Drug Store Truck Driving Man - the Byrds
Ralph Emery was a legendary deejay who covered the "all-night" slot on WSM, Nashville's premiere country music radio station which could be heard halfway across the US and was a favourite with night shift workers, particularly long distance lorry drivers, all over the country. CBS records arranged for the Byrds to appear as guests on the programme to plug their new single "You Ain't Going Nowhere" as well as their groundbreaking country rock album "Sweetheart of the Rodeo". To the band's amazement he was rude to them on air, dismissed their music as rubbish and refused to play the single. After eventually playing it - he had to: there was after all an agreement in place - he immediately and insultingly described the record as "mediocre" in the on-air presence of the band thereby breaking all known radio guest protocol. It's what's know in the business as "pulling someone's pants down in public".
Band members Roger McGuinn and Gram Parsons were so incensed they responded by writing this revenge song which appeared on their next album "Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde". While going over the top with the suggestion that he's "the head of the Ku Klux Klan", the rest of the words are spot on. McGuinn and Clarence Whites' harmony vocals are pure backwood, the beat is lorry-stop dance floor, and Lloyd Green's fabulous steel guitar gives the whole track the stamp of authenticity. This is two intelligent young men nailing their victim to the wall good and proper, heavy with the wit and irony that the best of country music always has:
"......he's the fireman's friend, he's an all-night deejay
but he sure does think different from the records he plays..."
and the thumbnail portrait of him is exquisite
"well he don't like the young folks I know
he told me one night on his radio show
he's got him a medal he won in the war
he weighs 500 pounds and he sleeps on his floor"
but the most memorable and moving lines are the final verse, simultaneously summing up the man and the type:
"he's been like a father to me
he's the only deejay you can hear after three
I'm an all night musician in a rock 'n' roll band
and why he don't like me I can't understand"
Although Gram Parsons had left the Byrds by the time they recorded it, his subsequent posthumous, legendary status in modern Country and Western music has ensured that this is one of the small canon of songs that he wrote that is most frequently played by the genre's new wave of superstars such as the Outlaws and Emmylou Harris. Which must come back to haunt Mr Emery.
With great final irony, the record signs off with a deejay tag:
"this one's for you Ralph"
just in case we didn't know who they were talking about. Pulling his pants down in public. And, best of all, they did it playing country.