Featuring unforgettable songs and stories from South Carolina, the issue includes voices ranging from the Upstate to the Lowcountry, highlighting icons like Dizzy Gillespie and Eartha Kitt, as well as contemporary artists such as Shovels & Rope and Ranky Tanky.
Our cover star is NASA astronaut Ronald McNair, who became a physics (and music) pioneer when he brought a soprano sax into orbit in 1984. A native of Lake City, South Carolina, McNair died tragically in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster two years later. In a revelatory and thoughtful feature in the issue, Jon Kirby speaks with McNair’s family, friends, and colleagues, who remember him not only as a famous astronaut but also a devoted, one-of-a-kind musician.
Order the South Carolina Music Issue & Sampler today. The issue comes packaged with a CD compilation and digital download card.
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A feature from Issue 61, “Best of the South” 2008.
Thick strokes of early-evening crimson smeared across the rolling mountains of Rabun County as I drove up Highway 23 from Atlanta toward Clayton. The whole world looked like it was burning up right behind the horizon line. It was the nine-degree, molar-rattling middle of January in North Georgia, and I was on my way to visit the Chattooga River, fifty-seven miles of fierce backcountry water and etched stone where the film of my father’s first novel, Deliverance, was shot in the summer of 1971.
Daddy’s truck was one of those places—like a grandmother’s house, a real and actual soul food restaurant, or a barbershop owned by an older black man who guards the radio by silent threat of the revolver in his drawer next to the good clippers—where one could reliably expect to hear either (and only) 1070 WDIA or 1340 WLOK. It was the other side of sound, the other side of Southern blackness, a steady if muffled undercurrent that persisted and quietly buoyed new generations.
A Southern Journey from the Summer 2017 issue.
The grass was up to my waist as I crouched down on the side of Interstate 20 a few miles outside of Van. Insects buzzed around my head, and I tried not to look for snakes or ticks. Instead, I alternated my gaze between the blue sky and the man and woman standing on the shoulder of the eastbound lane, my teammates. Darby held a sign that read simply, ATLANTA. Aaron’s sign was more elaborate; on the back, he pasted photographs that showed people sliding down waterfalls, which he’d use to explain the race when speaking with a driver. I was forty yards behind them, out of sight of the oncoming cars, guarding a pile of packs. It was 7:45 A.M. and traffic was sporadic. The 2016 Great Hitchhiking Race was underway, and we were hoping our first ride would take us well out of Texas.
There is a narrow yellow paneled house in New Orleans that’s got a lean to it, a lean, that is, toward falling. It’s on the short, nearly forgotten end of Wilson Avenue, which should really be called a street since there is nothing grandiose about it. Though if it were called its true, true, name, this story would not be begging its way to the page. The Broom clan, five girls and seven boys, lived on the side of the street where there are only three remaining houses. Ours is the one begging to fall. And I don’t blame it.
A self-mythologizing takes place when we assimilate the stories of our ancestors into our own—it’s automatic. We tell ourselves that their triumphs have somehow entered our bloodstream. We’re not descendants, we think; we’re heirs—heirs to intangible qualities (ambition, brilliance, endurance) through the fact of a thoroughly diluted blood tie.
A short story from our Summer 2016 issue.
Danny Pocock was a prophet. He read omens and suffered what he called the burden of deep understanding. It showed in his posture. He said I was hopeless as a mystic, but there were other things he could teach me.
In the early 1990s, New Life Fitness & Massage kept its lights on twenty hours a day, closing at five every morning and reopening at nine. Everyone in Oak Grove knew it was a brothel. Fort Campbell, one of the nation’s largest Army posts, sits on top of the Kentucky-Tennessee border, and New Life stood right outside its northern gates next to Interstate 24. Many of its clients were Screaming Eagles: paratroopers from the famous 101st Airborne Division. Most of the others were truckers off the highway and locals of all stripes; some say judges and other dignitaries would come up from Nashville, an hour down the highway, to be ushered in and out covertly.
A Southern Journey from the Summer 2017 issue.
Although some Food Network stooge would surely find the One Stop eventually, for the moment it lacked any officious culinary sanction, which seemed important. Joann was cooking for her neighbors, sawdust clinging to some of them, others redolent of fish slime and beer and gasoline, excepting the ladies of course, painted up ferociously in brilliant crimsons and blues. Everybody momentarily at peace. The hottest part of the day gone. Not an ironic moustache in sight. Fried catfish like you couldn’t get anywhere else.