Steve Earle didn't have to remove the bra of Lucinda Williams on TV at a gridiron game or tongue kiss Charley Pride on stage to win international infamy.

Steve Earle - 12 Jan 2004
Photo by Steve Snowden

The six times wed singer-songwriter left the tongue kissing to Shotgun Willie Nelson and merely wrote and recorded a song.

Earle's tune John Walker Blues - the story of an American who crossed hype's cheating line to fight with the Taliban - had him lampooned and attacked by music industry power brokers.

But, unlike the Dixie Chicks, he wasn't scoring airplay on thin-skinned mainstream U.S. radio when the song escaped.

Instead Earle, born in Virginia and raised in Texas, milked the melodrama and won rock airplay for the song from his 14th album Just An American Boy.

The singer, who made an embryonic cameo in 1976 docco Heartworn Highways with Guy Clark, Steve Young, Rodney Crowell, David Allan Coe and the late Townes Van Zandt, had already brandished the blowtorch to George W Bush's belly with his Karla Faye Tucker play.

The play, about Texan death-row casualty Karla Faye Tucker, debuted in Earle's Broad Axe Theatre in Nashville.


Doghouse Roses, a collection of 11 short stories, was published in June 2001 in the US and July 2001 in the UK.

Earle has had a swag of his songs appear on movie soundtracks as diverse as The Rookie, The Horse Whisperer, Psycho and Dead Man Walking.

And his songs have also earned healthy royalties with covers by artists diverse as Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, Maria McKee and Joan Baez.

Steve also may have appeared in Robert Altman's 1975 film, Nashville (he was part of a large crowd scene in Centennial Park, but it's not clear whether he actually shows up in the film.)

He eventually wrote songs that were recorded by major artists after landing a publishing deal with Sunbury Dunbar (a division of RCA) in November 1975.

He was with them until 1978 and received $75 per week as a staff writer.

Steve almost had a song, Mustang Wine, set to be recorded by Elvis Presley in 1975 but Elvis never showed up for the session.

The late Carl Perkins recorded the song in 1976.

And Urban Cowboy star Johnny Lee had a Top 10 hit in 1982 with When You Fall In Love, a song that Steve co-wrote with John Scott Sherrill - a member of Billy Hill with Pam Tillis's second ex singing spouse Bob DiPiero.

Steve Earle and the Dukes


When I first interviewed Earle in 1988 at his then new home in Fairview, Tennessee, he was emulating former outlaw neighbour David Allan Coe.

Earle was living with fifth wife Teresa Ensenat - the record company staffer who signed Guns N Roses.

I reminded Earle his former neighbour was a hard act to follow.

During a 1983 interview with Coe at his former Dutch commune at nearby Dickson - an enclave replete with Olympic size swimming pool and square dance stage inside a cave - the ex-convict actor and singer was living with two of his seven wives.

For the record and future trivia quizzes for valuable prizes here is a list of Earle's wives, siblings and children.

Steve, the eldest of five children, has been wed six times - to Sandra (Sandy) Henderson, Cynthia Dunn, Carol Hunter, Lou-Anne Gill, Maria Teresa Ensenat, and again to Lou-Anne.
Steve has three children - two sons (Justin mom is Carol) and Ian (mom is Lou), and his step-daughter Amy (the daughter of Lou.)

Steve's mom and dad now live in Nashville and brother, Mark, lives in Lubbock, Texas.
The youngest Earle, Patrick, is living near Nashville and tours with Steve as part of his crew.

Steve's sister, Kelly, lives near Boston.

His youngest sister, Stacey, lives in Ashland City, Tennessee with her husband, Mark Stuart.

Stacey and Mark are both former members of the Dukes and Stacey and Mark both have their own recording careers in Nashville.

Justin Earle also plays in Nashville band The Swindlers with Dustin Welch - son of Kevin - and Travis Nicholson (son of Gary.)

Fort Worth refugee Gary Nicholson - a prolific writer and occasional recording artist - was the co-writer of many Delbert McClinton hits.

He is also the co-writer of Lee Roy Parnell epic If The House Is Rockin' (Don't Bother Knockin') - the former riveting theme for Seven Network AFL footy.

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