Archive for the History Category

He wasn’t the Lone Ranger — but you should still know about Bass Reeves

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2021 by macmystery
Bass Reeves was the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi.
Bass Reeves was the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi.

It’s been a rough weekend and a rough day.

After a week that saw the world lose some musical heroes of mine — Don Everly, Charlie Watts and the Storyteller, Tom T. Hall — things got worse at week’s end.

A high school coach who left a big footprint locally died of COVID. He was 57 and a better man than a coach. and that’s saying something because he was a helluva coach.

Circumstances prevented us from being close. But I liked and respected him, and he liked and respected me, I believe.

I think the COVID surge is starting to wear me down. The mess in Afghanistan and Hurricane Ida in New Orleans is taking a toll, as well. I just don’t have an effective escape in place when the events of the day start to pile up. Mental health is a thing. I’d like to say I was managing it better.

As a result, I’ve spent a lot of the day reading. And I’ve come across a couple of real gems today (I say today … it’s now almost 2 a.m. on Monday).

Late tonight, I happened on this jewel: The Resurrection of Bass Reeves. It’s from the June 2021 issue of Texas Monthly, referred to by itself as “The National Magazine of Texas.”

The Facebook link to the story sucks you in by intimating that Bass Reeves, the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi, may have been the real-life inspiration for The Lone Ranger.

I don’t want to disclose too much of the story. My hope is that you’ll read it. Suffice it to say, however, that I had never heard of Reeves before tonight (or this morning). And that was my loss.

Like too many Black Americans and Black towns and Black communities, their stories have been lost, for reasons both sinister and innocent. But it appears Reeves’ story may have escaped the fate of many others and might reach the mainstream. In recent years, there have been multiple books and a handful of movies produced, or on their way to production.

For the record, Reeves’ resume holds up next to the Old West lawmen we’ve read about or seen in movies for the past 100 years — Earp, Masterson, Hickok, etc. He is said to have arrested more than 3,000 criminals — white, Black and Native American — in his time as a U.S. Marshal in Oklahoma.

And another thing that makes the story great. As you watch the story’s main protagonist dig up the history surrounding Reeves, you learn about that man’s story, as well.

But don’t take my word for it. Instead take my advice, and read it for yourself.

np: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals; The Soul & The Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck; Roy Orbison’s Mystery Girl; and 52nd Street by Billy Joel

We lost John Prine

Posted in History, Music, Uncategorized with tags , on April 8, 2020 by macmystery

John-Prine-ASC-600x350

John Prine

There is absolutely nothing I can write in this space that will do my subject justice.

The world lost John Prine tonight.

I don’t have a plan for this, I’m just going to get a lot of thoughts down. I am heartbroken.

At this point, he had been ill two weeks or so. He and his wife, Fiona, had caught the coronavirus. She recovered. John, a two-time cancer survivor, did not.

I can’t tell you exactly when I discovered his music. I would tell you it was sometime during my teen years in the late 1980s. I was aware and a fan of Bonnie Raitt. And of course to be a fan of Bonnie Raitt means you had to have heard Angel From Montgomery, one of John’s best songs.

Grandpa Was A Carpenter made an appearance on the second Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Will The Circle Be Unbroken album. I had seen him on Austin City Limits. My hero, Bruce Springsteen, had appeared on Jesus, The Missing Years.

I’m not sure which of those happened first. It doesn’t matter. Once you realized how good he was, you were hooked. There aren’t many songwriters in this world that Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan revere. John Prine was one.

My current favorite, Jason Isbell, revered Prine.

“Well a question ain’t really a question if you know the answer, too.”

I was lucky enough to see Prine twice. The first time at the Peace Center in Greenville. Old Crow Medicine Show opened. My ex-wife and I saw him with my friends Chris and Bridget. He was at his best. He sang all the songs I really loved. You can see your favorite artists a handful of times and never be lucky enough to see a show like we saw that night.

The second time, Jason Isbell opened for him in Savannah. My friend Justin had seen Isbell but not Prine. I had seen Prine, of course, but it was my first Isbell show. I was really late getting off work, then we were sidetracked between Bluffton and Savannah by a huge wreck. By the time we got there, I got to hear four Jason Isbell songs. But Jjustin got to hear the whole Prine set. And I’m certain he’s thankful.

His songs were filled with honesty and a dry wit and somehow, they always seemed familiar. And generous.

I wrote just the other day that John’s 1971 self-titled debut was the greatest debut album ever. Fight me. The track listing reads like a greatest hits package. But it wasn’t. Just a perfect record.

Sam Stone. Spanish Pipedream. Illegal Smile. Hello In There. Paradise. Donald and Lydia. Angel From Montgomery. Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.

Damn.

Over the next couple of days, we’re going to hear a lot of artists, a lot of writers, a lot of fans talk about how great John Prine was. I’m glad that he got to hear a little of this toward the end of his life.

While Prine was content to make great music in the shadows of the big record labels, it’s only right that at thend he got the Grammys and the Americana awards he deserved. And it’s good there were artists like Isbell, who revered John and sought him out and made him their friend. I hope there was something satisfying in it for John.

I am devastated. John Prine was an artist. Not a family member or a friend. But on so many lonely nights or long car trips, he was one of the people there talking to me. And I will forever cherish what he had to say.

The world is a slightly less good place than it was a few hours ago.

 

Dylan drops 17-minute ballad about JFK assassination

Posted in History, Music, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2020 by macmystery

Nine Inch Nails pulled off a surprise album drop Thursday. If you’re into them, that’s a pretty big deal.

To me, this was much bigger news. Bob Dylan released his first original work in 8 years on Friday, a sparse, rambling 17-minute ballad about the JFK assassination entitled “Murder Most Foul.”

It may not be what your in to, but I’d suggest listening at lease once.

You can’t have it both ways

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2020 by macmystery

martin_luther_king

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you spent second one bitching about Colin Kaepernick or any NFL player kneeling, yet you’re posting quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on your Facebook profile today, you’re full of shit.

And if you don’t understand why, you’re ignorant, too.

I’m sorry, that’s blunt. That’s not the most painful statement, though.

The most painful statement is that most who quote King once a year while opposing what he stood for the other 364 days know exactly what they are doing. And why they are doing it. And I don’t have to spell it out.

I would suggest today giving King’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail a read today. It’s truly one of the single-most important American writings in our history.

It’s something that shouldn’t be reserved for King’s birthday, but something we should be familiar with year round. But quite frankly, I’m sure it makes white people, particularly white Christians, uncomfortable. Particularly when you apply his premise to the current situation in our nation.

But reading, being conscious of and addressing King’s concerns contained within would make us all better people, better Americans and, most decidedly, better Christians.

 

 

Memorial Day … why just one day?

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on June 1, 2019 by macmystery

MikeMug

I look like a disgruntled something or other.

 

In my relatively new gig as the editor of The Island News, I wrote a column last week about the way we celebrate Memorial Day and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might be free.

I figured I might as well start sharing my columns here. And this is the first one.

The premise is this … why do we celebrate our fallen patriots only one day a year? Shouldn’t we do better to honor them?

I make that argument here …