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Cocaine & Rhinestones: The History of Country Music

Tyler Mahan Coe


4.88.1K Ratings


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34 Episodes

ANNOUNCEMENT: Book Adaptation of Season 2

Season 2 has been adapted into a book from Simon & Schuster, available now

Transcribed - Published: 19 February 2024

CR032/PH18 - Glenn

The end of one story is just the beginning of another.

Transcribed - Published: 15 February 2022

CR031/PH17 - Choices: George Jones' Last Run

At least this whole story has a happy ending, right? Of course, whether or not that's true depends a lot on your personal definitions of both "happy ending" and "whole story" but, either way, today we reach the final chapter of George Jones' life. Don't worry, it'll all be over soon.

Transcribed - Published: 1 February 2022

CR030/PH16 - Another Lonely Song: The Tammy Wynette & George Richey Story

Oh, you thought Jones had a hard time dealing with George Richey? Imagine being married to the guy. Today we say one of the saddest and most infuriating goodbyes we'll ever have to say, the one we say to Tammy Wynette.

Transcribed - Published: 18 January 2022

CR029/PH15 - Hell Stays Open All Night Long: George Jones, Phase III

Oh, you're back to hear more things that will chill you to the bone? Then we can talk about what George Jones' life was like in the period leading up to and through the biggest hit of his career. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be afraid of a demonic duck or try murdering your best friend to test the existence of God, well, these are questions only George Jones can answer but just asking them makes for one jaw-dropping and heartbreaking story.

Transcribed - Published: 4 January 2022

CR028/PH14 - Divorce/Death: He Stopped Loving Her Today, The Grand Tour & A Good Year for the Roses

It's a known fact that "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is the best and saddest country song of all time. But... is it?

Transcribed - Published: 21 December 2021

CR027/PH13 - Billy Sherrill's Nashville Sound

What if the first serious opinions that millions of rock music fans formed about country music were based on a few massive errors which then got passed down to future generations? How long do you think it would take for society to build a fundamentally flawed history of an entire genre on top of such a foundation? Fifty years? Well, that's exactly what happened. Billy Sherrill's name means nothing to many country music fans. Some recognize it from the album credits of a few of their favorite country artists. Others manage to cast him as an enemy of the genre. But anyone who hears the name Billy Sherrill and thinks anything less than "he's one of the most important producers in the history of Nashville, who made some of the greatest and most influential records of all time in any genre" has not been given enough information about the man or the music. That changes today.

Transcribed - Published: 7 December 2021

CR026/PH12 - Loved It Away: Tammy Wynette, On Her Own

Following her breakup with George Jones, many people had many questions for Tammy Wynette. Well, they had questions for George, too, but he was a little harder to get in touch with, trying to drink himself onto a separate plane of reality from his conscious mind and all. So the questions went to Tammy. And she had answers. Then more answers. And more... And more. It's never been easy for ladies in country music. Here's how it became for The First Lady.

Transcribed - Published: 23 November 2021

CR025/PH11 - Being Together: The George Jones & Tammy Wynette Story

Though they were married to each other for little more than five years, the legacies of George Jones and Tammy Wynette are forever inseparable. This is partly due to their unprecedented success with creating music "based on the true story" of a romance between two artists, to such a degree that decades later there are still millions of fans who believe George and Tammy never stopped being in love with each other. If it's difficult to say where the line is between art and artist, public and private, fiction and fact, then it's only because there was a coordinated effort from perhaps a dozen people working to bury that line beneath a mountain of hit records and royalty checks.

Transcribed - Published: 9 November 2021

CR024/PH10 - Stand by Your Man: The Anti-Feminist Manifesto

Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man" is one of the most well-known recordings in the English language. It was also a plastic explosive detonated at a sea change moment in United States politics and culture. Look around. We're still picking up the pieces.

Transcribed - Published: 26 October 2021

CR023/PH09 - Loneliness Surrounds: Virginia Wynette Pugh

Country music is full of rags-to-riches stories, like the one about how Virginia Wynette Pugh became Tammy Wynette. In a way, it's true. Even after becoming the most successful woman country singer at that point in history, the life she lived was hard and painful. But if you want to know what actually happened in that life then she's the last person you should ask.

Transcribed - Published: 10 August 2021

CR022/PH08 - Dallas Frazier: Can't Get There From Here

Some of the best songs you've ever heard were written by Dallas Frazier. Don't recognize the name? Don't worry. You'll remember it forever after this episode, especially those of you who love Charley Pride, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, Connie Smith, Charlie Rich, George Jones, The Oak Ridge Boys, Emmylou Harris, Gene Watson, Tanya Tucker, Bobby Bare, Stoney Edwards, The Beach Boys, Tom Jones, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson... You get the point. Here's the story.

Transcribed - Published: 27 July 2021

CR021/PH07 - Pappy Daily, Gene Pitney and How George Jones Came to Be on Musicor

This whole story began with a pinball machine and jukebox mogul in Texas jumping over to the independent record business of the 1950s. When he hitched his wagon to a Singing Marine who became the Greatest Country Singer Ever, it served Pappy Daily well through the following decade. Then, out of nowhere, the ride suddenly ended. "What went wrong?" is the obvious question to ask, here, but it's not the right one. We need to talk about who went wrong. The answer nearly everyone's accepted for going on 40 years now is demonstrably untrue but we can only learn the truth through a deep dive on the country music record industry of the 1960s and by taking a look at how the careers of 2 international pop stars built a throne for The King of Broken Hearts.

Transcribed - Published: 13 July 2021

CR020/PH06 - All to Pieces: George Jones, Phase II

In the early 1960s, George Jones had a huge hit record featuring such a phenomenal vocal performance it instantly turned him into a living legend. He didn't handle it well.

Transcribed - Published: 29 June 2021

CR019/PH05 - Wandering Soul: George Jones, Starday Recording Artist

There are some personalities who would embrace being called The Greatest Country Singer Ever or, at least, settle into the role once it became clear the brand was eternal. George Jones did not have one of those personalities. The fame and fortune generated by his talent made him want to run away, so he spent decades running... toward something even worse than what he was trying to escape. Was there ever a chance of this story playing out any differently? Probably not, no. But what in the hell even happened here? Our search for answers takes us back to Texas for one Singing Marine's perspective on what it was like when lightning started flashing and thunder started clashing as he took the country music world by storm.

Transcribed - Published: 15 June 2021

CR018/PH04 - White Lightning

In North Carolina, way back in the hills, there's a centuries-old tradition of cooking illegal liquor. Whether you feel that's right or wrong, good or bad, may be determined by any number of factors but the objective truth is moonshine whiskey greatly impacted the course of United States culture on several occasions. Ever wonder why so many people will never trust the government or politicians? Press play. Ever wonder if the "moonshine" you can now buy in liquor stores is really moonshine? Press play. "White Lightning" was George Jones' first #1 country record, sure, but it's also the cork in a jug of profoundly strong history. 

Transcribed - Published: 1 June 2021

CR017/PH03 - The Nashville A Team

Now that we've established Owen Bradley as the single most important producer in the history of Nashville, let's take it further and acknowledge he's one of the most important figures in the history of all recorded music, even if for no other reason than assembling the first group of musicians to become known as the Nashville A-Team. Were we to erase their work from existence, every book about pop, rock or country music in the second half of the 20th century would need to be entirely rewritten. Just ask Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, 3 out of 4 Beatles, The Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline, Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Roger Miller, Hank Williams, Marty Robbins, etc. And those are just the people who can speak from first-hand experience. If you want to start talking about the influence of the records, well, strap in.

Transcribed - Published: 18 May 2021

CR016/PH02 – Owen Bradley's Nashville Sound

What if the first serious books about country music contained a few massive errors which were then repeated by nearly everyone who's since used those books as a source? How long do you think it would take for society to build a fundamentally flawed history of an entire genre on top of such a foundation? Fifty years? Well, that's exactly what happened... Owen Bradley's name means nothing to many country music fans. Some recognize it from the album credits of a few of their favorite country artists. Others manage to cast him as an enemy of country music. But anyone who hears the name Owen Bradley and thinks anything less than "he's the single most important producer in the history of Nashville, who made some of the greatest and most influential records of all time in any genre" simply has not been given enough information about the man or the music. That changes today.

Transcribed - Published: 4 May 2021

CR015/PH01 - Starday Records: The Anti-Nashville Sound

The story of a little independent record label in Texas becoming "a force" in the Nashville country music industry brings an outsider's perspective to the anatomy of a machine. Going from backwoods honky tonks and roadhouse jukeboxes to stretch limos and private planes takes a lot of crooked deals and shameless hustle. When confronted by a powerful enemy, you'll do whatever it takes to survive the rock and roll. When the whole world acquires a taste for your strain of Kentucky bluegrass, you'll rake in the green. When they get their ears on for truckin' songs, you'll put the hammer down and stand on it. But don't let the stars get in your eyes, because this story only ever ends one way.

Transcribed - Published: 20 April 2021

BONUS: Cocaine & Rhinestones Season 1 Q&A

You might think, "How could anyone finish a season of a podcast like Cocaine & Rhinestones and have questions? That guy saturates every episode with details like he's getting paid by the fact." There's always more to know. Like, how does one even go about making a podcast on such a huge subject as the history of country music? Whose "fault" is pop country, really? Is this Merle Haggard song communist? Is that Merle Haggard song racist? There had to be more men banned from country radio, right? One at a time, people. One at a time...

Transcribed - Published: 6 February 2018

CR014 - Ralph Mooney: The Sound of Country Music

The legendary pedal steel guitarist, Ralph Mooney, deserves the reputation he earned on his instrument. However, he deserves a lot more than that. This episode of the podcast backtracks to Bakersfield for a deeper examination of its "sound," a closer look at some people responsible for it and the story of a man whose story isn't told nearly often enough. It would be unacceptable to end the first season of a podcast on the history of country music without dedicating an episode to Ralph Mooney. After today, you'll know why that is. This episode is recommended for fans of: honky tonk music, the Bakersfield Sound, steel guitar, Wynn Stewart, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, The Maddox Brothers and Rose, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Skeets McDonald and road stories.

Transcribed - Published: 23 January 2018

CR013 - Rusty & Doug Kershaw: The Cajun Way

Rusty & Doug come from a long tradition of surviving against the odds, against a world that would just as soon see you dead as see you succeed. Starting from nothing but a houseboat in Louisiana, they fought their way through an unscrupulous industry, through honky tonk stages screened off with chicken wire, onto the biggest stages in the business, in order to create some of the greatest music ever made. Then, they battled themselves, their past and their addictions. This episode is recommend for fans of: Hardcore History, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and discovering unbelievably good music that you've never heard.

Transcribed - Published: 16 January 2018

CR012 - Wynonna

Some people think we have all these "authenticity tests" in country music. We don't. But, even if we did, Wynonna would pass them. From somehow surviving a childhood full of several types of abuse to a years-long reign over country music radio with her mother in The Judds, this path was not easy to travel and the end of it is only the beginning of another, much more treacherous road. This episode is recommended for fans of: Harlan Howard, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, Asleep at the Wheel, Ashley Judd, guns, dysfunctional families and liars.

Transcribed - Published: 9 January 2018

CR011 - Don Rich & Buck Owens, Part 2: Together Again

Words often fail to express the connection that can exist between two people. In the friendship of Don Rich and Buck Owens, our notions of reality itself may prove inadequate. With spacetime as our stage, we trip backwards for more tour shenanigans, supernatural mysteries and, as always, great music. Our narrative pays special attention to the Carnegie Hall Concert album, what Hee Haw did for country music on television and innovations that Don Rich and Buck Owens brought to country music. But don't forget what else we learned last week. There is never such a thing as a happy ending. It's going to hurt watching this one fall apart and we have to go there, too. This episode is especially recommended for fans of metaphysics, banjo, Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, Tales from the Tour Bus, Easy Rider and Forensic Files.

Transcribed - Published: 2 January 2018

CR010 - Buck Owens & Don Rich, Part 1: Open Up Your Heart

Whatever else is true about Buck Owens (and some of it certainly is), he brought hard country music to the world in a time when we desperately needed someone to do that. Sticking to that honky tonk sound from Bakersfield made him a very famous man. Shrewd business practices made him a very rich man. Both of these things made him more than a few enemies. However, all you need to take on the whole world is one true friend and Buck Owens had that friend in Don Rich, his guitarist and right-hand man. Here in the first part of this story, we'll hear how everything came together, all those years ago... This episode is recommended for fans of The Bakersfield Sound, Merle Haggard, Wynn Stewart, western swing, guitar, David & Goliath stories and the Revisionist History podcast.

Transcribed - Published: 26 December 2017

CR009 - Harper Valley PTA, Part 3: Tom T. Hall

Behind any story worth telling, you'll always find another story. Maybe if we can get behind some of Tom T. Hall's best stories, we'll find the story about who he is and how he's able to do what he can do with the English language. Probably not but, worst case scenario, it will be an incredibly entertaining waste of time. Beginning with a condensed history of country music radio, we follow Tom T. from his early days as a young DJ into a seemingly effortless realization of his destiny to become one of country music's greatest songwriters ever. This episode is highly recommended for fans of songwriting, arguing about music, Net Neutrality, the music business, Bobby Bare, Dave Dudley, Jimmy C. Newman, Hank Cochran and songs for children.

Transcribed - Published: 19 December 2017

CR008 - Harper Valley PTA, Part 2: Jeannie C. Riley

Jeannie C. Riley's debut single sold over a million copies within ten days of being released but she never wanted to record the song. In the late '60s, Jeannie C. Riley became country music's most blatant sex symbol to date but she never wanted to wear those clothes. Small town girl with big dreams goes to the city and lets it break her in order to make her. Total cliche, right? Sure. Except Jeannie's choice to bury the story in lie after lie turns it into a mystery tale of obscured identity, infidelity and blackmail. In this episode, some truth sees the light of day, maybe for the first time ever. Recommended for fans of Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Russell, The Wilburn Brothers, Tom T. Hall, Little Darlin' Records and mystery novels.

Transcribed - Published: 12 December 2017

CR007 - Harper Valley PTA, Part 1: Shelby S. Singleton

You think all it takes to make a hit record is to find a good song and get a good performance of it? That's cute. Have a seat and let an old-school record man show you how it's done. This is Shelby Singleton. When it took driving a trunk full of records around the country to make them into hits, that's what he did. Then he became a producer. Then he became a VP at Mercury Records. Then he founded an independent musical empire in Nashville and really got to work making new enemies. This episode is recommended for fans of: marketing, publicity, controversy, rockabilly, Supermensch (the documentary on Shep Gordon), George Jones, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, David Allan Coe, Jeannie C. Riley, Margie Singleton and Roger Miller. Find a list of songs excerpted in this episode, as well as pictures and information/links to all sources at: https://cocaineandrhinestones.com/shelby-singleton-harper-valley-pta

Transcribed - Published: 5 December 2017

CR006 - The Louvin Brothers: Running Wild

The way Charlie and Ira Louvin could sing together is downright otherworldly. There's even a special term we had to invent for family (it's always/only family) who can sing this way: blood harmony. This episode delves in to exactly what blood harmony is and how the magic of it can't save you from beating the living hell out of each other at every opportunity. Here is the story of two dirt-poor brothers who fought for fifteen years to achieve their lifelong dream and what happened after that. (Hint: it involves whiskey and bullets.) This episode is recommended for fans of: singing, physics, the Radiolab podcast, mandolins and Roy Acuff. If you're enjoying the podcast, please leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts and, please, share this episode with one person. Find a full transcript of this episode with pictures, as well as a list of every song excerpted in the episode and relevant video clips at: https://cocaineandrhinestones.com/louvin-brothers-running-wild

Transcribed - Published: 28 November 2017

CR005 - Breaking Down Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee"

The song was just what so many Americans needed at the time, in 1969. Conservatives needed someone to stand up and defend small town, traditional values. Politicians needed someone to justify America's continuing involvement in the Vietnam War. Oklahomans needed someone to redeem the meaning of the word "okie," a hateful slur that arose from The Great Depression. The only thing is, Merle Haggard wasn't doing any of those things when he wrote the song. Then what the exact hell was he doing, you ask? Maybe things will become a little bit more clear once you know what Merle Haggard knew about Herbert Hoover, The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, okies and satire. Maybe. This episode is also recommended if you like: Gram Parsons, Ray Wylie Hubbard and the Revisionist History podcast. You can find information on songs and video clips excerpted or referenced in this video, as well as links to all books and articles used as a source, here: https://cocaineandrhinestones.com/merle-haggard-okie-from-muskogee This episode is supported by drunkMall.com. Christmas is coming up and you need a place to find memorable gifts. drunkMall.com is the answer. Go check it out but wait until you're at home because the website is slightly unsafe for work. If you enjoy this episode, make sure you're subscribed for future episodes, leave a good review wherever you listen to podcasts and, please, share this episode with just one person. Thank you.

Transcribed - Published: 21 November 2017

CR004 - Bobbie Gentry: Exit Stage Left

In 1967, Bobbie Gentry's recording of a song she wrote, called "Ode to Billie Joe," directly influenced the future of every major musical genre in America. In the early '80s, she disappeared. What happened in the decade between? Why did Bobbie Gentry vanish? Who was she, even? Since we can't ask Bobbie for answers, these are mysteries we either have to learn to live with or try to solve for ourselves. This episode of Cocaine & Rhinestones examines every little thing we know about Bobbie Gentry, her life and her music. Today's story takes us from the cotton lands of Mississippi to the music scene of Los Angeles, from a legendary recording studio in Muscle Shoals to the white hot lights of Sin City. We'll explore major label music marketing, the concept of celebrity personas, the state of American pop/rock in the '60s, and just what exactly the hell a MacGuffin is. People you'll hear about in this episode: Glen Campbell, Elvis Presley, Jim Stafford, Nick Lowe, Kanye West, Eminem, Drake, Lauryn Hill, Snoop, A Tribe Called Quest, Jody Reynolds, Rick Hall, Lou Donaldson, Sheryl Crow, kd lang, Lucinda Williams, Alfred Hitchcock, Barry White, Bobby Womack, Burt Bacharach and, believe it or not, more. Also, you may not like what you hear if you're a fan of Jim Ford.

Transcribed - Published: 14 November 2017

CR003 - The Murder Ballad of Spade Cooley

Spade Cooley came to California in the early 1930s, as poor as everyone else who did the exact same thing at the exact same time. Only, Spade became a millionaire. And all he needed to accomplish that was a fiddle, a smile and a strong work ethic. If it sounds like the American Dream, stick around to hear how it became an American nightmare of substance abuse, mental illness and, eventually, sadistic torture and murder. If this episode doesn't screw you up, you're already screwed up. Recommended if you like: Western Swing, murder ballads, My Favorite Murder, True Crime Garage (or any other "true crime" or "murder" podcasts, really), Tex Williams, Bob Wills, fiddles and having nightmares. Please subscribe to the show if you enjoy the episode and share it with one person. Just one person. Submit any questions about the show to [email protected] and you may be featured in a Q&A episode at the end of the season. Information on the audio and video clips used in the episode, as well as all information on sources used, can be found at: https://cocaineandrhinestones.com/spade-cooley-murder-ballad

Transcribed - Published: 7 November 2017

CR002 - The Pill: Why Was Loretta Lynn Banned?

This episode of Cocaine & Rhinestones briefly examines the history of contraceptive laws in America (Trigger Warning: abortion is discussed) before moving on to uncover the staggering inequality of morality applied to women in country music versus that applied to men in country music. Tyler Mahan Coe takes you on a deep dive of songs banned from radio in the United States, outlining a strong case against the country music establishment's lopsided attitude toward its artists based on their gender. If your mind isn't blown by the evidence laid out here, then it's only because you're jaded, because, on some level, you've always known this is true and grown resigned to it as a reality in this world. Even then, your capacity for amazement may surprise you Recommended if you like: Kitty Wells, Webb Pierce, Jimmie Rodgers, Dixie Chicks, Conway Twitty, KT Oslin, Garth Brooks, Sunday Sharpe, Lorene Mann, Jeannie C. Riley, Hank Thompson and feminism. Also recommended if you don't like: Barbra Streisand. The companion blog post for CR 002 The Pill - containing information and links to songs, video clips, books and articles used for the episode - can be found at: https://cocaineandrhinestones.com/loretta-lynn-pill-ban You can always visit cocaineandrhinestones.com to run a search for you favorite country artists to see if they appear in an episode of Cocaine & Rhinestones. (This will be more accurate than relying on a search in your podcast app.) Please, if you're a fan of country music, tell your friends that there is a new podcast about country music. If they don't like podcasts, the post for every episode on the site has a full transcript they can read instead. I don't believe there are any country music podcasts out there telling these stories but they deserve to be heard. Thank you. -TMC

Transcribed - Published: 31 October 2017

CR001 - Ernest Tubb: The Texas Defense

Everyone loves Ernest Tubb. So when he straps on a gun belt one night to head across town and snuff out a character named Jim Denny, well, you might guess that ol' Jim had it coming. Maybe he didn't, maybe he did. For you to make up your own mind, we'll need to go behind-the-scenes of 650 AM WSM in Nashville, The Grand Ole Opry and the world of country music publishing companies. This episode is highly recommended for fans of Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Paycheck, Justin Tubb, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Roy Acuff and Matlock. Yes, Matlock. Relevant Pictures, Music, Books/Articles, Video Clips and a Text-Version of this story can be found directly at: http://cocaineandrhinestones.com/ernest-tubb-texas-defense Visit cocaineandrhinestones.com to search for episodes with your favorite characters from country music. If you enjoy the episode, I would love it if you gave me a good review in your podcast app and told one friend that there's a new country music podcast. Just one friend. Thank you. -TMC

Transcribed - Published: 24 October 2017

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