The 4 Best Country Songs with Spoken Interludes

There is plenty that sets country music apart from other genres, but country artists’ use of spoken interludes or “recitations” is particularly unique. These spoken moments deepen the impact of a piece and underscore critical lessons from the lyrics. Introducing a narrative dimension allows the listener to connect more intimately with the story being told, bringing the characters and situations to life in a vivid manner. Countless country artists have used this powerful storytelling device over the years. To give you a taste of how these recitations can enhance a song, here are four memorable country tracks that beautifully incorporate spoken interludes.

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1. The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band

The Devil went down to Georgia, he was lookin’ for a soul to steal
He was in a bind ’cause he was way behind
And he was willin’ to make a deal

When he came across this young man sawin’ on a fiddle and playin’ it hot
And the Devil jumped up on a hickory stump
And said, “Boy, let me tell you what

I guess you didn’t know it, but I’m a fiddle player too
And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you”

Those who want a fun, feel-good song with spoken narrative often look to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on the Million Mile Reflections album by The Charlie Daniels Band. Almost as soon as the country, bluegrass, and rock song—with some pop elements thrown in for good measure—was released in 1979, it captured the fun-loving essence of country music. The song went to No. 3 on the Billboard charts, making it the band’s highest-charting song.

Of course, the song tells the classic tale of good vs. evil. In it, the Devil finds a fiddle-playing boy named Johnny and challenges him to a fiddle play-off. If the Devil wins, he takes Johnny’s soul. If Johnny wins, he receives the Devil’s golden fiddle. Although the song is filled with spoken parts in the music, perhaps the most quoted line is by Johnny after he wins the contest: “I told you once, you son of a gun, I’m the best there’s ever been.”

2. A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash

Well, my daddy left home when I was three
Didn’t leave very much to my mom and me
Except this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze
Now I don’t blame him ’cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that my daddy ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me Sue

When Johnny Cash recorded this song live in 1969 at San Quentin State Prison, the lyrics were quite controversial, but the song was much loved. The song, written by poet and songwriter Shel Silverstein, became a major hit for Cash and won him a Grammy Award in 1970.

The concept of naming a boy “Sue” challenged gender and cultural biases, but the song is humorous and somewhat sentimental. It tells how the boy faced scorn and ridicule due to his name and had to defend himself from constant ridicule and violence. The boy vows to kill his father for giving him that name.

[RELATED: 10 Iconic Moments from Johnny Cash’s Career]

The lyrics—mostly spoken or loosely sung—reveal that the father gave the unusual name to the boy so he would grow up tough. And he did, brawling with many other men, including his father at the song’s conclusion. However, the two came to an understanding at the end.

3. Convoy” by C.W. McCall

Ah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck
You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, c’mon?
Ah, yeah, 10-4, Pig Pen, fer sure, fer sure
By golly, it’s clean clear to Flag Town, c’mon
Yeah, that’s a big 10-4 there, Pig Pen
Yeah, we definitely got the front door, good buddy
Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy

This 1975 song is all about a group of truckers who band together via CB radio to confuse police and avoid tickets. The CB radio was trendy in the 1970s, so the spoken word lyrics throughout the song fit right in with that hobby for many. Plus, it used the CB handles people chose to identify themselves with on the radio, something akin to user names today.

The song was released around the time of the U.S. oil crisis as well as various protests throughout the U.S., so its humorous but rebellious tone hit a nerve. The song was so popular it hit No. 1 on the country and pop charts, and inspired a movie starring Kris Kristofferson.

4. The Ride” by David Allan Coe

Then he cried just south of Nashville
And he turned that car around
He said, “This is where you get off, boy
’Cause I’m goin’ back to Alabam’”
As I stepped out of that Cadillac
I said, “Mister, many thanks”
He said, “You don’t have to call me Mister, Mister
The whole world called me Hank

When David Allan Coe released “The Ride” in 1983, it tapped into the mysteries and struggles of country artists of years past. The song tells the story of the price of fame, especially the hard work, passion and perseverance it takes to become a top artist. 

Coe speaks various parts of the song that involve the hitchhiker narrating the story. Although the song name-checks Hank Williams in an otherworldly encounter with the hitchhiker/narrator, other Easter eggs are buried in the lyrics. One of the best-known is the reference to Hendersonville, Tennessee, where Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash were laid to rest. Plus, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joe Shaver and yes, David Allen Coe are named checked by the ghost of Williams. Coe added the names of other traditional country musicians when he performed the song live.

Photo by David Redfern/Redferns

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