‘Beach Boys’? Not exactly, David

“Shortly after I arrived in North Carolina [from Texas and Colorado] in 1991, I was talking to my editor at the [News & Observer] when she said something about ‘beach music.’ It was the first time I had heard the phrase, which I found puzzling. And so I responded with a variant of the same question a half-century’s worth of clueless transplants have asked.

” ‘ “Beach music”? Is that like the Beach Boys?’

“My editor laughed, emphatically shook her head no and then become the first (but far from last) person to bestow that most Southern of putdowns upon me: ‘Oh, bless your heart.’ Truly, that conversation was a gateway to all things North Carolina in more ways than one.”

— From “Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music, from Blind Boy Fuller and Doc Watson to Nina Simone and Superchunk” by David Menconi (2020)

Giddens: ‘And furthermore I’m a North Carolinian….’

The N&O’s David Menconi leaves few strings unfretted in this appreciation of MacArthur winner Rhiannon Giddens, but I can’t pass up an excuse to recall Giddens’s poignant acknowledgement of her North Carolina roots:

“I’m a mixed-race person, so I grew up exploring…. I knew there was Indian in the family, so I joined [a drumming group] in high school and explored that side of it.

“And you know, none of it felt quite right. Where I found my identity was when I realized that I’m from North Carolina. It’s not so much that I’m black or I’m white or I’m Indian or whatever. I’m Southern. And furthermore I’m a North Carolinian…. And it kind of eclipses the race stuff. It’s like this is who I am, this is where I come from…. ”


When a Dunn native’s guitar struck terror in hearts of cities

“[The documentary] ‘Rumble’ takes its name from a seminal slice of rock ’n’ roll created by guitarist Link Wray, a Shawnee Indian from [Dunn] North Carolina. A 1958 hit, Rumble introduced the world to the ‘power chord.’ The song was banned in New York and Boston for fear that the mere sound of that amped-up guitar might incite riots. ‘Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck used to play air guitar to Rumble,’ [executive producer Stevie] Salas said. ‘But when I told Jeff that Link was Indian, his jaw dropped.’

” ‘When Link Wray was a boy, the grand wizard of the KKK made a deliberate attempt to go after indigenous people,’ [director Catherine ] Bainbridge said. ‘When his mom was 10 years old and walking to school, a bunch of white girls surrounded her and broke her back. She wore a brace for the rest of her life. That’s the violence Link came out of.’ ”

— From ” ‘Buried history’: unearthing the influence of Native Americans on rock ‘n’ roll” by Jim Farber in the Guardian (July 19)

David Menconi wants to know why Link Wray isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Me too!


George Jones: Portraits of the artist as an old man

“Early on during his Saturday night show at Durham Performing Arts Center, George Jones paused to offer up a bit of philosophy from The Gospel According to Jones. He allowed as to how he didn’t much care for ‘hot young country radio’ nowadays, especially the fact that it shies away from cheatin’ and drinkin’ songs. Surveying the crowd, he added the punchline with a standup-comic’s timing.

“ ‘I wouldn’t a had a job!’ ”

“Even though time and former vices have robbed Jones of most of his voice (he’ll turn 81 years old next month), he still has impeccable timing and a way with a one-liner. Not to mention fierce fashion sense, as evidenced by a dark plaid sharkskin jacket that appeared to date from the Carter administration.”

— From “Voice weak, but spirit strong as George Jones plays DPAC” by David Menconi in the News & Observer (Aug. 19, 2012)


“After George Jones’ show Friday night, the Ovens Auditorium crowd would have been no less amazed if Muhammad Ali had tottered onstage and knocked out Mike Tyson.

“Stunningly, Jones proved that — even at age 64 — he is still one of the best singers on the planet. When he laid into one of his classic country ballads, people by the dozens bawled like they were watching the end of a two-hankie movie.

“Jones can’t run the long race anymore — he could only sing for eight or 10 minutes at a stretch. Every so often his band would play a fiddle tune while Jones caught his breath.

” ‘The Race Is On’ sent him from a deep bass to a high whine in the space of a chorus. ‘Bartender’s Blues’ (written by N.C. native James Taylor) forced him to bend nearly every line….

“But the 2,000 or so in the house — one of the most fired-up crowds I’ve seen at a country show — gave him a second wind. When it came time for ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ one of the finest country songs ever written, Jones pushed on the ‘h’ in ‘her’ so hard you could feel your heart bruise.

“Within an hour he was off the stage. But on this night, an hour of George Jones was worth all the hats in Nashville.”

— From “Even at 64, Jones is among the best” by Tommy Tomlinson in the Charlotte Observer (April 13, 1996)

George Jones, 81, died today at a hospital in Nashville. His next performance in North Carolina had been scheduled for July 27 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.