Saturday, November 28, 2009

Off Beat - You've Never Even Called Me By My Name

I've long been a fan of Steve Goodman and was saddened by the songwriter's death in 1984 at the age of 36 of leukemia. He had a way with words and a sharp wit, evidenced by his self-given nickname late in his life of "Cool Hand Leuk".

In the early 70s Goodman was performing at a Chicago bar, opening for Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson was so impressed he introduced him to Paul Anka who brought him to New York and produced some demos which resulted in his signing with Buddha Records.

Goodman has written many songs for other people. For example, Arlo Guthrie had a hit with City of New Orleans. And David Allan Cole had a hit with one of my favourite Goodman tunes You've Never Even Called Me By My Name, a witty poke at country music

The song was co-written by another of my favourite songwriters - John Prine, although Prine refused to be listed as the song's co-writer. As the story goes, Goodman bought Prine a jukebox with his royalties.

So here's the non co-writer, singing the song he wrote with Steve Goodman...

And if you were wondering about the Steve Goodman version, here's a bonus...

You Never Even Call Me By My Name
(AKA The Perfect Country & Western Song)
©Steve Goodman and [although he won't admit it] John Prine)

(as sung by Steve Goodman in London, Aug 8, 1976)

[spoken] This is a song I wrote with John Prine 4 years ago (1972) and we tried to put into one song, everything that had ever been in any of the country and western songs we had ever heard. Tried to put it all into one song. Serves us right. This is what came out:

Well it was all I could do to keep from cryin'
Some times it seems so useless to remain
You're the one who always tried to change me
And that is why I will always stay the same

But I'll hang around as long as you will let me
I never minded standing in the rain
You don't have to call me darlin', darlin'
But you never even call me by my name

No, you don't have to call me Freddy Fender
You don't have to call me Charlie Pride
You don't have to call me Merle Haggard anymore
Even though you know you're on my fighting side

Chorus- this verse only:
And I'm gonna hang around as long as you will let me
I never minded standing in the rain (when nights are cold and lonely)
You don't have to call me darlin', darlin'
But you never even call me by name.

[musical by mouth improv done in a Merle Haggard-like tone -no words]

[spoken] I've seen my name, a few times in the phone book
[spoken] And on the neon sign above the bar I used to own
[spoken] And there's only one thing I'm really sure of was that sucker
You're gonna hear it when my savior calls me home

[spoken] That's a lot to get into one song. We left out all the good stuff. Dallas, dope, divorce, dead dogs, trains prison Christmas, mothers, farms, and trucks. Mothers, prison, trucks, trains, farms, Christmas, and dead dogs are essential, you can't have a good country song without them things. And with all due respect this song needs mothers, prison, trucks, trains, farms, Christmas and dead dogs and is that it? Whatever it is - it's also 4 minutes long already (they're going 'when's he gonna end, when's he gonna end in the booth back there') So I'll just tack this verse on the end here-

Ever since the dog died and mama went to prison
Ain't nothin' round this old farm that's been the same
[Spoken] You know when mom broke out last Christmas
She drove the getaway laundry truck into a train

But I'll hang around as long as you will let me
I never minded standing in the rain
You don't have to call me darlin', darlin'
But you never even call me by my name


  1. Wow, I did not know this! He co-wrote with some real heavy hitters.

    I am a true David Allan Coe fan, especially of his "nasty" album. And I can't think of John Prine without singing.....there's a whole in daddy's arm where the money goes.

    Thanks for the 4-1-1.

  2. Me-Me: I'm a really big John Prine fan. Love the guy.

  3. Great to see your post and videos that invoke "You Never Even Call Me by My Name" by Steve Goodman and John Prine. Goodman often doesn't get his due. You might be interested in my 800-page biography, "Steve Goodman: Facing the Music." The book delves deeply into the background and effects of "You Never Even Call Me by My Name." Prine and David Allan Coe were key sources among my more than 1,080 interviewees, and the book debunks the notion, promulgated by Coe, that Coe had anything to do with triggering the famous last verse of the song. You also mention "City of New Orleans," and the book delves deeply into its genesis and effects. Arlo Guthrie was a key interviewee and even contributed the foreword.

    You can find out more at my Internet site (below). Amazingly, the book's first printing sold out in just eight months, all 5,000 copies, and a second printing of 5,000 is available now. The second printing includes hundreds of little updates and additions, including 30 more photos for a total of 575. It won a 2008 IPPY (Independent Publishers Association) silver medal for biography.

    If you're not already familiar with the book, I hope you find it of interest. 'Nuff said.



    Clay Eals
    1728 California Ave. S.W. #301
    Seattle, WA 98116-1958

    (206) 935-7515 home
    (206) 484-8008 cell

  4. Clay: Thanks, man. That's cool. Glad you enjoyed the post.