Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’ve lived all of my life south of the Mason-Dixon Line. I come from Bandy, which is located in southwest Virginia. I was six when my family moved to Hampton Roads. My dad escaped a life in the coal mines to work as a pipefitter at the Newport News Shipyard. With my very first day in class I was criticized by the teacher for saying “y’all” and eliding vowels to get to what I meant to say. South is not always South. Twenty years later, Dad retired to Dade City, Florida–it felt like the South to him.
Take What You Want
In Dad’s ten by twelve metal shed, the day after the funeral, I pulled out boxes from under his work bench.
There must’ve been a thousand LP covers, most with vinyl still in their slips:
Jack Teagarden Big Band Jazz. The Sound of Johnny Cash. (A vein of polkas.) Great Country/Ernest Tubb. Jim Croce. Cowboy Copas. Bill Munroe and His Blue Grass Boys. Burl Ives. Duke Ellington. Tom Jones. Homer & Jethro Strike Back. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. Dave Brubeck. King of the Delta Blues Singers/Robert Johnson. Eddie Arnold. Doc Watson. Loretta Lynn. Porter Wagon & Dolly Parton. The Smothers Brothers. Kitty Wells. The Righteous Brothers. Gordon Lightfoot. Pete Fountain. Benny Goodman. Tina Turner. Hoagy Carmichael/The Stardust Road. Henry Mancini/Peter Gunn. Blue Hawaii/The Polynesians from Crown Records full color High Fidelity. Jerry Lee Lewis. Nat King Cole/Ramblin’ Rose. Tammy Wynette. Tennessee Ernie Ford. Willie Nelson. (More polkas.) Glen Campbell/Southern Nights. My Little Home in West Virginia/Curly Ray Cline. Hank Snow. Al Hirt. Roy Acuff. Hank Thompson and His Brazos Valley Boys. Perry Como. Buck Owens. Connie Francis. Dwight Yoakum/Guitars, Cadillacs. Don Williams/Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good. Louis Armstrong/What a Wonderful World.
Dad had three record players, all in working order. I sat where he’d sat in his high back swivel stool and imagined how he’d sit for hours with everything within his reach, tinkering and listening. I had the players quietly spinning.
Doc Watson’s “Sitting on Top of the World” was the loudest, when Mom and Brother knocked on the door. I turned it down, until an undercurrent of cacophony registered.
“You been up most of the morning,” said Brother, “and we’s been creeping around quiet, not to disturb.”
Mom said, “You couldn’t sleep? Your Father … Junior came out here, too.”
Brother saw all the record players turning, tapped his head and said, “That’s smart. Hear everything at once.”
“Y’all remember,” I said, “when we were little in Hampton Roads on Sunday mornings, Dad cranked up The Dukes of Dixie Land and we’d dance until it felt like the house would come down?”
“Son, take what you want.”