After reading “The Last of His Kind,” by Dolly Carlisle (March 6), about the remarkable story of Otha Turner, my first reaction was what a fantastic example of bonding and friendship that transcended all preconceived boundaries of decorum that often comes to mind when thinking about relationships between the races.
By all indications, Turner and attorney Bill Ramsey reached the ultimate plateau in human connectedness, which is a vital ingredient for finding happiness in one’s lifetime on this planet. But the crowning glory of their relationship, as told by Carlisle, is how Ramsey unselfishly and astutely guided Turner’s musical career in such a way that his brilliance will live on.
My thanks to both Ramsey and Carlisle for bringing this story of the tenacious spirit of friendship to public awareness. We need more stories of this kind to bridge the gap of racial unrest.
Emma J. Wisdom
Thank you, thank you, thank you
Thank you for the wonderful cover photo and the article about Otha Turner and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band (“The Last of His Kind,” March 6). I’ve had a poster of the group on my wall since 1984. Mr. Turner and his daughter Bernice performed numerous years at our local, annual (1975-1990) fall festival in Centennial Park, the legendary Tennessee Grassroots Days.
The late Anne Romaine, Tennessee Grassroots Days founder and Director, had Otha and his band march from the Parthenon to the stages of the Smithsonian-type folk festival, playing this eerie, moving and rare form of American roots music, which predated the blues. Always, it was spectacularly haunting.
A belated thank you to Anne Romaine and to television’s Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, which used Otha on their shows before others were aware of or valued his rare gift. Additional thanks to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for their long-standing tribute to roots music, which first put Otha on their stages in the 1970s. And a special thanks to the Scene for celebrating Otha’s life and legacy, which local attorney Bill Ramsey cherished and furthered.
Not quite right
Thank you for the article on Otha Turner (“The Last of His Kind,” March 6). I would like to make two corrections, however. The National Heritage Fellowships in the Folk and Traditional Arts are awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, not the National Endowment for the Humanities. And the award is not limited to musicians; basket makers, boat builders, quilters, blacksmiths, saddle makers and dancers have all been recipients of this prestigious designation.
Tennessee has been home to 14 National Heritage Fellows. This week, two of those Fellows, musicians Howard Armstrong (string band instrumentalist) and Ralph Blizard (old-time fiddler), will be presented with Governor’s Awards in the Arts, Folklife Heritage Category, in a ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium. More information about the NEA and the Heritage Fellowships is available online at www.arts.endow.gov/artforms/Folk/allheritage.html. Information about the Governor’s Awards in the Arts is available at www.arts.state.tn.us.
Jennifer C. Core Tennessee Arts Commission
Ahhh, a potshot at Tennessean columnist Brad Schmitt one week (“Don’t Kill the Messenger,” Feb. 27), and a raving diatribe about him the next (Letters, March 6). Must’ve been a slow week for you guys.
As Brad’s boss, I can tell you why he’s earned his daily spot in the paper. He’s connected. He gets thousands of e-mails and hundreds of phone calls each week. He’s been a news reporter, so when a dicey issue regarding a celebrity breaks, he’s able to actually report the story. Brad’s held to the same sourcing standards as reporters and, unlike our competitors, he doesn’t report rumor or innuendo. Does he rewrite press releases? Nope, he sifts through hundreds of them to find the one or two sentences of actual information amid the hyperbole.
Oh, and Brad writes one of our best-read features in the paper. And for a columnist there’s really no bad publicity, so thanks for the jealous comments.
By the way, Matt Pulle, just call if you ever want to come over and see how a daily paper works. We’ll show you how the features department differs from the news department. News covers news; my staff covers things like the Grammies. (Funny, we didn’t see you guys there.) So comparing our news efforts with the fact that I sent Brad to New York for the Grammies is just pretty silly.
Laurie E. Holloway
assistant managing editor/features
It’s the music, stupid
I’m not the world’s greatest Vince Gill fan, though I like him and consider him a fine singer and guitarist and an able songwriter. After reading Geoffrey Himes’ rather overwrought review of Mr. Gill’s latest album (“Art or Commerce?,” March 6), I was left with three questions:
1) Is Mr. Himes a music critic or Vince Gill’s analyst?
2) Is it possible that Vince Gill is not Mark Wills/Buddy Miller/Bob Dylan/Rodney Crowell/Johnny Cash/Rosanne Cash/Emmylou Harris, but simply Vince Gill?
3)How is the album, Geoffrey?
Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee and I’ll forgive Thy great big one on me. Robert Frost, from “A Concept Self-Conceived”
Just a couple of things: First, in the awards category, the Tennessee chapter of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) honored the Scene two weekends ago with its “Community Leadership Award.” The HRC is a Washington D.C.-based organization that advocates equal rights for gays and lesbians. Secondly, check out our Web site (www.nashvillescene.com) for a massive essay by our investigative reporter, Willy Stern, exploring the role of excessive lawyering on the state of investigative journalism in America. It’s altogether a chilling account of how investigative journalism in America is being neutered.
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