SC Promo DigitalAssets OnSale 1200x630 (1)

 

Available Now!

The Oxford American’s 21st Annual
Southern Music Issue & CD

Featuring
SOUTH CAROLINA

 

Order your copy today.

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.

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on all things OA.

David Ramsey

David Ramsey is a contributing editor to the Oxford American. His work has been anthologized in Da Capo Best Music Writing, Best Food Writing, and the Norton Field Guide to Writing. He last wrote for the magazine about the lined-out hymnody tradition of the Old Regular Baptists in Appalachia.

November 19, 2019

A feature essay from the South Carolina Music Issue. 

The thing that they do, I hesitate to say that you have to be there, but—there is an intimacy and devilment to their live performance, a lift and crash, that has been hard to capture on record. So that their art, like the lives they have carved out for themselves, is a thing on the move, uncatchable as a storm. Home and the road and home on the road. 

November 21, 2017
The Old Regular Baptists and the joyful sound.

The Old Regulars sing loud. “You can’t whisper it, it needs to have zip,” one told me. Another: “If you can’t shout down here, what are you gonna do when you get to Heaven?” There is an orderliness to their singing, a formal quality—it has the shape and thrust of liturgy. But it is also indisputably wild.

September 05, 2017

We both loved Gary Stewart, and we both loved Grace.

My wife Grace’s father was a big man. He wasn’t much more than six feet tall, but I think folks thought of him as taller because he carried himself large. He tried being a hippie once, he said, but couldn’t abide the non-violence (too many people needed to get their asses kicked). At the first job he ever had, on a ranch, he got a business card with his official title: COWBOY. He kept that card. He wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. He had the best hunting dogs in Levy County. For a while he ran a sawmill. For a while he was a watermelon farmer, then a beekeeper, then he raised buffalo on the family farm. That’s just a small sampling. His name was John. He went by Chuck. 

February 02, 2017

When CeDell Davis was a boy, his mother told him he would go to hell if he kept on playing the guitar and messing around with the devil’s music. Davis was born in the Delta town of Helena in 1926, and there was no shortage of devilment. A bustling cotton port on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River, Helena was like a Chicago or Memphis in miniature, home to scores of white saloons and black juke joints where bootleggers, gamblers, and hustlers gathered. It was violent and wild and music was everywhere, from the clubs downtown to the street corners by the docks. “Back then, Helena was wide open,” Davis told me. “If you had the money, you could get whatever you want.” 

December 11, 2015

Little Richard, now eighty-two years old, has reportedly been living the last several years in a penthouse suite at the Hilton hotel in downtown Nashville (the Hilton will neither confirm nor deny that they have a guest named Mr. Penniman). I knew someone who knew someone who had his cell phone number, and in June, I cold-called him.

July 01, 2015

From the archive.

Billy Mitchell, the most knowledgeable and masterful Pac-Man player ever to drop a quarter in a machine, is a hard man to find. When I asked one of his best friends, Walter Day, the best way to get in touch with him, Day told me, “First I spend an hour praying to God, then I visit a psychic, then I place a classified ad, then I hire a plane to carry a banner that says CALL ME BILLY! and make it fly all over South Florida. Because he might be anywhere.”

May 25, 2010

“You just have to see” is always good advice in New Orleans, which is how I ended up at the 2007 premiere of Trixie and the Treetrunks, a ten-part puppet telenovela in which Trixie and her pal Marsha try to make sense of a post-apocalyptic world by starting a band to send secret messages from the center of the earth.

June 04, 2014

Though hot chicken is not peculiar to Nashville, the city is uniquely obsessed with the dish.

March 19, 2014

For some of my students, the questions Where are you from?  and Do you listen to Lil Wayne?  were close to interchangeable. Their shared currency—as much as neighborhoods or food or slang or trauma—was the stoned musings of Weezy F. Baby.