Study Guide

A Boy Named Sue Lyrics

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That I'd search the honky-tonks and bars
And kill that man who gave me that awful name

Quick Thought

The name given to a specific type of saloon that originated in the late 19th century in the South and Midwest, the honky-tonk almost always included a musical or comedy performance and catered primarily to white, working-class men.

So, it's likely that you'd find the "dirty, mangy dog" you'd be looking for at a honky-tonk.

Deep Thought

While immensely popular among their customers, honky-tonks tended to be looked down upon by the more elite members of the community, who turned up their noses at the roughnecks and "painted ladies" (a.k.a. prostitutes) who supposedly frequented them. 

In reality, though, the bars stayed relatively tame, with most of the men content drinking beer and watching the variety shows onstage.

Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
And I just hit town and my throat was dry

Quick Thought

Gatlinburg is a town in Tennessee on the border of the Great Smoky Mountains which has turned into a traveler's destination for hikers and sightseers.

Deep Thought

Gatlinburg is about what you'd expect from a small town in the South: mostly white, Christian, and nestled in the woods. This evocative setting hints at the character of Sue's father.

There at a table, dealing stud,
Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me "Sue"

Quick Thought

That's a reference to "stud poker," a gambling card game that's been popular since the American Revolutionary War.

Deep Thought

Stud poker can be broken down further into 7 card and 5 card stud; both are variations on the original card game involving bets and cards that are dealt both face-up and face-down. Playing card games over a few beers was common practice in the honky-tonks of the South, so it's no surprise that this what Sue's dad was up to when he found him.

For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I'm the son of a b**** that named you "Sue"

Quick Thought

Though pretty tame by today's standards of potty-mouthed lyrics, this line was originally censored out of "A Boy Named Sue."

Deep Thought

"Son of a b****," along with the "Any damn thing but Sue!" at the end, were deemed inappropriate for the public airways of the '60s, so both words were edited out of the radio version of the song.

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