It’s been a record breaking week for me at The South Will Blog Again. Thanks to your wonderful support, my two SEC Halloween costume posts have broken my all-time weekly site stats with three days to spare!
There’s just something about those SEC posts which brings out some of my better cartoons I think. Well we all know there’s a lot of good material. I also get a lot of search engine traffic whenever there’s a big game. Usually people searching for trash talking or fans looking for cartoons making fun of the other team. Well, I tend to be an equal opportunity satirist, so if you’ve come in because of that, welcome! Have a look around. There’s several posts and cartoons making fun of whatever team’s fans you’re looking for.
I’d also like to welcome the good people who follow Budget Blonde. I made a guest post there this week which you can read here. For all my new “Budget Buddies”, I don’t really have any decorating tips for you, unless you want to print these cartoons out and frame them. But I think that’d look quite nice.
So regular readers, football fans, and Budget Blondies, I have a special treat for you: a very Southern, and very topical, Alabama-LSU preview. I will make fun of both schools (while very aware they are both infinitely better at football than mine), prognosticate the game, and satirize the whole experience of what is clearly the National Championship, Part One.
I know a lot of people say they wish they were at this game, and I am no exception. However I have a real desire to observe the tailgaiting outside the stadium because it would provide for some very entertaining material for this blog. In what I’ll call the ultimate showdown of the Sidewalk Alums, or the “Concrete Bowl” if you will, you’ll have the infamous “Pimp Tailgate” of LSU facing off against the “Houndstooth Patrol” of Rammer Jammer Bammer. Imagine the obnoxious element of Mardi Gras crashing the party of the drunk element of the county fair. Should be amazing. Fights, fake fights, and drunken missed haymaker fights, are sure to ensue, and I won’t be there to see it! I’ve experienced both fan bases first hand. Although both bring the numbers and the rowdiness, I’m going to give Bama the home field advantage here. They will be able to “unleash the Houndstooth” and call infinite numbers of fans from across the state as reinforcements.
Alabama will win the “fight” and will also win the first half. It’s going to be a defensive struggle to say the least. More than likely LSU will manage a couple of field goals, after getting stopped in the Red Zone a few times, while Alabama will muscle themselves in for one rushing touchdown.
There are people reading this who will either completely agree or completely disagree with this satirical post right now. I’m going to envision them as “The Guys in Official Coach’s Polos”. I would much prefer to hear two guys like this call the game than Brent and Herbie. Could you imagine it? Every play would cause our “announcers” to have tantrums, meltdowns, loud cheering, singing, referee denouncing, accusations of cheating, inventive cursing, and all manner of 4th grade humor. I’m telling you: ratings through the roof.
In any event whether up at halftime or down at halftime, Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban will have the same demeanor. Annoyed, and ready to explode at his players.
In the second half I envision a much more offensive game. Both teams have a tendency to start out strong in the second half. Alabama will manage another touchdown and a field goal giving them a 17-6 lead. But in the 4th quarter I see LSU managing a passing touchdown with one of their seven (is it now?) quarterbacks, whichever one is not suspended. Then near the end of the game they will force a fumble for a defensive touchdown, winning the game 20-17.
The official LSU Coach’s Polo Guy will agree with my drawing, while the Alabama one will accuse me of drawing for Auburn. Oh well. In any event, the State of Louisiana will burn down in celebration, while half the population of Alabama will jump off of tall buildings.
And at the end of the telecast Erin Andrews (see, I know how to draw ratings) will interview LSU coach Les Miles on “how he did it?” He will of course have no idea (he never does), but the little blade of grass will.
But the real winner will of course be my site stats.
EDIT: When I wrote this, the College Gameday telecast and the late start tricked me into thinking this would be on ABC and not CBS. Oh well, I’d rather draw Erin Andrews than Verne Lundquist for the record.
First of all, thank you so much for the tremendous response to my previous Halloween SEC costume cartoons! My site stats jumped quite a bit yesterday, largely due to the efforts of many of y’all in re-posting and tweeting my piece. I got a lot of positive feedback and questions as to why I didn’t do the rest of the conference.
Well, first of all, I only thought of the Halloween post at the last-minute and wanted to get it out in time. Second, I ran out of ideas and drawing energy. Last of all, I didn’t know it was going to be so popular. So in any case, last night and today I worked up the rest of the SEC even if we are a bit late for Halloween. You can always use these costume ideas to make a fool of yourself on ESPN “College Gameday”.
So without further ado, here are the rest of the costumes…
Much has been made in the news lately about the usefulness (or lack thereof) of a college degree. Thankfully there are schools in the SEC that train their students to succeed in any economy and now you can look like them. You can dress like the Arkansas graduate I call “Chop Sooooooooey!” He can call the Hogs and deliver Chinese takeout menus to your door or car windshield. All you need are overalls (we know all Arkansas grads have those), a Chinese straw hat, and a novelty pig snout. Bonus points if you know what those Chinese characters spell.
Then there is Mississippi State. I bet even in their graduation ceremonies they make a real effort never to look too fancy, less they be mistaken for “one of them school up north there” folks. To pull off this look all you need is a graduation cap and gown. Make sure you cut the sleeves of the gown (sleeves are for preppies)! Then to complete the look, take a Chick-Fil-A coupon calendar and write the word “diploma” on it. Trust me, these are what they hand out at State. Truly a useful, and delicious degree.
Believe it or not there are a couple of schools in the SEC that do not care about football. Yeah I know, I find it shocking and despicable too! But now with my help you can mock/pay tribute to Kentucky and Vanderbilt. To do either, you need to modify the old solar system costume idea. You can borrow one from one of your kids or younger brothers or sisters.
For Kentucky, simply replace the image of the sun with a large cutout of a giant basketball. Then have all the orbiting “planets” be sports that UK does not care about, which is every sport except for basketball. Thus, you have become the Kentucky Athletic Department.
The Vanderbilt version is even easier since it requires less sporting equipment. Just change the Kentucky basketball into a large ping-pong ball. Write the words “intermural and athletic department” and don’t forget your paddle. You might even be the life of the party as your costume can lead to a rousing game of “human beer pong”.
Have you noticed a lot of people have been talking about the LSU-Alabama game this weekend? If you haven’t noticed and are living in the South I’m going to have to kindly ask you to leave. In any event, the #1 and #2 teams in the SEC and the entire country (which is a bit redundant since this is true every year) are playing one another. In fact, they are even in the same West division. Want to know what no one is talking about? Who is going to win the East division and play one of them at the end of the year.
So whether you are a South Carolina or a Georgia fan you can stand up and force people to take notice with your Cannon Fodder costume. It’s a variation of a costume I saw online, whereby a guy cut holes in his shirt and placed two I-Pads underneath to look like he had a hole in his body. For the SEC version, simply dress in your usual SC or UGA game attire and cut holes in the shirts and put the I-Pads underneath. For added effect you will want to carry a cannonball with the logo of either LSU or Alabama. Your costume will bring attention to the “also rans” and remind people that the path to the SEC crown runs through, over, and around, South Carolina or Georgia.
I got several queries as to why I did not cartoon my alma mater Ole Miss. People probably thought I was avoiding the subject due to our horrendous season and embarrassment of a football program. But honestly, the opposite is true. I am planning to devote a special issue on this site all about what is wrong with my school. In the meantime I bring you a group costume idea that details the main source of discontent in Oxford.
The Four Horsemen of the Ole Miss Apocalypse
“Administration” – Dress in a business suit, and place headphones over your ears, and a blindfold over your eyes. Now you will look like an administration that fails to see and hear alumni discontent.
“Athletic Director” – Take the usual Daniel Boone/Davy Crockett costume and add a few pieces of Ole Miss regalia. You can then be Athletic Director Pete Boone. Our Boone is himself a trailblazer. He always finds new ways to screw up the athletic department and anger the fans.
“Coach” – You can embody the “genius” of Houston “We have a problem winning” Nutt. Take any Houston sports team jersey, and combine it with a pair of khakis and white sneakers. Then add a stupid hat of a peanut or other kind of nut. You will look like a complete moron, but so does Houston Nutt every weekend.
“Bear” – You too can be the college mascot nobody wanted. Simply wear “Grove attire”, add a pair of black gloves, and cut out a bear mask from a box of children’s cereal. Then go around at parties and annoy people. Bonus points for showing up at a party you weren’t invited to.
THE NEW GUYS
As you may know the SEC expanded recently. This caused the conference to expand into two new television markets and also caused my hand to cramp up as I had extra cartoons to draw. Neither Texas A&M nor Missouri has been in the conference long enough for me to give them the proper TSWBA treatment but here is my attempt.
Dress as a stereotypical Aggie or Mizzou fan and make sure you take your “trick or treat” bags/buckets. Then go door to door to every SEC school and major Football TV network and beg for a little change. Bonus points if you steal the candy from a Texas fan.
Okay folks, that wraps this up. I drew about 24 cartoons in 3 days so I think I’m going to rest awhile, lest I get “Cartoon Tunnel Syndrome”.
As I post this it’s Halloween. Many of you are planning to hand out candy, go trick-or-treating , or head to a Halloween party and you are in need of a clever costume. But since budgets are tight, time is running out, and last-minute creativity is difficult to pull off, you are in a bind. Well thankfully Southern Blogger is here to help you with some simple, last-minute costumes.
As I mentioned earlier, we’re going to do a few special things on The South Will Blog Again over the next few weeks. The contest winner “So you wanna be…a Southern Pageant Winner” is in the works, and I just completed a guest post for Budget Blonde that will be linked here on Friday. So since we have a few days with no planned posts, and Halloween being quite topical, I thought we could have some fun with the holiday (and at the expense of some SEC schools) in a short little post called…So you wanna be an SEC fan for Halloween?
– Southern Blogger
As I mentioned earlier, clever costumes are quite hard to pull off at the last-minute. However, I came up with a few ideas that some of you might want to consider for Halloween. Most of them are quite easy and will only require the expense of some poster board, glue, and markers.
If there’s one thing SEC fans love, its bragging about their championships (if they have any). The fans of the most recent national champions, Auburn University are no exception. Perhaps you are an Auburn fan or alum, and you want to pay tribute to your team’s glory run last year. The problem is, national champions t-shirts are clichéd, and you don’t have the body to look like a cheerleader or football player. Have no fear, because YOU can look like the real reason for all the victories. Simply dress in your “Sunday best” and buy a package of Fig Newtons. Remove or eat the newtons and replace them in the package with wads of cash. The combination of Newtons and cash spell victory for War Damn Eagle U. and you can impress your friends by dressing as an Auburn booster.
Of course if national championships are what a college education is all about to you, perhaps you should dress as an Alabama fan. Now the easiest way to be an Alabama fan is just to dress in a ridiculous amount of houndstooth and act like a moron. But that’s done about 90,000 times every week. To truly be unique I suggest you dress as “thirteen titles”. Here’s what you do: Bust out your finest Alabama sweat suit or track suit, and simply cut out and past the names of thirteen book titles such as “The Grapes of Wrath” or “Last of the Mohicans”. You will notice in the cartoon example below I included thirteen titles, and a few of them were even made up.
Sometimes like in the case of Auburn or Alabama it’s okay to go with an obvious joke. The key is to twist it to give it a new angle or make it a bit better. Another case in point is to go as a Florida Gator fan. Now of course any self-respecting person making fun of Florida on their blog is going to go with a “jorts” reference, and I am no exception. But here’s the twist…you can combine the Florida cheer of “Gator bait” and the concept of “jail bait” with this irresistable costume pictured below. All you need is a ratty t-shirt and jorts (which any Florida fan owns plenty of), and a stuffed plush alligator (ditto), and a tube of lipstick. Hopefully you’re successful enough with the ladies to not have to apply the kiss marks yourself, but if you are a jorts man in Gainesville I’m thinking you’ll do just fine there.
Speaking of ridiculous things let’s talk about Tennessee fans. Now the average Vols fanatic I’ve met tends to be a nice sort of person. They just seem to be a bit strange in their devotion to giant “T’s and the color “eye blinding orange”. Have you ever gotten behind a car, truck, or SUV driven by a Tennessee fan? If there’s one thing you can say about them they are not the least bit ambiguous about their loyalties. Like their Sunday faith, the Saturday worshipful in the Volunteer state tend to be a bit fundamentalist and charismatic. So you too can recreate this hilarity by dressing as a Tennessee fan’s windshield. Simply dress in your favorite blaze orange ensemble, and cut armholes in a large piece of poster board (or a novelty check if you are going for the Humvee look). Then simply decorate each and every square inch of the “windshield” with “Power T’s” and other Vols propaganda and voila!
But what if you want to celebrate Halloween with a group costume? Well then, you’ll have to go for the one SEC school that takes elaborate costuming and makes it an art form. Of course I’m talking about the folks who are famous for their purple and gold Robin hood getups, jester costumes, and “pimp tailgate”, none other than LSU. Only a school that celebrates Mardi Gras each and every saturday and can intimidate their rival fans while wearing purple tights can pull off a truly team oriented costume. So for my suggestion for a LSU themed costume I came up with the “centi-beads”. You take the concept of a human centipede, and Mardi Gras beads and combine them for the ultimate costume sure to land you a four second camera shot on the CBS game of the week. Simply get your friends together and have them alternate between purple and gold jumpsuits, and then have each carry a kickball or beach ball in alternating purple and gold. The key then is to sit together, walk together, tailgate together, and even go to the restroom at the same time, to keep the effect. While it is quite difficult to pull off I have no doubts your average Tiger fan can rise to the occasion. After all you have to outdo Alabama!
I hope you enjoyed this little piece and have a safe and happy holiday! Check back in Friday for the link to my guest post.
– Southern Blogger
This is the part of my weekly blog where I get to make excuses for why I self-published so late, even though A) this isn’t for school, B) is not something I’m getting paid for, and C) not really a big deal to be late (except to my friend Jaci, a loyal re-poster who hates when I’m late). But I get to tell you some of the things I did each week that pushed my blog back. This week I took my niece to the zoo for her birthday, caught a cold, and also caught the baseball pennant race in person. So, I didn’t get to cartoon until Thursday, but I think you’ll like some of the ones I came up with.
This week’s topic is yet another “horizon expander” as I take on a topic I normally don’t write about. I will be discussing and satirizing the wonderful world of television chefs from a Southern perspective. During the past decade TV Cooking went from an obscure public access style exercise into a big cable TV ratings bonanza thanks in no small part to several Southern cooking personalities. So it’s definitely topical, “Dixiefied” enough, and thus ripe for The South Will Blog Again treatment.
Thing is the only Food Network show I like to watch is Italian themed, and well I’m not much of a cook (I’m sure you can figure out which show I’m loyal to). In any case, although I’m not a “Foodie”, I do in fact enjoy devouring Southern cuisine, and I think I’ve noticed the thing about our food and culture which makes our people do so well on Food TV. It’s kind of like my post about Southern writing only far more delicious. So without further rambling ado I bring you…So You want to be a Southern TV Chef?
– Southern Blogger
If You Have to Die of Something, it Might as Well be Jambalaya
According to doctors and nutricians it’s pretty dang dangerous to grow up in the South. We are rated as the most obese region of the country and all the delicious things we like to eat contain copious amounts of “bad stuff” like salt, grease, sugar, and butter. I think those are the four Southern Food Groups. Also, when it comes to our food, if it can be tried it’s been fried. Our national (yeah I said national) dish is Barbecue, and we like to wash it down with generous amounts of that “Champagne of Dixie” Sweet (and oh so sugary) Tea.
So is this blog post going to be a treatise on health food and the dangers of an obese America?
No…ha ha, that’s not what we do here. In fact, if you MUST die of something it might as well be Southern food…fried chicken, BBQ, pork ribs, brisket, hush puppies, mac and cheese, fried catfish….and on and on and on.
We have excellent cuisine down here and it didn’t take the TV execs long to figure that out. But the key to Southern cuisine and Southern anything is authenticity. I may sound like a broken Hank Williams record, but I’m going to say that every week if I have to. There is what the rest of America THINKS the South is and what the South REALLY is. As always I’m here to lampoon both. But it any case, real Southern cuisine is as good as it is because it comes down to us from the ages.
The Gospel According to Justin
Sounds biblical don’t it? Like our music, Southern food reflects a society that is far more racially and ethnically diverse than the rest of America realizes. Our cooking reflects West African, French, Native American, British, and Mexican styles. It is the same blend of cultures, classes, and regions which produced blues, Gospel, country, jazz, and rock music we discussed two weeks ago, and the literature we talked about last week.
If you are lucky enough to be invited over to a Southerner’s house for dinner, and I’m talking about one who can really cook, pay close attention. When a Southerner is cooking, they aren’t just cooking, but showing and telling their family and regional history. You can learn why something is cooking a certain way, or eaten on a certain day, or the religious or cultural customs behind a dish.
Pay close attention to any cookbooks. A real Southern cookbook won’t be fancy. It won’t be purchased at Barnes and Noble and especially not Cracker Barrel. In fact, the word “Southern” won’t appear on the cover since it shouldn’t have been purchased at all (much like Johnny Cash never had to sing about how Southern he was). What a real Southern cookbook will look a lot like is a five generations old family Bible. And the analogy isn’t too far off. You’ll see various hand written recipes and notes from relations long since passed away. The pages will be browned and torn. The binding will be held together by threads and “West Virginia chrome” (Duct Tape).
Point being, any authentic Southern TV chef got to be where he or she was because of the people who came before them. You can be sure that their food, if truly Southern, was bequeathed to them by others who could never imagine that their folkways and foodways would one day make millions. If the TV chef is any good, they’ll keep true to that.
The first and greatest of all Southern TV chefs represented this best. His name was Justin Wilson. If anyone deserved to live forever it would be him, but sadly he passed away a few years ago. You might remember he had a cooking show years ago on PBS. He always wore his red suspenders, jeans, and some sort of Western style tie. If you could invent a person who looked like the embodiment of Louisiana it would be him.
What made Justin Wilson cool wasn’t just his fantastic cooking, or his trademark look, or Cajun accent. It was his love for his people. When you watched Wilson’s show you didn’t just get a cooking lesson, but the stories behind Cajun cuisine and a little about the dialect, legends, and culture that they contributed to America. Wilson loved cooking not just because he wanted to share his food, but because he wanted to keep his family culture alive. It was his duty to do so “I guarantee it”.
Did you know one of Southern Blogger’s good friends (also listed on the blog roll) bounced on Justin Wilson’s knee as a baby? It’s true as her mother was his ophthalmologist. That’s the second coolest family story of hers next to having a great-great grandfather smoke a poltroon in a duel.
The Secret Ingredient is Love
Wilson showed America just how much Southern cooking is a labor of love. To me nobody better shows that Southern love for cooking today than the Neelys. I’ve watched “Down Home with the Neelys” a few times. I immediately caught two things: First, I don’t think there’s a married couple on TV real or fictional more in love with each other than these two. Maybe the key to their bliss is the family who bakes together stays together. The second thing I’ve noticed is they are the kind of people I’d like to be invited to church by because you know you’d find some salvation when they invited you home afterward for supper. It should also be pointed out that like other great Southern cooks you have to have a fine pedigree. When your father (and father-in-law) is the proud founder and owner of Jim’s Interstate Barbecue in Memphis, you are bound to be a dang good cook.
While the Neelys have great personality when one thinks Southern TV chef and personality one thinks of Miss Paula Deen. Paula Deen is her own institution now, well on her way to Southern Mogul status like Oprah Winfrey. Yet she created her empire from the bottom, making lunches and starting a family restaurant as a young divorcee at a time when being young, divorced, and a Southern female left one few options.
I think behind the “y’alls” and the “mmmms” and the paeans to butter is the story of a survivor. Through sheer personality and force of will this Southern lady has risen from obscurity to mega stardom. When I first saw her on TV she reminded me of several friends’ aunts. In fact all of us have two or three aquaintances much like Paula Deen. But that was her secret, to get on TV, be herself, and remind everyone of their Southern aunt. That takes a lot more business savvy than meets the eye.
Paula Deen’s cooking, and indeed the cuisine of our entire region has come under attack recently. But what else is new? Just about everything Southern tends to get attacked by those who don’t understand it. The thing to remember about our buttery, sugary, fried region of the country is moderation. Much like a glass of fine Southern bourbon won’t make you howl at the moon, Southern food eaten in moderation won’t kill you neither. In fact, it’s a lot better for you than eating potato chips, fast food, and TV dinners. It is in short, comfort food, and it is indeed comfort for me. Any time I’ve spent a significant amount of time away from the South (anything more than three days is significant) the first thing I do when I get back home is get me some Southern cooking. After the first bite of corn bread and first sip of sweet tea, I’m back…and everything is right with the world again!
I’m glad to have brought you this three part series. Next week we shift gears again and return to my “How To” guides with…HOW TO SURVIVE DRIVING THROUGH SOUTH GEORGIA. I won’t be late too this time, I promise.
It’s good to be back again friends. This week we will leave the SEC and begin a new series. And this week, I’m back on track (sort of) making my Monday deadline. I’m sure many of you think Southern Blogger can pop out cartoons and stories in a hurry (or my inflated ego assumes that), but you may be surprised to know he often suffers from writer’s block (and also suffers from the habit of referring to himself in the third person). So here I am on this virtual cartoon barstool, for this week’s post, attempting to figure out how to write a good country song.
It ain’t easy.
Sure it’s easy enough to write a clichéd country song. “My woman left me for my dog and I have no beer…wait…I have no truck to find a woman…no the woman drove the truck to run over my dog….no no…I don’t have a dog or a truck but my woman looks like one….”
See…even that’s pretty tough…and I’m running out of ink and bar napkins.
Of course, if I was a crass commercial country music fan I could churn out a song pretty easy. I could brag about how country I am in the suburbs of Nashville, or could write about honky badonkadonks (thereby officially burying a slang word), or could glean from the latest pop styles and throw in a faded steel guitar to pass it off as country.
Yeah I could do that, and make a lot of dough, and I could also draw smiley faces on celebrities, charge you for the privilege and call it a blog…
But I have too much integrity for that and so do you gentle readers!
Nope, we’re going to go deep into our Southern roots and our grandparents’ record collections and discover what makes a REAL country song…one that has heart, brings tears, raises cane, and will last for decades.
For that we need to understand what makes a real country song and singer work.
– Southern Blogger
(Click any Picture to Enlarge)
Sharecropper’s Sons and Coal Miner’s Daughters
If I had to put the key to a good country music performance into one word it would be “authenticity”. Country music is about life; its joys and sorrows, ups and downs, wild times and hangovers. It is one of two musical genres that sum up the self-contradictory nature of Southern culture. The other form of music that does this is blues.
In reality country and blues are at their roots the exact same music. To me a good country artist is a white man who sings the blues, and a good bluesman is a black man who sings a country song. The point being they are the same genre (one Scotch-Irish twang and the other West African call and response) segregated by record labels back in the day. Consider that Ray Charles’ “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” owes a lot to Hank Williams, and Hank Williams owed a lot to the black bluesmen he listened to in Alabama, who in turn borrowed from Appalachian Irish balladeers, who in turn owed a lot to African rhythm and so on and so on… (I will devote an entire piece to the blues at a later date).
Good country singers also come from somewhere. And that “somewhere” is usually nowhere. We only know of Dyess, Arkansas because of Johnny Cash, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee because of Dolly Parton, and Butcher Hollow, KY because of Loretta Lynn. These artists escaped the sharecropping, economic depression, and isolation of their communities yet never entirely “left” home. They struck out to survive, but would never have made it without their home experiences. Seeing the key to the contradiction here? Even some of the best “country” music can come from “un-country” places. (See: Springsteen, Bruce/ New Jersey).
The Wild Side of Life
Good country music reflects the heart of America. It also reflects its dark underbelly. Country artists often write of dark times and dark places precisely because they have been to those dark places themselves. Many of the most famous country stars (and stars of any genre for that matter) have been self-destructive. Their lives are often sad, we wonder what went so wrong for them, we lament the wasted talent, yet also forget that the very trouble, pain, and heartbreak that destroys such lives and wastes such talent produces compelling lyrics. Again, we are self-contradictory people.
Take George Jones for example. I dare anyone to find a more authentic voice out there. George Jones has lived a thousand lives and you can hear them all in his voice. He grew up in the roughneck parts of East Texas, survived the chair throwing honky tonk scene, a stint in the Marine Corps, and the trouble that follows young stars who make it big quick in Nash Vegas. The man’s blood is made up of one half Jack Daniels and the other half sorrow. He is our genre’s Keith Richards. And he has survived, thrived, and been to hell and back.
Consider the heartbreak that comes through in the songs “The Grand Tour” and “He Stopped Loving her Today”. Others may have written his songs, but the listener suspects that George at least lived them. The rocky love and hate relationship between Jones and erstwhile wife and fellow legend Tammy Wynette is also quite compelling in song. She tried to change him, he drunkenly refused, she threw away his car keys, and he drove to the liquor store on a lawn mower. You can say Tammy Wynette was wrong to “stand by her man”, but you forget how tough Southern women are. George may have thrown bottles at her, but you can be sure she picked them up and threw them right back!
Seeing the Light after Saturday Night
No one better illustrates the pain, suffering, and lost promise of a life cut short than country music’s greatest legend Hank Williams. Dead by 29, Hank wrote so many chart topping, genre creating, standard setting songs, he has gone down in history as the “Hillbilly Shakespeare”. Doubtless many of Hanks fans, most of who came to know him in song decades after his passing glory in the life and lyrics of country music’s original outlaw. But they’re only hearing half of the lyrics…
The key to understanding Hank Williams and indeed to unlocking much of the enigma of Southern culture is to understand that after Saturday night comes Sunday morning.
Hank Williams may have “Honky Tonked” with a “hot rod Ford and a two dollar bill” and “bawled his woman out every night after loving her every morning” but he paid the price. And he told you in song. Hank understood he was a sinner and that sin was punished. Whether through divorce proceedings, custody battles, hangovers, and heartbreaks, he paid a price for his exploits. And in song you also hear of hope…hope of forgiveness and redemption through an authentic religious belief. He lived it up on Saturday night but on Sunday morning he “Saw the Light”.
Staying True to what (Pigeon) Forged You
You don’t have to necessarily be a hell raiser in order to be an authentic country star. Some stars have stayed true to their Sunday school raising their entire careers and have been no worse off for it musically. Take for example Dolly Parton. Dolly’s career has spanned over four decades. She started out as a talented duet partner, then branched out as a chart topping pop country solo artist, then became a movie star, then entrepreneur, and finally has returned to her roots (do wigs have roots? I think so) to just plain be Dolly again (not that there was ever anything plain about her). She has kept the same husband, stayed out of trouble, made millions for her hometown, and has never lost that sass and class that makes her the spiritual embodiment (okay you can throw a joke in here if you must) of Southern womanhood.
Consider this…her partner and mentor for years on the country scene was the king of hillbilly “bling” Porter Wagoner. Porter discovered Dolly when she was a shy country girl and turned her into a big star. She eventually left on her own but penned the tune “I Will Always Love You” as a tribute to him. It is one of the greatest country love songs of all time, and it was about a platonic relationship.
Image isn’t Everything (Outside of Music Row)
Whether you “Walk the Line” or are the type that would rather “shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die”, to be an authentic country voice you have to be somebody rather than just play somebody. Take for example Johnny Cash. Now Johnny Cash didn’t exactly live out each and every word of his songs. Had he done so he’d have been doing far more concerts at Folsom Prison since he’d have been doing life there. The key to Johnny Cash and why he has nearly universal appeal is his empathy.
Cash may not have been locked away in San Quentin, but he’d spent enough days in jail to know what it meant to be behind cold, steel bars. He wasn’t a forgotten Pima Indian war hero like Ira Hayes, but he knew the highs and lows of going from obscurity to fame back to obscurity. He’d been a sharecropper’s son, seen his brother die young, spent lonely nights abroad, fought internal demons, popped pills, smashed out lights and bottles, and lived to tell about it. He could preach to the sinners because he knew he was as big a sinner as them all.
If someone asked me what America “sounds like” I’d put a Johnny Cash record on as the soundtrack. His voice connects us to our past yet remains for all times. Yet many of today’s “country” stars, some of them quite “Big” and quite “Rich” simply want to CASH in on the “man in black” logo, the aura, the “street cred”. But you can’t become Johnny Cash in a Music Row studio, GQ photo shoot, or mall kiosk. You have to LIVE it.
So friends, to write a good country song, observe the world, experience it, empathize, then sit down, and spill your troubles (just try not to spill your Beam). If we can learn to do that, we can all write our own country song…LIFE. Oh…and go grab me some more bar napkins please.
Thanks again for reading!
– Southern Blogger
NEXT WEEK: So you Want to Write…a Southern Novel