My song today is ‘Copperhead Road’. This song was written and recorded by American country music artist, Steve Earle. It was released in 1988. The song reached Number 10 on the U.S. Billboard ‘Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart’ and was Earle's highest-peaking song to date in the United States.
The song's narrator is named John Lee Pettimore III, whose father and grandfather were both active in moonshine making and bootlegging in rural Johnson County in Tennessee. Pettimore's grandfather visited the town rarely, when he wanted to buy supplies for an illegal still he had set up in a hollow along 'Copperhead Road'. Pettimore's father hauled the moonshine to Knoxville each week in an old police cruiser he bought at a surplus auction. According to a family story, a ‘Revenue Man’ once confronted John Sr. on 'Copperhead Road', intent on apprehending him for his moonshine activities. The Revenue man never returned. John Jr. Pettimore himself was killed in a fiery car crash on the same road while driving to Knoxville with a weekly shipment. To avoid arrest, Pettimore enlists in the Army on his birthday, believing he will soon be drafted, and serves two tours of duty in Vietnam. Once he returns home, he decides to use the 'Copperhead Road' land to grow marijuana, using seeds from Colombia and Mexico. He resolves not to be caught by the DEA and sets up booby traps, similar to those employed by the Viet Cong.
'Copperhead Road' was an actual road near Mountain City in Tennessee. It runs through an area once known to locals as ‘Big Dry Run, although it has since been renamed ‘Copperhead Hollow Road’, owing to the theft of road signs bearing the song's name. The song also inspired a popular line dance, timed to the same beat, and has been used as the theme music for the ‘Discovery Channel’ reality series called ‘Moonshiners’.
Love and peace Bill xxx