If you can believe it, true country outlaw David Allan Coe’s edgy sound struggled to earn respect and airplay within the industry during the ’70s.
His now-infamous track, “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” earned him the first Top 10 hit from his album, Once Upon a Rhyme, and helped him break through as a solo artist.
The self-described “perfect country and western song” was written by Steve Goodman and John Prine. It was penned as a lyrical middle finger to the music industry in Nashville, Tenn. at the time. When Goodman gave Coe the track, Coe said there was no way it would be a successful country song without any references to “mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting drunk”. Goodman countered by adding the final spoken verse that humorously adds in those cliches.
In the song’s second verse, Coe lists off and does some cheeky impressions of Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride and Merle Haggard, who were some of the genre’s biggest stars at the time. Even though the track was written about the initial introduction of pop music into the country genre, it’s a song many traditionalists have found themselves coming back to in recent years. Now, with country music splitting between pop and Americana, Coe’s anthemic single is worth revisiting.
In the video below, you can watch a rare performance of David Allan Coe singing “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” in 1975.