Country music singer Randy Howard was killed on Tuesday night in a shootout at his Tennessee home with a bounty hunter, who was trying to detain him on a DUI charge. The 65 year-old country musician, who has performed with stars like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, was known for singing about themes like the “outlaw” lifestyle, and apparently he incorporated such manifestos into his own way of living as well. Howard was facing a slew of charges, including a fourth-offense DUI offense, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a firearm while intoxicated, driving with a revoked license, and failure to appear in court.
“He said he wasn’t going back to jail. That’s what he told me,” said Terry Dotson, a long-time family friend of the outlaw country icon, who recorded more than seven albums over the course of his musical career including one entitled All American Redneck in 1983. Howard promoted the re-appropriation of the derogatory slur, redneck, back into the thriving artistic and political culture of poor, white rural Southerners.
On Tuesday night, a seasoned bail bondsman / bounty hunter named Jackie Shell showed up at Howard’s rural cabin to take him into custody. Howard opened fire, Shell shot back, and Howard was killed. Shell was also injured in the shooting, but the extent of his injuries remain unclear.
“It can be positive,” Howard is famous for having stated. “When I play clubs, I ask if there are any rednecks out there. I get a good response whether I’m in New York or Miami.”
A sampling of his lyrics shows the spirit runs strong in all his songs: “Here he comes in his brand new black blue jeans / With a beach blonde mama, she looks like a bar room queen,” one song from his 1983 album begins. “He’s got a beer gut belly, and he walks tall and proud / And if you try to get smart with him, he’ll punch you out!”
Commentators have noted that because Randy Howard didn’t just sing about being an outlaw, he lived like one too, it is perhaps fitting that he also died like an outlaw. His last words were reportedly: “I ain’t goin’ back to jail.”
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