Like a lot of culture vultures with an appetite for so-called Americana, I'm ambivalent about the sticks. I'll sing along to Terry Fell one minute, then lapse into Easy Rider style hicko-phobia the next. On my recent drive from Boston to Austin, which took me through parts of Appalachia, the Ohio River Valley, and the Ozarks, I had plenty of opportunity to swing between extremes.
Here's a partial diary:
December 22, 2008: I gotta wonder, are the ugliest people in the US scattered along I-70? Driving west thru Washington, PA, Wheeling, WV, and Columbus, OH, I get the impression that every rest stop, gas station, and quickie mart we hit is full of fat, drawling mutants lining up to buy Big Gulp Mountain Dew. Caught a bad dose of the heartland horrors at a Wendy's just outside of Zanesville, OH, surrounded by characters that could have come straight from Roy Tompkins' "Trailer Trash" comic. None of us really ate our fastfood --so soft and bland, almost like babyfood-- so much as we seemed to absorb it thru large facial orifice.
December 23, 2008: Left Dad's place in the St. Louis suburbs, drove thru late afternoon rains along I-44, which follows the old Route 66. East of Springfield, MO, we stopped at one of those corny souvenir/antique shops dotting the highway here. Turns out they had a big bin full of C&W records.
Scored a mono copy of that 1st Webb Pierce LP. One big highlight here is his version of Jimmie Rodgers' "He's in the Jailhouse Now." Great country boogie guitar on that one. Was Roy Hall playing piano for Webb at that point?
Also picked up a mono copy of the Johnny Paycheck LP "Jukebox Charlie", on Aubrey Mayhew's Little Darlin' label. Crazy steel guitar provided by Lloyd Green. One of my favorites here is their version of Bobby Bare's "Motel Time Again."
Finally, I couldn't resist cornball Johnny Bond party record "Ten Little Bottles" on Starday, which features the boozer's singalong "Three Sheets in the Wind".
December 23, 2008: Took highway 65 outta Springfield, MO, thru silly-ass Branson, bound for Little Rock. This road goes thru Ozarks, eerie hollers and pitch-black woods. Fog was so thick at certain points that we could see no more than 10 feet in front of the car. So that slowed us down to an utterly tedious 20mph for almost 50 miles. Easy Rider phobia kicked in hard at this point. I could see us trying to rest at a mountain turn-off, to end up getting moonshined, or hip-mo-tized by Ozark myth monster the Yarp, or otherwise devoured by the evil lurking in the American wilderness. I was never so happy to see a Tiger Mart open in the middle of the night as when we finally reached Conway, AR.
Illustration: Harvey the Hillbilly Bastard, by Roy Tompkins