The State we're in
10 Songs about........
Tennessee Stud – Johnny Cash
The guitar playing is definitely cooler on Doc Watson’s version but you gotta go with the Man in Black wherever possible, don’t ya? Cash really brings out the knowing, earthy machismo of the song, originally written by folker Jimmy Driftwood, the prolific songwriter who also penned ‘The Battle Of New Orleans’.
Tennessee Waltz – Patti Page
Written by Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King in 1947, and versions have been recorded by artists as diverse as Otis Redding with Booker T and the MGs, Leonard Cohen, Tom Jones, Petula Clark and Les Paul. But it is Patti Page’s version that was the monster seller – spending 13 weeks at number one and selling maybe 15 million copies to date. It was also the last song to sell one million copies of sheet music.
Kentucky Hills Of Tennessee – Commander Cody
We love a bit of Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen. In 1972, the hard rocking, no-nonsense country fellers out of Ann Arbor, Michigan(also home to Ted Nugent) put out an album in celebration of the long-distance trucker Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Truckers' Favorites, featuring covers from ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Truck Drivin’ Man’ to their own stuff like this
Tennessee Jed – The Grateful Dead
“Drink all day, rock all night. The law come to get you if you don't walk right.” Truer words were never spoken – from the Dead’s Europe 1972 album. Excellent stuff, of course, but sadly Pigpen’s last with the band. There’s quite a nice folky/bluegrass act also called Tennessee Jed – worth a quick google if your end is loose.
Tennessee Plates – John Hiatt
Great narrative about a California drifter who picks up a Nevada hitchhiking gal for a bit of Bonnie and Clyde style, lost weekend bank robbery, culminating with an attempt to steal a “pretty, pretty Cadillac with Tennessee plates”… from Graceland! Alas, the tale ends with him in chokey – “stamping out my time making Tennessee plates.”
Memphis, Tennessee – Chuck Berry
Always liked this song but found the lyrics a little cute: when it’s revealed that the female who Chuck is singing about is in fact his six-year-old daughter Marie – the only one who’d call me from Memphis, Tennessee. Bit syrupy? We dunno. Anyway. This 1959 classic has been covered by pretty much everyone – The Beatles, The Stones, The Dead, Elvis, The Big O…
Tennessee Border – Tennessee Ernie Ford
Tennessee Ernie gets a bonus point for having the state in both his own name and the song name, but loses a point for being friendly with George Bush Senior. He was actually a classically trained musician who adopted the personality of an excitable hillbilly – a shtick that saw him enjoy a lengthy career as a gospel and pop chart act, TV host and radio DJ. His catchphrase: “Bless your pea-pickin heart.”
Tennessee Flat Top Box – Rosanne Cash
Johnny’s daughter from his first marriage, to Vivian Liberto, she released an excellent 1987 album King’s Record Shop, named after a shop in Louisville, Kentucky that featured four country chart number ones including this cover of one of her dad’s hits.
Tennessee – Arrested Development
Briefly extremely popular, nice guys of hip-hop types AD were the successors to De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest in the “rap music that wasn’t just about shooting bitchaz” stakes, and this track – sampling the mighty Prince’s ‘Alphabet Street’ – was one of the cuts off their first album, 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of… which was the length of time it took the band to get a record contract.
Evil Motherfucker Tennessee – Joe Buck Yourself
Obviously gaining like a billion bonus points for the stage name, Joe Buck is a rebel-country artist from Kentucky who plays the bass for Hank Williams III’s band, as well as having a solo offshoot as Joe Buck Yourself. No hat acts here, this is balls-out punk country.