A native of Akron, Ohio, David Allan Coe was already in reform school at the age of nine. He spent much of the next 20 years in correctional facilities, where he received encouragement to begin writing songs from fellow prisoner Screamin' Jay Hawkins. After concluding another prison term in 1967, Coe pursued a music career in Nashville, Tennessee, living in a hearse which he parked in front of the Ryman Auditorium, where the Grand Ole Opry was located. He first achieved success in the 1970s with songs he wrote for other country artists, including Billie Jo Spears, Tanya Tucker and Johnny Paycheck. As a singer, his biggest hits were in the 1980s, including "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." Coe recorded more than 40 albums, several of which were available only at his concerts. His most recent studio album of new original music was 1999's Recommended for Airplay; several subsequent albums included re-released material or were tribute collections.
Coe headlined at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill only a week after he escaped a prison sentence for tax evasion and obstruction and was sentenced by a federal court to three years of probation and nearly $1 million in fines and back taxes. Now 76 years old, he was escorted to a chair tonight by his wife and a roadie, where Coe sat with an electric guitar for the next hour. There did not seem to be much of a set list, with Coe rambling through a non-stop medley of his songs and a few covers. His band may have been a pickup band; the musicians seemed to slip in when they recognized a song but then quietly stayed in the darkened background for other songs. Coe's throaty baritone has lost some range, but his long-haired redneck spirit charmed the audience. He even rapped a couple of hip hop songs. A fight broke out in the audience, sending Coe's backup-singing wife to the dressing room and perhaps ending his set early; he concluded a few songs later. Coe may be far from his 1980s peak, but expect to see a lot more of him if he is to pay his IRS debt.
Visit David Allan Coe at www.davidallancoe.com.