Jay Leavitt has owned and operated Deep Groove Records in Richmond's Fan district for almost 10 years. He's originally from northern Alabama, where he met an older Sam Phillips (who discovered Elvis and Johnny Cash) and a young Patterson Hood (frontman and chief songwriter for the rock group Drive-By Truckers). Though he still calls Alabama home, in the mid-80s, Jay moved to Richmond. Since moving to the capital, he has sold lots of records, while also promoting cool music--especially the Truckers.
Colin talks with Jay about his early years in Alabama, blowing Patterson Hood's mind, opening a business in a tough financial time, and some recent music he's excited about. It's some straight talk from a Richmond fixture and a diehard music fan.
Hurricane Florence has spared Virginia, but Colin still got the day off. So, catch up with the Rambler as he talks about the sucky summer weather, the Red Sox clinching a playoff spot, and the recent Drive-By-Truckers show in Richmond. Also, Colin talks about September brain, the dark cousin of April brain.
Colin recently celebrated his 7th wedding anniversary in (where else?) Petersburg Virginia! He talks about the Old Towne and how Petersburg presents some great and not-so-great things about the urban South. Also, Colin weighs the merits of Led Zeppelin vs. Grand Funk Railroad.
Bruce Jackson has a had a long, varied, and brilliant career as a teacher, photographer, folklorist, writer, and filmmaker. Colin first encountered his work while researching the prisons in Arkansas. Bruce visited prisons in the 1960s and 70s, trips that produced photos for his books Killing Time, Cummins Wide, and Inside the Wire.
Bruce was born in New York City, joined the Marines as the Korean War was ending, and studied in New Jersey and Indiana before winding up in the English Department at the University of Buffalo, where he still teaches. He also tried his hand at engineering and took the law exam before winning a Guggenheim and a fellowship from Harvard, both of which allowed him to travel to Arkansas to do his prison research.
During his career, Bruce has met everybody from Johnny Cash to Michel Foucault. Recently, he's worked with the Wooster Group, which has been home to actors as varied as Spalding Gray and Willem Dafoe. As he tells Colin, he calls himself "lucky." Thankfully, his somehwat accidental creative process has produced original and revealing work.
William Freehling has been around. His first book, Prelude to Civil War, was published in the 1960s. Prelude won the coveted Bancroft Prize as well as the Nevins Prize for best dissertation that year. Since then, Bill has published other books about slavery, politics, and the Civil War. Now, he has a new book, Becoming Lincoln, which looks at the successes and many failures that characterized Lincoln's early life and career.
Bill lives in Virginia, but his career has taken him literally across the country, from Harvard (where he got his undergraduate degree and studied with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.) to Berkeley, where he got his doctorate studying under Kenneth Stampp. He has taught in Michigan, Maryland, and Kentucky, but originally he is from Chicago.
Bill and Colin talk about how in many ways, the Civil War was a victory of Mid-Westerners conquering the South. What does Lincoln's role in the period tell us? For one, it says that our failures are very often more important learning experiences than our victories.
John Coski is the author of The Confederate Battle Flag: America's Most Embattled Emblem, which was published in 2006. A graduate of the doctoral program at the College of William and Mary in 1987, he has been at the Museum of the Confederacy--now officially part of the American Civil War Museum--in downtown Richmond for thirty years. Over a beer at Cafe Zata in South Side, John talks about his book and the more recent events concerning the flag: more specifically, how the Charleston massacre of a few years ago spurred new debates about what the Confederate flag means.
On a lighter note, Colin and John talk about the delights of the Byrd theatre and the James Bond franchise. John is also a Beatles fan, and he and Colin get to the heart of Fab Four fandom by asking: what songs would make for the best one disc version of the White Album?
Court Carney is a professor of history at Stephen F. Austin University, where he has taught for ten years. The author of Cuttin' Cup: How Early Jazz Got America's Ear, he's now working on a book on Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest and his legacy. Court and Colin were at LSU at the same time, and they reminisce about graduate school preparing you (and often not preparing you) for later life, why Gaines Foster is underrated, and how Robin Kelley's Race Rebels made a big impression.
Since Court is a music expert (and recovering bass player), Colin takes the opportunity to ask him about his early music influences (Beatles, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dyan); how his tastes have changed over time; and why he wanted to teach a class on Nobel Laureate Robert Zimmerman.
It's a talk that examines everything from 19th century Memphis and Shelby Foote to Jeff Tweedy, Rush, and INXS. Laissez les bons temps rouler, baby!
Get more inside the mind of Amerikan Rambler, with further bits from old comedy, movies, and interviews. What's in the Rambler's mind? Well, it starts with Benny Hill music, then goes from there. Also, you'll get more poems about famous people, including Omar Sharif, Descartes, Henry Miller, and Dizzy Gillespie. Plus, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson get burned, Bukowski talks about Henry Miller, and the Fourth Doctor leads us into the great beyond. It's another foray into blatant copyright violation, y'all, with some original stuff thrown in!
Andrew Huebner has a new book out, Love and Death in the Great War. A professor at the University of Alabama, he talks with Colin about his latest project and how it relates to his previous book, The Warrior Image. They discuss how Americans perceived the First World War as a great moral crusade, and how venereal disease was at times seen as an even greater menace than combat.
What did the war mean to the Progressive Era? How did it change America and its values? Did the war make disillusioned modernists out of stuffy Victorians, or was it more complicated than that? Listen as Colin and Andrew talk about the first large scale war Americans fought in the 20th century.
Ever wonder what it's like to be inside the mind of Amerikan Rambler? Well, it might be something like this: a mishmash of TV and movie clips, comedy bits, and creative impulses. For the first time, you get to hear original Amerikan Rambler poetry! Yes, Colin reads two works about famous people, "I Rode on a Plane with Kierkegaard" and "I Had a Beer with Bukowski." So, get your Revolution 9 on, y'all. It's the most avant garde episode yet!
Kevin Levin is a veteran of the history wars. He is perhaps best known for his popular blog Civil War Memory. But he is also a teacher and published scholar, who has not backed down in the face of intimidation from the "heritage" crowd. A native of New Jersey, Kevin has degrees from the University of Maryland and the University of Richmond, where he wrote a thesis on the Civil War that became the basis for his first book, The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder.
At a cozy hotel in downtown Charlottesville, Colin and Kevin talk about doing history and how it often treads on uncomfortable political ground. Also, Kevin talks about his new book project, soon to be published by University of North Carolina Press, which addresses the myth of black Confederate soldiers. Can historians really make themselves heard above the political noise surrounding Confederate monuments and the Rebel flag? Do facts matter in an age of "fake news?" Listen and find out!
The country lost two greats recently. One, Ira Berlin, was a professor of United States history and the slave South at the University of Maryland. He was also a former guest on Amerikan Rambler (episode 28, posted in October 2016). The other great was Anthony Bourdain, who became a household name as a writer, chef, and world traveler. Colin talks about the contributions of both of these men and how Anthony Bourdain seemed to epitomize the empathetic celebrity in a America where we see a shocking empathy gap.
On a more upbeat note, Colin talks about seeing Robert Plant for the first time in Richmond, and how the former singer for Led Zeppelin manages to blend the old and the new into an entertaining and professional music package that covers country, folk, and arena rock.
A. Wilson "Will" Greene has been around. A native of Chicago, Will is perhaps the Guinness record holder for most miles traveled by a historian. His education and career in the National Park Service took him all over the country, from Indiana to Florida, Louisiana, and Virginia. He lives in Tennessee now, but he keeps busy. And on the road.
In the lobby of the Marriott in Newport News, Will talks with Colin about his adventures at Louisiana State University in the 1970s studying with T. Harry Williams and Bill Cooper, doing weekend radio in New Orleans, and the events that led him to Pamplin Historical Park in Petersburg, Virginia.
Will is the foremost authority on the battle of Petersburg. Now that he's retired, he has even more time for research. His most recent book is A Campaign of Giants: The Battle for Petersburg, which is the first in a trilogy examining the longest "siege" in American military history. Parts two and three are in the works. Will is also one of the founders of the Civil War Trust (now the American Battlefield Trust), which has preserved thousands of acres for future generations to study and enjoy.
It's part two of Colin's talk with How is this Movie? podcast host Dana Buckler. R-rated movies aren't what they used to be, but it was Dana's discussion of great R-rated films that attracted the attention of Phil Joanou, the director of Three O'Clock High, Entropy, and U2: Rattle and Hum. He also made one of Dana's favorite films, State of Grace, where Joanou had his hands full with Sean Penn and Gary Oldman.
Colin not only gets to mention C.H.U.D. for the first time ever, he also offers his list of ten movies he loves, one of which is Dana's favorite: Jaws. Apparently, even a malfunctioning 1970s shark still makes both of them scared to go in the water.
Plus, Dana tells us why he loves James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino and why the Rock is no Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, if you want discussion of newer movies, Colin and Dana examine the greatness of the low budget character study The Florida Project. It's another episode of movie madness!
Cinephile Dana Buckler is the host of the How is this Movie? podcast, where he writes, edits, and narrates episodes exploring the history of many of the greatest and most beloved films of all time. As they discover, Colin and Dana have a lot in common, not just their love of movies and history, but the fact that they've lived a long time in the South, and that they miss the old days of the video store. Together, they take you through a tour of the last thirty years or so of the movie experience, from the rise and fall of VHS and DVDs, to the perils of attending the latest blockbuster. As Dana makes clear, being a film-goer is not always easy. It's part one of a two part movie talk!
In the introduction, Colin talks about the recent run of bad weather and the need for more concise and honest weather men.
Stephen Rockenbach is a professor of history at Virginia State University, where he has taught the Civil War and U.S. history for the last twelve years. But as he tells Colin, his pursuit of history began with playing Civil War era music on the banjo. In addition to playing bluegrass, he is also a historian of the Bluegrass State. In 2016, he published his book War upon Our Border: Two Ohio Valley Communities Navigate the Civil War, which is available through University of Virginia Press.
Stephen's book examines events in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky, where the war played out quite a bit differently than in other theaters and often descended into guerrilla fighting. His book helps us understand the divided loyalties of people caught between North and South. Why are there Robert E. Lee monuments in Kentucky? Stephen's work shows how Kentucky, as the saying goes, "became a Confederate state after the Civil War." It's a story of race, reunion, and the triumph of Lost Cause ideology in one of the most important regions during the Civil War.
In part two of Colin's interview with Steve Bassett, the two talk about Steve's career after the success of "Sweet Virginia Breeze." In the late 70s, Steve began writing jingles and working with session musicians across the country. He talks about meeting and touring with Delbert McClinton, opening for Steve Ray Vaughan and B. B. King, touring with Willie Nelson, and recording for Columbia Records in Muscle Shoals with Jerry Wexler and the Muscle Shoals band the Swampers (featuring Dave Hood, bass player and father of Drive-By Truckers's Patterson Hood). Also, Steve and Colin talk about Johnny Cash, getting old in the music industry, and how things tend to come "full circle." It's another hour of music talk!
In the intro, Colin talks about his visit to Oakwood Cemetery, home of 17,000 Confederate graves.
Musician Stave Bassett has a new, funky album out called Tres Leches, named after a dessert at Richmond's Kuba Kuba restaurant. Steve's from Richmond, but his long career has taken him from the River City to Nashville, Muscle Shoals, New York City, and Chicago. Steve is perhaps best known for his song "Sweet Virginia Breeze," which he co-wrote with Robbin Thompson in 1978. A few years ago, it became the official popular song of Virginia.
Steve talks with Colin about how he started as a drummer before moving on to keyboards, his early career in North Carolina, and how "Sweet Virginia Breeze" happened. It's part one of two hour talk about the music life.
Adam Bulger is a Jersey guy who's always had a humorous take on American lit, music, and politics. Colin and Adam survived (more or less) Trinity College, where they wrote for the alternative campus paper The Other Voice. Now they're catching up after 20 years of school, work, kids, and travel. They pretty much pick up where they left off, discussing politics, music, and what's it's like to dedicate a life to writing. Adam, who works for the website BTRtoday in New York City, talks about the story behind Freddy Kruger, noir fiction, and what it was like to interview Hunter S. Thompson and David Cross. Hopefully, their next talk won't take 20 years!
Colin reads from his recent paper, published in the Arkansas Times of Little Rock, about Tom Murton and the Arkansas prison scandal of 1968. Murton was a prison reformer from California, who dug up three skeletons on the grounds of Cummins farm fifty years ago. The scandal rocked Arkansas, embarrassed Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, and made news around the world. Murton's story, which became the basis for the film Brubaker, involved everyone from Dick Cavett to Johnny Cash.
The article begins at around the 6 minute mark. Enjoy!
Given his schedule lately, which has taken him from Virginia to Louisiana to California, you might think there's more than one Ed Ayers running around. As president of the Organization of American Historians, president emeritus at the University of Richmond (where he is also Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities), and author of a recent prize winning book on the Civil War, Dr. Ayers stays busy.
Ed talks with Colin about growing up in Tennessee, his graduate studies at Yale, and a life spent studying the South--from its prison system to the Civil War and beyond. His latest book, The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America won the Lincoln Prize for 2018. It's Ed Ayers's second appearance on the podcast, and this time it's for a full hour.
Liz Covart is the host of the popular history podcast Ben Franklin's World. As someone with a Ph.D., she has worked hard to find success as a scholar in the world outside of academia. She talks with Colin about growing up in the Boston area, moving to California to study early American history with Alan Taylor, and the work involved in podcasting and staying relevant on social media. Her efforts have paid off, and last year she won Best History Podcast from the Academy of Podcasters. Interested in good history or even starting your own podcast? Liz is here to help.
Colin Bailey is best known for his work with the Vince Guaraldi trio, whose inspired music helped make the Charlie Brown television shows famous. Colin, though, has played drums with many of the best musicians in the business, from Victor Feldman, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, and Frank Sinatra, to Joe Pass, Mel Torme, and Joao Gilberto. Colin tells Colin about growing up in wartime England, his long career in jazz, his thoughts on the Beatles and Ginger Baker, his work on The Tonight Show, and why Astrud Gilberto owes him fifty dollars.
In the intro, Colin talks about Lucky, the last movie starring the great Harry Dean Stanton. To conclude the podcast, Colin offers some wisdom from Charles Bukowski about getting your work done.
Intro music: "Samba de Orfeu" from Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus and "Charlie Brown Theme" from A Boy Named Charlie Brown.