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 comic from the Seventh Southern Music Issue.
What is an artist’s public self but a front, a collection of personal dogmas—brand of whisky, brand of politics, brand of god—perhaps no longer believed in but argued forcefully for the sake of consistency and the benefit of future biographers.
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.
Celebrating the idiosyncratic genius of Thelonious Monk, born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, on October 10, 1917.
In a remarkable 1963 appearance with Juilliard professor and friend, Hall Overton, at the New School in New York, Monk demonstrated his technique of “bending” or “curving” notes on the piano, the most rigidly tempered of instruments. He drawled notes like a human voice and blended them (playing notes C and C-sharp at the same time, for example) to create his own dialect. Overton told the audience, “That can’t be done on piano, but you just heard it.” He then explained that Monk achieved it by adjusting his finger pressure on the keys, the way baseball pitchers do to make a ball’s path bend, curve, or dip in flight.
An interview with the founder of Arhoolie Records, Chris Strachwitz, who remembers the early days of his recording career, his first memories of hearing norteño and Tejano on the radio, traveling with Sam Charters, recording Mance Lipscomb, and more.
A Points South essay from the South Carolina Music Issue.
A problem solver, Jones would ultimately get his drums from his mother’s record collection, as her Charles Wright and Isaac Hayes albums began migrating into his room. “There wasn’t enough money for records,” he recalled. “Or I couldn’t find them. So I’d record songs on the radio off the reel-to-reel, and take the reel-to-reel to the party.” There’s a photograph of Jones deejaying the Charleston YMCA wearing pleated baggies and a fade, with a Michelob parked in front of his Akai séance machine.
Here’s a confession: I’m listening to Lydia Mendoza right now, loud enough to warrant complaints from my neighbors. And if you feel the need to lift your chest and bellow barefoot in the kitchen, might I suggest you turn up her first major hit, “Mal Hombre”
Ethnomusicologists have continued to do necessary and significant research, both in the field and beyond, but it’s difficult to muster up a modern analogue for Lomax. No other single figure is as invested in the American musical canon, or as influential. In part that’s the result of a global shift towards self-mythologizing: we all maniacally catalogue and broadcast our lives now, ensuring our legacies to both transcendent and humiliating ends. Who needs Lomax when we have YouTube?