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)."

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