Steve Earle released his debut EP in 1982, and since then, the has gained fans, accolades, and hits around the world. He has more than 20 studio albums, a handful of top 40 hits, and three Grammy Awards under his belt. He has released albums in multiple genres including country music, bluegrass, Southern rock, folk, and blues. Additionally, artists like The Highwaymen, Emmylou Harris, Percy Sledge, Bob Seger, and plenty more have recorded his songs. However, none of his songs has been more successful than 1988’s “Copperhead Road.”

According to WATE, a Knoxville, TN-based ABC affiliate, Steve Earle may soon receive a rare honor. State lawmakers want to add “Copperhead Road” to the list of State Songs of Tennessee. House Bill 1437/Senate Bill 1521 would enshrine the moonshining anthem. Representative Bo Mitchell (D – Nashville) and Senator Heidi Campbell (D – Nashville) are carrying the bill. A separate bill would make “The Tennessee in Me” by Debbie Mathis Watts an official state song as well.

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If both of those measures pass, “Copperhead Road” and “The Tennessee in Me” will be the states’ 11th and 12th official state songs.

“Copperhead Road” References East Tennessee

In the song, Steve Earle tells the fictional story of John Lee Pettimore III. His father and grandfather both made moonshine in a hollow along Copperhead Road. Pettimore Jr. died in a fiery car crash carrying a load of ‘shine to Knoxville. Pettimore III enlists in the Army and does two tours of duty in Vietnam. After returning from the war, he decides to use the land to grow cannabis instead of making moonshine. The song ends with a DEA helicopter buzzing the land, sending the veteran into a PTSD episode.

The final lines of the song’s last verse hint that Pettimore III is going to use guerilla warfare tactics to fight the government agents. “I learned a thing or two from Charlie, don’t you know / You better stay away from Copperhead Road,” Steve Earle sings.

However, it isn’t just Steve Earle’s references to Johnson County and Knoxville that tie the song to East Tennessee. According to East Tennessee State University, the famed stretch of road used to exist. It was near Mountain City, Tennessee. Now, it’s called Copperhead Hollow Road because people kept stealing the street sign after Earle’s song became popular.

Other State Songs of Tennessee

Below is a list of the official State Songs of Tennessee, their songwriters, and when they were adopted.

My Homeland, Tennessee – Nell Grayson Taylor – 1925When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee – Willa Waid Newman – 1935My Tennessee – Frances Hannah Tranum – 1955Tennessee Waltz – Redd Stewart – 1965Rocky Top – Boudleaux and Felice Bryant – 1982Tennessee – Vivian Rorie – 1992The Pride of Tennessee – Fred Congdon, Thomas Vaughn, Carol Elliot – 1996A Tennessee Bicentennial Rap: 1796-1996 – Joan Hill Hanks – 1996Smoky Mountain Rain – Kye Flemming, Dennis Morgan – 2010Tennessee – John R. Bean – 2012

The post Tennessee Lawmakers Introduce a Bill to Make Steve Earle’s ‘Copperhead Road’ an Official State Song appeared first on Outsider.

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