COLUMN SEVENTY-FIVE, SEPTEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)
WAY DOWN UPON THE SUWANEE RIVER. . .
June 2, 2002---When we last left our hero, he, with his newfound sidekick Gloria
Holloway, also known as NiceLady were on their way to White
BEING WAY DOWN
UPON THE SWANNEE RIVER... What ensued was four days of utter roasting
debilitating Hell, in which I came to understand the meaning ob dat ol folk song
Go Down Hannah Don' You Rise no more. De
sun so hot I froze to deaf. Et
River flows through White Springs. And
it is largely in part due to the Suwannee's presence that the Festival is held
in White Springs. For it was the
Suwannee that provided the name for the River in The Old Folks at
Not to belabor
the point, but Foster is responsible for just about every manic piano track in
every saloon scene in every oater you've ever seen: Camptown Races, Oh! Susannah, Old Kentucky Home,
Jeannie with the Light Brown
get to see the South
which plays his tunes at the Stephen Foster State Park,
mercifully quiet during the festival, and in the nearby museum the very
desk on which he scratched out "Pedee" and substituted "Swannee".
Establishing the true songwriter tradition, he got ripped off for just
about all his royalties and died, nearly penniless, in New York City before he
He never saw
the South, but he so idealized the life where darkies were gay, as in Old
Kentucky Home, that a whole generation of people grew up in absolute
ignorance of the dark realities of slave life.
It may be said that Uncle
Festival lasted four days, during which, in addition to the blistering rays of
the Florida sun, I was also treated to the plank plank plankity plank of a
hundred banjos and the dow didi dow didi dow of twice that number of fiddles, as
well as about as much Piedmont blues on guitar as I ever want to hear.
Mostly, though, I baked, roasted, broiled, sweated deliriously in the
merciless heat and blazing intensity of the sun.
I did make some friends,
around, we rolled up camp and set out back to Deerfield Beach, Ol Folkie Jim,
his better half Ia, and me, arriving at about six pm.
I crashed all night long, got up, caught my flight back to Nashburg the
next day, and I've been sleeping ever since.
When I haven't
been sleeping I've been dealing with bus stuff...mostly batteries, as The
Phoenix has to be put in shape again, and I don't yet have anything to do until
the end of July, for which my services as a picker have been engaged by a party
who shall be nameless for a while yet anyway.
Which brings me
to this point: that since my
internet access will soon of necessity be curtailed, and since I don't have
anything really to do until two months away, I'm probably gonna be less of a
presence than I have been for a
What'll I do?
I've been thinking about this character, a German prince who wants to be
a delta blues player, and I think I'm gonna write a book.
It's not gonna be a big book, but a little book, and I think I can maybe
get it done in two months.
Maybe it'll be
good all written out in longhand on legal pads.
On the other hand, maybe it'll be pure suction. Major Electrolux.
We'll see. And thanks to all who were so very kind to me on the soulful Florida trip. ##
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