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Authentic "Southerness" with J.D. Wilkes

J.D. Wilkes

J.D. Wilkes is a talented musician, film maker, writer, and visual artist.  As an accomplished harmonica player he has worked with the likes of Merle Haggard, John Carter Cash, Mike Patton, and Hank Williams.  His song "Swampblood" can be heard on the Grammy nominated "True Blood" soundtrack.  The list of accomplishments and creations by J.D. can go on for pages, most recently in 2014 he was selected by mayor Gayle Kaler to represent his home city of Paducah, Kentucky in a cultural exchange with The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland.  

In many ways J.D. embodies a lot of what the Serpents of Bienville project is all about, the preservation of Southern story telling and working within our community.  Through an introduction from our good friend and contributor Vernon Hightower, J.D. has been an encouraging voice to our project and to us.  We have been fortunate to have a back and forth with him that is constantly enlightening, informing, and entertaining.  We will be working with J.D. on an exciting upcoming project for Serpents of Bienville, one that we can't wait to tell you about soon!  In the mean time, here is the first of what I am sure will be many insights to the mind of J.D. Wilkes.  This exert is from a conversation on authentic "Southerness", and it was so good, we had to share it with you guys. Enjoy!  

-Sean Herman


"One exploited band that embodies "southernness", but not in an overt, political way, is The Flat Duo Jets. 

But Dex Romweber's caustic lifestyle and weight gain kept him from being a superstar (despite appearing early-on in an episode of Late Night with David Letterman.) 

Then along comes carpetbagger Jack White to capitalize on the gothic/rockabilly duo thing, shitty guitar, Edward Scissorhands look and all (which Dex rocked a decade or two earlier) and cleans up.

Dexter Romweber of the "Flat Duo Jets"

Dexter Romweber of the "Flat Duo Jets"

 

Sure Jack gave Dex credit for the influence but it barely did any good. I've never seen more than 12 people at a Dex show. And the gall of Jack White to move south and insist that Nashville is HIS town now. Now I hear he's laying down roots in Muscle Shoals! (Alabama)

As far as NPR goes, yes, the only southern music we're allowed are faux-Appalachian songbirds (Gillian Welch copycats), bearded Southern Rock posers w/smarmy jabs at the south, and hipsters aping the blues. 

If somehow transplanted into today's market, a young Jerry Lee Lewis couldn't BUY his way onto NPR, what with his criminal record and religious issues. But since he was "made" in an era when PC didn't exist, he's an icon!"