There’s some stellar music coming out of contemporary Nashville, but if you want to “put a golden band on the right left hand,” you’ll have to journey back a ways.
There was a time, in the not-to-distant Southern past, when you could put a nickel in a jukebox at the local café and hear “Miss Dolly” Parton sing something like “Is Forever Longer Than Always” with Porter Wagoner (and you just knew Porter was wearing one of his bejeweled jackets when they recorded it). It was an era when everybody gathered around black-and-white TV’s (What? They’ve come out with color??!!) to watch the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights, and we felt like Minnie Pearl and Grandpa Jones were extended family who might well show up at the next family reunion.
In the late sixties and early seventies, country music lyrics reflected the changing times. Loretta Lynn shocked radio stations (and enlightened plenty of rural women) with “The Pill”:
“There’s a-gonna be some changes made
Right here on nursery hill
You’ve set this chicken your last time
‘Cause now I’ve got the pill.”
Dang, Loretta! Ms. Lynn has oft been saluted for making “tired” rhyme with “hard” in her epic hit “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” But we also love her for blithely singing with Conway Twitty, “You’re the reason our kids are ugly, little darlin’.” That song has another zinger: Bemoaning their ability to move up in the world, Conway and Loretta observe, “When we get ahead it’s got another mouth to feed.”
Can we talk about George Jones, aka Possum? He sang such winners as, “I’ll be over you when the grass grows over me” and “I put a golden band on the right left hand this time.” He and Tammy Wynette put their spin on John Prine’s “We’re not the jet set; we’re the old Chev-ro-let set.”
On first blush, you might think Johnny Cash had a temporary come-apart when he penned, “I’ve been flushed from the bathroom of your heart.” But Johnny was clearly out for a good time: “In the garbage disposal of your dreams, I’ve been ground up dear; on the river of your plans, I’m up the creek . . .”
Sometimes, you don’t have to go any farther than the title to know a song is well worth your jukebox nickel. Here are just a few to get you started:
“You Done Tore Out My Heart and Stomped That Sucker Flat”
“I Don’t See Me in Your Eyes Anymore”
“I See The Want To in Your Eyes”
“Heaven’s Just a Sin Away”
"It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right”
“If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me?”
“Married, But Not to Each Other”
“This Time I’ve Hurt Her More Than She Loves Me”
“Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)”
"She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)"
“It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)”