Cody Johnson Recalls Sneaking Out Of The House To Play At A Bar When He Was 15 Years Old: “My Dad Whipped Me Like A Grown Man”

Cody Johnson
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We’ve all got to start somewhere.

This past weekend, Cody Johnson set a Bridgestone Arena record with his sold-out Nashville show. But long before he was filling arenas and selling out festivals, CoJo got his start in music playing the honky tonks and dance halls in his home state of Texas.

Friday night in Nashville, Cody recalled a time when he struggled to fill 3rd & Lindsley, a small club just down the road in Nashville. And he also told the story of the first honky tonk he ever played – when he was just 15 years old after sneaking out of his house.

As CoJo told it, his parents were asleep one Saturday night, so he took his guitar and snuck off to the local bar to try to get on stage:

“I was 15 years old, and I got in my truck and I snuck out down to this local bar. It was called 356 Marina, it was just on Lake Livingston there in Texas.

And I snuck in with my guitar in this bar. And a friend of mine’s stepmom was a bartender there, and she let me sit in with the band.

I started playing songs like “Mustang Sally” and a bunch of Stevie Ray Vaughan songs and stuff like that.”

Then, the band gave 15-year old Cody Johnson a chance to show what he was made of:

“They said, ‘We’re going to take a break kid, you wanna play some songs?’

‘Heck yeah I can play some songs. Can I play something I wrote?’

Well I got about two songs in and I looked at the back of the bar and there stood my dad.”


And it turns out CoJo’s parents didn’t exactly approve of him hanging out in the honky tonks – so his dad let him hear about it:

“I grew up in a very religious home. My momma said, ‘Don’t you ever, EVER go out there in them honky tonks and bars and play music for all the devil people.’

My dad looked at me, and he pointed to the parking lot.

I went out in that parking lot, and he whipped me like a grown man for sneaking out of the house and going and playing in that nasty little honky tonk.”

But it didn’t take long for Cody’s parents to eventually come around to his music dreams:

“Two years later my dad was the bass player in the band. He said, ‘You know what? You’re pretty good.’

I said, ‘Yeah I owe you one for that 356 Marina whipping I took. Son of a…”

Turns out it all worked out pretty well in the end. And all 20,000 of us “devil people” in Bridgestone Arena got to see the results of playing all those years in those dirty honky tonks and bars.

@whiskeyriff #codyjohnson #whiskeyriff #countrymusic #concert #Nashville ♬ original sound – Whiskey Riff

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock