My Time With A Legend: “The Original Outlaw”

Posted by Vonn Kiss Category: Tour

Being around David Allan Coe has in many ways been a blessing. David is the one that pushed me and the one that convinced me that the talent I had long since believed to be dead was very much alive and still burning deep inside… David has done so much to open my eyes to the world that we live in and taught me so much about the world he grew up in. Its not everyday you become friends with such an amazing man, a man that still has so much to offer the world. The question is: Will they listen? This is my story about meeting David Allan Coe and how it changed my life forever. This is “My Time With A Legend: The Original Outlaw”

For several months, while David never knew I had a gift to write, sing or play, David and I built a relationship that had nothing to do with music. Centered around long conversations, with him detailing his life and me recanting highlights from mine, we began to build a relationship unlike any other I had ever encountered in my life. If someone would have come up to me prior to my meeting DAC and told me how life was going to unfold, the series of events that was about to change my life forever, I would have laughed them right out of my way. Lets see, who is David Allan Coe? DAC is the epitome of an outlaw. He’s got one way of thinking and that’s the “DAC” way of thinking. David would tell me all the time, when discussing things about his shows or anything, really, that had to do with DAC as an artist, “You don’t have to be David Allan Coe, I Do!” That is David Allan Coe in a phrase. He is who he is and be damned if you want to change him. That’s a quality that I wish more people today would embrace. So many of us are so willing to give ourselves away to the highest bidder just for that glimpse of popularity. The days of being true to yourself and those around you has long since died. This is one profound lesson among many that DAC has taught me…

So, how did David and I meet? Well, one night, in a casino, a mutual acquaintance of mine and Davids’s had brought up music. It had come up, during a night of ramblin’, that I had been a singer/songwriter during a different time in my life. So, for some time after, this mutual acquaintance of ours kept on buggin’ me to hear some of my previous work. After the hundredth time he asked and some digging, I was able to dig up a few old songs I had written and recorded some years ago. Sittin’ in front of my laptop in my hotel suite, we listened to my old recordings and with an old southern jumbo acoustic that I picked up at a near by pawn shop a few days before, I rushed through a couple songs I had jotted down during some downtime in my suite at the hotel… To my surprise he was very much impressed. He said, with a sense of near certainty, “You gave up too quickly…” At this point in my life I was only writing and strummin’ that pawn shop-flat top for my own pleasure and maybe to blow off a little steam after a long night. I never even imagined or intended that anyone ever hear any of my songs again and I was content with that idea. My dreams of playing music burned up years ago and thankfully that dream slowly turned into a hobby after a long period of creative silence. I had finally come to terms with the absurd idea of living a normal life. I focused on what I had always loved and that was sports. I began working in the community where I  lived, coaching and mentoring children. I began doing everything I could to help and give back to those around me. After a long time feeling lost, I finally felt I had found my path in life and found myself in a better place than ever before. My life with my family and friends had never been better… So, back to that night in my suite with that mutual acquaintance… After listening to a few of my songs, old and new, he was adamant that I was a fool for putting down my guitar and letting my dreams in music burn out but that’s where we left it. (I’ll admit there was a part of me, deep inside, that felt like he was right in some tiny way. That thought had crossed my mind from time to time whenever I would hear a favorite song of mine or see one of my old favorite guitars in a movie or on TV… but thoughts of my new life quickly came and took back my focus)  The next day, DAC and I crossed each others paths. He stopped me and said, accusingly, “Son, I hear you have been holding out on me. Is there something I should know about that you ain’t tellin’ me?” I’ve got to tell y’all, I was totally caught off guard by it, like WTF? I wasn’t sure what in the hell he was talking about. Was he implying that I lied to him about something or was trying to hide something from him? I mean, at this point he and I were really close as friends… So… What the hell? Finally to my relief he ended up saying, “I heard, that you, are one hell of a singer/songwriter, and damn good one at that and it’s time for me to hear what you’ve been forgetting to tell me about.” (How do you manage to leave out that whole part of your life when music was a dream you decided to go after? Well, like I said, “that dream had burned up long ago.”) So, for months, David and I had built what I’ve mentioned before and what you would call a “father-son” type bond. For months, there wasn’t a night that went by that we weren’t together. After a while, David and I had really bonded to the point that he began to affectionately call me “son” or “boy” and I returned the sentiment by calling him “pops”. Just a bond that I  simply won’t ever forget, David changed my life and not to mention, my views on alot of things during those nights when it was just David and I talking. We talked about life and where he went wrong so many times and how he would’ve done things differently. He made it clear that he didn’t want me to ever go down some of the paths he did. (I will say, if I could ever sum up David with words, it would be that: He’s one of the most misunderstood men that this world has ever known. Of course he’s made mistakes in his life, who hasn’t? But I know, down deep, he regrets some of them deeply and they still hurt him today. However, his talent and the stamp he put on music demands him a spot in the Hall of Fame, no doubt about it. A  mans talent is his to show the world but it’s got nothing to do with what his personal life entailed. You can take away everything the man has done and everything he will do, but you can’t ever dispute what he’s done for the music business, from a writer or performers prespective. Truthfully, knowing the man, DAC, at 73 years old, Ive seen things from a different view. The way he’s seen it and how the world treated him. It’s sad to me to see him not being on top like he deserves so much. However, I understand the many reasons why. So, to be honest the reason I’m even sitting where I’m at today is because of his belief in my talents and his belief in the gift of music and songwriting as a way of life. Don’t get me wrong, I always believed. I just felt that maybe my time had passed and it just wasn’t “in the cards”. David saw otherwise.

 

So, how did i end up on the stage after all these years? For a couple months David and I kicked around the idea all the time about him having me hit the road with him to see some shows and see his life on the road. (I have to admit I was excited at the idea of seeing him in his element, not to mention all the fans he has come out. I had heard his shows were pretty awesome if you had never been..) He invited me a couple times here and there… I never went. Then one day he asked again and I said, “sure”. I felt like, “You know, he’s been good to me and hell, it’d be good to go spend some time away and see more of what his life is like these days.” So, we headed up north for a weeks worth of shows. The first show out the gate, we’re hangin’ on his bus, it was getting close to show time, I’m sitting in my sweat pants strumming’ on that same pawn shop-flat top that I brought along to work on ideas as they pop up in my head (something that happens a thousand times a day). Hear I am, sitting on the couch, watching a movie(I love watching movies. Maybe we’ll have a blog about my gigantic movie collection and what my all time favorites are!?) and David looks at me and said 15 minutes to show time boy! What the f*ck are you doing? I laughed and asked, “what the hell are you talking about, pops? He said, “stage call is in 15 minutes! Get your ass ready son, it’s time to get ready, you have a show to play! At this point I am freakin’ out. I said, “A show to play?”. David says, “Yeah, you didn’t come here to watch! You came here to play and you’re going to sit right up on that stage next to me and you’re going to play. Those days of throwing away your talent are over. It starts tonight! So get your ass ready.” He looked at his stage hand and said, “Get him a stool, take his guitar tuned up, get him all setup next to me!” And that is where it all began. I have to say, the humility I felt when someone like David, that has been through so much in this business, good and bad, to put me on that stage simply because he believed in me, just like he has believed in so many other greats… It was an honor and to be sharing those moments with someone you had built such a deep father-son-like relationship with was even that much greater. I’m grateful to him for making me get back out on the stage again and reigniting my passion for music and performing!

I’ve read many things about David and his past. From his family, to his wreck, and his current wife Kimberly, the no shows, accusations of stealing money from people, and of course, the former managers/promoters taking from him and ripping him off… You know, just like the rest of the world, I have my own beliefs and feelings that I won’t go into. Just let me say this: Don’t believe everything you hear or read… The world can be a cruel place and people can be even worse. I know that David, down deep, he’s a loving man thats just pushed and pulled in a million different directions, sometimes by the wrong people. Everyone needs to know their place, especially in the world we live in. It’s hard enough as it is. I know, down deep, he loves his kids, his family and down deep, he has deep pain over it all. I think he’s not sure just how to go about repairing it. From what I saw and in many long, late-night conversations, just he and I, He’s a loving man. Almost to a fault… So I know he’s got the heart and that crazy man we used to hear about has calmed and become the great man he always was with wisdom and compassion beyond belief… No he’s not always the easiest person to deal with but who is? My one wish for David Allan Coe is that he can have the chance to be the David Allan Coe, all by himself. I wish he could still be the DAC we all knew and that everyone would get off his stage and stop controlling his life and let him be the man he knows how to be, the man he spent this long amazing life to become, the DAC that people have grown to love and hate after all these years, long before I was born and long before anyone these days started deciding who and what he should be. David Allan Coe deserves and needs his own moment in the spotlight and it would be nice to see people allow him to have those moments in this later phase of his career. -VK-