Before Berry Gordy started Motown—before Russell Simmons and Suge Knight were even born—Don Robey epitomized what it meant to be a black music mogul. Working in Houston from the 1930s until his death in 1975, Robey discovered Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. His record company released the original version of “Hound Dog,” and he made Bobby “Blue” Bland a star. Ike and Tina Turner, B.B. King, and Little Richard were clients of his booking agency, and T-Bone Walker, “Big” Joe Turner, and Wynonie Harris all regularly graced the stage at his nightclub, where legendary after-parties saw the likes of Sister Rosetta Tharpe jamming with Big Bill Broonzy and Louis Jordan.
A story by Ben Stroud from our Fall 2016 issue.
My Dear Master Liszt!
I have become a slave owner. Yes, like you I believe in the freedom of all men—your Hungarians, the Poles, the Rumanians!—and in the role we artists must play—light-bringers, revealers of passion, sympathizers with the oppressed! But I have become a slave owner. It is a stain, a mark of rot. How many stains have I come to bear in these last weeks? They are countless.
A story by George Singleton from our Fall 2016 issue.
Every night at bedtime, my wife turns the channel to those cable stations that show back-to-back-to-back-to-back episodes of murdered spouses and the forensic technology that prevents questionable and error-prone outcomes. This one particular channel airs one of these program’s reruns exclusively. It’s like the Killer Channel. Sometimes I wake up at three o’clock after hearing the show’s narrator go, “They exhumed the body a second time,” and open my eyes to find Lisette sitting straight up, staring at the screen.
I kept returning to the subject of the Nuwaubians, unable to let it go. Even a cursory amount of research showed that the group was a strange phenomenon of the modern age—a true American religion, sworn to a proto-hip-hop preacher sworn to nonsense, that attempted a takeover of a small Georgia town in the late 1990s before a joint federal-local raid brought down its leader. Beneath that historical account was a tangle of details bizarre and bottomless.
A story by Jill McCorkle from our Summer 2015 issue.
In all the pictures, the women held onto the poster of his bed, the very one right there. The closet door is standing open and she goes over to push it closed. The women all pose with the window behind them, the very window she is standing in front of, the window that is not on his side of the bed but hers—her window.
In the kitchen of the McCullers house, my boom box picked up an Alabama public radio station; after writing all day, and before reading all night, I would listen to the radio and cook, in the very room from which warm meals once emerged to feed the girl who grew up to write The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.