AUK’s Chain Gang: Asleep At The Wheel “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)”

Credit: Bengt Nyman

Alcohol is an addictive substance and therefore it is a very hard habit to break once you become addicted to it, but after quite a binge session over recent weeks in Chain Gang, it is time to try and dry out. Last week Dale Watson’s drinking song ‘One More Once More’ was the featured track and in 2017 he released a duet album with Asleep At The Wheel’s Ray Benson, ‘Del & Ray’. Another very addictive substance is tobacco, which until very recently was closely associated with the consumption of alcohol, which very easily leads us to Asleep At The Wheel’s cover of ‘Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)’. The song was written in 1947 by songwriter and guitarist Merle Travis and western swing artist Tex Williams in the talking blues style, and was one of the most successful songs of 1947 and the biggest hit of Tex Williams’ career, and has been covered by everyone from Willie Nelson, Sammy Davis Jr., and Hank Thompson to Commander Cody, Doc Watson, and Michael Nesmith.

The success of the song is due in no small part to it being a sly take on the problems with the addictive nature of nicotine,  while the fact that cigarettes are also pretty lethal is largely ignored. Asleep At The Wheel recorded their version on 1995’s ‘The Wheel Keeps On Rollin’ which saw them balance their classic western influences with more contemporary sounds, and it was a bit of a commercial disappointment. The music was up to the normal high instrument standards of The Wheel, winning them their 6th Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance, and Ray Benson has said its relatively poor commercial performance was due to the success of Garth Brooks’ ‘Fresh Horses’ album, and the release of the Beatles ‘Anthology 1’. The Wheels version of ‘Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)’ was successful full enough to be included on 2003’s ’20 Greatest Hits’.

About Martin Johnson 406 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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