What Happened To Tyler Mahan Coe of “Cocaine & Rhinestones”?

photo: Miles Price

Warning: Language

I’ve been following Tyler Mahan Coe, at least virtually, for a pretty long time, since way before his popular Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast started in late 2017. I want to say it was 2011 or 2012 when we first exchanged emails. And from the beginning, it was patently clear to me that he was much more than just David Allan Coe’s son. With the sort of grimy environment you might surmise exists around David Allan Coe, and with Tyler playing guitar in his dad’s band since he was 15, you might think Coe would turn out to be some common bumpkin character or something (if you hadn’t heard his podcast first, of course). But that wasn’t the case at all. Way before Cocaine & Rhinestones, he proved himself articulate and thoughtful, wise beyond his years, and possibly most surprisingly, measured.

This became most evident in 2013 in the aftermath of a bad accident David Allan Coe suffered in Florida, where his 2011 black Suburban was broadsided by a semi truck, and the Outlaw country legend was carted off to the hospital where he spent four days in recovery from multiple injuries. Four months later, I witnessed David Allan Coe play one of his very first gigs back at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic, held that year at Billy Bob’s Texas in Ft. Worth. David Allan Coe came out on stage and said sternly about the aftermath of his accident, “I’ve got to tell you that everybody quit me, except my wife. She’s the only one that didn’t quit. My road manager of 35 years, he quit me. My band quit me.”

This hypothetically included Tyler Mahan Coe, who was still playing guitar for his father at this time. It was in the aftermath of the Florida accident where there two Coe’s parted ways. But of course there are two sides to every story, and Tyler Mahan Coe’s side was completely different. Instead, he implicated his father’s new wife at the time as a controlling individual who had used the accident as the opportunity to consolidate power over the David Allan Coe estate.

Tyler was clearly unnerved by my reporting of what his father had said. I wasn’t taking sides, I was just reporting what David Allan Coe had said. Tyler’s name wasn’t even mentioned in the article. Nonetheless, I told Tyler that if he wanted to release a statement to tell his side of the story, or to contribute an article to Saving Country Music autonomously about the matter, he had an open invitation to do so. Instead, he chose to address the situation some months later on his own blog Baby Black Windows. It was here where Coe showed both a high amount of intelligence and wisdom that proved to myself and many others that he was more than just his father’s son. Instead of lashing out in anger, he explained his side of the story with cool-minded wisdom, yet authority, and in a situation that was very intimate and sticky to Coe personally. At the time was also running sort of a social media company, and a funny idea called drunkmall.com. He was industrious, naturally entertaining, intelligent, and trying to find his place in the world.

After the David Allan Coe accident in Florida and the aftermath, I didn’t have much interaction with Tyler for a while. We did converse around 2015 when he was helping his sister Tanya Montana Coe release a record. And then in late 2017, the Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast showed up kind of out of nowhere. From the very first episode, the podcast proved itself to be the historical country music forum we’d all didn’t know we needed, but had been waiting all our lives for. Tyler had a small, but decent and dedicated social media following at this point, partly due to his clever use of words and keen insight, and probably helped along by having a famous last name, which always comes in handy in country music. Almost immediately after the first Cocaine & Rhinestones episode, I had readers reaching out to me, imploring for me to check it out. So I did, and like many, was impressed. Tyler Coe himself also reached out to me with an email, letting me know about the podcast on October 31st. I won’t post the whole email, but here’s the gist:

Hi Kyle,

I looked through all my email addresses but couldn’t find the one I
had for you. Hopefully this contact form is still a good way to reach
you.

For the last 6 months, I’ve been teaching myself how to create a
podcast in order to start one dedicated solely to the history of
country music. It’s called Cocaine & Rhinestones…..

The show was added to iTunes today or you can stream episodes in their
companion blog posts on cocaineandrhinestones.com (I should mention,
every episode will have a full transcript on the site for people who
can’t or won’t listen to podcasts.)

I know you don’t do interviews but if you want any more information
from me, feel free to ask. I can set you up with preview links to the
next two episodes – Spade Cooley, Bobbie Gentry – if you’d like. Let
me know if you want show artwork for anything.

Cheers,

-TMC

 

At the time I was busy with more pressing issues, but I posted a quick article promoting and condoning the podcast on November 4th, 2017. At that point, this was the only press the podcast had received. Then in late November, even though I had already written about Cocaine & Rhinestones previously, I doubled down with my vehement approval and recommendation that readers check it out. This is how much I believed in Tyler Coe, and what he was doing. In fact there was a bit of a funny exchange between myself, a reader, and Tyler Coe on Facebook about it:

And everything seemed hunky dory. Obviously Cocaine & Rhinestones turned out to be a big hit. Tyler went onto be featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and other big periodicals. It was a big success for Tyler, and for the preservation and interest in country music history.

(As an aside, please don’t characterize as if I’m trying to take some sort of credit for Tyler Mahan Coe’s success. Though I would like to think some of those Roman candles shooting out of my ass helped to light the spark, the success is all owed to Tyler. Saving Country Music, as always, is just a stepping stone.)

But since the explosion of Cocaine & Rhinestones, something has changed in Tyler Mahan Coe, and pretty dramatically. That guy who seemed curiously well-adjusted, articulate, wise, and even-keeled for the Coe blood coursing through his veins all of a sudden started living up to the type of guy you feared he could be when you first heard he was the son of David Allan. The success of Cocaine & Rhinestones seemed to go to his head quite quickly. Granted, it was a very big success. But that success so far has been compartmentalized in 14 episodes of a podcast that hasn’t posted a new entry in over 1 1/2 years— his “Your Favorite Band Sucks” podcasts, which are not nearly as valuable or well-produced notwithstanding.

Tyler makes his money off the Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast via Pateron, where he has 1,445 supporters at the moment. On his Patreon, he’s gives patrons updates on his progress, including dropping the nugget recently that the next season of the podcast will be solely dedicated to songs of George Jones. Seeing how the smallest tier of support is only $2, if everyone was only paying at this entry level, Tyler Coe is making $2,890/month to take over 1 1/2 years to produce new episodes. Say the real average Patreon is $5 a month. That would be $7,225.00 a month. If it is $10, that would be $14,450 a month. That’s quite a decent haul. Granted, you’ve got to make it to spend it. Research materials, equipment, overhead, and many other costs must go into the Tyler Mahan Coe operation. But nonetheless, Tyler Mahan Coe is likely making a lot of money on a podcast that hasn’t released a new episode in going on two years.

No doubt, at some point Tyler Mahan Coe will release new episodes of the Cocaine & Rhinestone’s podcast. There’s also no doubt they will be awesome, at least if form holds from the 14 episodes of season 1. Tyler Mahan Coe is very good at what he does, which is why so many support him financially. Tyler has said he’s dedicating even more time and research to each episode for season 2, and sees this as his life’s work.

But the situation poses many questions about the efficacy of Patreon, and how often the forum is given credit for stifling the creativity or enthusiasm of creators by not incentivizing output, but simply popularity. Some creators have abandoned the format for these very reasons, while many donors don’t even notice the incremental debits automatically deducted from their checking account each month for something that’s not delivering output. Then again, if you can juice a Patreon account in your favor, it’s a good way to make a living.

But Tyler Coe’s lack of output or Patreon income is not what’s most alarming. That would be designated to his online presence on social media, where he’s gone from a critical and important ambassador for the cause of classic country music by preserving and spreading its important and intriguing history, to a fetid troll and unmistakable asshole running down others to bolster his own ego and persona. Some, probably many will say, “Hey, he’s the son of David Allan Coe. What do you expect?” But not only is this excusing shitty behavior, it’s also mostly untrue. The persona of David Allan Coe has always been alarmingly misunderstood, despite the rough exterior. Perhaps his incessant self-aggrandizing pompousness is the apple not falling too far from the tree. But the way Tyler Mahan Coe is regularly running down other musicians is something David Allan Coe never engaged in. In fact, Coe is famous for shouting out and helping to prop up other musicians from all genres.

Gram Parsons, David Crosby, The Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, The Beatles, R.E.M., The Band, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Stooges, Big Star, and other important and influential bands of American music have been personally and incessantly run down and dragged by Tyler Mahan Coe regularly in the time period since he released his last Cocaine & Rhinestones episode in January of 2018. In fact, that’s virtually all Tyler Mahan Coe posts—arrogant, down-looking, insulting and accusatory missives. It would be one thing if it was the occasional tweet meant as sarcasm. For Tyler Mahan Coe, running others down is his daily routine, and sole social media output.

“David Crosby has me blocked because I can’t stop reminding the world how luck he, a talentless hack, was to be in bands with others who had great talents…So I can see what Roger [McGuinn] is responding to because fuck David Crosby,” Tyler posted on Twitter on March 24th—one of over a dozen tweets running down the folk rock legend.

 

There are scores of non country musicians that Tyler Coe has chosen to publicly run down (see more examples below), and completely autonomous from his “You Favorite Band Sucks” podcast. But it’s not just relegated to music personalities. Tyler Coe has also famously taken on Malcolm Gladwell of the “Revisionist History” podcast, who also dabbles in music podcasting. This season, Gladwell’s “Broken Record” podcast featured the Love Junkies songwriting trio (Lori McKenna, Liz Rose, and Hillary Lindsey), as well as Mary Gauthier’s important and award winning project, Rifles and Rosary Beads. Coe’s criticisms of Gladwell’s take on certain topics may be fair. But instead of engaging in dialog, Coe lashes out with immature and unnecessary anger. Coe also spends lots of time promoting how big his podcast is, while running down others who appear in his same category.

“Here’s something I keep saying in interviews because it’s true but nobody has printed it: fuck Malcolm Gladwell,” Coe said on Twitter in May of 2018.

Coe has also gone after the general public, many of whom simply reach out to him with questions on country music.

“If you’re dumb, I’m coming for you. I’ll make you meet me on my terms and I’ll show the world exactly how fucking stupid you are because this is bigger than both of us,” he tweeted once.

On another occasion Coe simply posted, “Telling people to go fuck themselves is a public service.”

He also attacked the title of the latest Mike and the Moonpies album Steak Night at the Prairie Rose in response to a tweet from the band’s guitar player Caitlin Rutherford. “Isn’t that title the joke about buttfucking though?”

And again, these are not selective social media posts. This is basically all Tyler Mahan Coe does. He has also been especially vile towards Luke Bryan.

“If you work with Luke Bryan and you think we’re going to work together someday, it’s hilarious how hard you should go fuck yourself. I could not give less of a fuck … Fuck Luke Bryan and anyone who was even ever nice to him. Fuck his entire career. I don’t give a fuck. I don’t carer if he’s nice. I don’t care who his friends are. Fuck Luke Bryan.”

There is no website that has published more negative commentary on Luke Bryan than Saving Country Music. However you can search the vast 6,000-article archive of this site and never find an instance where I said “Fuck Luke Bryan.” You won’t find an instance where I said “Fuck Anyone.” Of course there are plenty of examples of sarcasm and hyperbole, but it’s the unfiltered anger coming from Tyler Mahan Coe that is so alarming, and frankly unprecedented in the music community at large outside of hip-hop.

Something I have posted on this website many times before is the idea “People first, then music.” There might not be the example of a better human being in country music than Luke Bryan and how he has taken in the orphaned children from his deceased siblings, and done some pretty incredible charitable deeds over his career. In an article from 2015 entitled Bad Music, Good People/Good Music, Bad People, Luke Bryan’s altruism was singled out specifically.

Why is it important to distinguish saying “Fuck Luke Bryan” from not liking his music? Because lashing out in sheer, unfiltered anger doesn’t underscore your argument, it destroys it. It smacks of spite, and is ineffective. Again, many will excuse Tyler Coe by saying “He’s just being like his dad.” This is the argument you will see parroted over and over in regards to this article. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Others think this behavior is just cute. But it’s characterizing country music fans and its media members as assholes, and elitist snobs thumbing their nose at anything that’s not country.

Through the success of the Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast, Tyler Mahan Coe has become an ambassador for country music. If he was a renegade podcaster just doing his thing and trying to draw attention to himself by running others down, that would be one thing. But he’s being promoted in major, national periodicals as the podcaster extraordinaire of country music. The Country Music Hall of Fame has even erected a display for him. Yes, Tyler Mahan Coe has (or had) a display in the Country Music Hall of Fame. How many individuals can you think of that deserve a display in the Country Music Hall of Fame before Tyler Mahan Coe, but have never received one? How can the Country Music Hall of Fame endorse Tyler Mahan Coe when all he’s done for over 1 1/2 years is run down music legends incessantly and daily? Nothing speaks more to the incredibly insular and myopic perspective of the Nashville mindset than the acceptance of Tyler Mahan Coe’s behavior by the Nashville establishment.

An ambassador for country music should also be patient when people approach them with questions about the music. Tyler Mahan Coe regularly runs general music fans down for asking “stupid fucking questions,” and responds to disputes of facts with information, not succinct statements presented as absolute. As a commentator, it’s his job to be critical, and even forceful if necessary to correct inaccuracies about the music, but never with “fuck” preceding every sentence or proper name being addressed.

Tyler Mahan Coe is a bully, and people are afraid to stand up to him because they could be bullied next, and they’ll be characterized as uncool. He’s been subtweeting Saving Country Music for months, just posting on Thursday (7-11), “What kind of bitchass genre of music would need to be “saved”?” Yet he’s too cowardly to name me by name. And nobody seems willing seriously ask if posting 14 podcasts nearly two years ago gives him the skins on the wall to receive the keys to the Country Music Hall of Fame archive, and a hall pass from playing by the rules of common decency we’re all expected to adhere to, while fawning media continues to give him a pass for this behavior.

And even worse, Tyler Mahan Coe has become one of those social media assholes that are literally destroying the fabric of society, stirring up hatred, presenting us vs. them attitudes, and being rewarded for it by social media algorhythms and followers that gravitate towards hate to make them feel better about themselves. No, this behavior or anyone else’s is not excusable just because it’s on social media. It’s contributing to the overall acrid nature of social formats, and characterizing country music as a bastion for assholes.

But most important to understand is that none of this is who Tyler Mahan Coe is. This is not the Tyler Mahan Coe I started following and conversing with in 2012, who impressed me with his temperament and intelligence, who I knew once he found his place in the music world would contribute something brilliant, which he has. Sure, he’s always been a bit snarky, but nothing like this. This isn’t even the Tyler Mahan Coe who released those 14 amazing Cocaine & Rhinestones episodes and proved himself to be a gifted commentator. A simple glimmer of short-lived fame has gone to this guy’s head like a hillbilly with a hit record. I don’t know where or why he went wrong, or what is fueling it, and why people around him are enabling it, and speculating would be unfair. But as opposed to encouraging him, someone needs to hold a mirror up to this young man’s face and say, “Dude, you’re better than this.”

Because he is.