Here is what Randy Newman had to say about the lead song from his 1974 masterpiece “Good Old Boys”: “I wrote ‘Rednecks’ soon after I saw Lester Maddox (Georgia Governor from 1967-1971) on the Dick Cavett Show. They sat Maddox next to Jim Brown, a black man and one of the greatest football players of all time. It looked like in a fair fight Brown would whip Maddox pretty bad; Brown had about 40 pounds, half a foot, and 30 years on him. The audience hooted and howled, and Maddox was never given a chance to speak, let alone put on the gloves. It bothered me, so I wrote the song, and Northerners have recognized ever since that they are as guilty of prejudice as the people of the South. I’m sure glad I wrote it. I wrote “Marie, “Rollin’,” “Birmingham,” and “Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)” for the same character.” “Good Old Boys” had its origin as a musical piece called “Johnny Cutler’s Birthday” that featured most of the source material for “Good Old Boys” and several other songs that didn’t make the final cut. Newman went into the studio in early February of 1973 to lay down one-take piano versions of each song and a draft of the story line for the intended “Cutler” album. The tape was never meant for release, and remained in the can until the deluxe “Good Old Boys” CD reissue from Rhino Records in 2002. Listening to the “Cutler” tape gives one a real appreciation of how Newman thinks, as well as a window into the creative process he uses in developing the rich character studies of his songs. If you’ve never heard the whole “Good Old Boys” album, you are missing out on a humorous, tongue-in-cheek American treasure.
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