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Few people are better equipped to start a wildly ambitious podcast about the history of country music from its early 20th-century inception to 2000 than Tyler Mahan Coe. As the son of country icon David Allan Coe, who dropped out of school at 14 to join his father on tour, he’s lived and breathed the genre all his life. In 2017, after scouring the Internet for a well-researched podcast on the genre and not finding one, he made Cocaine & Rhinestones, which has become the definitive audio source for country music history in just three years, since its launch in 2018. The first season, which was written and produced entirely by Coe, is an anthology that mostly focuses on the industry’s often poor treatment of women (Loretta Lynn’s country radio–banned “The Pill” gets its own episode, as do Bobbie Gentry and Wynonna Judd) and hit No. 1 on the Apple Podcast Music charts. To prepare for the second season, which is currently airing and focused solely on George Jones, Coe spent years delving into the Country Music Hall of Fame archives, and it shows. The series is immaculately researched, consistently unpredictable (you’ll find out why you can’t understand Jones without knowing the history of pinball and bullfighting), and wholly immersive. Coe, who writes novel-length scripts for each episode, has remained totally independent and is funded only by fan support on Patreon. This fierce streak of self-reliance, as well his idiosyncratic charm as a broadcaster and dogged approach to finding the truth, makes this show the most essential music podcast to date.

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