Cloggers with shoes from hell at The Carter Fold

December 3, 2010

I’ve been going to the Carter Fold just across the Virginia state line from Kingsport almost as long as it’s been in existence–a one-of-a-kind acoustic performance center built and run by the First Family of country music. From the start, audience members have been welcome to get up and clog along with the songs. For years, people danced in whatever shoes they had on–sneakers, cowboy boots, work boots, and you name it. Now, however, cloggers are showing up with tap shoes designed to make as much noise as possible. Finally, a band said “Enough!”

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Raising money and killing hogs

November 21, 2010


Andy Holt was the president of the University of Tennessee from 1959-1970. He was a wonderful storyteller, and could charm members of the state legislature–some of whose vision of an academic lecture was a football half-time locker room pep talk–into supporting higher education. Here is one of his great stories. Read the rest of this entry »


The Price of Advice

November 19, 2010

I got a call the other day from a perky and friendly woman in New York City asking for advice about Tennessee. This made everything else I was doing leap to the back burner–I was all ears. She told me that she had tracked me down through this blog–O Bliss–and needed help. Even better. She later sent me an email, so I’ll let her tale her tale in her own words: Read the rest of this entry »


To Kill a Mockingbird: time for a remake?

May 26, 2010

The 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird is upon us, according to an article in The New York Times. This book has to be on anyone’s top ten list of Southern novels, and the reclusiveness of its author, Harper Lee, and her Truman Capote connection make it all the more intriguing.

Then there’s the movie. Released in 1962, it is remembered for great performances by Gregory Peck, who defined the Atticus character forever, and a young Robert Duvall, who played Boo Radley. The late playwright Horton Foote wrote the screenplay, the film won three Oscars, and was ranked number 25 on the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 movies.

I watched To Kill a Mockingbird a while ago for the first time in decades and, while again impressed by Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall, I found myself cringing at the awful performances by the child actors. Compared to, say, the superb youthful role-playing in the Harry Potter movies, the parts of Scout, Jem, and Dill come up far short.

It’s time for a remake. I would cast Tom Hanks as Atticus and, for old time’s sake, Robert Duvall as the judge. The other roles should be parceled out among the talented young actors of our time. Maybe Harper Lee could be enticed into a cameo.

A new cinematic To Kill a Mockingbird would make this wonderful story more approachable to modern viewers, would reinterpret a classic Southern novel, and get more people thinking about the timeless themes in the book.


The governor and road striping

May 24, 2010

The New York Times reports that there is a shortage of the specialized yellow and white paint that adorns highways. A lack of methyl methacrylate, an evidently vital ingredient in the paint, is the culprit.

This brings to mind a story I’ve heard about Frank G. Clement, governor of Tennessee from 1953-1959 and 1963-1967. Seems that Governor Clement, who championed road-building, had a political crony who had bought too much of the costly road-striping paint and was whining about what to do with it. The governor, according to the tale, grew tired of the complaining and said something to the effect of “Hell, paint lines down the outer edge of the lanes!”

This was done all over the state, and soon Federal authorities noticed a sharp decline in single-vehicle accidents on Tennessee highways. This, according the story, is why most highways now have stripes on their outer edges.

Governor Clement is better remembered for a histrionic speech he gave at the 1956 Democratic Convention, which prompted a young Red Smith of the Times to write a wonderful lead: “The young governor of Tennessee, Frank G. Clement, slew the Republican party with the jawbone of an ass here last night . . . .”

But that’s another story.


Tammy Wynette and Shag Carpet

March 7, 2010

Allison Glock reviews the new bio of Tammy Wynette, the country singer and antithesis of feminism, in the NY Times Book Review. While working through the antebellum mansions of Middle Tennessee, I came across the following Tammy Wynette story. From Tennessee Guy:

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Bootleg Turn

March 3, 2010

This blog began after I wrote four editions of Moon Handbooks Tennessee, a guidebook to the state that, for the most part, comprised the the most fun writing project I have ever done. Tennessee Guy was to be the storefront for my website, Tennessee Guy, which contains almost everything from my most recent 500-page edition. I no longer write the guidebook and don’t update the website, and my visits to Tennessee anymore are mostly to Kingsport, where my parents still live, so I’ve decided to take this blog in a different direction.

In the Thunder Road days of moonshining, a bootleg turn was a maneuver done to elude pursuing law enforcement officers. It involved making a high speed 180-degree turn, usually on a dirt road, that resulted in the pursued car suddenly reversing directions and heading straight toward the police car, which usually did not have the ability to turn so quickly. The bootleg turn bought time, and thus the bootlegger got away.

I actually perfected bootleg turns when we lived in Massachusetts, and would delight my offspring–and annoy my wife–on snowy days by driving down our street, pulling up on the emergency brake, and turning the steering wheel sharply to the left. Our car would smoothly slide around. I would usually stop at 90 degrees so as to turn into the driveway, but it was just as easy–and a lot of fun–to do a 180.

I am planning to write a memoir about growing up in Tennessee, so this blog will now do its own bootleg turn. While I will still address the occasional tourism topic, I plan to use this outlet as a place to share vignettes of people and places from the past. I’m always eager to hear from readers, so stay tuned in coming weeks to see the first entries.


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