I guess I’ve always been a fan of country music, stretching back to the days of listening to it on my grandparents’ old Philco, enjoying all the “Hanks” (Williams, Snow, Locklin, Thompson, etc) and their counterparts. But there were long periods in my life where I really didn’t think that I was much into it. I thought I was too sophisticated (don’t laugh) because I was interested in jazz and other kinds of music, and country music was – well – for hicks. Of course, I was wrong. It was only with hindsight that I eventually realized that a lot of the music I enjoyed as an adult was very definitely country music, even if I didn’t always recognize it at the time.
Like all genres, country music went through a lot of changes over the years, cycling among various sounds and styles. As a result, you could usually find anything from traditional to the glitzier pop-influenced “modern” sound. However, it seems to me that there is one type of country music that’s always been around, and it’s almost uniquely country. Other genres might occasionally produce an example, but country music is home to the vast majority of songs with nutty and unusual titles — songs that “tickle your fancy”. (Well, at least they tickle mine — you’ll have to answer for yourself.)
I’m not talking about something like Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job And Shove It”, which – aside from the popular sentiment – is really just a one-trick pony. What I’m describing are songs that have long, funny titles that make you want to dig for more. To make the case, all I have to do is mention Little Jimmy Dickens, who had hits with “May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” and “Truckload Of Starvin’ Kangaroos”, and you’ll begin to get the idea.
Song titles like those are a mystery inviting further investigation, and that principle continues with masters of the song-writing art like Roger Miller. In addition to his completely nonsensical titles, such as “Do-Wacka-Do”, he’s turned out such gems as “You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd” and “My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died”. Another song with a baffling title comes to us courtesy of early British rocker Lonnie Donnegan, who had a hit with “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On the Bedpost Overnight?”. (No, folks, I am not making these up.)
But not all song titles are mysterious. Some practically tell the whole story, and it’s usually a tale of lost love turning ugly, such as “I’m At Home Gettin’ Hammered While She’s Out Gettin’ Nailed”, by Banjo & Sullivan. Another good choice is the immortal “She Got The Goldmine, I Got The Shaft” by Jerry Reed, who is another long-time veteran of the specialty. (Of course, practically all country songs are about lost love, but that’s beside the point.)
And finally, we have songs with a spiritual flare. Good examples would be Bobby Bare’s “Dropkick Me Jesus, Through The Goalposts Of LIfe”, and country-blues singer Tony Joe White’s “They Caught The Devil And Put Him In Jail In Eudora, Arkansas”. You can almost smell the fire and brimstone with that one.
So how about it, folks? What’s your favorite funny title? Or have I already listed every single, oddly-titled tune in the entire history of music? Surely not…