American Honky-Tonk Bar Association

Album: In Pieces (1993)

Songfacts®:

  • Originally titled "American Redneck Bar Association," this blue-collar anthem is for anyone whose "paycheck depends on the weather and the clock." Songwriters Bryan Kennedy and Jim Rushing were discussing all the different organizations and support groups for specific groups of people, and decided that hardworking men and women needed one too: The American Honky-Tonk Bar Association.
  • Although the tune was a #1 hit on the Country chart, it drew some criticism for its lyric condemning welfare recipients (the members of the AHBA don't mind when Uncle Sam dips in their pockets but they resent when their dollar "goes to all of those standing in a welfare line"). The sentiment didn't seem to jibe with his protest anthem, "We Shall Be Free," which was compassionate towards those struggling with poverty. How could he sing both in the same show?

    "My answer to that was always, 'Guys, we can love one another, but at the same time we all need to pull our own weight,'" he wrote in his 2017 book, The Anthology Part 1: The Five Years. "When you're down, put your hand out, we'll reach down to help pull you back up, but none of us want to be carried, we want to contribute."
  • The title is a pun on the American Bar Association, a voluntary group for lawyers and law students.
  • A member of the AHBA can be spotted by their "bare crack," often misheard as "beer crack," a reference Brooks added to the lyrics. "That plumber's crack, man, it's those guys that are always working, and I'm one of them," he explained. "You get in one of those positions where it's, Oh, my God, and you don't know what's showing back there because you're either under a car, under a sink or something, and it's part of who we are."
  • This was the second single from Brooks' sixth album, In Pieces, following "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)." The album debuted at #1 in America and peaked at #2 in the UK.
  • Brooks' subsequent album, Fresh Horses, contains another #1 hit co-written by Kennedy: "The Beaches Of Cheyenne." Rushing also wrote a number of hits, including Ricky Skaggs' "Heartbreak Hurricane" and Charley Pride's "Hope You're Feelin' Me (Like I'm Feelin' You)."

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

David Sancious

David SanciousSongwriter Interviews

Keyboard great David Sancious talks about his work with Sting, Seal, Springsteen, Clapton and Aretha, and explains what quantum physics has to do with making music.

Ed Roland of Collective Soul

Ed Roland of Collective SoulSongwriter Interviews

The stories behind "Shine," "December," "The World I Know" and other Collective Soul hits.

Jack Tempchin - "Peaceful Easy Feeling"

Jack Tempchin - "Peaceful Easy Feeling"They're Playing My Song

When a waitress wouldn't take him home, Jack wrote what would become one of the Eagles most enduring hits.

Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde

Johnette Napolitano of Concrete BlondeSongwriter Interviews

The singer/bassist for Concrete Blonde talks about how her songs come from clairvoyance, and takes us through the making of their hit "Joey."

Julian Lennon

Julian LennonSongwriter Interviews

Julian tells the stories behind his hits "Valotte" and "Too Late for Goodbyes," and fills us in on his many non-musical pursuits. Also: what MTV meant to his career.

Matt Sorum

Matt SorumSongwriter Interviews

When he joined Guns N' Roses in 1990, Matt helped them craft an orchestral sound; his mezzo fortes and pianissimos are all over "November Rain."