Friday Five: Hookers with Hearts of Gold

Juli Thanki | November 22nd, 2013

Perhaps some of you are thankful for your friendly neighborhood sex worker this Thanksgiving. Or you just want to hear some songs about them. The five ladies of the night mentioned below could give Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman a run for her money.

5. Statler Brothers – “Bed of Rose’s”

Rose, a madam who is shunned by the more pious townspeople, takes in a homeless, panhandling orphan half her age. She immediately wipes away his childhood, which is less heartwarming, but then they fall in love, so we’re back to heartwarming again.

 

4. Darrell Scott – “Rhonda’s Last Ride”

Okay, the song starts with Rhonda’s suicide, but despite a lifetime of troubles that began with an abusive father, she sounds like a decent enough woman who ended up old and jaded before her time: “She was fond of the ladies and good to the men / And she could take you ‘bout anywhere that you’d never been / Though I’d never touched her, we walked every day / Heading west down Sunset, talking our lives away.”

3. Randy Travis – “Three Wooden Crosses”

The 2003 CMA Song of the Year (written by Kim Williams and Doug Johnson) is one of Travis’ biggest hits – and it’s got one of the best twist endings in country music.

 

2. Johnny Darrell – “The Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp”

This song, penned by Dallas Frazier and recorded by Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers, The Country Gentlemen, and others, is a doozy: when a woman’s good-for-nothin’ husband leaves her and their 14 kids, she’s forced to “sacrifice her pride” and turn on the red light in order to provide for her family. After her passing, her kids leave cards and bouquets of 14 roses on her grave every week. Sounds like she raised them right, though you’d think, considering their upbringing, they’d be a little more frugal – roses ain’t cheap.

 

1. Bobbie Gentry – “Fancy”

Who doesn’t love a story of upward mobility? This song’s protagonist makes no apologies for who she had to “charm” to get where she is. After all, living in a Georgia mansion is better than dying impoverished and malnourished in a shack.

  1. Janice Brooks
    November 22, 2013 at 9:37 am

    I figured Fancy would be at the top. I have not heard Rhonda’s Last Ride.

  2. Ben Foster
    November 22, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Great list, though I was a little surprised at the lack of “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy.”

    • Juli Thanki
      November 22, 2013 at 10:15 am

      Oh, such a good one. Hopefully Dolly will forgive me for omitting it.

  3. nm
    November 22, 2013 at 10:50 am

    There’s “Louise.” My favorite version was by Steve Goodman but Bonnie Raitt and a bunch of other people sang it as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0J2tH7cADE

  4. Jack Williams
    November 22, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Tecumseh Valley by Townes Van Zant (not exactly about a “hooker”, but that’s where the subject seems to tragically end up).

  5. Arlene
    November 22, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Guy Clark’s “Let Him Roll,” a song Townes Van Zandt said he wished he’d written, is partly about “a Dallas whore.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_d5cFmFz4k

  6. bob
    November 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    All good songs. I have the “Hickory Holler” on a 45 by O.C. Smith.

    Other hooker songs:

    The Everly Brothers – “Up in Mabel’s Room”

    The Chad Mitchell Trio – “Mandy Lane”

    Hal Ketchum – “Continental Farewell”

  7. Jack Williams
    November 22, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Some others:

    Birthday Boy – Drive-By Truckers (Mike Cooley, specifically)

    Hard Edges – Chris Knight (Sad song about a stripper. So, indirectly in the sex business.)

    Jubilee Street – Nick Cave

  8. Arlene
    November 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Also, David Bromberg’s “Sammy’s Song”:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOWe7o11IrU

  9. Luckyoldsun
    November 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    A–
    “Let Him Roll” is a great one–When I first heard it–It must have been on Johnny Cash’s first Mercury album–I thought the plot was lifted from “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” But it turns out Guy Clark’s song came out first. Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam lifted it from him. Though in the latter song, the woman is not a hooker!

  10. sheldon
    November 22, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Dolly’s A Gamble Either Way. Originally written for Whorehouse , but ended up on her 83 Burlap and Satin LP . Never a single but great lyrics.

  11. Paul W Dennis
    November 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    “The Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp” was a great record that topped out at #22 on the charts. Some country radio stations wouldn’t play the record but the bigger impediment to it being a hit was that distribution – it has difficult to find a copy to purchase. It went to #1 on WCMS in Norfolk, VA but that was all airplay – it was a heavily requested song

  12. Luckyoldsun
    November 23, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    I’m amazed the song made it as high as #22. Most of the other songs mentioned are somewhat discrete or subjective. The woman in “Fancy,” I recall, is certainly something of a gold-digger, but it’s “a matter of opinion” as to whether she’s a prostitute. And I’ll have to listen to Dolly’s “Blue Ridge Mountain Boy,” again–I must have heard it some time–but I was unaware that it was about a prostitute. But “Hickory Holler’s Tramp” says right in the title what it’s about–and the woman in the song turns her home into a bordello and turns tricks while her children are in the next room. And the singer is referring to his own mother! Pretty bizzarro.

  13. Dave D.
    November 25, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I’m assuming that “my baby walks the streets of Baltimore” in a professional capacity, and not just as a neighborhood stroll.

  14. Luckyoldsun
    November 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    DD–
    True–although it’s STILL not as explicit as “Hickory Holler”–and in “Baltimore” there’s no imagery of motherhood and children in the lyrics.

    More to the point, “Streets of Baltimore” does not condone the “lifestyle” of the woman in question–the singer seems to be lamenting it. The singer in “Hickory Holler” justifies it.

    I could see where “Baltimore” might have been controversial, as well, but compared to “Hickory Holler,” it’s “You Are My Sunshine.”

  15. Dave D.
    November 25, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    I wasn’t suggesting Streets of Baltimore as a superior alternative to Hickory Holler, just adding (as a late arrival to the party) another hooker song example to the list.

  16. Country fan
    December 1, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    What about Waylon’s “Mabel Joy”?

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