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Top Ten Thursdays: Top 10 Musicians Who Have Served Time in Prison

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Many famous musicians have spent a day or three in jail for driving

drunk, holding drugs, or something really stupid. But only the select

few have spent a serious stretch of time in prison, which brings us to

David Allan Coe. The original country outlaw performs Friday at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale.


confirmed Coe did time at Ohio State Penitentiary and he has famously

claimed to have been on death row for killing a man who attempted to

procure a blow job from him -- this has not been confirmed or proven

false. Although Coe is a redneck renegade who penned "Take This Job and

Shove It," recorded the 1970s smash "You Never Even called Me By My

Name" and recorded an album with the members of Pantera, he's by no

means the greatest recording artist to do hard time. Here's a highly

subjective list of the greatest musicians who worried about being some

bulky dude's bitch.

1. Chuck Berry

One of the great pioneers of rock 'n' roll -- if not the greatest --

spent 1959-63 in prison for violating the Mann Act, which prohibits

pimping and "white slavery." Basically, it appears Berry got busted

because he was a black man with a ton of white teenage fans. No saint,

though, Berry had already done about three years behind bars from age

18 to 21 for carjacking, a crime he admits to committing in his

autobiography. In 1979, Berrry returned to the Big House -- via tax

evasion -- for four months.

Chuck Berry performing a sizzling "Johnny B. Goode" in 1958. Clip

includes great quotes from Keith Richards, Gregg Allman and Dickey


2. Fela Kuti

Afrobeat inventor and political radical Fela Kuti served 20 months in a

Nigerian prison for pretty much being a wildly popular figure who

opposed the military government.

Kuti on keyboards/vocals leading his killer band through "Teacher Don't Teach Me No Nonsense."

3. Merle Haggard

When Johnny Cash came to play San Quentin Merle Haggard was there -- as

an inmate. Cash eventually convinced Hag to go public about his prison

past and the two remained close until Cash's death. In the late 1950s,

a pre-fame Hag did three years in San Quentin -- including a stint in

solitary confinement for brewing beer. Crime? Robbing a tavern.

Hag on the The Johnny Cash Show. The two country heroes duet on Hag's

"Sing Me Back Home," a most poignant song based on an exchange the

songwriter had in prison with a man about to be executed.

4. 2Pac

This writer's favorite rapper of the 1990s did 11 months in 1995 for

allegedly sexually assaulting/sodomizing a woman. While behind bars, he

became the only artist to have a No. 1 record -- the masterful Me

Against the World -- while in lockdown. No word on how he celebrated.

The official video for "Dear Mama," the Me Against the World's stirring hit single.

5. Phil Spector

The architect of the Wall of Sound produced more rad records than

pretty much anyone other than Jerry Wexler and Rick Rubin. You've

probably heard: He's currently serving hard time for shooting

hostess/actress Lana Clarkson.

The Crystals performing "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)," the most

controversial thing Spector did before, well, y'know. Incidentally,

Carole King cowrote the song.

6. Ike Turner

Another rock 'n' roll originator -- and bad ass guitarist -- Ike Turner

will forever be known as a coked-out wife beater. He did hard time from

1989 to 1993 on drugs and weapons charges.

"Rocket 88," recorded in 1951 at Sun Records, is largely considered to

be the first rock 'n' roll song. It's credited to Jackie Benson but Ike

Turner composed it, led the band, etc.

7. David Crosby

The former Byrd, CSN and sometimes Y member did 11 months in 1982 on, yes, you guessed it, drugs and weapons charges.

"Play ya a little song we played down there in Texas prison band,"

Crosby says in 1991. "Played it because we knew the warden hated it."

He then proceeds to do a powerful, solo version of "Almost Cut My Hair."

8. Steve Earle

Before Earle concentrated on lefty politics -- and in between collecting

wives -- he enjoyed a steady diet of cocaine by day and heroin by night.

He spent about a year in the pokey for possession in '94.

"Goodbye" live from 1998. "Was I off somewhere or just too high?" he

intones. "I can't remember if we said goodbye." Brings a manly tear to

my eye.

9. David Allan Coe

I interviewed Coe once. About seven or eight years ago, straight out of

college. At a now defunct Tampa venue I showed his son a glowing

profile piece I had done on Coe's pal Hank Williams III -- yeah, I

brought the clip thinking it might lead to an interview; I was quite

bold back then -- and next thing I know I'm on the Outlaw's messy-ass

tour van, scared shitless, shouting cause he's half deaf (son warned me

ahead of time) and probably stammering. I don't remember much about our

exchange except this, my last question:

Me: Mr. Coe, if music hadn't worked out what do you think you'd be doing?

Coe: Robbing banks, son.


His anthem, "If That Ain't Country" done live in recent years, sans the

n-word. Incidentally, the same night I interviewed Coe I asked his

black drummer if he thought Coe was racist. The drummer smiled, said

"No," and walked to the stage.

10. Johnny Paycheck

Coe penned Paycheck's huge hit "Take This Job and Shove It." In '85,

Paycheck fired a bullet that skimmed a man's head while in Ohio, Coe's

home state. Paycheck served 22 months. Some say it was over a card

game. Some say it was over an insult. Paycheck pleaded self-defense.

Paycheck's 1966, hardcore honky tonk gem "Pardon Me, I've Got Someone to Kill."

10. Jim Gordon

There's nothing remotely humorous about this story. Acclaimed drummer

Jim Gordon -- most famous for being a member of Derek and the Dominos

and co-writing "Layla" -- went undiagnosed for schizophrenia and

murdered his mother with a hammer in '83. He's been incarcerated ever


Derek and the Dominos covering "Little Wing" in 1970.

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