By Traci Bridges
FLORENCE – His long hair just can’t cover up his red neck, and country outlaw David Allan Coe’s ready to flaunt it this weekend in Florence.
Coe will perform all his most-loved songs from throughout the years as he takes the stage Friday at the Florence Civic Center.
It’s been a long time since Coe played Florence, but his friend Ed Younkin was determined to make it happen. Younkin, who moved from Pennsylvania to Florence, met Coe about 18 years ago after Younkin’s son died.
“My son had been a big fan of his music, and after he passed away, I began going to some shows,” Younkin said.
“When you go to more shows and you go early and stay late, you get to be more than a groupie. You get to know the musicians and you become friends,” Younkin said.
That’s precisely what happened between Coe and Younkin. So when Younkin and his wife moved to Florence, they began talking to Coe about him playing somewhere in the area.
“He hadn’t been to Florence in quite a while, but he wanted to get back here,” Younkin said. “Between David (Allan Coe), his road manager and myself, we were able to work it out.”
Coe's musical style derives from blues, rock and country music traditions. His vocal style is described as a “throaty baritone.” His lyrical content is often humorous or comedic, with William Ruhlmann describing him as a “near-parody of a country singer.” Coe’s lyrics frequently include references to alcohol and drug use, and are often boisterous and cocky.
Born in Akron, Ohio, in 1939, Coe was sent to a reform school at the age of 9 and spent much of the next 20 years in correctional facilities. Coe received encouragement to begin writing songs from Screamin' Jay Hawkins, with whom he had spent time in prison.
After concluding yet another prison term in 1967, Coe embarked on a music career in Nashville, living in a hearse he parked in front of the Ryman Auditorium, where the Grand Ole Opry was located, and caught the attention of the independent record label Plantation Records. He soon signed a contract with the label.
In 1968, Coe released his debut album, “Penitentiary Blues,” followed by a tour with Grand Funk Railroad. Although he developed a cult following with his performances, he was not able to develop any mainstream success.
Other performers, however, begin achieving charting success by recording songs Coe had written, including Billie Jo Spears' 1972 recording “Souvenirs & California Mem'rys” and Tanya Tucker's 1973 single “Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone).”
Tucker’s recording was a No. 1 hit, which led to Coe becoming one of Nashville's hottest songwriters and him being signed by Columbia Records. Coe recorded his own version of the song for his second Columbia album, “Once Upon a Rhyme,” released in 1975. The album also contained a cover of Steve Goodman's "You Never Even Called Me by My Name," which was a Top Ten Billboard hit, and was followed by a string of moderately successful hits.
In 1977 Johnny Paycheck released a cover of Coe’s "Take This Job And Shove It," which was a No. 1 hit and Coe's most successful song.
During the 1980s, Coe enjoyed a resurgence in mainstream popularity, twice hitting the top 10 of the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart with "The Ride" (1983) and "Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile" (1984).
In 1990, Coe reissued his independent albums Nothing Sacred and Underground Album on compact disc, as well as the compilation 18 X-Rated Hits. Throughout the 1990s, Coe had a successful career as a concert performer in the United States and Europe. In 1999, Coe met Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell in Fort Worth, Texas, and the two musicians, struck by the similarity of the approaches between country and heavy metal, agreed to work together, and began production on an album.
In 2000, Coe toured as the opening act for Kid Rock. In 2003, Coe wrote a song for Kid Rock, "Single Father," which appeared on Kid Rock's self-titled album.
Coe’s son Tyler now serves as lead guitarist in his band. The Coes will be joined Saturday by two speical guests, Mullins native James Scott Bullard and the Late Night Sweethearts and popular Manning band Headin’ South.