Country outlaw David Allan Coe is a tough guy, but he has a soft spot for vinyl.
The 81-year-old Akron native, who spent much of his youth in reform schools and Ohio correctional facilities, tipped his cowboy hat Friday to the rerelease of a 20-year-old album on Cleveland International Records.
In 2001, Coe recorded “Live from the Iron Horse Saloon: Biketoberfest 01” during a concert in Daytona Beach, Florida. The digitally remastered album is being reissued for the first time on vinyl. You know, like those old records on the scuffed-up jukeboxes of yesteryear.
The 14-track album includes “Take This Job and Shove It,” “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” “If That Ain’t Country Part II,” “Nothing to Lose” and the only recorded version of “I’m an Ohio Boy.”
Coe has escaped mainstream success as a solo artist, but he’s written more than 60 singles on the Billboard charts and maintained a cult following among fans. He has composed songs for such artists as Johnny Cash, Tanya Tucker, Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Johnny Paycheck and Kid Rock.
As a selling point, Coe’s website points out: “His lyrics have spurred controversy, featuring frequent profanities, tales of drug use and sexually explicit material, gaining him the title of the ‘outlaw’s outlaw.’ With his throaty baritone and dirty grooves, Coe’s honky-tonk country certainly sounds pretty badass.”
The son of Donald and Lucille Coe attended Betty Jane Elementary School and Ellet and Coventry high schools between stints at reform school. His dad was a factory worker at Goodyear and his mother worked at Sears and as a secretary to J.J. Buchholzer, owner of Hower’s department store in Akron.
Coe was 9 when he first went to reform school as an “incorrigible child.” Captured after an escape with other kids, he was transferred to the Boys’ Industrial School in Lancaster.
He served four months in the Army, but was discharged when authorities found out he was underage. He kept getting into trouble, serving time for various offenses. In 1963, he was convicted of possessing burglary tools after being paroled for another violation.
Coe had three stints at the Ohio Reformatory. Upon completing parole in 1967, he went to Nashville with 20 cents in his pocket. To earn money for food, he played his guitar in bars.
He released his debut album, “Penitentiary Blues,” in 1970 on Plantation Records.
“My song ‘Penitentiary Blues’ is all about Akron,” he once told the Beacon Journal. “I wrote it because I kept going to prison, where guys naturally talk about their hometowns. So there’s a line in the song about drinking gin and hanging around on Howard Street.”
The 6-foot-4 singer, who billed himself as the “Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy,” had 365 tattoos by the mid-1970s, and wore long hair and a beard.
“There are three pretty good reasons for my long hair,” he once explained. “One: I got big ears, and hair hides ’em. In prison, they made me get haircuts. Now I can choose how long I want my hair to be.
“And all of my life I wanted my family to say they was proud of me. But my mother once sent me a letter saying ‘I seen you on TV and in some magazine pictures. I don’t want you to come home until you get a haircut.’
“She didn’t say I was a successful recording musician, or a guy who has made a successful parole. Nothing like that …”
When he finally did come home in the 1970s, he took his expensive new Cadillac for a spin on Main Street in downtown Akron with the hope that some of his old buddies might see him and be duly impressed.
“I got down there and I drove around and around the block, but you know what? There wasn’t anybody there,” he said. “They’re all gone or I just don’t know what they look like anymore.”
Coe has released more than 40 solo albums over the past 50 years.
And now he’s returned to the medium where it all began.
The vinyl edition of “Live from the Iron Horse” retails for $29.99 and can be ordered at ClevelandInternational.com. For more information about the artist, visit legendarydavidallancoe.com.