In 1993, Troy Aikman, Jay Novacek And Other Dallas Cowboys Released A Country Album Produced By An Accused Child Molester. What The Fuck?!?!
In 1993, several members of the Dallas Cowboys, under the banner of Super “Boys”, teamed up with some actual musicians to make Everybody Wants To Be A Cowboy, a country-western album where the players would take lead vocals.
It’s an incredibly interesting album — but in no way is it for the music, which is almost uniformly garbage.
Released at the height of the Dallas Cowboys’ championship hubris — just after the first of three Super Bowls the team would win in four years — the album is remarkable in that is devoid of any self-doubt.
Late Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano is listed as the associate producer in the liner notes, making him the highest-ranking non-musician involved in the project, although his appreciation of the craft — until his death in 2012, he was the owner of the Lewisville concert safe-space Hat Tricks — isn’t really up for debate. More easily questioned are the credentials of the some of the disc’s more bold-faced performers, a list that includes Cowboys alumni Troy Aikman, Randy White, Walt Garrison and Jay Novacek.
Those ‘Boys were all pretty great on the gridiron — a few of the ones on this album are all-time team greats for their positions, even — but, alas, their talents did not extend to the studio. Listening to this album is a true endurance test filled with amateur singers feebly belting out frequently undeniably stupid lyrics for 40 goddamn minutes. The accompaniments for those vocals, meanwhile, are a goulash of string instruments and synthesized string sounds, with the synthetic elements clearly dominating that struggle. Strip away the vocals and the album would sound like hillbilly EDM — although that’s likely true for most of the budget- or talent-deprived country albums of the ’90s.
Yes, of course this album is bad. It’s a bunch of people with little to no musical training diving straight into recording. It’s football players who felt compelled to express a kinship with actual cowboys, just because the team’s mascot has a ten-gallon hat and some novelty foam six-shooters. Even with the slick expertise of the actual musicians on board here, this album is nothing more than America’s Team butchering America’s music.
Did it have to be this way? Other members of the Dallas Cowboys have tried to push their way into the music world without totally disrespecting the craft. Former Cowboy Martellus Bennett explored hip-hop with a sense of self-deprecation and humor, at least. The (rightly) disgraced former defensive end Greg Hardy brought, as expected, his personal brand of misogyny to the rap game when he took a stab at it — but at least he did so with a somewhat interesting flow. And legendary cornerback Deion Sanders’ own attempt at rap stardom, though it hasn’t aged particularly well, was for sure appropriately braggadocious for the era — not to mention the clear inspiration for at least one great cinematic moment. Former offensive linemen Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo and Cory Procter probably fared best of all other Cowboys when it came to music; they banded together to form the metal band Free Reign, and even picked up an honest-to-goodness record deal in the process.
Oh, and then there’s the Christmas music that some of the ‘Boys put out in the 1980s, which… well, it happened — team releases like that were a trend at the time! — and there’s nothing we can do about that now.
But Everybody Wants To Be A Cowboy is almost certainly the worst, and weirdest, of the bunch — in no small part due to one Doc Swicegood, who served as the producer for the 12-track album. Swicegood wrote a large chunk of the songs on the disc, and twice appears on it to sing his own tunes. In other articles that have been penned about this album, his name will sometimes appear in passing — but a little digging turns up a personal history that’s unexpectedly horrific.
Perhaps the reason he’s rarely mentioned is because there’s barely a hint of Doc Swicegood online. Search Amazon, and you’ll see a couple of albums attributed to him aside from his work with the Dallas Cowboys on Everybody Wants To Be A Cowboy. Any actual background information, though, is limited. There’s a Christian album, Unleash the Power, that Amazon dates to 1997 (available through third party sellers only), but there’s barely any information to be gleaned on the order screen, and it’s been difficult to find any references to that album outside of Amazon.
There is, however, record of William “Doc” Swicegood if you look hard enough. A doctor and musician in Plano, Swicegood for a time served as a health consultant for the city of Plano, working with city officials to enact some public smoking restrictions in 1994.
While he was accomplishing that in the public sphere, however, he may have been up to no good behind closed doors: In 1996, he was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old patient of his; per the patient’s mother, Swicegood used “a mutual interest in music to strike up a relationship” with his patient, who he allegedly had sex with for three consecutive days in May of 1994. He is also accused of groping the teen in June of 1995. Per an Associated Press article about the charges from December 8, 1996, “Swicegood coerced the girl into having sex by telling her he wanted to marry her and threatening to kill himself if anyone found out about the relationship.” Turns out, that threat may have had merit: A collection of news briefs on December 9, 1996, in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal — the very next day after the initial AP story was released — reveals that Swicegood, then 46 years old, had been found dead of an apparent suicide in the garage of his home with the ignition of his car turned on.
When I decided to look back at Everybody Wants To Be A Cowboy, I was prepared for the music to be terrible. I wasn’t expecting my investigation to take such a sordid turn.
Does the context of what apparently happened with Swicegood soften some of the hyperbole that I had initially expected would go into my describing of the sorry state of this album? Most definitely. It’s pretty to mock a trivial thing when it’s positioned so close to real tragedy.
But make no mistake, this music is supremely bad, and the fact that the album somehow was created with so much crazy surrounding makes it unquestionably fascinating.
So let’s listen to it track by track!
1. “Everybody Wants To Be A Cowboy” by Super “Boys”
Here, the entire group — everyone listed on the album — sings a rowdy tune about regular men who fantasize about being cowboys. That’s right: These athletes, who are pretending to be musicians, started their album by making fun of people who wish they could be something they’re not. I hope you appreciate the irony, because I bet they didn’t. Toward the end of the song, they bring up an actual cowboy — someone who endures taxing ranch work, tries to keep up with the frantic world of the rodeo, and finds himself both broke and broken down at the end of his working life. Is this an analogy for playing football? Was this an oblique reference to the toll that head trauma and other injuries take on players? This isn’t the only moment where the album could be read as a coded cry for help. If I’m right, and those lyrics are talking about the plights of football players, then “Everybody Wants to Be a Cowboy” is the only commentary on the link between football, head trauma and any related quality-of-life issues connecting the two that would be morally OK for the NFL to suppress.
2. “Oklahoma Nights” by Troy Aikman
Troy Aikman’s singing voice has a mushy quality to it — a quality I didn’t even realize a person’s singing voice could have. Hearing it is the sonic equivalent of squeezing an old banana. His “Oklahoma Nights” tells a story of young love between two kids who grew up to be two young adults who, uh, don’t stay together, I guess? It all takes place in an idealized version of rural Oklahoma, a setting that the song suggests is all quaint American values, windswept plains and wild horses. I don’t know if that’s an honest picture of Aikman’s home state, or if he’s just being sentimental, but answering that question would involve caring about the parts of Oklahoma that aren’t casinos, so I refuse to find out. I also don’t like to dwell on how the specter of Swicegood’s past haunts Everybody Wants To Be A Cowboy, but his having written “Oklahoma Nights” about young love makes this already awful song considerably worse. Consider these lyrics: “I turned around and stared a while… because overnight where once there was a child… was a woman’s smile.” Without context, these lyrics are just lazy fluff; with context, they are a goddamn nightmare.
3. “Farewell”by Doc Swicegood
Our first performance from Swicegood is a painfully banal affair. The song is about a man getting over a woman who mistreated him — just really groundbreaking stuff. Considering what was apparently happening in that guy’s life at the time, though, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that he preferred to be impersonal. “Farewell” is a flavorless country song — but hearing an actual singer after two rounds of Dallas Cowboys struggling to carry a tune is like eating your first meal after a hunger strike.
4. “Everything’s Gone Wrong” by Walt Garrison
Walt Garrison has a decent voice! At least in the context of this album, anyway. The former fullback is also the only Dallas Cowboy to earn a writing credit here. Sure, it’s a co-writing credit, but that’s something, and his song exhibits a whiskey-soaked introspection that I don’t hate. Lyrically, it tells the story of a rascal of a man who decides to straighten up and stop his lascivious ways — right when his lady decides to leave him for someone else. It’s dramatic irony at its most adequate. The tone’s a bit maudlin, and the lyrics are overly reliant on cutesy wordplay — but, on the plus side, this is the first song that’s merited an actual critique. It’s like that first moment when your kid’s old enough to be punished for something; you don’t really enjoy it, but if you think about it, it’s kind of a milestone.
5. “Ship My Body Back To Texas” by Joe Avezzano
In “Ship My Body Back to Texas,” Coach Joe expresses ambivalence towards death, but insists he be buried in Texas when his time comes, which it did four years back now. Coach is a talk-singer, and not particularly great at it, and witnessing that is akin to watching your kicker miss an extra point attempt — and back in the old days when those suckers came at the two-yard-line. (Avezzano, for those not in the know, was the special teams coach. I really, really want full credit for the aptness of this analogy.)
6. “Hell Of A Lot Together” by Walt Garrison and Randy White
Garrison teams up here with Randy White to sing about how their friendship survived a woman’s attempt to come between them. They’re high on friendship these two, and giddy over rejecting female companionship. They’re not explicitly mean to the woman in question, but there’s something off about how much they enjoy thwarting this supposed friendship-eating succubus. Even if they don’t slander her outright, there’s a real He-Man Woman Hater’s vibe to “Hell of a Lot Together” that’s unseemly.
7. “Feel Again” by Doc Swicegood and Con Hunley
Here’s another one from Swicegood, along with his fellow actual musician Con Hunley. This one is the sort of nondescript, anonymous song you almost notice on the speakers when you’re at the grocery store. There’s a glimmer of recognition that music is being played, but its blandness eventually dissipates into the ambient sounds of customers, shopping carts and cash registers, allowing you to go back to looking for your preferred brand of spaghetti sauce in peace.
8. “The Rodeo’s Over” by Walt Garrison
Hey, it’s Walt Garrison again! “The Rodeo’s Over” is a ballad about a cowboy choosing to continue with a life of rodeos, ranch work and gunfights — a path he knows will lead to an early grave. This one is almost certainly really about the toll football takes on the body, right? It dwells on how the cowboy way of life is irresistible to those who live it, even if they know it can’t last and even if they know it’s ultimately self-destructive. That just seems shockingly relevant to what football players go through. These players knew what concussions were doing to them. They’ve always known. We should force Roger Goodell to listen to this album over and over until he agrees to take concussion research seriously.
9. “Don’t Fan The Flame” by Randy White
On this one, Randy White is rejected by a woman he tries to chat up at a bar, which means we now have to hear him sing about how she was a tease. I guess Garrison was a good influence on White, though, because when White’s singing solo, he is less restrained on the subject of women and romance. Let’s be clear: There’s no scenario where it’s fair to treat a woman like she owes you affection. But this song would have you believe that if your crush is at least dimly aware of you, she’s guilty of leading you on. The chorus actually includes the line, “If you don’t feel the same, why did you give me your name?” What kind of lusty psychopath thinks a woman saying her name is an invitation for anything? Somebody needs to switch Randy White’s Stetson with a fedora, because he is every gross dude on the Internet during this song.
10. “What I Couldn’t See” by Joe Avezzano
Again with the talk-singing from Coach Joe. It sounds like he was dealing with a head cold when he recorded this, and I can’t imagine how jaded the recording engineers had to be to just shrug and go along with it. Anyway, “What I Couldn’t See” is the tale of a man’s regret after his bad behavior drove off the woman in his life. It’s painfully dull, but after “Don’t Fan the Flame” it’s nice to hear a man be critical of himself instead of making everything a woman’s fault.
11. “Emmitt, My Rodeo Star” by Jay Novacek
In his lone solo turn here, former Cowboys tight end Jay Novacek sings a doleful tune about a rodeo star named… Emmitt? As in Emmitt Smith? Why would he write a song about Emmitt Smith as a rodeo star?
Here are some actual song lyrics: “There’s something about you [Emmitt] no woman could quite understand… You can’t give your love to a woman when your heart and soul belong to the rodeo.” Jay, why would you do this to Emmitt? There’s no line in the song that makes it necessary to use the name Emmitt. Even if there was, they could have just spelled it “Emmett.” That’s a valid spelling. That might be the more popular spelling, actually. It didn’t have to go down like this.
Anyway, Emmitt, the rodeo star and definitely not the guy Novacek risked his body blocking for on a weekly basis for years, meets and marries a young woman. Together, they have a daughter — but, unfortunately, Emmitt can’t resist the call of the rodeo. He goes back to his old life, then receives a letter from his wife in which announces that she’s leaving him and taking their daughter with her. Almost immediately after reading the letter, Emmitt dies in a rodeo event gone wrong.
I’ve lived in and around Dallas most of my life. I’ve met many people who were born during Emmitt Smith’s peak years, and I have never met anyone named Emmitt. I refuse to believe this song title was a coincidence.
What do you think it was it like in the locker room when Emmitt Smith first heard “Emmitt, My Rodeo Star” blaring through a speaker? I picture him standing there, holding a smile with all his might, his eyes broadcasting panic and confusion. Then, once the song is over, he tries to act flattered to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, while inwardly wondering if he has enough clout with the front office to get Novacek traded to a team that rarely — if ever — plays the Cowboys.
Or maybe Emmitt loved it? Maybe the song title was an inside joke between them, or it happened because one of them lost a bet. This might be one of those times when the mystery’s better than the truth.
Speaking of mysteries: Ray Wylie Hubbard, far and away the most accomplished musician associated with this album, sings the hook all by himself here — but he’s only credited in the liner notes as providing background vocals. You’ve got to assume that was by request, yeah? (Hubbard does provide honest-to-goodness gang backing efforts on “Fan The Flame” and “Everybody Wants To Be A Cowboy,” though.)
12. “Everybody Wants To Be A Cowboy (Texas Stadium Version)” by Super “Boys”
This one is just the opening track again, but with crowd noises mixed in. That’s it; that’s how they closed the album. It’s actually referred to as a “bonus” track. If the flu gave you muscle pains and severe sinus congestion, would you call a sudden wave of nausea a “bonus” symptom?
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Well, there you have it. Almost 3,000 words on the weirdest album you never knew — nor cared to know — existed. Thanks for reading!