This post originially appeared on Medium.com on August 25, 2014
I just finished up a rather lengthy blog post about one of my favorite country/western swing albums of all time, by the spectacularly named Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. It’s full of trucks, hot rods, and cowboy hats, but it wouldn’t be a true country album without a tear-jerker or two.
Enter “Mama Hated Diesels.” This is song is a guilty pleasure in the truest sense of the word—grade A, 100% certified country cornball. And I love it. To help explain the mysterious allure of this song, I reached out to noted Texan and cornball aficionado Kevin Boyle for his thoughts on just what makes it so good.
And since we’re celebrating all things country, I’ve transcribed the interview using CB radio handles instead of our names to help you, Dear Reader, get in the proper frame of mind. (The name generator I used assured me that these handles are “for entertainment purposes only.”) So that makes me Hot Pants and Mr. Boyle Sludge.
Hot Pants: I’m trying to come up with an explanation for why “Mama Hated Diesels” is such a good song. Thoughts?
Sludge: Complicated story but easy chorus.
Hot Pants: Noted. Emotionally speaking, though? I mean, it’s sort of ironically good, but there is some genuine pathos in there, I think.
Sludge: It really is ironically good. I think it’s something about the narrator’s slow but inevitable realization that he fulfilled his mother’s worst fear by following in his father’s footsteps. And while the song is somber throughout, he doesn’t ever really break down at that tragedy.
HP: Actually that’s a good point. He’s a little emotionally vacant.
S: I mean, she dies alone and abandoned by every man in her life and he’s just like: “Mama/hated diesels/so bad—but fuck that I’ve got to get to El Paso in 72 hours. Later.”
HP: It is sort of the understatement of the century.
S: Yeah, it’s not like he’s off being an astronaut or the president or something. You think he could have at least stuck around a bit.
HP: “Mama Hated Diesels so Bad (because it messed up her life, took her husband away, drove her crazy, and robbed her prematurely of her only son)”
S: Now there’s the long-lost subtitle!
S: You know that Willie Nelson song “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys?”
S: Willie does a way better job of romanticizing the cowboy life and making it sound appealing to a young man. Commander Cody doesn’t make trucking sound all that hot.
HP: And you know, the funny thing is even on the songs that specifically glorify trucking, like “Truck Drivin’ Man”, about the best message he offers is: “truckin’ allows you to drink lots of coffee and hit on waitresses with dumb pickup lines.”
S: They’re trying hard to make this fun.
HP: You think that would have played up the bit where you do a lot of coke.
S: But really shouldn’t it be about the American dream of property ownership and entrepreneurial spirit?
HP: Well, I mean, he does address that briefly. “I got a job unloadin’ rigs down a the local freight yard/pretty soon I had a rig of my own.” Maybe they thought that theme would go over the audience’s head.
S: Perhaps. But that is one redeeming thing about truck driving: owning your own truck.
HP: You get to see the country too — from sea to shining sea. Or more accurately, from interstate to shining interstate.
S: Want to drop everything and do the Smokey and the Bandit thing for the drug or diamond trade or something?
HP: Sure. I’ve always wanted a big rig. One with a bed in the back.
S: Screw it—let’s just get a triple long cab with a whole camper in there!
HP: Yeah! YOLO. Or YOTO, I guess.
S: YOTO indeed, good buddy, YOTO indeed.
HP: That’s a big 10–4.