcycle to stage performances, even joining other famous country singers like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson on stage.
The Outlaw Biker Life
Outlaws Motorcycle Club
David Allen Coe is a retired member of The Outlaws motorcycle club. He was with the Outlaws MC chapter in Louisville, Kentucky, but was also well known for riding with the Outlaws in Florida. Coe’s path to country music stardom was difficult. He came from a broken home and was sent to a reform school in Michigan when he was nine years old due to his early anti-social attitude.
Riding His Motorcycle to the Stage
David Allan Coe’s unique performance style often involved riding his motorcycle straight up to the stage and jumping off the bike to perform. This display of the outlaw biker lifestyle added to the appeal of his music and persona. One memorable instance of this occurred when Coe rode his bike while Waylon Jennings was singing. Coe hopped off the bike and started singing with Jennings, and Willie Nelson also came out to join them in their performance. This made for an unforgettable outlaw biker experience on stage.
Conclusion and Legacy
David Allan Coe’s life and music career were certainly far from ordinary. Despite his troubled past, which included multiple incarcerations and time spent on death row, Coe managed to turn his life around through music. His raw and honest lyrics resonated with country music fans and served as a window into his unique experiences.
Coe’s contributions to country music were indeed significant, particularly as his compositions were recorded by numerous famous country singers. One outstanding example is Tanya Tucker, whose rendition of his song “Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone)” catapulted both her and Coe to fame in 1973. Such appearances of Coe’s songs in the repertoires of other artists cemented his legacy in the country music world.
Coe’s own hit songs, such as the satirical “Long Haired Redneck” and the novelty track “You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” showcased his versatility as a performer. He was unafraid to challenge public expectations of what a country artist should look and sound like. Albums like “Son of the South” and “A Matter of Life and Death” demonstrate both his dedication to his craft and his willingness to use his own life as inspiration for his art.
Even with his outlaw biker lifestyle and his past as a member of The Outlaws motorcycle club, David Allan Coe has left an undeniable impact on country music. His grit, authenticity, and perseverance continue to inspire fans and fellow musicians alike.