Friday A/V Club: Long-Haired Country Boys

A country music star wants to get into the marijuana business. There was a time when that would have sounded weird.


Pass ol' Willie to the left hand side.
William Morrow

Willie Nelson wants to launch his own line of connoisseur-quality cannabis, which he apparently plans to call Willie's Reserve. I expect most people to process that news by thinking, Yeah, that's the sort of thing I'd expect Willie Nelson to do, so let's take a moment to remember that there was a time when country music and pot weren't supposed to mix. "We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee," Merle Haggard famously sang in 1969; there's a fair chance Haggard was high as a kite when wrote the line, but back then most of his audience didn't know that.

What a difference a decade makes. By the end of the '70s, you could turn on a country-music TV show and see Charlie Daniels singing about getting stoned in this redneck-hippie libertarian anthem:

Daniels later took his cultural politics in a rather different direction, but the idea embodied in that song persisted without him. As a fellow once wrote,

Once such a tremendous cultural collision has happened, it starts to look natural, even inevitable, in retrospect. By 1979 Hank Williams Jr. could sing, "If I get stoned and sing all night long/It's a family tradition"—and sure enough, the tradition was there, and not just in the Williams family. It just had to be discovered first.

And now Willie Nelson, the walking personification of the redneck-hippie collision, intends to sell specialty weed to the Whole Foods crowd. Does that mean we're about to see the rise of the redneck-hipster? The mind reels.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

NEXT: Yes, 3D-Printed Semi-Automatic Firearms Are a Thing. Now Clutch Your Pearls.

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  1. Does that mean we’re about to see the rise of the redneck-hipster? The mind reels.

    If that means more and better alt-country, I’m all for it.

    1. I’m not.

      1. You’re just grumpy because your favorite One Direction quit.

      2. PWND!

  2. A friend of mine who is an amazing guitarist had an opportunity to join some country band for a tour. I don’t know what the band was, but they were/are quite popular. He doesn’t smoke pot. Well, to his surprise one time while they were rehearsing they passed around a joint. Unfortunately for him he then forgot the chords to the song, and never heard from them again.

  3. I’m pretty sure that Merle Haggard song was supposed to be parody and nobody got it.

    1. It started as a parody, and then it acquired about a dozen extra layers of meaning.

    2. Not according to Haggard.

      Haggard told The Boot that he wrote the song after he became disheartened watching Vietnam War protests and incorporated that emotion and viewpoint into song. Haggard says, “When I was in prison, I knew what it was like to have freedom taken away. Freedom is everything. During Vietnam, there were all kinds of protests. Here were these [servicemen] going over there and dying for a cause ? we don’t even know what it was really all about. And here are these young kids, that were free, bitching about it. There’s something wrong with that and with [disparaging] those poor guys.” He states that he wrote the song to support the troops.[1]

      1. He’s told a number of contradictory stories about its origins. I don’t think it was a pure parody by the time he and his partner were done writing it, but I think he recognized there was a level where it could be taken as humor. And I’m inclined to believe the tale that it started out with the guys on the tour bus joking around as they passed through Muskogee.

        1. I believe in the complete authority of anything on Wikipedia!

          1. This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page.

            This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2011)

            This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (August 2011)

        2. Jesse,

          It is probably both. The overall message was clearly not parody. Tying it to Muskogee was the parody. The back story is that Muskogee was then and still is now one of the most drug and crime ridden small towns in America. It is pretty much everything that the song claims not to be. So the song was serious in its message but also in choosing Muskogee as the example of the image it was promoting was an inside joke to anyone who had actually been there.

  4. Kid Rock has kind of moved into that redneck libertarian space now.

  5. I ain’t asking for nothin if I can’t get it on my own.

    Hate speech from the 70’s.

  6. We already have redneck hipsters. Just listen to pop country.

    1. I know you were blasting some Florida Georgia Line on your way to work this morning.

      1. I knew I was done with pop country when OCMS could only get on the radio by being covered by some other band that would have makeup artists for the dudes and DBT has to open for Eric Church instead of vice versa (although DBT is really Southern Rock).

    2. There’s nothing hip about Tim McGraw.

  7. While I’m sure most of these guys did smoke weed, “stoned’ originally meant intoxicated on whatever, including and especially alcohol. I’ve always taken the Hank Jr. reference in particular to mean drunk, especially as it’s referencing his father.

    1. Hank’s father was, thanks to his untreated spinal bifida and a series of quack doctors, notorious pill head who eventually killed himself via overdose. Hank was not talking about being drunk there.

      1. Probably. I’ve just heard old dudes in Texas use the phrase “stoned” meaning “stone drunk” before, so maybe it’s clouded my interpretation.

        1. You are right about the term. It is just not how Hank was using it. Everyone who listened to country music knew his father had died of an OD and thus got the joke.

    2. By the ’70s the word was strongly associated with marijuana, though. I’m pretty sure Hank Jr. was playing with both meanings of the word, referring to pot in his case and liquor in his dad’s.

      1. Or possibly pills, as John suggests.

      2. By the mid-60s, stoned meant deeply affected by marijuana. you got high on other drugs. you got drunk on booze.

    3. John Lee Hooker uses in One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.

      1. Gonna get high man, I’m gonna get loose,
        Need me a triple shot o’ that juice
        Gonna get drunk, don’t you have no fear
        I want one bourbon, one scotch and one beer

        I always try to change the third line into “I wanna make one thing perfectly clear.”

    1. Orphaned comment, sorry.

  8. A hipster good old boy flies the Confederate flag as an ironic gesture.

    He has his Volvo up on blocks in his front yard (thanks to the late Doug Marlette for that joke).

    He makes craft moonshine.

    “Ma’am, I hope those are *artisanal* grits.”

    Wait – in all seriousness, the Cracker Barrel franchise is fairly hipster-ish.

    1. “Hold my Pinot Griziot and watch this!”

      1. Great idea, lousy execution

        Pinto Grigio

  9. It’s really odd how Charlie Daniels changed, though I think that was more to do with trying to continue to sell records to a changing country audience than anything else. Right around the same time country radio ditched Steve Earle for his dope-selling Copperhead Road song (which is now his signature tune).

    I still find it amusing that back when Uneasy Rider was a hit, “fag” was OK but “ass” was bleeped out, and now it’s the other way around. (Ignoring the remake for the sake of sanity.)

    1. Ignoring the remake for the sake of sanity.

      Oh, God, the version set in a gay bar. Yeah, that hasn’t aged well at all.

    2. Who knows about these things? During a fundraising marathon program last week, Frangry said station mgr. Ken said they could use the term “titty twister” just once (arbitrary euphemism after that), but Frangry referred to a lady (whose name I keep forgetting) in the phone room as “dykey” more than once w impunity.

  10. I think of Charlie Daniels more in the Southern Rock genre instead of Country Music.

    Well the train to Grinder’s Switch is runnin’ right on time
    And the Tucker boys are cookin’ down in Caroline
    People down in Florida can’t be still
    When ol’ Lynyrd Skynyrd’s pickin’ down in Jacksonville
    People down in Georgia come from near and far
    To hear Dicky Betts pickin’ on that red guitar

    1. CD started in southern rock and migrated hard over to country. I loved his early work and hated his later work.

      1. Charlie was a legendary studio musician in Nashville before he became famous.

        1. Doesn’t surprise me. Amazing talent with the fiddle. {I love that fucking awesome Geico commercial he did a couple of years ago.}

          But the CD Band started releasing albums that were clearly southern rock. And when the southern rock era entered, the CDB started releasing mainstream country albums.

          1. To be more accurate. CDB’s early releases on Top-40 radio were clearly southern rock. By the 80s, they were all country on Top-40 radio.

            1. In the ’70s he was a part of both the country world and the southern rock world, which overlapped. This particular clip comes from Pop! Goes the Country, a country-oriented syndicated TV show.

  11. Willie’s had his own brand of weed for some time now. It was bred by Reeferman and won first place in the Best Sativa category of the High Times Cannabis Cup in 2005.

    Here’s the Leafly strain description: is currently the best resource for exploring the myriad of strains available.

  12. Is this so surprising? Country musicians are, after all, musicians.

  13. I pumped in some money at the jukebox over lunch and chose ‘Long-Haired Country Boy’ not realizing that it was the live, more recent version.

    He changed the line “…but I will have another toke” to “…but I will tell another joke.”

  14. Good for you Willie! You were one of the leaders of this parade. I hope you make a Trillion Dollars off of your brand.

  15. Willie has a golf course in Texas, and when I played there, I found a roach in the golf cart that somebody forgot to toss! LOL

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