The endless news stories about the sour economy and the many problems in the auto industry got me to thinking about an old song I’ve always liked. Written by Wayne Kemp and recorded by Johnny Cash, it hit number one on country charts in 1976 and crossed over to make a good showing on pop charts too.
It’s a clever little ditty about an autoworker who can’t afford one of the Cadillacs he’s helping build, so he decides to take matters into his own hands by slipping a car part into his lunchbox each night. He knows it will take time, but eventually he can build his own Cadillac using the parts he’s getting “One Piece At A Time.”
It’s a song that sort of tweaked the automakers a little, implying that their own employees couldn’t afford their high-priced product. But it also winked at the time-honored practice of helping yourself to the company’s property, and apparently Cash’s large blue-collar following didn’t take offense at that — if anything, they liked the idea.
Not long after the song hit the top, a Nashville auto dealer actually built a car to the specifications of the Cadillac in the song and gave it to Cash. In the thirty years since, the mutant Cadillac has moved from one place to another and currently resides at the Historic Auto attractions Museum in Roscoe, Illinois.