Steve Earle – Copperhead Road

Steve Earle – Copperhead Road

‘Copperhead Road’ is a song written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Steve Earle. It was released in 1988 as the first single and title track from his third studio album of the same name. The song reached number 10 on the U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and was Earle's highest-peaking song to date on that chart in the United States. The song has sold 1.1 million digital copies in the United States as of September 2017. On April 20, 2023, the Tennessee General Assembly passed an act recognizing the song as the 11th official state song of the state of Tennessee.

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, Tennessee. According to a family story, a revenue man once confronted John Sr. on Copperhead Road, intent on apprehending him for his moonshine activities, but never returned. John Jr. himself is killed in a fiery car crash on the same road while driving to Knoxville with a weekly shipment.

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 using techniques learnt from the Viet Cong.

Steve Earle

Copperhead Road was an actual road near Mountain City, Tennessee, in an area known to locals as "Big Dry Run" although it has since been renamed Copperhead Hollow Road, owing to theft of road signs bearing the song's name. The song inspired a popular line dance, and has been used as the theme music for the Discovery Channel reality series Moonshiners.

Label – MCA
Songwriter – Steve Earle
Producers – Steve Earle, Tony Brown

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[Verse 1]
Well, my name's John Lee Pettimore
Same as my Daddy and his Daddy before
You hardly ever saw Grandaddy down here
He only come to town about twice a year
He'd buy a hundred pounds of yeast and some copper line
Everybody knew that he made moonshine
Now, the Revenue man wanted Grandaddy bad
Headed up the holler with everything he had
Before my time, but I've been told
He never come back from Copperhead Road
[Verse 2]
Now, Daddy ran the whiskey in a big block Dodge
Bought it at an auction at the Mason's Lodge
"Johnson County Sheriff" painted on the side
He just shot a coat of primer, then he looked inside
Well, him and my uncle tore that engine down
I still remember that rumblin' sound
And then the Sheriff came around in the middle of the night
Heard Mama cryin', knew something wasn't right
He was headed down to Knoxville with the weekly load
You could smell the whiskey burnin' down Copperhead Road
Hey! Hey!
[Verse 3]
I volunteered for the Army on my birthday
They draft the white trash first; 'round here, anyway
I done two tours of duty in Vietnam
I came home with a brand new plan
I take the seed from Colombia and Mexico
I just plant it up a holler down Copperhead Road
And now the D.E.A.'s got a chopper in the air
I wake up screaming like I'm back over there
I learned a thing or two from Charlie, don't you know?
You better stay away from Copperhead Road
Copperhead Road
Copperhead Road
Ha! Copperhead Road
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