While the rest of country music seems to be releasing holiday albums this October, Holler decided to take time out to celebrate the all too often musically overlooked festival that is All Hallows Eve.
After all, what would Halloween be without seeing Luke Bryan dressed as a giant nut or Jason Aldean’s wife in a wookiee costume? And who could forget RaeLynn dressing up as a mulleted Blake Shelton or Thomas Rhett and his wife Lauren as Woody and Jessie from Toy Story?
Country music has never been afraid of going to the dark side, so it’s no surprise that it’s got more than enough songs to fill any blood chilling soundtrack with a little haunting here, a quick trip to hell there, and witches, werewolves, ghosts and ghouls aplenty.
So get the apples bobbing, stick a bowl of candy by the door and sit back to enjoy some of country music’s spookiest moments with Holler’s guide to the best Halloween Country songs.
A creepy rockabilly country tale in which John Anderson moves into a brand new house only to find that it’s haunted by a bell-ringing chain-rattling ghoul with one giant eye and two oversized feet.
The ghost warns him away while drinking frying pan grease and eating a lump of raw meat right out of John’s hand, but apparently this isn’t enough to send our foolhardy hero packing, and he settles into his new home happily enough. I guess we’ve all had difficult housemates at some point in our life. It’s a learning process.
Halloween feels like a particularly befitting time of year for the Man In Black. Written in 1948 by the actor Stan Jones, this ghostly cowboy folk tale had been recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby to Peggy Lee before Johnny Cash wrapped his booming baritone around it for his Silver album in 1979.
The story is of a cowboy who has a vision of hot-breathed red-eyed cows with steel hooves and black shiny horns thundering across the sky, followed by the spirits of eternally damned cowboys. In passing, one of the cowboys warns Johnny that if he doesn’t change his dishonourable ways, he’ll be doomed to join the ghostly cattle chasers for the rest of eternity.
To be fair to him, Johnny Cash did seem to settle down a bit in the 80s.
Taken from Jim Jarmusch’s oddball zombie comedy of the same name, the film also starred Sturgill as a “guitar zombie”, and in one scene Selena Gomez even buys a copy of a fictional CD by Simpson called Dead Don’t Die.
The song finds a suitably disagreeable Sturgill wandering the streets , seemingly relishing the idea that everyone he sees along the way will eventually be dead. He remembers all the “old friends walking 'round in a somewhat-familiar town” who barely looked up from their mobile phones when they were alive, and cheerfully imagines them all as zombies in the afterlife.
Okay then. Maybe don’t go trick or treating at old man Sturgill’s house this year, kids. I’m not sure I’d trust the candy.
Sadly there aren’t anywhere near enough songs about pumpkins, but luckily for country music fans, John Prine included this not particularly spooky cut on his 1991 album The Missing Years.
A rather muddled song about going to Memphis with three hundred dollars in cash to play a show - and possibly start a fight with someone - the “little pumpkin” he’s singing about appears to be his daughter who he leaves asleep at home and describes as being like a pumpkin because she “swallowed a candle or some other kind of surprise”.
It’s all quite confusing. Perhaps this explains why there aren’t more songs about pumpkins.
Not one of the spookiest Halloween songs perhaps, but by a long way one of the creepiest, this swampy country funk cut from Jim Stafford’s eponymous debut album made the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic in the mid-70s.
Jim begins the song by reminiscing about walking a girlfriend home from school via a local swimming hole for a little alone time, whereupon he misreads her amorous advances and shakes a frog in her face. She tells him that isn’t exactly what she had in mind, but years later, Jim’s still at it, calling her up to see how she’s doing.
When they eventually do get together, he’s still looking for “something to slip down her dress”, and she has to remind him that she doesn’t mean frogs or spiders or snakes. What planet are you on, Jim? She just wants to make out!
“I heard you been creeping around about the time that sun goes down”, sings TJ Osborne eerily in the opening lines to this thumping rocker from Brothers Osborne’s album of the same name.
There’s nothing scarier than coming across a skeleton you weren’t expecting to find somewhere, but to be honest you’d feel pretty safe knowing you had TJ and John on your side if the graveyards did start rumbling this Halloween. “You got skeletons in your closet and I got bones to pick with them”, they sing fearlessly in the chorus. I think the skeletons would be more afraid of them.
It’s not the only time Hank Williams’ ghost has made an appearance in a country song, but this David Allen Coe classic from 1983 is one of its most memorable.
Coe is hitchhiking from Montgomery, Alabama to Nashville when a mysterious “ghost-white pale” driver pulls up in an “"antique Cadillac" – the same make of car Williams died in – “dressed like 1950, half drunk and hollow-eyed”, and offers him a lift. Coe hops in happily enough and along the way they get to discussing what it takes to be successful in country music.
When the driver drops him off, Coe thanks him for the ride and the driver replies, "You don't have to call me Mister, Mister. The whole world called me Hank".
Rather spookily, when Coe was performing the song at the Opry House for a television show a few years later, the lights and power in the Opryland complex went out when he sang the word “Hank” in the last verse.
Just one of the many Shel Silverstein songs recorded by Bobby Bare, this chilling tale from his Lullabies, Legends and Lies album is about a witch with a “bent, bony body and stringy hair” who lived in a hollowed out log in a Louisiana swamp with a one-eyed snake and a three-legged dog. She possessed the ability to make men disappear with her horrifying guttural screech.
One night a man called Jack visits the swamp and tries to trick the witch into making him rich by promising he’ll marry her if she does. Upon realising she’d been deceived, Marie Laveau’s “fangs started gnashing, her body started trembling, and her eyes started flashing”, and Jack rather unsurprisingly disappears too.
When Hank Williams falls for someone, he falls hard. In this instance he’s so besotted with the object of his affections that he turns into a werewolf; forgetting his own name, walking on all fours, chasing rabbits, trying to eat a steak with a spoon and inexplicably trying to fill his horse up with petrol.
I’m not doubting the depth of his love for her, I just worry he’s going the wrong way about it.
The title track to Buck Owens’ 1974 album was actually the only Halloween themed song on the whole album, but nonetheless the album artwork depicts the same monsters that Buck is so desperately trying to escape from in the song.
Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolfman and a hunchback all come after Buck, who hides under the covers until he falls asleep, only to wake up and find all sorts of gremlins, goblins, dragons and zombies have joined them.
A kitschy Bakersfield novelty bop, it was recorded the night before Halloween in 1973, and miraculously made it to number 6 on Billboard’s Country Chart.
Listen to Holler's Best Halloween Songs playlist below now: