Friday Five: Bank Robbers

Juli Thanki | February 25th, 2011

This week’s Friday Five is inspired by a re-watching of the Keanu Reeves masterpiece Point Break; however, since there are no country songs about a gang of criminal surfers, we’ll just go with the bank robbing aspect. Here are my five favorite songs about bank robbers both real and fictional.

Honorable Mention: Ty Herndon’s single “Heather’s Wall” isn’t about a robber, but instead about a man bleeding to death on a bank floor after walking in on a robbery. But in the video, the robber is at least polite enough to apologize to poor Ty.

  • The Famous Lefty Flynn's5. “The Famous Lefty Flynn’s” – The Grascals

    Boy, it sure is excellent when you’re cellmates with a famous bank robber and he dies in an escape attempt (after telling you where his giant stash o’ cash is located, of course). It’s like The Shawshank Redemption minus Morgan Freeman and plus some sweet banjo.

  • We Shall Overcome The Seeger Sessions4. “Jesse James” – Bruce Springsteen

    There are several songs about infamous train and bank robber Jesse James, including an excellent one that’s been recorded by Roy Clark. My favorite song about the guy is on the Boss’ Pete Seeger tribute album We Shall Overcome. It’s less about James and his exploits than about the “dirty little coward” who shot him in the back.

  • Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard3. “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde” – Merle Haggard

    Haggard and his own Bonnie (Owens) wrote this single about the partners who “robbed and killed until both of them died;” it spent two weeks atop the country charts in ’68. If you can’t get enough of those Depression-era felons, that same year Flatt and Scruggs released a damn good album (with all of its song lyrics written by Tom T. Hall) about them called The Story of Bonnie and Clyde. The LP cover–which features Lester wielding a Tommy gun–is one of my favorites

  • 2. “$100,000 In Pennies” – Bobby Bare

    When this song was recorded, a penny weighed 3.11 grams, which means the pennies the bank robber in this song hauled away would have weighed over 68,000 pounds. He may be spending his loot a penny at a time, but let’s hope he sets a few coins aside for hernia repair. A song this goofy and off-kilter could only have been penned by the fantastic Shel Silverstein.

  • Dust Bowl Ballads1. “Pretty Boy Floyd” – Woody Guthrie

    On this song–which has been covered by many a singer–Guthrie romanticizes the Depression-era bank robber and Oklahoman folk hero as a Robin Hood type who stuck it to those men who robbed with a fountain pen.

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  1. [...] the past, we’ve written Friday Fives on a variety of topics ranging from bank robbers to Hawaii to monkeys; there have also been a bunch of macabre Friday Fives about freezing to [...]
  1. stormy
    February 25, 2011 at 8:12 am

    The Duhks do a nice cover of Pretty Boy Floyd on their debut.

  2. Rick
    February 25, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I think this topic should be broadened to include gas station and convenience store robberies as well!
    That way we can include:

    1.) Travis Tritt’s “Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde”
    and
    2.) Ricky Van Shelton’s “Crime Of Passion”

    You’d think the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid movie would have had a good bank robber song, but instead all we got was “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”. Sheesh…

  3. Michael A.
    February 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Yes, by opening the field to convenience stores you could also include Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Walkaway Joe”. :)

    Nice list, Juli. Have a good weekend.

  4. Mike K
    February 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I would humbly submit “Tom Ames Prayer, by Steve Earle, for your consideration. “He fell in with a crowd in a border town and he took to robbin’ banks.” Not only do you get bank robbin’, but you also get a Judge Parker reference.

    Makes me want to stomp my foot every time I hear it.

  5. Occasional Hope
    February 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    A favourite of mine is Jason Eady’s Promises In Pieces.

  6. Dave D.
    February 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    There may be no country songs about a gang of criminal surfers, but there is a surf song by a former country musician about a gang of criminals:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ck3RB4FaEDw

    Warning: serious profanity in the first 20 seconds before the music starts.

  7. Ben Milam
    February 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    desperate times – charlie robison
    poor man’s son – bruce robison
    i know there are some that i’m forgetting. it seems like there should be a lot of material for this subject matter. homework and the wonderful weather in oak hill are distracting me.

  8. stormy
    February 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I feel like there’s a Marty Robbin’s Gunfighter or Trail Ballad somewhere that fits, but I can’t think of it.

  9. Fizz
    February 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Gas stations and convenience stores? Let’s not lump that mickey-mouse stuff in with the big-leagues. Save it for another Friday Five: “Small-Time Heists.”

    On a tangent: hands down the best Jesse James related book was Ron Hansen’s “Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.” I read it as a teenager, well over a decade before the movie, and it’s been one of my all-time, all-time favorite books. Best Bonnie and Clyde book was “Go Down Together” by Jeff Guinn. And for Pretty Boy Floyd (not to be confused with the really awful hair-metal band of the same name), you can’t go wrong with ol’ Larry McMurtry.

    This has been Fizzy’s Literary Corner … brought to you by Xerox.

  10. MayorJoBob
    February 26, 2011 at 12:40 am

    Toby Keith’s “Bullets in the Gun” has a similar Bonnie & Clyde thing towards the second verse except they just robbed the bar where the woman was a stripper then got shot down at a Mexican motel…

  11. Paul W Dennis
    February 26, 2011 at 6:13 am

    It should be noted that the B-side of Merle Haggard’s “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde” is far more famous than the A-side.

    The song ?

    “Today I Started Loving You Again” which has been recorded hundreds of times by artists in many genres

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