|The Storied South|
William Ferris has a new book out titled, The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists. It is his early interviews with noted movers and shakers in the late 60s through to early 90s, and not all were Southern. The book includes his original recordings of the interviews on CD and his Super 8 videos on DVD.
Readers will hear familiar voices like Eudora Welty, Alice Walker, Bobby Rush, Walker Evans, William Eggleston, Carroll Cloar, and William Dunlap. They will also find some surprises with Charles and Pete Seeger, Sterling Brown, and Dr. John Dollard.
Take some time to revisit the Agrarian Movement with the voices of one leader Robert Penn Warren, one follower Cleanth Brooks, and one detractor John Blassingame. In Robert Penn Warren’s interview I read that Faulkner was loved by the Agrarians and Warren cited Fletcher, Ransom and Owsley. In college, I learned they hated Faulkner thus my distaste for them.
As a resident of Como, MS, I also like Warren’s comment, “During my time as a student and teaching in the South, parties were almost always either playing charades or poker or tale-telling. Andrew Lytle was a great actor and a great improviser of tales. He was one of the best raconteurs and conversationalists I have ever known. There are only a few people who can even touch him. Stark Young could and Lyle Saxon in New Orleans could.”
Pete Seeger’s interview was eye opening probably because I am more familiar with his children’s book, “Abiyoyo,” than his activism. His father who is also interviewed taught him the importance of folk music and Alan Lomax hired him—for $15 a week—to listen to “old commercial records of the twenties.”
Seeger wanted to improve his banjo playing and what better place than the South. He “learned to hitchhike” in 1940 and hit the road with a little trick from friend, Woody Guthrie. Sit at a bar nursing one beer with your banjo slung over your shoulder. After a while, someone is bound to ask if you can play. Woody said hang back and be reluctant. “Well maybe a little,” and keep on drinking your beer. “Finally, somebody is going to say, ‘Kid, I got a quarter. Play me a tune.’ Now you start playing.”Seeger crossed the great Suwannee River in the sky this past January, but this interview feels like he is talking directly to us today. William Ferris’s rapport with all his subjects emits a back porch, talk amongst friends, feeling and we have access to rare and fun Southern stories.