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Archive for January, 2012

I’m delighted to post Gregg’s review here on Renegade South. If by chance you’re not familiar with Doctor G and the Mudcats, you can hear them perform  “Jones County Jubilee” on my website.  

Vikki Bynum

MARK TWAIN: WORDS AND MUSIC
By Gregg Andrews
Published on January 24th, 2012

Less than two years ago, I retired from my day job in Texas, packed my guitars and coffee-stained song lyrics sheets, and headed home–back to the muddy, swampy roots of my music and writings–back to the Mississippi River–back to Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain’s “white town drowsing in the sunshine of a summer morning.” One of the first things I did once I got settled was to pay a visit to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum to see Curator Henry Sweets, an old high school friend of mine, and meet Executive Director Dr. Cindy Lovell. Much to my pleasant surprise, the Museum was hosting a Smithsonian exhibit on Americana music at the time, and I was delighted to discover the Museum was sponsoring a summer series of popular music concerts downtown.

I was even more thrilled to find out a CD tribute to Mark Twain was in the works–to be produced by Nashville’s Grammy Award-winning producer, singer/songwriter, and musician, Carl Jackson. Dr. Lovell had recruited Jackson for the project to mark the 100th anniversary of Twain’s death and to raise badly needed funds for the non-profit Museum. Although she hadn’t been in touch with Jackson for thirty years, they’d been friends since 1968, when they met at a show where he was playing banjo for Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys. In 2003, Jackson had also produced a Grammy Award-winning country tribute to Ira and Charlie Louvin–Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin’ Brothers.

What a wonderful way to bring together popular music, the academic world, and all those who appreciate the literary, cultural, and political legacies of Mark Twain, I thought. This would be no easy task, to be sure. At first, I must confess, I was a bit skeptical about how a Nashville country/bluegrass producer, even one with such a sterling reputation, would treat America’s quintessential author who also happened to play the piano and guitar. How would Jackson express through music the many sides of Twain–the restless world traveler, the trickster (Tom Sawyer), and failed entrepreneur who on the one hand sought wealth but who on the other was a social critic with a big heart, conscience, and humanitarian spirit (Huckleberry Finn)?

Twain was anything but “politically correct” by today’s standards or by the standards of his own day. He drank too much, smoked too many cigars, and was too cynical about politics and religion to suit many. In ways he might be called an OUTLAW who didn’t let protocol and conventional literary boundaries stifle creative expression. He lived his dreams, broke a lot of rules, and often thumbed his nose at form and style. Though he was highly popular and successful, his coarse language and use of dialect shocked some of his more genteel contemporaries. His use of racial dialect and irony to criticize the racism that saturated the era has even led to recent attempts to ban Huckleberry Finn from classrooms and libraries, and, sadly in my opinion, to the publication of a new sanitized edition. A master of satire in an age dominated by Robber Barons and those who did their bidding in Washington, D.C., Twain used humor brilliantly and “a pen warmed up in hell” to lay bare the hypocrisy of those in positions of power, whether in corporate boardrooms or the United States government.

Somewhere tonight Twain must be lighting up an Old Fisherman cigar, strumming his guitar, and throwing back a shot of Old Crow, tickled to death about the release of Mark Twain: Words & Music. Accompanied by a forty-page booklet, this double CD uses a spoken word/song format reminiscent of Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway (Music Road Records, 2007), a recent CD tribute to Woody Guthrie produced by singer/songwriter Jimmy LaFave and featuring a number of Texas’s finest songwriters and musicians. The creative brilliance of Carl Jackson resonates throughout the tribute to Twain. First, Jackson tapped his Nashville connections to assemble some of the industry’s most successful singer/songwriters to perform the thirteen songs on the CD–Emmylou Harris, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Rhonda Vincent, Bradley Walker, The Church Sisters, Sheryl Crow, Brad Paisley, Marty Raybon, Val Storey, Vince Gill, Joe Diffie, Ricky Skaggs, as well as Jackson, himself. Jackson either wrote or co-wrote six of the songs, some of which were written for the CD. Sheryl Crow sings a fabulous A cappella version of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” the only song from Twain’s era on the tribute.

Each song follows a segment of Dr. Lovell’s (co-executive producer) skillfully crafted narrative and voices from Mark Twain’s life and writings. The voices feature star-studded talent: Jimmy Buffett (Huck Finn), Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor (Narrator), actor Clint Eastwood (Mark Twain), and Angela Lovell (Susy Clemens). Buffet, Eastwood, and Lovell give moving deliveries of the voices they represent, and Garrison Keillor does an outstanding job of narrating in his vintage down-home, folksy storytelling way. For Buffet, who has acknowledged Twain’s influence on his music, the voice of Huck seems a particularly good fit–a role he seems to relish and is well-suited for, given his life of songwriting, travel and adventure, and love of the sea. Like Twain’s writings, Buffett’s songs can be mischievous and fun loving yet also introspective, sensitive, and deeply philosophical.

As someone who spent a good deal of time in my younger days running lines on the Mississippi River at night, camping on the sandbars, or coon hunting on some of the river’s darkest islands in the Hannibal area, I especially like the way the CD captures the Mississippi. Set up by Buffett’s breathtaking narration of a steamboat’s collision with Huck and Jim on the raft one dark night, Rhonda Vincent’s “Run Mississippi,” written by Priscilla Houliston and Carl Jackson, gets the blood pumping as fast as the swift cut of the river’s current. Likewise, Buffett’s playful description of Huck sneaking out to the river late at night with Tom Sawyer for mischief, dreams, and deviltry sets the table nicely for Brad Paisley’s “Huck Finn Blues,” written by Emily Hayes, Carl Jackson, and Danny Wilson.

The Civil War cut short Twain’s steamboat pilot days on the Mississippi, but the experiences whetted his appetite for travel. He believed travel strikes a blow against bigotry and narrow minded prejudices. To set a good feel for Twain’s frontier adventures out west, where he tried his hand at prospecting for gold and silver, worked as a newspaper reporter, and met outlaw Jack Slade, the CD includes Bradley Walker’s “Cowboy in His Soul,” a country song written by Bryan Kennedy and Jim Rushing. Carl Jackson’s moving “Safe Water,” which he co-wrote with Jerry Salley, captures the connections between Twain’s steamboat days and the restlessness that made him a world traveler and lecturer. Likewise, Marty Raybon’s “Indian Crow” (my favorite song on the CD), written by Carl Jackson and Jerry Salley, uses the Indian Crow as a metaphor for Twain’s vagabond life lived to its fullest.

Two of my other favorite songs on the CD are built around the fact that Mark Twain came in (1835) and went out (1910) with Halley’s Comet. Emmylou Harris sings Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “When Halley Came to Jackson,” and Ricky Skaggs, “Comet Ride,” an up-tempo bluegrass song Carl Jackson wrote specifically for the CD. “Ink,” a very cleverly penned song performed by Joe Diffie and written by Carl Jackson, Don Poythress, and Tony Wood, captures the lasting impact of Twain’s early experiences as a printer’s devil. Val Storey’s beautiful vocal interpretation of Tish Hinojosa’s “Love Is On Our Side” provides haunting musical comfort for the feelings of deep pain and sorrow Twain felt upon the death of his daughter, Susy.

As a matter of personal taste, I’d like to have seen included a song rooted in the swampy, darker blues legacy of the Mississippi River and more reflective of Twain’s biting social satire, but that aside, this is a superb CD from start to finish. The instrumentation features some of Nashville’s outstanding musicians: Rob Ickes (dobro, weisenborn), Carl Jackson (banjo, acoustic and gut string guitar), Andy Leftwich (fiddle), Tony Creasman (drums, percussion), Kevin Grantt (bass), Catherine Marx (piano), Johnny Ralls (banjo), Adam Steffey (mandolin), Josh Swift (dobro), Doyle Lawson (mandolin), Dale Perry (banjo), Mike Johnson (steel), and Brad Paisley (acoustic guitar). In particular, Ickes’s highly acclaimed work on the dobro and weisenborn puts such a distinctive edge on many of the songs.

For Carl Jackson and Dr. Lovell, it’s clear this project was a labor of love. In my opinion, the CD adds an even richer layer of frosting on Jackson’s musical cake. A big tip of the Texas hat to him for selflessly volunteering to take on such a creative but demanding project as a fundraiser for the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum. Twainiacs, music lovers, and the people of Hannibal (not to mention the world) owe him and Dr. Lovell a huge debt.

Thanks to the excellent interplay between the narrative and songs, the CD gives listeners a fascinating introduction to Mark Twain. I keep a copy in the car and play it a lot on road trips between Missouri and Texas to play gigs with the Mudcats. Buffett has released the CD on his own Mailboat Records, and the artists have donated their share of proceeds to the Museum to help ensure future generations will continue to appreciate Twain’s legacy and the important cultural role Hannibal played in his thought and writings.

So, go ahead, Mark, wherever you are tonight, light one up and throw one back–”you’re a cagey bird ol’ Indian Crow!”

To purchase a CD directly from the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, click on the link:http://www.marktwainmuseum.org/shop/proddetail.php?prod=MarkTwainCD

~Doctor G (Gregg Andrews)

To share this article, copy this link:

http://www.outlawmagazine.tv/content/?p=1943

Doctor G (otherwise known as Dr. Gregg Andrews) is a multitalented Singer/Songwriter/Storyteller. He’s an accomplished labor historian and the author of Nationally Awarded books like City of Dust: A Cement Company Town in the Land of Tom Sawyer and Insane Sisters: Or, the Price Paid for Challenging a Company Town. But he’s most comfortable delivering his Swampytonk music in his Mississippi-mudded snakeskin boots.

Outlaw Magazine. Country, Rock and Roll, Blues, Folk, Americana, Punk. As long as it is real, it is OUTLAW. Overproduced mediocrity need not apply.

www.outlawmagazine.com

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Free State of Jones, by Victoria Bynum

Gregg and I are excited to be heading off to Kansas City on January 26, where I’ll be a featured speaker for the 2012 Richard D. McKinzie Symposium.

The McKinzie Symposium will take place Thursday, January 26 – Friday, January 27, 2012, and will explore the topic, “Confederate Disunion: The War Beyond the Battlefield”

On  Thursday at 6:30 pm, Dr. Stephanie McCurry will present the keynote address, “Confederate Reckoning: The Politics of the ‘Homefront’ in the Civil War South.” Two plenary sessions, including my own, follow on Friday:

9 am–“Recalculating the Price of Freedom: Women and the Civil War”
Dr. Thavolia Glymph

10 am–“The Free State of Jones: Community, Race, and Kinship in Civil War Mississippi”
Dr. Victoria Bynum

For complete information on the symposium, including registration instructions, click here:

McKinzie-Program-2012

A Brief History of the McKinzie Symposium:

This year marks the 17th year of the Richard D. McKinzie Annual Research Symposium. The symposium is co-sponsored by the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences, the Kansas City Public Library, and the Organization of American Historians, the largest professional body of American historians in the country. Thanks to the generous support of the Bernardin Haskell Program, the McKinzie Symposium has grown into a highly anticipated event for our campus. The symposium offers a special opportunity for the participating faculty in the High School College Program—as well as UMKC faculty, students, and the broader Kansas City community—to interact with some of the nation’s leading scholars of American history and culture

If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there!

Vikki Bynum

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In two of my works on Southern Unionism, Unruly Women (1992), and Long Shadow of the Civil War (2010), I wrote extensively about the effects of the anti-slavery Wesleyan Methodist movement in creating an environment of fierce anti-Confederate sentiment in the Randolph-Montgomery County area of North Carolina during the Civil War. In Montgomery County, several Wesleyan families’ refusal to support the Confederacy tragically resulted in the vigilante  murder of three Hulin brothers by home guard soldiers.

The Hulins, Moores, and Hurleys became Wesleyans a full decade before the Civil War and were anti-slavery activists. A year before the war erupted, in March 1860,  Hiram Hulin, Jesse Hulin, Nelson Hulin (sons of Hiram), William Hurley Sr., William Hurley Jr., and Spencer Moore (son of Valentine Moore) were charged alongside Daniel Wilson, a well-known anti-slavery leader from Guilford County,  with circulating “seditious” anti-slavery materials.

Although I relied principally on court records, military records, newspapers, and memoirs to tell the story of Unionism in this region of North Carolina, I found two Wesleyan Methodist publications, Roy S. Nicholson’s Wesleyan Methodism in the South (1933), and Mrs. E.W. Crooks’ Life of Rev. Adam Crooks (1875), crucial to my ability to confirm the religious conversions of the above Montgomery County families.

In the following essay, I draw from both these works. As “in house” publications, they reflect the perspective of the Wesleyan Movement, yet, in combination with primary sources, they leave no doubt of the religious ideology that led the Hulins, Moores,  Hurleys, and others to oppose slavery and the Confederate Cause.

Vikki Bynum, Moderator

Southerners Against Slavery: Wesleyan Methodists in Montgomery County, North Carolina

Rev. Adam Crooks (1824-1874)

The man most responsible for bringing Wesleyan Methodism to the Randolph/Montgomery County area of North Carolina was Rev. Adam Crooks, who was originally from Leesville, Carroll County, Ohio, where he was born in 1824. According to Crooks’ biographer, his wife Elizabeth Willits Crooks, in 1841 he joined those northern Methodists who split from the Methodist Episcopal Church over slavery. The following year, in December 1842, the splinter group produced a newspaper, the True Wesleyan, which heralded the establishment of Wesleyan Methodism in the United States. These Wesleyans claimed to embody the doctrinal standards of early Methodism as established under the guidance of Rev. John Wesley.  They opposed worldly habits such as the use of whiskey and tobacco and ostentatious dress and adornment. Most important to the history of Montgomery County, they opposed the ownership of human beings by other human beings.

Opposition to slavery, and specifically to the degrading and violent means by which it was maintained, was not limited to Methodists of the North. In 1847, during its Allegheny Conference in Mesopotamia, Ohio, the Wesleyan Church received an urgent letter from “Free Methodists” of Guilford County, North Carolina, who requested the services of a Wesleyan preacher. In this old Quaker stronghold of the South, anti-slavery principles had never completely died. “There is much more anti-slavery sentiment in this part of North Carolina than I had supposed,” Crooks later observed, “owing, in great measure, to the influence of the Society of Friends.” During his stay in North Carolina, he was amused to be “taken for a Quaker, go wherever I will,” even once after preaching in a Methodist Episcopal house. Crooks concluded that this assumption reflected the antislavery doctrine he preached and the “plain coat” that he wore.

The call from North Carolina had great appeal to Crooks. By age twenty, he had become a Wesleyan exhorter who preached against the evils of slavery.  In August 1845, he joined the Allegheny Conference as a junior preacher, and received a six-week assignment to the Erie circuit, where he ministered to a small Erie City church comprised of many fugitive slaves. Now, he agreed to travel to North Carolina. With the sectional crisis over slavery growing fiercer by the day, it took a great deal of courage to enter the slaveholding South with the express purpose of preaching against slavery. In preparation for his mission he was ordained an Elder.

Crooks encountered many Methodists in North Carolina who resented being forced to remain with the Methodist Episcopal Church in the wake of its national division into pro- and anti-slavery denominations. Finding it ”impracticable” to join the anti-slavery Northern Division of the church, they formed a third division, the “Free Methodist Church.” According to Crooks, “up to this time, they had no knowledge of the existence of the Wesleyan Methodist connection.” Once they learned of the Wesleyan persuasion, he said, they immediately sent for preachers, convened, and adopted the Wesleyan principles as their own.

Pro-slavery North Carolinians labeled Crooks a “nigger-thief,” an abolitionist, and an advocate of racial amalgamation (race mixing). Nevertheless, he preached before large and small congregations and regularly denounced slavery in the presence of slaveholders. In October, 1847, Crooks presided over the founding of Freedom’s Hill Church, located in the old Snow Camp community of present-day Alamance County, N.C., and the first Wesleyan Methodist Church in the South.

In 1850, despite violent opposition to Wesleyan preachers by pro-slavery mobs, Crooks prepared to preach in Montgomery County at the invitation of members of Lane’s Chapel and Lovejoy Chapel.  Twice, he was warned by letter to cancel those plans. The first letter, signed by “Many Citizens” from Montgomery and neighboring Stanly Counties, accused Crooks of

preying upon the minds of the weak and innocent, inducing them to believe that slave-holding is not only an oppression to the slaves, but to all those who do not hold slaves. The slaves hereabout are in much better condition than their masters or other citizens. Your doctrine, if carried out, would bring down vengeance upon the heads of your followers by amalgamation and otherwise.

Crooks was accused of being “worse than a traitor,” and threatened with expulsion if he dared to appear in Lane’s Chapel: “we are in hopes you will return from whence you came, or you will be dealt with according to the dictates of our consciences.”

A second letter from Montgomery County, dated 27 December 1850 and signed by eleven people, demanded again that Crooks leave the state. Crooks did not answer the letter, but traveled to Montgomery County as planned, where he stayed at the home of Valentine Moore and prepared, in February 1851, to preach at Lovejoy Chapel, located about a mile from Moore’s home.

A mob headed by a local justice of the peace and slaveholder met Crooks at the door of Lovejoy Chapel. Alluding to the Methodists’ national schism over slavery, the j.p. accused Crooks of “making interruptions in families, neighborhoods, and Churches” by preaching against slavery. He claimed that Crooks was “causing us to abuse our servants,” i.e. slaves, by telling them they deserved to be free, which “makes them unruly; so that they have to be abused.” Again, Crooks was ordered to leave the county.

Several other local slaveholders challenged Crooks as well. “Brother Crooks did you not preach to servants not to obey their masters?”  Crooks answered that he had not, but his accuser insisted that he had. Hiram Hulin then interceded on Crooks’ behalf. “Don’t you interrupt the man,” he told the slaveholder, who responded by shaking his fist and stamping the floor, declaring that he was on his own “premises.”  Hiram’s brother, Orrin Hulin, then called for order, reminding the men that they had entered the chapel to worship God.

Those opposed to Crooks’ right to preach moved to expel him from the chapel. They declared Crooks a traitor, no better than Aaron Burr,  sent to Montgomery County by anti-slavery radicals such as Daniel Wilson of Guilford County.  Likewise, Orrin Hulin was condemned for having written a letter to the True Wesleyan that described a Montgomery County slaveholder’s brutal torture and whipping of slave.

Then, the anti-Crooks faction rose to forcibly remove Crooks from Lovejoy Chapel, at which point Orrin Hulin cried out,

Men, take notice of who takes hold of that man by violence.

As the mob approached Crooks, William Hurley stepped before it and called out,

But stop, don’t you run over me. What are you going to do with the preacher?

According to author Elizabeth Crooks, chaos followed, as Crooks was

led or rather dragged from the pulpit into the yard. . . . Some are rushing for their horses, others are screaming, and still others prostrated, motionless and speechless.

Mrs. Crooks further described how several men forced Crooks into a buggy as Orrin Hulin once again called on Crooks’ supporters to “take notice of who forces that man into that buggy.” Several of Crooks’ supporters followed the buggy on foot to the home of one of the slaveholders. There, over dinner, pro- and anti-slavery factions, including Crooks, argued over slavery. Sheriff Aaron Sanders, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and part of the mob that accosted Crooks, was present. So also was William Hurley, Crooks’ defender, who proclaimed himself  “ever opposed” to slavery.

“Well, if you believe slavery to be wrong, you need not hold them; it does not hurt you,” a slaveholder challenged.

Hurley answered, not as an abolitionist, but as a citizen who defended his right to belong to an anti-slavery church:

Well, but for me to support a thing I do not believe in would not be right. And you can have your privileges and let us have ours.

When asked if his church, which refused membership to slaveholders, might yet receive a slave, Hurley said “yes”, provided the slave was a Christian. Those words provoked this angry response from an unnamed slaveholder:

What!—receive a nigger and not a white man? That is a grand insult depriving us of our rights.

“Not at all,” maintained Hurley. “We do not say that you shall not hold slaves; all we want is to keep clear of supporting it.”

“Well, if that is your principle you ought to leave the state,” advised the same man, advice to which Hurley strenuously objected:

I was born and raised here—pay for my privileges under the law, and it is a hard case if I am to be deprived of them.

As the argument heated up, another slaveholder advised the mob to “serve him [Hurley] as we do Crooks.” But William Hurley appeared to be forgotten after four magistrates ordered Sheriff Sanders to deliver Adam Crooks to the jail.

After being locked up, Crooks was lectured by his captors on the need to abandon his plan to preach in Montgomery County. Exhibiting the common social superiority that slaveholders felt toward nonslaveholders, they assured Crooks that the folks who had invited him to speak (members from the Moore, Hulin, and Hurley families) were the “very dregs of the county,” while “those who are against you,” (slaveholders), “are the best men of the county.”

Finally and reluctantly, Adam Crooks agreed to leave Montgomery County and was accordingly released from jail. He then returned to the home of Valentine Moore to say his goodbyes. While there, he reported, Valentine’s daughter Caroline (who would soon marry Hiram Hulin’s son, Jesse) announced to Crooks that she was leaving the Methodist Episcopal Church and joining with the Wesleyans.

Caroline Moore Hulin

Slaveholders had prevented Adam Crooks from preaching in their county, but they had failed to prevent the successful birth of Wesleyan Methodism in their community. Battle lines would be redrawn during the Civil War, in a brutal inner war that would pit the same Sheriff Aaron Sanders against the same community of dissenters.

Vikki Bynum

For more on Adam Crooks and Southern Wesleyan Methodism, see:

  1. Roy S. Nicholson, Wesleyan Methodism in the South (Syracuse, NY: Wesleyan Methodist Publishing House, 1933).
  2. Mrs. E.W. Crooks, Life of Rev. Adam Crooks, A.M. (Syracuse, NY: Wesleyan Methodist Publishing House, 1875). A copy of this book is owned by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and may be accessed online at UNC’s Documenting the American South.  http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/crooks/crooks.html.
  3. An independent film company has recently produced the story of Adam Crooks. See The Courageous Love, Rubacam Productions,  http://www.thecourageouslove.com/home/About.html

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