By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn and George Jones: Which of the three is the coolest of the cool? We decided to answer that question once and for all, according to four criteria: Podunk Cred, Outlaw Life, Songwritin' and Wack Factor.
Podunk Cred: Born in California, which is a strike against him, but Haggard gets points for the fact that he now lives in a converted boxcar.
Outlaw Life: Haggard spent much of his youth in jail, including a stint in San Quentin.
Songwritin': "Okie from Muskogee" might be the best sing-along celebration/parody of redneck culture ever.
Wack Factor: He lives in a freakin' boxcar.
Podunk Cred: Jones was born in Texas, which automatically gives him high marks, but the fact that he now lives in Alabama and shills George Jones Country Sausage puts his Podunk Cred through the (tin) roof.
Outlaw Life:The man is a sopping wet drunk and likes a little toot now and then as well. Though he's sober—more or less—now, Jones is as well-known for his indulgences as he is for his musicianship. For much of his life, he was drunk all day, every day.
Songwritin': Wrote "He Stopped Loving Her Today," which marks the pinnacle of old-school country songcraft.
Wack Factor: Back during his drinking days, friends and family would hide Jones' car keys. His solution, more than once, was to use a riding lawn mower for transportation to local watering holes.
Podunk Cred: She was, you know, born a coal miner's daughter.
Outlaw Life: Lynn's not much of a party gal, but she did get married at age 14 and had four kids before she turned 18.
Songwritin': Managed to rhyme "miner's daughter" with "Butcher Holler."
Wack Factor: Extremely high. First, what's up with those dresses? Second, she has a ranch in Tennessee that's haunted with the ghosts of slaves and Confederate soldiers. Finally, that creepily sexual video with Jack White—ick.
Winner: It's mighty close, between Lynn's weirdness and Haggard's rap sheet, but it boils down to drinkin' and songwritin', so we gotta go with Jones on this one.