Open main menu

Clifford Joseph Trahan (September 25, 1938 – September 3, 2016), best known as Johnny Rebel and Pee Wee Trahan, was an American white supremacist[1] singer, songwriter, and musician. Trahan used the Johnny Rebel name for a series of recordings for J. D. "Jay" Miller's Reb Rebel label in the 1960s in response to the civil rights movement.[2] The 12 songs exhibit racial hatred marketed as "subtle, rib-tickling satire".[3][4] The songs frequently used the racial slur "nigger" and often voiced sympathy for racial segregation, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Confederate States of America.

Johnny Rebel
Photo of the upper body of a man who is wearing a hat and is holding a guitar
Background information
Birth nameClifford Joseph Trahan
Also known asJohnny Rebel
Tommy Todd
Jericho Jones
Johnny "Pee Wee" Blaine
Johnny "Pee Wee" Trayhan
Johnny "Pee Wee" Trahan
Jimmy "Pee Wee" Krebs
Born(1938-09-25)September 25, 1938
Moss Bluff, Louisiana, U.S.
OriginCrowley, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedSeptember 3, 2016(2016-09-03) (aged 77)
Rayne, Louisiana, U.S.
GenresCountry, White power music, swamp pop, Folk
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1966–2003
LabelsReb Rebel, Zynn, Todd, Flyright Records, Viking, Wildwood, Master-Trak, AggWood, Try It Man, Johnny Rebel

In a 2003 interview, Trahan claimed that he "just did it for the money" and that he "didn't set out to spread hate or start trouble". He said "At that time, there was a lot of resentment -- whites toward blacks and blacks toward whites. So, everybody had their own feelings. Lots of people changed their feelings over the years. I basically changed my feelings over the years up to a point."[5]

Early life

Trahan was born in Moss Bluff, Louisiana in 1938 to Homer Trahan and Elizabeth Breaux Taylor.[6]

Career

Trahan first recorded songs under the Johnny Rebel name in the mid-1960s at J. D. "Jay" Miller's recording studio in Crowley, Louisiana. Miller produced the sessions and issued the recordings on his Reb Rebel label.[4]

Trahan's first release—the fifth for the Reb Rebel label—was a 45 RPM single of "Lookin' for a Handout" and "Kajun Ku Klux Klan". He then recorded more singles for the label: "Nigger, Nigger", "Coon Town", "Who Likes a Nigger?", "Nigger Hatin' Me", "Still Looking for a Handout", "Some Niggers Never Die (They Just Smell That Way)", "Stay Away from Dixie", and "Move Them Niggers North".[4]

Few of Trahan's songs concern topics other than race. These exceptions include "Keep a-Workin' Big Jim", about the efforts of Louisiana district attorney Jim Garrison to solve the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, and "(Federal Aid Hell!) The Money Belongs to Us", a song critical of U.S. federal aid programs.[5] Two of these songs were eventually issued in album format by Reb Rebel Records under the title For Segregationists Only.[4]

In 1974, Trahan's song "Lâche pas la patate" (also known as "The Potato Song"), sung by Jimmy C. Newman was released in Canada.[7]

After the September 11 attacks, Trahan noticed a resurgence in interest in his music. He then recorded and released a new song titled "Infidel Anthem", describing the whipping America should lay on Osama bin Laden. His new manager, a fan, booked him on The Howard Stern Show, where he promoted the song. This led to increased interest in his music.[5]

CD design

A CD compilation of his works simply shows a hooded member of the Ku Klux Klan together with a depiction of the Confederate Battle Flag. The cover of the album It's the Attitude, Stupid! shows a hooded Klansman, holding what appears to be either a Walkman or an MP3 player with a confederate flag texture, and wearing headphones.

Performance

Trahan only performed a Johnny Rebel song once. In the town of Kaplan, when he was playing country music, someone in the crowd requested a Rebel song. He looked out to make sure there weren't any blacks in the audience. Then he obliged.[5]

Views on reparations

Trahan did have an issue with reparations for slavery, saying "Blacks develop an attitude towards the whites, and they won't let it go. They won't let go of what happened. Why should we pay reparations for things that happened 200 years ago? I was run out of my country ... my ancestors were run out of Nova Scotia."[5]

Death

Trahan died on September 3, 2016.[6]

Misattributions

Johnny Rebel is often misidentified as the pseudonym of David Allan Coe,[8] an American Outlaw country singer who achieved popularity during the 1970s and 1980s. The confusion stems in part from the song "Nigger Fucker", which appears on Coe's Underground Album. Coe has been quoted as saying that "anyone that hears [Underground Album] and says I'm a racist is full of shit."[9]

Some of Johnny Rebel's songs have also been misattributed to Johnny Horton, an American country music and rockabilly singer who died in 1960. The confusion appears to stem from a song by Horton called "Johnny Reb".[10]

Legacy

Johnny Rebel's songs have been covered by other singers such as Big Reb and the German neo-Nazi band Landser, which covered Rebel's "Coon Town" as "Kreuzberg", the 9th song on its 1997 album, Deutsche Wut/Rock gegen Oben.

In 2003, the website of Resistance Records, a white supremacist label, listed Johnny Rebel's Klassic Klan Kompositions as its no. 2 seller, second only to the video game Ethnic Cleansing.[5]

The Anti-Defamation League reported that "Since the 1960s, when racist country singer Johnny Rebel recorded songs such as "N-- Hatin' Me," more than 500 hate rock bands have formed worldwide".[5]

In popular culture

The television series The Boondocks parodied Johnny Rebel's music in one of its episodes (entitled "The Story of Jimmy Rebel"). The episode portrays a recording artist who is ostensibly Johnny Rebel.

In 2005, the Johnny Rebel song "Some Niggers Never Die (They Just Smell That Way)" was used in the film What Is It?, directed by Crispin Glover.[11]

Discography

Studio albums

Year Album details
1971 For Segregationists Only

  • Release date: 1971
  • Label: Reb Rebel Records
2003 The Complete Johnny Rebel Collection

  • Release date: 2003
  • Label: Johnny Rebel Records
It's the Attitude, Stupid!

  • Release date: 2003
  • Label: Try It Man Records

Singles

Year Single Peak positions Album
US Country
1966 "Lookin' for a Handout / Kajun Ku Klux Klan" For Segregationists Only
"Nigger Hatin' Me / Who Likes a Nigger"
1967 "(Federal Aid Hell!) The Money Belongs to Us / Keep a Workin' Big Jim "
1968 "Nigger, Nigger / Move Them Niggers North"
1969 "Coon Town / Still Looking For A Handout"
1970 "Some Niggers Never Die / Stay Away From Dixie "—" denotes releases that did not chart

References

  1. ^ Tsioulcas, Anastasia (2017-09-14). "After Labels Object, White Nationalist Stormfront Radio Stops Using Johnny Cash". NPR. Retrieved 2019-07-09.
  2. ^ Carpenter, Zoë (June 23, 2015). "A History of Hate Rock From Johnny Rebel to Dylann Roo". The Nation.
  3. ^ Bernard, Shane K. (2003). The Cajuns: Americanization of a People. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 63–64.
  4. ^ a b c d Broven, John (1983). South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican. pp. 252–253. ISBN 0-88289-608-3.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Pittman, Nick (June 9, 2003). "Johnny Rebel Speaks". The Advocate.
  6. ^ a b "Johnny Rebel". NNDB.
  7. ^ "Lâche pas la patate". Discogs.
  8. ^ "1967 LOOKIN' FOR A HANDOUT Johnny Rebel on Reb Rebel". PopSike.com.
  9. ^ Leroy, Dan (July 14, 2005). "Coe Revisits Penitentiary". Rolling Stone.
  10. ^ Strom, Phoebe (2014). "Defining Dixie: Creating and Deploying Country Music's Mythic South - Written at Rhodes College" (PDF). Memphis, Tennessee: Rhodes College.
  11. ^ "What Is It? (2005)". IMDb.