Dixie Lullaby : A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South (Free Press/Simon & Schuster) by Mark Kemp
Kemp is a native of South Carolina and born in 1960 and came of age at the time the civil rights movement kicked into the high gear and the old Jim Crow order of the South was breaking down. During a time when kids are trying to find their identity it was even more difficult for a son of the South during those turbulent times.
Kemp found refuge in the then burgeoning Southern rock bands, led by the Macon, Georgia’s Allman Brothers Band and followed soon after my Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Charlie Daniels Band, Black Oak Arkansas, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, the Marshall Tucker band. Though also infatuated with many of the British Invasion bands these other bands were
tapping subject matter in styles that working class white Southerners could use to help the transition of identity in the New South.
The seemingly paradoxical identity, what Patterson Hood of the Drive By Truckers refers to on the bands opus “Southern Rock Opera” as the “Duality of the Southern Thing” manifested itself in a generation of young Southerners that are both proud of their environment but ashamed at the history that haunts it. Kemp grows to reject Southern music and much of his heritage, moves to New York City where he lands, and due largely to drug problem loses, his dream job at Rolling Stone Magazine. Kemp’s personal journey is nicely paralleled with his Southern travels with his Dad and interviews with musicians and
key individuals like Charlie Daniels, Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ed King and so many others. Some of the highlights of the book is the conversations with Phil Walden, former manager for Otis Redding and the Allman Bothers and founder of the fabled Capricorn Records and his 1992 interview with testy Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson who apparently bristles at the Southern Rock moniker.
I’m within a few years of Mr. Kemp and grew up in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, and I can attest that the stories in “Dixie Lullaby” ring true to experience in leaving the South for New York City (as Kemp did) and carrying a sort of defensive pride for my roots. This comes out most prevalently was what I like to call the “ugly sister effect.” I can talk shit about Texas all day long (corrupt politicians abuse of the death penalty for one), but it makes me mad when others not from the South, and sometimes never been South of the Mason/Dixon, talks trash about the region. Like I can say my sister’s ugly (she’s not though, sorry sis) but by god if you do you’ll get your ass handed to you. Complex, no?
Dixie Lullaby is a great piece of Southern cultural history well told.