Roy Exum: A Country Music Insult

Saturday, June 7, 2014
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
I don’t want to break anyone’s heart but it pains me to inform you the perfect country and western song has just been left off a glitter list of “The Greatest 100 Country Songs.” The luscious list, compiled by a blue-ribbon panel for Rolling Stone Magazine, said “I Walk The Line” by Johnny Cash is the greatest song, followed by “Crazy” by Patsy Cline and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams.
Trey Barrineau, a writer for USA Today, immediately cried foul, saying it was a “jaw-dropping omission” and “unconscionable” that the glitter list would not include David Allan Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” which has long been the perfect song.
I heartily agree, this after publicly witnessing scores of late-night patrons in many Southern honky-tonks break out into roaring accompaniment when it comes on the jukebox.
David Allan’s greatest song, which reached 8th on the Top 25 when it first surfaced in 1975, is a cult-like classic that fraternity boys and sports teams alike have memorized down through the years.
In 2003 Country Music Television picked its “Top 100” and the song didn’t make that list either. They chose “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette, a song made famous in the 1960s and again in 1992 when Hillary Clinton famously told “60 Minutes” that “I’m not sitting here as some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.” (this was shortly after a woman named Gennifer Flowers alleged she was messing with Mrs. Clinton’s husband.)
The reason there will never be an agreement on the best country music song is because everybody has different tastes. The 2003 CMT list had George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” at No. 2, Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” at No. 3, and another song by Johnny Cash, “Ring of Fire” at No. 4.
Ray Charles, who always makes the “greatest” lists with his wonderful “I can’t Stop Loving You,” explained the beauty of country songs is their simplicity.
Charles, who performs "Behind Closed Doors" at the concert and has the No. 49 song with "I Can't Stop Loving You," said the beauty of a great country song is its simplicity. "It's very plain, very simple music," he once explained. "It's just for the average guy. You don't have to be a scholar or you don't have to be in the elite class or nothing like that. You just have to listen to the music and listen to the lyrics and the lyrics tell everything."
My goodness, the lyrics are what make “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” so legendary. Coe stops singing in the middle of the song and begins a narration that pretty much explains why it is so loved: “Well, a friend of mine named Steve Goodman wrote that song and he told me it was the perfect country & western song. I wrote him back a letter and I told him it was not the perfect country & western song because he hadn't said anything at all about mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting' drunk.
“Well he sat down and wrote another verse to the song and he sent it to me, and after reading it, I realized that my friend had written the perfect country & western song. And I felt obliged to include it on this album. The last verse goes like this here:
Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got runned over by a damned old train!”
* * *
The USA Today writer offered something of an olive branch to the Rolling Stone panel after his story first appeared. He wrote that a Facebook friend explained the Rolling Stone list was “the greatest songs” while Coe’s classic was the “perfect” song. There is just one perfect song: “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.”
Here are the Top 25 songs on the new list by Rolling Stone:
1. I Walk the Line - Johnny Cash (1956)
2. Crazy - Patsy Cline (1961)
3. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - Hank Williams (1949)
4. He Stopped Loving Her Today - George Jones (1980)
5. Standing on the Corner (Blue Yodel No. 9) - Jimmie Rodgers (1930)
6. Stand By Your Man - Tammy Wynette (1968)
7. You Don't Know Me - Ray Charles (1962)
8. Mama Tried - Merle Haggard (1968)
9. Jolene - Dolly Parton (1973)
10. Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys - Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (1978)
11. Man of Constant Sorrow - Stanley Brothers (1951)
12. I've Got a Tiger By the Tail - Buck Owens and the Buckaroos (1964)
13. Blue Moon of Kentucky - Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys (1947)
14. Settin' the Woods on Fire - Hank Williams (1952)
15. It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels by Kitty Wells (1952)
16. Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell (1968)
17. New San Antonio Rose - Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (1940)
18. All My Ex's Live in Texas - George Strait (1987)
19. Don't Come Home A' Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind) - Loretta Lynn (1966)
20. The Gambler - Kenny Rogers (1978)
21. Can the Circle Be Unbroken - Carter Family (1935)
22.Walking the Floor Over You - Ernest Tubb (1941)
23. If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time - Lefty Frizzell (1950)
24. Mean - Taylor Swift (2010)
25. Take This Job and Shove It - Johnny Paycheck (1977)

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