Country’s 20 Highest Drug Odes – Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

Country’s 20 Highest Drug Odes

From Willie’s weed to Cash’s coke, we count down the greatest songs about illegal recreation

Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson

Willie Nelson and Jamey Johnson are responsible for some of country music's most pot-friendly tunes.

CBS Photo Archive

So maybe the late Merle Haggard didn’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee or take trips on LSD, but that certainly didn’t stop country’s greats from trading a shot of Tennessee brown for a toke of Colorado green — and singing about it, too. But true to the genre’s roots, these songs capture a complete, complex story: It’s never just as simple as relaxing on the beach with a joint in hand, and, more often than not, there are bitter consequences. These are tales that show both the pleasure and sorrow that comes with a life lived high.

Jamey Johnson

Gary Miller/Getty Images

Jamey Johnson, “High Cost of Living”

Jamey Johnson was in recovery from addiction when he wrote "High Cost of Living," a song that manages to both mourn the loss of time passed under a drug-induced fog, and look wistfully back on the emotional ease of an intoxicated existence. It's that wavy moral line that makes Johnson's work so appealing — and difficult for the establishment to handle (although Mercury signed on to release 2008's That Lonesome Song, which features this track, he was recently dropped). "With my back against that damn eight ball/I didn't have to think or talk, or feel," he sings in his booming baritone, and you're left to wonder if he'd rather it stay that way. 

Andrew Combs

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Andrew Combs performs live on day 3 of C2C - Country to Country Festival at The O2 Arena on March 13, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Burak Cingi/Redferns)

Burak Cingi/Redferns

Andrew Combs, “Too Stoned to Cry”

Laughter might be the best medicine, but weed is a pretty potent alternative — especially if you're more interested in dulling the pain than chasing it away for good. Just ask Andrew Combs, who was "Too Stoned To Cry" on his debut LP, Worried Man. Combs may be numb, but the steel guitar does the weeping for him on this classic folk country ballad that shows how not actually feeling your feelings can be the most devastating emotional state of all: and here, it sounds sweet but hurts like hell.  

Brothers Osborne

John Shearer/Getty Images

Brothers Osborne, “Greener Pastures”

Even in country music, sometimes the best whiskey just doesn’t cut it: and the Brothers Osborne know that the grass is indeed greener on the other side. On the song from their debut Pawn Shop, the boys from the docks of Maryland stop turning bible pages and start rolling papers – and the result is a glorious honkytonk romp where John Osborne’s guitar burns faster than a fatty j. “This whole world has gone to pot and right now so am I,” sings his brother T.J., confessing that the only gospel that seems to work is the one that grows in the ground below, not the heavens above. It’s a risky point of view for Music Row newbies, but these siblings are as bold as they are stoned.

Brewer & Shipley

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Mike BRECKER and Tom SHIPLEY and BREWER & SHIPLEY; L-R: Tom Shipley & Mike Brewer posed, (Photo by Charlie Gillett Collection/Redferns)

Charlie Gillett Collection/Redferns

Brewer & Shipley, “One Toke Over the Line”

When a song has the distinction of being labeled both “subversive” by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and a “modern spiritual” by conservative talk-show host Lawrence Welk, you know you have a hit. Welk had a point. Folk duo Brewer & Shipley’s 1971 tune is pretty much just a groovy Southern gospel, though the only spirit it’s chasing is one that comes through a hash pipe. Hunter S. Thompson further cemented it into pop-culture history in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, with Dr. Gonzo humming it as he drove, leaving narrator Raoul Duke to wonder, “One toke? You poor fool!” 

Zac Brown

TODAY -- Pictured: Zac Brown performs on NBC News' "Today" show (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Zac Brown Band, “Toes”

Zac Brown took a cue from the Jimmy Buffett school of rockin' n' relaxing on this song, which details one devilish little trip to Mexico, imagining a world where Brown might trade his knit cap for a cheeky visor. "Gonna lay in the hot sun and roll a big fat one," he sings to a tropicali tune that could have been ripped directly from Buffett's Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. It went to Number One on the country charts — but not without a clean version that bleeped out any mentions of drugs.

Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings

Willie Nelson and musician Waylon Jennings attend Highwaymen Concert on May 23, 1993 at Central Park in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson, “I Can Get Off on You”

Leave it to the original outlaws to pack a song title with both sweet sincerity and a downright gross double-entendre. As a duet from their 1978 album Waylon & Willie, which saw a Number One country hit in "Mamma's Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," it's one to take with a grain of salt: though they might sing "take back the weed, take back the cocaine" in exchange for true love, Nelson's four wives (but lifelong companion in marijuana) and Jennings' bankruptcy by addiction (and the near millions he blew on, well, blow) beg to differ. 

Old Crow Medicine Show

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 30: (L-R) Recording Artists Gill Landry, Cory Younts, Critter Fuqua, Ketch Secor and Chance McCoy of Old Crow Medicine Show perform at Ryman Auditorium on December 30, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)

Jason Davis/Getty Images

Old Crow Medicine Show, “Methamphetamine”

Through their new-bred old-time tales of forgotten Appalachia and buried coal towns, Old Crow Medicine Show illuminate the destructive power of drugs in blue-collar communities on this song co-written with Dave Rawlings. "But mamma she ain't hungry no more/she's waiting for a knock on the trailer door," sings frontman and fiddler Ketch Secor, peppering the choruses with somber harmonica. The song appeared on 2008's Tennessee Pusher, which went to Number One on the bluegrass charts — and probably isn't likely to be covered by Darius Rucker anytime soon. 

Commander Cody

Commander Cody performs on stage in Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1975. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

Commander Cody and H is Lost Planet Airmen, “Seeds and Stems (Again)”

Commander Cody emerged during the psychedelic wave of the early Seventies, melding country with rockabilly and Western swing and shooting out a weird, sometimes uneasy breed of bellbottoms-and-cowboy-boots tunes that certainly get points for bucking genre lines. "Seeds and Stems (Again)," from their 1971 debut Lost in the Ozone, is a crooning lap steel mourner about what happens when love is lost and there's nothing left to smoke. It became more commonly known as "Down to Seeds and Stems Again Blues" after the release of their 1974 live album, Live From Deep in the Heart of Texas.

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.