I always try to be as accurate as possible in my blogs when it comes to facts. I give my opinions more often than not, but I try to not let them bleed into the facts. It is also never my intentions to try to ‘start shit’ or stir controversy, but just like with the Shooter vs. Shelton Hank III blog, it was my intention to put all the accurate information out there to dispel rumors and set the record straight.
Well when making sure I was right about the progression Neil Young’s song “Are You Ready For The Country” that ended up morphing into Shooter’s “Put the ‘O’ Back in Country,” I found a fact that I left out of the last blog, and it is a very important one.
Enter Carlene Carter. Daughter of June Carter Cash. Granddaughter of the mother of country music, Maybelle Carter. Stepdaughter of the one and only Johnny Cash.
Carlene Carter was a wild child to say the least. And when she grew up, she became a wild woman. Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll is probably the best way to describe it. You might even could say she was the first Hellbetty. Growing up in a house with Johnny Cash, you know she would have some demons to fight, and with Carter blood, you know she would be involved in music.
She never strayed too far from country, but she also liked rock n’ roll. After putting out a couple of albums, she fell into the post punk music scene in the UK, and married 80’s music star Nick Lowe , who gave us the snoozer Top 40 hit “Cruel to be Kind.” But Carlene danced to the beat of her own drum. She openly criticized Nashville as being closed-minded, too traditional, and a machine, and that is why she ended up in London, where she felt less restricted and found more similarly-minded people to collaborate with. She also had a foul mouth, and loved to pepper her music and performances with elements of sex. Sounds like my kind of girl.
Check this out, and listen to that undeniable, Carter accent:
Maybe the boys have the balls and she’s got the bat, but you got to have balls the size of church bells to put a flippin’ trombone in your band.
You make think that video is cheesy, but understand it is the early 80’s. We’re all playing Pac-Man and wearing parachute pants, and Carlene’s dropping F-bombs on stage.
At times Carlene Carter’s lifestyle got too much for her, and she would return to her roots, or tow the Nashville line as best she could. She left Nick Lowe back in the land of tea and scrumpets, and for a period she joined the famous Carter Family ensemble. She felt it was her birth right and obligation. There she is second on the left with the autoharp:
The big “hit” she had was “I Fell in Love” in 1990. At the time Nashville considered this “Raunchy.”
Yeah, I wasn’t particularly impressed either.
Carlene Carter never lasted long towing the line though. She would hang out with rockers more than honky-tonkers, people like Elvis Costello and the bass player for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Howie Epstein, who produced all of Carlene’s early 90’s records.
Hanging out with Epstein and eventually getting engaged to him is where Carlene fell into heroin addiction, and running from warrants in New Mexico and facing judges and probation in California. A few of you might remember Howie Epstein died of heroin overdose in 2003. Before and after the death, Carlene was in and out of hiding from the media, her family, and the law. She finally emerged last year, and put out an album, Stronger that a lot of people whose opinions I respect say this is her best album ever.
You may be wondering why I’m telling you all of this stuff about Carlene Carter, and what the hell it has to do with Hank III and Shooter Jennings. Well because in 1979 at a show at the “Bottom Line” in New York, while wearing a very skimpy skirt and shaking her stuff for a pretty edgy crowd, Carlene Carter introduced her song “Swamp Meat Rag” with the quote: “If this doesn’t put the cunt back in country, I don’t know what will.”
This quote became Playboy Magazine’s Quote of the Year for 1979, and was memorialized in this Playboy cartoon:
At the time she had no idea June Carter and Johnny Cash were in the audience, and apparently they were horrified.
So does this mean that Hank III ripped of Carlene Carter? HELL NO. Without question, when Hank III came up with the lyrics for “Dick in Dixie” there is no doubt in my mind that that it was purely generated in his own mind, and he deserves 100% credit for that. Carlene didn’t say anything about putting the “Dick in Dixie” and seeing the anger that Hank III has for Shooter over the matter, there is no doubt in my mind Hank III’s thought behind those lyrics was ORIGINAL.
So does this mean that that Shooter Jennings did not rip off Hank III? Well, maybe, but not necessarily. I have seen some notations in places where Shooter is given credit for coming up with the title for his album Put the O Back in Country to the Carlene Carter quote, but he has never defended himself on this point in any interview I’ve read about it, and furthermore, he could’ve just used the quote to try to cover his tracks. Though certainly Carlene could’ve been the generation of that album title instead of Hank III. We will probably never know for sure.
As I said in the last blog, I am not a Shooter fan, though I am not opposed to anything he does short of ripping people off, which he very well may do. And I think my Hank III loyalties are pretty well documented. If you think my intention is to somehow bad mouth Hank III, you can quite honestly FUCK OFF! I will go to my fucking grave defending Hank III, faults and all, because I believe in the man. I also believe in telling the truth and being as factual as I can in my blogs, and if I left this information out, I wouldn’t be telling the whole story, which would’ve been unfair to everyone.
And as for all the personal stories that came up about Shooter in the comments of the previous blog, about half the stories were bad, and the other half were good. And I believe them all. I think Shooter can be a nice guy and an asshole, like we all can, and again, I think we should let history judge them.
But I challenge ANYONE to find a story out there where they met Shelton face to face, and he was an asshole to them without provocation. And that, along with the many other magnanimous things Hank III does like refusing to use his name to sell out, showing tremendous respect to the traditions of country music, and fighting against those who would steal our culture for financial gain, is why when it comes to Shooter vs. Shelton, in my opinion, the case is closed.