My Page: Patterson Hood “Driving Through The Night On Rain-Soaked Streets”

Patterson Hood on November 28, 2022
My Page: Patterson Hood “Driving Through The Night On Rain-Soaked Streets”

Photo by Andy Tennille

Drive-By Truckers and the act of kinetic movement.


The act of driving has been a defining force in my writing, my career as a musician and, to a great extent, my life in general. My obsession with cars and travel dates back to my earliest childhood memories and carries through to this day. It’s in my blood as well. Family legend always had it that my maternal great-grandmother was one of the first women in the state of Alabama to have a driver’s license. When my great-grandfather first laid eyes on her, she was driving a car as fast as it would go and her bonnet flew off as she passed him. For him, it was love at first sight.

Sissy, my maternal grandmother, loved cars and always bragged that she could drive anything with wheels. She taught me how to drive a stick shift when I was 12 and I bought my first car, a 1973 Toyota Celica ST, when I was 14. Before that, my cousin Tommy and I had matching Cyclops Go-Karts and would ride them through the hills and pathways out at our family’s homestead land, just north of my hometown of Florence, Ala. We would play Bullitt and chase each other, reenacting our favorite chase scenes from various ‘70s drive-in movies.

Many of the songs on my band Drive-By Truckers’ new album, Welcome 2 Club XIII, conjure up memories of my late youth and the era of my life when I first met—and began playing with—my partner of 37 years, Mike Cooley. The album juxtaposes our less than glorious glory days, and the time we spent in our first band Adam’s House Cat, with the knowledge that we now possess as the parents of kids the age we were back then.

The title of the album references a dive bar where we played in our late twenties and much of the album was written during the horrific COVID quarantine of 2020 and early 2021. As someone who has spent most of his life in a state of movement, and living a somewhat romanticized narrative of constant movement, the total lockdown was very traumatic indeed. It’s probably only fitting that the album begins with “The Driver,” the last song I wrote for the project. It’s a seven-minute, sort of autobiographical story as seen through a windshield.

The lyrics go, “I used to go out driving, sometimes late into the night/ 21, fucking ‘round and wasting gas/ Across the bridge to Sheffield/ Then over to Tuscumbia/ Where the main street’s like a time trip to the past/ Behind the Hotel Grant there was a flaming dumpster/ I saw a group of Klansmen in their robes/ I circle back but they had vanished like rats/ Leaving nothing behind them but some smoke.”

When I was a teenager, I lived out on Shoals Creek, about 10 miles from town. I used to drive around late at night, just like the song describes. I memorized almost every imaginable backstreet and county road within a 25-mile radius of my hometown. Later, I delivered pizza all over the Shoals area. I’d blast music and just drive. It helped me clear my head and often opened me up to the epiphanies and moments of clarity that ultimately formed the basis for many of my life’s biggest decisions.

One such night occurred shortly after I met Mike Cooley. We were roommates in a shithole apartment—a literal basement that no one bothered to build the actual house on top of. Whenever it would rain, water would seep up from the concrete slab and the whole joint smelt of mildew and black mold. He and I didn’t have any money to do anything so we’d often sit around that horrible pad and play guitar. We’d play my songs; I already had a ton written, but I didn’t have a band to play them with. He and I had an instant chemistry and, even though neither one of us was very good yet, we played better together than the sum of our parts. That was the basis of what became Adam’s House Cat.

It was on one of those late-night drives in 1985, blasting the Tim album by The Replacements, that I decided to drop out of school and pursue this crazy dream full time.

In the nearly 40 years since then, I have given so much of my life to the road. We spent many years driving in old beat up vans—of which we wore out three—and later riding around on a big tour bus. For a stretch of time, Drive-By Truckers played 250 shows a year, before settling down to a more manageable and family-friendly 100 or so.

A constant theme on the new album is how the things that make you live, and make your life what it is, can also kill you. Like drugs, booze and other kinds of illicit fun, driving can also kill you, especially when done under the influence. The road set me free and enabled me to chase my dreams, a few of which I’ve caught. It has also shown me its share of horrors, and the song addresses those experiences, too.

Cooley and I really did nearly buy the farm on the way to a Replacements show in Tuscaloosa, Ala. in 1987. A sudden downpour caused my Honda CRX—which was about the size of an oversized go[1]kart—to hydroplane and both of us can still remember the sight of the giant Pontiac grill that we almost hit head-on.

Decades later, we also almost died from another head-on collision—that fortunately didn’t happen—when we passed a car doing at least 80 in the passing lane of Interstate 10 between Tallahassee and Pensacola, Fla. Fortunately, we were in the right lane when we passed him and he zoomed by so fast that both of us questioned for a moment if we’d actually really seen what we did.

The song seems to take a detour into the surreal around the final verse, when it refers to a meteor nearly hitting our tour bus one night. It sounds like a flight of lyrical fancy, but this is something that actually happened about 13-14 years ago. We slept through it and, honestly, thought that the driver was bullshitting us the next morning when he told us about our crazy brush with death— until a few hours later when we started hearing news reports about it in Boise, Idaho.

PS: As I write this, we’re all mourning the passing of our dear friend, brother and DBT family member Wes Freed. Wes was the prolific artist who created those amazing Drive[1]By Truckers album covers, posters, T-shirt designs and the iconography that people so often associate with our band. He’s done the artwork for nearly every Drive-By Truckers album since Southern Rock Opera in 2001, including Welcome 2 Club XIII. We all loved him dearly and are devastated by this sudden loss. He died of still unknown natural causes on Sunday morning, Sept. 4, 2022, one day before the 25th anniversary of when we first met in 1997. It was love at first sight, and we will love him and carry his memory with us forever.


Patterson Hood cofounded Drive-By Truckers. The group released their latest LP, Welcome 2 Club XIII, in June via ATO.