Under Review

Cocaine and Rhinestones

Podcast Series


If a story goes unshared, what becomes of it? Cocaine and Rhinestones’ host Tyler Mahan Coe is highly concerned with this question. As a fan (or, more accurately, a historian) of 20th Century country music and the stories behind the songs, Mahan Coe produces a podcast from his home of Nashville that is rife with his knowledge and passion for the yarns and lore of country music.

Cocaine and Rhinestones subscribes to the Thomas King definition of history, as defined in his work The Inconvenient Indian, “[history] is the stories we tell about the past.” To quote Mahan Coe on the podcast’s website: “History matters…[and] this history wasn’t being passed on to a new generation. It was going extinct.” Cocaine and Rhinestones’ mission then, is to revive fading history and share it through a modern and digestible medium.

The podcast’s devotion to detail is evident in episode five of its first season, “Breaking Down Merle Haggard’s Okie From Muskogee.” In this episode, Mahan Coe delves into the story behind one of the most iconic country songs to come out of the late 1960’s, taking the listener back to 1927 and the Great Depression in America. From this backdrop, Mahan Coe tells the story of the term “okie,” a derogatory expression for impoverished migrants who wandered westward during the Great Depression, and what it came to mean. He includes excerpts of speeches by President Hoover, songs like Woody Guthrie’s “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh,” and other audio-clips from the 1930’s. These clips do the work of presenting an abbreviated history of post-war America, which in turn provides a political and social backdrop along with lyrical context for “Okie from Muskogee.”

The detail and nuance of each episode of Cocaine and Rhinestones bathes the listener in a rich history of country music. Far from a dry history lesson, Mahan Coe commits to bring these stories to life by providing excerpts of recordings and directly quoting each artist he discusses. As a result, the listener leaves each episode feeling almost as if they were a historian themselves, enjoying an informative and captivative experience. This balance of entertainment with devotion to detail is what defines Cocaine and Rhinestones; where other shows would be quick to discuss the marrow of the bone, Mahan Coe takes his time to develop a narrative for each episode. It’s because of this thorough narrative that Cocaine and Rhinestones stands out from other podcasts.