One Piece at a Time

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"One Piece at a Time"
Single by Johnny Cash
from the album One Piece at a Time
B-side"Go On Blues"
ReleasedMarch 1976
Format7" single
GenreRockabilly, rock and roll
Length4:00
LabelColumbia
Writer(s)Wayne Kemp
Producer(s)

Charlie Bragg / Don Davis

Audio sample
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Johnny Cash singles chronology
"Strawberry Cake"
(1976)
"One Piece at a Time"
(1976)
"Sold Out of Flagpoles"
(1976)
 
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"One Piece at a Time"
Single by Johnny Cash
from the album One Piece at a Time
B-side"Go On Blues"
ReleasedMarch 1976
Format7" single
GenreRockabilly, rock and roll
Length4:00
LabelColumbia
Writer(s)Wayne Kemp
Producer(s)

Charlie Bragg / Don Davis

Audio sample
Sorry, your browser either has JavaScript disabled or does not have any supported player.
You can download the clip or download a player to play the clip in your browser.
file info · help
Johnny Cash singles chronology
"Strawberry Cake"
(1976)
"One Piece at a Time"
(1976)
"Sold Out of Flagpoles"
(1976)

"One Piece at a Time" is a country novelty song written by Wayne Kemp[1] and recorded by Johnny Cash in 1976. It would be the last song performed by Cash to reach number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1976)Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles1
U.S. Billboard Hot 10029
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks6
Canadian RPM Country Tracks1
Canadian RPM Top Singles40
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks1
U.K. Singles Chart32

Plot[edit]

Johnny Cash in the driver's seat and Bruce Fitzpatrick at the far right.

The song tells of a man who, in 1949, leaves his home in Kentucky to pursue work at General Motors in Detroit, Michigan. The singer assembles wheels on Cadillacs, watching each one roll by day after day on the assembly line, knowing that he will never be able to afford one.

Beginning almost immediately, he and a co-worker decide to steal a Cadillac, using their assembly line jobs to obtain the parts via salami slicing. He takes the small parts home hidden in his large lunchbox; larger parts are smuggled out in his co-worker's motor home.

The process of accumulating all the necessary parts turns out to take over 24 years (when asked what year model, the worker starts with 1949 and ends at 1973 when the song fades out), but once they have what they think is a complete car, they attempt to assemble the pieces. The result is an odd-looking Cadillac created from parts of many different models (the song mentions that the transmission was from 1953 and the engine was from 1973) and whose pieces do not fit together very well (for example, it had only one tail fin and three headlights – two on the left and one on the right, though all three headlights worked when activated).

The singer's wife is surprised at the outcome but wants a ride. However, the folks at the courthouse were not as pleased—it took the "whole staff" to type up the vehicle title, which ended up weighing 60 pounds.

The song ends with a Citizens Band radio conversation between the singer and a truck driver inquiring about the "psychobilly Cadillac", in which the singer replies, "you could say I went ... to the factory and picked it up, it's cheaper that way".

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hall of Fame - Wayne Kemp". Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 
  2. ^ The House Of Cash. Stevenmenke.com. Retrieved on 2013-04-09.
  3. ^ "Man stole motorbike - part by part". Ananova. Archived from the original on 22 August 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"After All the Good Is Gone"
by Conway Twitty
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single

May 29-June 6, 1976
Succeeded by
"I'll Get Over You"
by Crystal Gayle
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single

June 19, 1976
Succeeded by
"El Paso City"
by Marty Robbins