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"|
|Genre||Rockabilly, rock and roll|
Charlie Bragg / Don Davis
|Johnny Cash singles chronology|
"One Piece at a Time" is a country novelty song written by Wayne Kemp 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.
|U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||29|
|U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks||6|
|Canadian RPM Country Tracks||1|
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||40|
|Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks||1|
|U.K. Singles Chart||32|
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
- Bruce Fitzpatrick, owner of Abernathy Auto Parts and Hilltop Auto Salvage in Nashville, Tennessee, was asked by the promoters of the song to build the vehicle for international promotion. Fitzpatrick had all the models of Cadillacs mentioned in the song when it was released and built a car using the song as a model. The result was presented to Cash in April 1976. It was parked outside The House Of Cash in Hendersonville, Tennessee, until someone could find a place to store it.
- The song was covered by Chicago rock band Tub Ring for the 2001 Johnny Cash tribute album, Cash from Chaos.
- The car from the "One Piece at a Time" video is at the Historic Auto Attractions museum in Roscoe, Illinois.
- An attempt at building a vehicle "one piece at a time" was completed successfully over a five-year period by a Chinese motorcycle assembly line worker in Chongqing.
- This is the first recorded usage of the term "psychobilly". Aided by its later usage by The Cramps and Reverend Horton Heat, the term came to be identified with a genre of music (one that existed since the 1960s, see the Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Hasil Adkins, for instance) crossing rockabilly with punk rock.
- Lyrics as they appear on Yahoo! Music
- Origin of the Second Cadillac as presented by the Antique Automobile Club of America. See also 
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
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|RPM Country Tracks
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