|What did you think would happen?|
I hoped it would go away, having an economics IQ of about 50 (laughs). After that marriage, I remarried, and I had learned a lot of lessons and I was just trying to climb out. My second wife was fine; she wasn't spending all the money. I eventually just got very deeply in debt and ended up owing the IRS a lot of money. I actually never got out of debt until the late '90s. I'm in decent shape now, and have been investing my money. I'm doing OK. I'm doing now like I should have been doing when I was 30 or 35.
|So you spent better than 20 years in debt?|
Yeah. And the thing is, it was only a few years ago that I got a good credit rating because I had IRS liens against property. I was in such bad shape that in 1988, I was so badly in debt�I mean, I had hits up through the early '80s, "He Stopped Loving Her Today" was 1980, several number one records. But I was in such terrible debt that I had to sell the writer's rights to my songs to my publisher Buddy Killen; not to the company but to him personally. I have to say, it saved my life, but at the same time, if I had it to do over, I would rather have lived in a little room and taken a bus to Music Row everyday than to have given up my copyrights. That's a precious thing to let go of.
|Did you ever come close to losing your house to foreclosure?|
Luckily, no. I had liens against the house, and eventually things got so bad in the '80s that I was just renting, having sold both my houses. I eventually bought the house I was renting because I like it. I still live there now. I never filed bankruptcy, never Chapter 11 or anything like that. Looking back on it, it may not have been a bad idea had I done that. I would rather have done that than give up my copyrights. That was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life.
|How deeply in debt were you?|
I've said half a million, but that's probably an exaggeration. So much of this was accumulated fines and penalties over the years, maybe even the majority of it. I wouldn't be surprised if it was like $350,000 or $400,000. And I owed my publisher almost that much, too. Of course, I got out of debt with the IRS a long time ago, and after (Toby Keith's 2001 country/rap hit) "I Wanna Talk About Me," I didn't owe my publisher anything. Everything I get for the past few years is free and clear.
|Thank goodness for hit songs, right?|
Got me into trouble, got me out.