One Piece at a Time
Johnny Cash Lyrics


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Well, I left Kentucky back in forty nine
An' went to Detroit workin' on a 'sembly line
The first year they had me puttin' wheels on Cadillacs

Every day I'd watch them beauties roll by
And sometimes I'd hang my head and cry
'Cause I always wanted me one that was long and black
One day I devised myself a plan
That should be the envy of most any man
I'd sneak it out of there in a lunchbox in my hand
Now gettin' caught meant gettin' fired
But I figured I'd have it all by the time I retired
I'd have me a car worth at least a hundred grand.

I'd get it one piece at a time
And it wouldn't cost me a dime
You'll know it's me when I come through your town
I'm gonna ride around in style
I'm gonna drive everybody wild
'Cause I'll have the only one there is around

So the very next day when I punched in
With my big lunchbox and with help from my friends
I left that day with a lunch box full of gears
I've never considered myself a thief
But GM wouldn't miss just one little piece
Especially if I strung it out over several years

The first day I got me a fuel pump
And the next day I got me an engine and a trunk
Then I got me a transmission and all the chrome
The little things I could get in my big lunchbox
Like nuts, an' bolts, and all four shocks
But the big stuff we snuck out in my buddy's mobile home

Now, up to now my plan went all right
'Til we tried to put it all together one night
And that's when we noticed that something was definitely wrong

The transmission was a fifty three
And the motor turned out to be a seventy three
And when we tried to put in the bolts all the holes were gone

So we drilled it out so that it would fit
And with a little bit of help with an adapter kit
We had that engine runnin' just like a song
Now the headlight' was another sight
We had two on the left and one on the right
But when we pulled out the switch all three of 'em come on

The back end looked kinda funny too
But we put it together and when we got through
Well, that's when we noticed that we only had one tail-fin
About that time my wife walked out
And I could see in her eyes that she had her doubts
But she opened the door and said "Honey, take me for a spin"

So we drove up town just to get the tags
And I headed her right on down main drag
I could hear everybody laughin' for blocks around
But up there at the court house they didn't laugh
'Cause to type it up it took the whole staff
And when they got through the title weighed sixty pounds

I got it one piece at a time
And it wouldn't cost me a dime
You'll know it's me when I come through your town
I'm gonna ride around in style
I'm gonna drive everybody wild
'Cause I'll have the only one there is around

Ugh! Yeah, RED RYDER
This is the COTTON MOUTH
In the PSYCHO-BILLY CADILLAC Come on

Huh, This is the COTTON MOUTH
And negatory on the cost of this mow-chine there RED RYDER
You might say I went right up to the factory
And picked it up, it's cheaper that way
Ugh!, what model is it?

Well, It's a '49, '50, '51, '52, '53, '54, '55, '56
'57, '58' 59' automobile




It's a '60, '61, '62, '63, '64, '65, '66, '67
'68, '69, '70 automobile

Overall Meaning

Johnny Cash's song One Piece At A Time is a humorous yet poignant commentary on the American Dream and the desire for material possessions. The main character in the song is a worker on an assembly line in Detroit, who dreams of owning a long, black Cadillac, but cannot afford it. He devises a plan to steal parts from the factory and put together his own car, one piece at a time. The plan works, but when he and his friends try to put the car together, they realize that they have parts from different models and years, resulting in a Franken-car with a tail fin from one year and a transmission from another. Despite this, the singer takes his wife for a ride in his creation, proudly driving it around town and showing it off to everyone.


The song can be interpreted as a commentary on the American Dream and consumer culture, as the singer is driven by the desire to own a luxurious car but cannot afford it through legal means. Instead, he resorts to stealing parts, reflecting the idea that wealth and possessions are so highly valued in American society that people are willing to break the law to obtain them. At the same time, the song also serves as a humorous satire on the auto industry and its obsession with constantly changing car models and features. The singer's car is a mishmash of different parts from different years, highlighting the absurdity of continually changing car designs and the constant pursuit of the latest and greatest model.


Overall, One Piece At A Time is a clever and witty song that comments on many different aspects of American culture, including consumerism, materialism, and the auto industry.


Line by Line Meaning

Well, I left Kentucky back in forty nine
The singer left Kentucky in 1949.


An' went to Detroit workin' on a 'sembly line
The singer moved to Detroit to work on an assembly line.


The first year they had me puttin' wheels on Cadillacs
In his first year, the singer was putting wheels on Cadillacs.


Every day I'd watch them beauties roll by
The artist watched beautiful Cadillacs roll by every day.


And sometimes I'd hang my head and cry
Sometimes, the sight of the beautiful Cadillacs would make the artist cry.


'Cause I always wanted me one that was long and black.
The singer always wanted a long, black Cadillac.


One day I devised myself a plan
The singer planned to get his dream Cadillac.


That should be the envy of most any man
The artist's plan was impressive.


I'd sneak it out of there in a lunchbox in my hand
The artist planned to steal parts of the Cadillac from the assembly line.


Now gettin' caught meant gettin' fired
If the artist was caught, he would be fired from his job.


But I figured I'd have it all by the time I retired
The singer was confident he could steal all the necessary parts before he retired.


I'd have me a car worth at least a hundred grand.
The artist wanted to build a Cadillac worth at least a hundred thousand dollars.


I'd get it one piece at a time
The singer planned to get each part of the Cadillac one at a time.


And it wouldn't cost me a dime
The singer wouldn't have to pay for any of the parts.


You'll know it's me when I come through your town
When the singer drives through a town, people will know his car is unique.


I'm gonna ride around in style
The artist will ride in his unique Cadillac in a stylish manner.


I'm gonna drive everybody wild
The artist's unique Cadillac will impress and astound people.


'Cause I'll have the only one there is around.
The singer will have the only Cadillac of its kind.


So the very next day when I punched in
The day after he planned his heist, the singer went to work.


With my big lunchbox and with help from my friends
The artist used a large lunchbox to smuggle the stolen parts out of the factory with help from his friends.


I left that day with a lunch box full of gears
The artist successfully stole gears that day with his lunchbox.


I've never considered myself a thief
The artist doesn't consider himself a thief, but he's stealing car parts.


But GM wouldn't miss just one little piece
The singer felt justified in his plan because he didn't think GM would miss one part.


Especially if I strung it out over several years.
The artist planned to steal parts over several years to avoid suspicion.


The first day I got me a fuel pump
With his lunchbox, the singer successfully stole a fuel pump.


And the next day I got me an engine and a trunk
On a later day, the singer successfully stole an engine and trunk.


Then I got me a transmission and all the chrome
The singer stole a transmission and all the chrome necessary for the car.


The little things I could get in my big lunchbox
The artist stole smaller things like nuts and bolts that could fit in his lunchbox.


Like nuts, an' bolts, and all four shocks
The artist stole nuts, bolts, and four shocks for the car.


But the big stuff we snuck out in my buddy's mobile home.
To transport larger parts, the singer and his friends used a mobile home.


Now, up to now my plan went all right
For a time, the singer's plan was successful.


'Til we tried to put it all together one night
When attempting to assemble the car, problems arose.


And that's when we noticed that something was definitely wrong.
The team realized something was wrong with the parts they had collected.


The transmission was a fifty three
The transmission part was from 1953.


And the motor turned out to be a seventy three
The motor was from 1973.


And when we tried to put in the bolts all the holes were gone.
There were no holes on the parts to screw in the bolts.


So we drilled it out so that it would fit
The team drilled holes so the parts would fit together.


And with a little bit of help with an adapter kit
An adapter kit was necessary for some of the parts.


We had that engine runnin' just like a song
Despite some difficulties, the team was able to get the engine running smoothly.


Now the headlight' was another sight
The headlight was another problem, but the team solved it.


We had two on the left and one on the right
The team installed more headlights than necessary.


But when we pulled out the switch all three of 'em come on.
All three headlights turned on with the flip of one switch.


The back end looked kinda funny too
The back of the car looked different than expected.


But we put it together and when we got through
Despite some setbacks, the team was able to put the car together.


Well, that's when we noticed that we only had one tail-fin
The car only had one tail-fin instead of two, which was jarring.


About that time my wife walked out
The artist's wife left him over his obsession with the car.


And I could see in her eyes that she had her doubts
The singer could see that his wife didn't believe in the car or his plan.


But she opened the door and said 'Honey, take me for a spin.'
Despite her doubts, the artist's wife was willing to give the car a chance, and they went for a drive.


So we drove up town just to get the tags
The singer and his wife took the car to the courthouse to get it registered.


And I headed her right on down main drag
They drove the car through the main street of town.


I could hear everybody laughin' for blocks around
People were laughing at the car as they drove it through town.


But up there at the court house they didn't laugh
Despite the mockery, officials at the courthouse took the car seriously.


'Cause to type it up it took the whole staff
It took the entire staff at the courthouse to register the car because of its unique parts.


And when they got through the title weighed sixty pounds.
The car's unique parts made the title weigh sixty pounds.


Ugh! Yeah, RED RYDER
The singer yelled out the names of two of his favorite Western heroes.


This is the COTTON MOUTH
The artist referred to himself as the Cotton Mouth, another Western-themed nickname.


In the PSYCHO-BILLY CADILLAC Come on
The artist seemed proud to call his unique Cadillac the 'Psycho-Billy Cadillac'.


Huh, This is the COTTON MOUTH
The artist repeated his Cotton Mouth nickname.


And negatory on the cost of this mow-chine there RED RYDER
The cost of the car was not a factor, according to the singer.


You might say I went right up to the factory
The artist suggests he went directly to the factory to obtain the parts.


And picked it up, it's cheaper that way
According to the singer, the best way to get the parts was to take them from the factory.


Ugh!, what model is it?
Someone else asked about the car's model type.


Well, It's a '49, '50, '51, '52, '53, '54, '55, '56
The car is a combination of many different model years.


'57, '58' 59' automobile
The car also includes parts from the years 1957, 1958, and 1959.


It's a '60, '61, '62, '63, '64, '65, '66, '67
The car continues to include parts from many different years.


'68, '69, '70 automobile.
And finally, the car includes some parts from the years 1968, 1969, and 1970.




Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.
Written by: WAYNE KEMP

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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Most interesting comment from YouTube:

@donutdragon3600

Well, I left Kentucky back in '49
An' went to Detroit workin' on a 'sembly line
The first year they had me puttin' wheels on Cadillacs
Every day I'd watch them beauties roll by
And sometimes I'd hang my head and cry
'Cause I always wanted me one that was long and black
One day I devised myself a plan
That should be the envy of most any man
I'd sneak it out of there in a lunchbox in my hand
Now gettin' caught meant gettin' fired
But I figured I'd have it all by the time I retired
I'd have me a car worth at least a hundred grand
I'd get it one piece at a time and it wouldn't cost me a dime
You'll know it's me when I come through your town
I'm gonna ride around in style, I'm gonna drive everybody wild
'Cause I'll have the only one there is a round
So the very next day when I punched in
With my big lunchbox and with help from my friends
I left that day with a lunch box full of gears
I've never considered myself a thief
But GM wouldn't miss just one little piece
Especially if I strung it out over several years
The first day I got me a fuel pump
And the next day I got me an engine and a trunk
Then I got me a transmission and all of the chrome
The little things I could get in my big lunchbox
Like nuts, an' bolts, and all four shocks
But the big stuff we snuck out in my buddy's mobile home
Now, up to now my plan went all right
'Til we tried to put it all together one night
And that's when we noticed that something was definitely wrong
The transmission was a '53 and the motor turned out to be a '73
And when we tried to put in the bolts all the holes were gone
So we drilled it out so that it would fit
And with a little bit of help with an adapter kit
We had that engine runnin' just like a song
Now the headlight' was another sight
We had two on the left and one on the right
But when we pulled out the switch all three of 'em come on
The back end looked kinda funny too
But we put it together and when we got through
Well, that's when we noticed that we only had one tail-fin
About that time my wife walked out
And I could see in her eyes that she had her doubts
But she opened the door and said, "Honey, take me for a spin"
So we drove up town just to get the tags
And I headed her right on down main drag
I could hear everybody laughin' for blocks around
But up there at the court house they didn't laugh
'Cause to type it up it took the whole staff
And when they got through the title weighed sixty pounds
I got it one piece at a time and it didn't cost me a dime
You'll know it's me when I come through your town
I'm gonna ride around in style, I'm gonna drive everybody wild
'Cause I'll have the only one there is around
Uh yow, Red Ryder, this is the cotton mouth
In the Psycho-Billy Cadillac come on, huh, this is the cotton mouth
And negatory on the cost of this mow-chine there Red Ryder
You might say I went right up to the factory
And picked it up, it's cheaper that way
Uh, what model is it?
Well, it's a '49, '50, '51, '52, '53, '54, '55, '56
'57, '58' 59' automobile
It's a '60, '61, '62, '63, '64, '65, '66, '67
'68, '69, '70 automobile



All comments from YouTube:

@emmaberger3748

My favorite thing about Cash is that it’s almost like he talked instead of sang. It was a real, raw story

@sprint955st

Rapping before they invented rapping?

@alexbounty6993

Same thought

@Darian-mk1bw

Yeah songs such as this were talking story telling songs which were awesome, the man could definitely sing though also

@caaaaaarlos6097

Omg!!!! You ... You... Omg!!!! Is ... so Beautiful! You is my dreams. 🥰❤ you is real?

@DemilitionKiwi

Because he did talk

107 More Replies...

@seanbhoycfc4834

Not just the greatest Musician of all time the greatest Storyteller in the history of music. Johnny could tell an entertaining and full story better than a lot of writers can with a full novel in a single song 👏🖤

@hunterharrell7491

As far as story telling, Gordon Lightfoot could give him a run for his money, both master story tellers!

@wilfredhaggart7657

@@hunterharrell7491 yes he could

@carlosfinol2761

Dont forget about Marty Robbins storytelling ability. He was good friends with Cash, and was a legend in his own right.

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