Louisiana Captain’s Songs Making Waves on Music Row

Captain Joe Kent

Captain Joe Kent has one of the most unique jobs you can imagine for a country songwriter: He pilots giant 90-foot ships that often push two or three barges at a time across inland waterways from his home base near New Orleans to ports as far east as Florida, as far west as Texas, and as far north as Minnesota.

It’s a job not all that different from what Mark Twain was doing over 150 years ago, when Twain worked on and wrote about steamboats in the Mississippi River. But in large part thanks to some very modern technology that Mark Twain could only have dreamed of – Facebook videos of Joe’s songs – Joe Kent’s music is at long last starting to get heard along Music Row.

“I don’t do this for a living, I do it for fun,” Captain Joe says of his day job in a phone conversation as he prepares for another river voyage. “I get to drive a frigging boat. I’d do it for free.”

Happily he does get paid for this difficult and vital work, and early on Kent believed that the unusual work schedule of shipping, with 28 days and nights on board followed by a week or two off at home, would give him an ideal chance to pitch songs on Music Row between voyages.

But like countless aspiring tunesmiths for decades, most of what he encountered here for years was rejection.

“I was sending out 100 letters to Nashville each time I got home,” he said. “I would go broke running tape copies, giving tapes away and sending out demos.”

At first his wife was as excited as Joe was, but as the rejections kept piling in and chipping away at her husband’s pride, she got to the point she never wanted to hear anything else about music or Nashville.

“At one time I almost did quit songwriting,” he says. “But I don’t quit, because I just can’t.  I wrote my first songs at 7 years old. For many years, I wanted to be a songwriter but didn’t have nothing to write about. When I went thru my divorce, songwriting kept me sane. I went thru some wild times after I got divorced, and I went from having written a handful of songs to from 300-400.”

His greatest influences are Hank Williams Jr. and singers from the Outlaw Movement, such as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson. Captain Joe considers himself far more a songwriter than a singer, though his gritty vocals on autobiographical tunes like “Son Of The Highway” and “Dark Cloud Blues” are also strong and unique.

Hank Jr. is often known as Bocephus, so it’s not surprising that Joe sometimes bills himself as “Captain Jocephus.” Another of Joe’s heroes is the late, great Merle Kilgore, a prolific music publisher and songwriter (he co-wrote “Ring Of Fire”), who worked for years as Hank Jr.’s manager.

Kilgore had been a role model for Kent for years from afar, so naturally Joe mailed a package of his songs to Merle’s office. As usual, he didn’t hear anything back. But one Saturday afternoon when Captain Joe was ashore, he mustered up the nerve to phone Kilgore’s office.

“When the phone call went thru and Merle Kilgore answered it himself, man, it was cold chills went all over me,” Captain Joe recalls. “I introduced myself, and we had a great, awesome conversation. He gave me permission to submit 4 or 5 songs. Of course, the songs got turned down, but he called me personally afterwards and he was very supportive.”

Kilgore told Joe, “son, just keep on writin’ them songs. You never know, you just might write a No. 1 song.”

After years and years of rejection, that series of calls from Kilgore was enough to inspire Captain Joe Kent to keep writing and keep pitching forever. “Here’s a guy in that position that called me personally,” Joe still recalls, with a smile.

Kilgore, a fellow Louisianan who also charted 8 Billboard country singles as an artist including 1960’s Top 10 “Love Has Made You Beautiful,” died in 2005 at age 70.

Hurricane Katrina was a traumatic period on the Gulf Coast, and Joe’s next video “My New Orleans” was originally penned for the victims of Katrina. When the hurricane struck and devastated New Orleans, Captain Joe was on a boat doing government contract work on the inland waterways between Houston and Panama City, Florida. For several days, he couldn’t find out what had happened to wife or his home near New Orleans.

“I had a friend of mine pick me up off the boat at a bridge,” Joe says. “Despite sheriff’s orders that nobody go into that area, I went and found my wife and told her I was okay.”

His home and yard had suffered some damage, including the destruction of a chicken coop that left dozens of chickens squawking around the yard. For weeks, friends and neighbors had to use Joe’s swimming pool for bathing.

“My wife went 31 days without electricity. She lived off the eggs from the chickens,” Joe says. “I’d stop and get groceries on the way home, and would bring her bags of ice since we had no power for the refrigerators.”

Captain Joe Kent has lived a life that is in many ways like a country song. Now at last his own songs are being heard and his videos are being watched.

By Phil Sweetland



  1. Joe’s a terrific songwriter, and a great guy! Loves the real thing in music and in life, and can write about it. It’s a tough climb……….but a beautiful view no matter where you are on the mountain.
    See ya in the funny papers and at the top of the charts.

  2. Phil, I guess I’ve known you for about 20 years now. When we first met I had just got divorced and all my emotions were just flooding onto what otherwise would have been blank paper. Sometimes I would write 10 songs in a day. I had all of those lyrics on paper but no avenue to produce them so that they could be heard. You provided a valuable service in the production of demos for my songs so I could get them heard. I have lost count of how many were actually produced by you but we’ve had a blast doing it!! I miss those Georgia nights and hanging out with you, Miss Kitty and the boys in the band!! To any song writers that are looking for a demo service, Phil Coley provides good quality work at a reasonable rate with an excellent turn around time. You pay for a service and retain the copy rights to your songs!! Music is all that Phil Coley has ever done!!
    Thanks Phil-see you at the top of the charts

  3. hey joe , I know how hard you have worked submitting your songs, as the producer and singer of “son of the highway. I hope I have helped!

  4. I am so very proud of Joe Kent, he is very talented, and a good kind man. Thanks Nashville Music Guide.

    • Miss Nona, You were there right from the start and have been one of my biggest fans and supporters. You believed in me enough to trust me with a song you penned yourself for the production of a demo. I learned a lot with the production of that song. It is one thing to produce one of your own songs, it is quite another to produce someone else’s work. I was trying so hard to do as good a job as I was capable of that I nearly tried too hard. I did George on the Jukebox so many times trying to get it perfect that I was singing it in my sleep!! You will always hold a special place in my heart and I will always treasure your company on fb. You were also the first person I noticed that was posting my songs. I would go to News Feed and there would be one of my songs and I knew Miss Nona was on the computer. Thanks for spending some time in the wheelhouse with Captain Jocephus!! You keep on writing!! Pens up and I’ll see you at the top of the charts!!

    • Mr. Jeb, You are one of my favorite people in the world. Always a true country gentleman you have become one of my fb honky-tonk heroes!! When I grow up I want to be just like you!! In addition you are in my opinion a fb Icon that entertains countless people on the internet. Should there ever be a CMA award for top internet DJ, that award will surely be in your hands and you will forever have a place in the Jocephus Hall of Fame!! Folks, Mr. Jeb is the genius behind a ton of country slideshow videos and has created videos for me as well. This is the genius behind Back Porch Kind of Man, Life With a Grain of Salt and the latest My New Orleans videos!! Thank you Mr. Jeb for always being their for me, for all your advice and help!! See you at the top of the charts!! Captain Jocephus

  5. This article discribes a guy who really is a writer and singer for his own life and own the road work.
    I am glad to get an opportunity to know him through FB which I loved his music as soon as I got online with all his songs.
    He has without hesitation given me a poem due to my illness…I love reading his work and your article wrote about a man that it is time for Nashville to notice!

    • Miss Deb, you have been a wonderful fb friend and an exceptionally loyal fan and I thank you for taking the time to let folks know that you care a little something about me!! Folks I wrote a poem for Miss Deb that was dear to her heart. That is what writing for me is all about. No amount of fame or fortune can compare to having the ability to effect someone in a true and meaningful way!! Miss Deb you are a beautiful presents on my fb page and I thank you for being there-See you at the top of the charts!! Joe

  6. Capt Joe that was a very cool article it’s about time they recognize hour talent!! Keep it up it’s all about to pay off. I appreciate all your help over the years. Take it easy.

    • Captain Brad-You are yet another young man whom I have watched work his way up through the ranks to make a fine pilot. I have always enjoyed your sense of humor and am proud to see you doing good!! Thanks for stopping by and supporting me!! Keep up the good work my brother and I’ll see you on the one!!

  7. That was a cool article Capt Joe! Keep up the good work it’ll pay off!!! Thanks for all your help over the years!! Take it easy!

  8. Capt. Joe all that good u did for other people is now coming around for u. This is awesome and I do not think it could have happen to a better man. Thanks for all the help u have done for me. Congrats again, I remember those days on the old Richard Coen. Capt Smiley , U and Capt. Tommy them were the good days. There again Capt Joe Congrats u do deserve it.

    • Captain Brandon is more affectionately known as Big Country around here. Big Country I have watched you mature so much over the years. You have overcome a lot of obstacles and have made it to the top!! You have earned your salt and have shown us all that you are definitely Captain material!! Congrats on your recent promotion and thanks for all your support. You are like one of my young ‘uns and I am extremely proud of you!! Keep it in the ditch and I’ll see you on the one!!

    • Captain Billy-My Blue Blood Brother- You are a man of few words but those words always ring true!! Folks-for most of the time that I have known Captain Billy he has been a Port Captain assisting us from land (Aye-he was a land-lover) with our day to day operations. For a short time I worked in the office as Port Captain as well. Captain Billy is one of those guys that has an incredible amount of tact and always seems to know without any doubt or reservation what to say or what to do!! While I worked the Port Captain job I aspired to be as good as this man was at his job. I would often go to Captain Billy’s office and ask for advice and direction and he would always have an answer that included no maybes or mights- He was the one I went to when I was yearning for my return to the boat and the water and he helped me plot my course as he always does. I even think Captain Billy is a bit younger than me but when I grow up, I want to be just like him!! LOL!! As you know the sea is in our blood so Captain Billy and I are both back on the water running Captain. For you to say I’ve done a good job Captain Billy, that carries a lot of weight with me. It means that I have earned my salt-so break out the Rum when I get home and we’ll tell some lies!! Keep it in the river and I’ll see you on the one!! Captain Jocephus

  9. I found your songs and vids. by chance on a friends facebook. I had to listen to them, Because I had listen to my friend sing on one of your songs. It had been atleast 20yrs. since i heard him. Then I got to watching the rest of them . You do a fine job sir. Keep it up. I will keep my eye out for new ones. Nothing like good ole music, to bring back good ole times. Thanks Sis….

    • Sis, I saw you over there on our friend’s page commenting. Thank you for the lovely words!! I’ll be over there shortly to send you a friend’s request and will make the songs and videos available to you anytime that you are so inclined to spend a little time in the wheelhouse with Captain Jocephus!! I am glad that I am able to dredge up a few good old memories for you!! Blue skies and calm seas, Captain Jocephus

  10. Capt Joe is very talanted. Keep up the good work and it’s always a pleasure working with you.

    • Captain Scott, I have watched you come a long ways yourself brother!! Keep up the good work!! Thanks for the comment-See you on the one!! Captain Jocephus

  11. cool article joe. i remember the hurricane katrina trip well. we were riding together on the old m/v richard coen. you were my relief capt. sure miss riding with you and big e and letting you test your songs out on me. much good music & good times. keep it up. your towboat brother, capt.smiley.

    • Captain Smiley, My New Orleans was written on that Hurricane Katrina trip-The slideshow video for that song will be out some time today-I’ve already viewed the first draft of it and man is it cool!! I learned so much from you and have passed a lot of that on to others that I have trained so you and I both are creating legacies that will ride the tide long after our ship has sailed. For the ones that don’t know who Big-E is-well he’s the fellow in the pics with the greasy shirt on (he wishes that he would have changed) but he was after all my deckhand/tankerman/engineer/chief bottle washer at the time. Captain Smiley and I got him when he was just a quiet, shy, “green” deckhand. When I was promoted to Captain Big E went with me and has worked himself up through the ranks-he is now my Pilot-soon to be my Relief Captain and a future Captain of America!! He and Captain Smiley have always been there for me and are part of my Blue Blood family. It really means a lot Captain that you took the time to stop by and comment!! Keep it in the ditch and I’ll see you on the one!! Captain Jocephus

  12. First of all, I’m very happy for you, I’ve always knew this day would come. Phil compared you to Mark Twain, wow! You keep up the great work and song writing and some day you will make it big. Just think, we could be sitting at the house drinking beer listening to music that the famous Joe kent wrote, I can’t wait for the day. The article was great and I’m glad you shared it with me. Never quit the dream Joe, your almost there my friend and we all believe in you my friend. Love ya buddy!

    Tony Kruebbe

    • Tony, My Blue Blood Brother-since I’ve known you, all you do is work. You are a committed young man that I am proud to call a great friend. I guess you are my best friend!! Good things are coming your way as well!! I know if you want a job done and done right-call Tony and he’ll get’r done!! Yes, I agree the Mark Twain imagery was so flattering-you can’t pay someone to say something that cool about you!! We’ve been through a lot together buddy-some things we’ll talk about and some things are best forgotten (hell we can’t remember some of them anyway-That’s what we’ve got Neci for-to tell us all the stupid stuff we do when we get wild!!) Anyway I’m glad that you are a part of my life!! Jocephus!!

  13. Thanks to all the folks that made this happen, Joe and I are very proud to see this article. It is a very great article and down to earth. We appreciated all the comments that friends and fans have included. I love you very much Joe and keep up the good work, Neci, Hope to see more at the charts

    • Miss Neci, my beautiful wife-no one knows the chaos that you have faithfully followed me through all for the sake of my hopes and dreams. You are as faithful as the day is long eventhough you make no bones about telling me when one of my songs is not good. With me being emotionally tied to the song I can’t always tell and you give me the feedback that other folks are often too nice to articulate!! You have grounded me when my sea legs had me stumbling and my heart will forever be in tow with yours!! If I could hang the moon-I’d light up your bedroom!! I’ve got a couple more weeks before I get home so you’d better be eating your Wheaties-Yes folks-she is the hot woman referred to in the video and she always has cold beer!! As far as the ham sandwich-she always tells me “I ain’t your deckhand” to which I reply “It’s a good thing ’cause I’d hate to have to fire my own wife!!” LOL. If no one else in the world loves me I know Miss Neci does and if I really want a sandwich-she’ll fix it!! Pet my dogs for me darlin’ and I’ll see you soon-the count down has begun!! With all my love, Jocephus

  14. Hey mister can’t you see the stars in my eyes-I ain’t got no money-It’s either do it now or die-Moma cried when I left home and that caused a lot of pain-but one of these days when I’m well known-those tears won’t be in vain-So Drop Me Off In Nashville-with a guitar in my hands-I’ve been writing all these songs and I’ve got me a plan-one of these days I’m gonna make a million-I’m gonna make it son-just Drop Me Off In Nashville and watch me get it done…Yea just let me out right here boys!!

  15. I have never felt so much love in all my life!! I started the Facebook site for my own entertainment not realizing that I would be entertaining as well. Like the mighty Mississippi this God-given gift seeks it’s own course and outlet and flows surely to anchor on the hearts of the good people that appreciate it. The Nashville Music Guide has been a strong fair tide to steer me on a truer course to my destination. All the interesting and beautiful people that are and have been supporting me as well as the ones who have just come aboard since the story was made available are a refreshing breeze on an unclouded day in my navigation of this journey. I dearly love you all!! When the tide ebbs and my journey is complete it will be y’all that I will hold in my heart as I cross over the river to the guiding lighthouse on that distant shore!! My friends are increasing on Facebook as we speak as well as the views on YouTube (Son Of The Highway has nearly 1500 views). Thanks Nashville Music Guide for the awesome exposure and Phil for the charming picture that was painted of my story-it will always be a masterpiece at the helm of my ship!! Thanks to all the friends, family and fans that have helped row me through the troubled waters of chaos to the calm of the bay!! Peace be still!! You have given one Captain the gold that a thousand ships could never hold in their bellies!! Captain Jocephus

    • Colonel, I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Tug Boat Jerry but if he has a love of music and a love of the sea-I am looking forward to it. I’m sure I’ll run across him in some port some time or other!! Thanks for stopping by and checking out the interview- Keep it between the navigational beacons and I’ll see you on the one, Captain Joe

  16. Hey there Kevin, DJ, Sammy, Doris and Ken – – – – Delighted to see that the Captain has such a large and loyal “CREW” of fans!

    Super job!

    And thx gang for reading and supporting the Nashville Music Guide! Plz spread the word to other superb country and country radio fans!

    Safe travels and God bless – – –

    phil sweetland

  17. Hey little bro. Congrats, congrats, congrats!!! I knew you would do it someday. You are my hero!! Knew I should have married you 17 yrs ago. haha! tell Denise just kidding!!

    • This beautiful lady I have known for more years than I can count. She as been a precious influence through most of my life!! I could never relate how much you mean to me girl so’s I guess I’ll just say thanks until better payment comes your way!! Folks if you ever wanted to meet a lady that was just flat good to the core-here she is!! I love you-Joe

  18. I had the pleasure of working with Captain Joe for a few weeks and had the best time ever on a towboat. Joe is one of those people that everybody likes from day one! He runs his boat well and gets the work done and still have fun. I think if anybody deserves a break it is Capt Joe and it sure looks like its coming!!! Capt Joe you just might get some down time after all. Keep on doing what you love and keep those video’s coming. Always a friend…Sammy D.

    • Captain Sam and I recently shared a hitch together on the boat. I was playing my guitar one day and he liked what he was hearing. I showed him some videos and downloaded all the Jocephus songs to his computer. He asked me, ” Captain Joe with all this talent why can’t you get somebody to pick some of these songs up?” Well the next day I receieved a call from Phil Sweetland-Imagine that!! I guess your crystal ball was working that day Captain Sam. The crew and I really enjoyed having you on the boat- You are one crazy salty dawg and are welcome aboard any time!! Captain Joe!!

  19. Daddy would be out there rooting for me if i were in his shoes. Thank you so much for giving him this opportunity. This site will be cherished forever in our family.

    • Yes-it will be cherished!! Another family member jokingly-well maybe not so jokingly-commented to me the other day that it was great to see one of us becoming famous instead of infamous-LOL. Just so ya’ll will know-I do come from a good family but we are a bunch of redneck-outlaws and you know sometimes things get a little out of hand!! Thanks DJ for supporting your old man-Love Dad!!

  20. Capt Joe Kent does everything first class from keeping his crew busy and his Tow in tip top shape to “Pickin and Grinnin” Don’t stop Joe. Keep up the relentless pursuit my Blue Blood Brother

    • Kevin Flower’s-My Blue Blood Brother (that’s a company thing for those who don’t know) This man is one crazy Harley riding dude but has a heart of gold as big as the world. He will bend over backwards to help a friend. Kevin, you have been a great supporter and once you told me that SON OF THE HIGHWAY was the best song ever!! With all of the great songs out there-man what a compliment- I needed to hear that just about the time you said it!! You picked me up when it seemed the ship had hit the sand and my heart was sinking!! I’ll never forget that!! Relentless Pursuit-Jocephus!!

  21. Hey there Curtis Lyn, DJ, and Melissa – Thanks so much for being such great fans of Captain Joe, of country radio, and such superb readers of the Nashville Music Guide.

    It’s amazing fans like you who make this all worthwhile for us here in Music City, and it’s an honor to introduce Captain Joe’s music and incredible story to countless new fans all over the country and at country radio.

    Safe travels and God bless – – –

    phil sweetland

  22. Great Article about a Great Man. Joe Kent is a personal friend of mine and the funny part about that is, I’ve never met him. An awesome songwriter/singer, it’s a pleasure to me to see him receive the attention he so greatly deserves. Thank you NMG on behalf of every struggling artist out there. Thank you Joe Kent.

    • Curtis Lyn Cook is a great singer/songwriter/performer in his own right so his comment is extra special to me. He has a video entitled Outlaws that reminds me so much of me (ya’ll check it out on YouTube)!! I still have all my old vinyl records and I still love all the old outlaws. Curtis Lyn has been an inspiration to me and has given me advice when needed but more importantly he has been a friend and one of the rowdy friends that I hang out and raise hell with on fb. He’s just a good ‘ole boy that you can’t help but love. Outlaws has become one of my favorite videos/songs and Curtis Lyn Cook is my honky-tonk fb hero!!

  23. Daddy, I’m so proud of you. I have always loved your songs. Maybe one day we can both be known songwriters. I still need to learn how to play my “doodaloo.” I love you so much daddy.

    • DJ-Just remember T.O.I.-That means Time On Instrument-You naturally have it in your blood and I have been awed by some of the things you’ve written yourself. You and I have both seen enough storms in life and done enough living that we could write enough songs to fill the Grand Canyon!! It is a family tradition and you can do anything you want-you, like me are just hard-headed enough to do what they say can’t be done. I do so look forward to creating some songs together- I love you and I’m proud of you!!

  24. Hey there Captain Joe – – – Our pleasure. Keep up the great work, both on land and water, and hopefully soon on country radio!

    Safe travels and God bless – – –

    phil sweetland

    • I was on my way to being fb famous and a cyber-space celebrity-LOL-when ya’ll found me-Now my story is on the streets of Music City-Look out George Strait-I’m gonna take your job-LOL- I am now up close to 1600 views on YouTube and people are crawling out of the woodwork to support me. I never knew I could leave such a mark!! Just Drop Me Off In Nashville-Thanks for all that you and your crew have done for me-Pens up and I’ll see you at the top of the charts!!

  25. My thanks to the crew at the Nashville Music Guide. Randy and Joe the visionaries on a mission, the very talented Phil and of course the lovely Kymberly!! Ya’ll are doing a great service for the industry and for talent that otherwise might go unnoticed!! Thanks for your time and consideration-pens up and I’ll see you at the top of the charts!! Captain Jocephus


    • I’m not the least bit surprised. I had you pegged the first time I saw and heard you on a mutual friend’s fb profile. You are only going up…You’re music is that feel good kind of music, and I love it! See you at the top of the charts, my dear friend!
      Your Number One Fan!
      Tessa Brantley

      • Miss Tessa-Yes ma’am you have definitely been my #1 fan!! Folks this is a real classy lady but don’t let that fool you-she is so tough that I think as a baby she must’ve cut her teeth on a barbed-wire fence. Miss Tessa has posted my songs, gave me encouragement when no one on fb knew who I was and believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself!! Miss Tessa there is a special place in my heart for you-Pens up and I’ll see you at the top of the charts!! Btw-I know you like to say I told you so-and I’m proud to say-You were right!! Joe

    • Congrats Capt.Joe! I remember all those mornings coming upstairs, grabbing a cup of “jocaine” and grabbing a guitar for a few min before taking the sticks and handing the guitar off like a relay baton! LOL, I’m a fan you know, and co-conspirator to some of your song ideas. Good Luck Captain and I’ll see you on the one!

      • Captain Bryant was at one time my Relief Captain-I had to fire his a….I’m just kidding-We had a lot of great fun together and he has been a co-conspirator and even provided the vocals for some of the demos that we actually cut in the wheelhouse of a boat!! Check them out on his fb page!! Thanks for being a fan and I appreciate the comment-Keep it in the ditch and I’ll see you on the one!! Joe

    • Hi Captain Joe,, Great music my friend,,keep up the great work,,i’m getting it all ready to come down and camp, fish ,play music ,,oh I got me a drink of that jim bean to ,lol…

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