Once again, Colin plays "Six Degrees of Court Carney," this time with fellow LSU veteran and historian James MacDonald. As is the case with Colin, James is a Damn Yankee who moved to the South as an adult and has never looked back. Oh, and like Colin, he married a southerner.
James teaches at Northwestern State University of Louisiana in Natchitoches (pronounced "Nackadish"), a town so southern that it was the setting for the film Steel Magnolias. James talks about the teaching life, including how to cope with educating during the pandemic, wrestling with technology, what it's like to handle a 6-5 course load, and the lessons learned and not learned in graduate school. Also, James talks about growing up in New Jersey, visiting battlefields as a kid, his natural love of teaching, first-year grad school monasticism, and the unbearable heaviness of Phil Morgan's Slave Counterpoint.
American Rambler talks about some new albums he got at Plan 9 Records in in Carytown in Richmond. Carytown seems to be losing businesses steadily, but Plan 9, thankfully, is still open. Yesterday, Colin picked up music from Margo Price, Blaze Foley, King Curtis, and King Biscuit Boy. The band County Kitchen takes us out with the song "Devil Dog," set in the old blues town of Helena, Arkansas.
Wayne Edmondson is a high school teacher living in northern Louisiana. He and Colin are old friends and survivors of the LSU grad program in history. Colin stayed to finish his dissertation, but Wayne took a different path. In addition to studying at LSU, he's played in a rock band, been a sonar technician on a nuclear sub, surveyor in the Gulf of Mexico, funeral home assistant, disaster relief worker after Hurricane Katrina, and sweated out desert days as a contractor working on military bases in Iraq.
Wayne talks about growing up in Louisiana, grad school, and seeing one of his professors nearly die at the podium. Wayne also discusses teaching, the benefits of being a morning person, and some strategies for motivating students (which sometimes involves doing lots of pushups).
It's fitting that Colin and Tim talked on the anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. That's because Tim's recent documentary Monumental Crossroads (link below) examines the debate over Confederate memorials and the meaning of the Civil War in the South.
Taking his camera to locations in Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, and Alabama, Tim's film interviews white and black people to understand their feelings about some of the most divisive symbols in the American landscape. Monumental Crossroads shows us a cross-section of the South, from a black artists and politicians to white members of Confederate groups as well as an African American "Confederate" in Asheville and Tennessee Civil War interpreters.
Tim, a native of the Netherlands, makes clear that no society is free of racism (as in the case of the Netherlands' "Black Pete"), though some are better than others at confronting their troubled past. Colin and Tim discuss the difficulties surrounding racial healing amid a summer that has shown how deadly and divisive race continues to be.
You can watch Monumental Crossroads here:
John Jay Osborn, Jr., is perhaps best known for his 1971 novel The Paper Chase, which was made into an Oscar-winning movie starring John Houseman (with whom John became friends). The book was based on John's experiences at Harvard Law School and centers on James T. Hart, a bright, ambitious, first-year student trying to balance his studies and tumultuous personal life. The book sold well and the film was a success, but John never abandoned the law.
The Papers Chase, nevertheless, led to John spending 15 years in Hollywood as a scriptwriter and advisor. He worked on the TV adaptation of The Paper Chase as well as shows such as L.A. Law and Spencer for Hire. He also was the creator of the show The Associates, based on his second novel. In 2018, after a long hiatus, John published a novel about a troubled relationship called Listen to the Marriage. That book, too, is being made into a movie.
John talks with Colin about his roots in New York, the Osborn family's flight to California, writing The Paper Chase, and his adventures in (and frustrations with) Hollywood.
Chris Leahy was a fellow traveler with Colin in his days at LSU. Since 2007, he's been a professor a Keuka College in upstate New York. He has a new book out, President without a Party: A Life of John Tyler (LSU Press, 2020). His biography began as a dissertation in Baton Rouge, where Chris studied under the imposing William J. Cooper (a previous podcast guest on American Rambler). Chris talks with Colin about his days at LSU as well as growing up in Baltimore and his time at Virginia Tech.
Chris has been working on his biography for more than 20 years. Born in the first years of the American republic into a Tidewater planter family, Virginia's John Tyler isn't one of the better known presidents. But his career in politics serves as an example of how a man can find himself accidentally put into a position of power and then find he doesn't really belong in any political camp.
Tyler might have been U.S. president, but he ended his life loyal to the Confederacy. He died in early 1862, just before taking his place in the Rebel Congress. Ultimately, what kind of a man was Tyler? And what can he tell us about the time in which he lived?
Barclay Key is a history professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He's a native of north Alabama, who was born into a working class family of farmers and textile workers. His father picked cotton before going to college and becoming a teacher. Barclay's Alabama roots help explain why he's a huge fan of Muscle Shoals area rockers Drive-By Truckers, whose music he has used in his history classes.
Since graduating from the University of Florida, Dr. Key has traveled the world courtesy of Fulbright Scholarships that allowed him to teach in Poland and Mexico. He is back in Little Rock now, and earlier this year, Barclay published his first book, Race and Restoration: Churches of Christ and the Black Freedom Struggle. He talks about what it was like to grow up in that faith, and how the Churches of Christ confronted the problem of race in the mid-20th century.
Barclay also talks with Colin about a new research project of his that examines a bombing in Little Rock during the civil rights era, and the investigation that wrongly put a black teenager in prison for the crime.
Robert Gudmestad is a native of Minnesota who teaches history at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He knows Colin from his days as a grad student at LSU, where they both worked with the imposing figure of Charles Royster, the late scholar of the Early Republic, the Civil War, and colonial Vietnam.
Bob is the author of two books, A Troublesome Commerce (2003), about the domestic slave trade, and Steamboats and the Rise of the Cotton Kingdom (2011). As he tells Colin, he never approached his career with much of a plan. He had a good job before he attended grad school. Even so, he decided doing history was a better fit for him. That journey took him to Richmond and then Baton Rouge, where he enjoyed good food, football, and the pleasures of a monastic academic existence.
Recorded in early June, Colin and Rob talk about the then growing Black Lives Matter protests and the fate of Confederate monuments. They reflect on he eccentric side of professional historians, and discuss at length Bob's new research project, which looks at the role Union gunboats played in the western theater of the Civil War.
Mark Doyle is a professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University. A native of Oklahoma who now resides in Nashville, he has lived for extended periods in New Orleans, Boston, and Ireland. His latest book is The Kinks: Songs of the Semi-Detached.
Mark and Colin talk about the historical and sociological background of the Kinks' golden period in the late 1960s and early 1970s. More specifically, they discuss how the brilliant and multi-faceted Ray Davies, the Kinks' main songwriter and singer, commented on the profound changes going on around him. In the process, he and the Kinks made classic albums such as Something Else, Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur, Lola, and Muswell Hillbillies.
Mark and Colin also examine the challenges of doing a different kind of writing, namely, how historians trained in a doctoral program examine a pop culture subject. As Mark sees it, he didn't want to write a typical history of the band. And while interviewing someone in the Kinks would have been fun and exciting, talking to a famous musician won't necessarily add much to your story.
The Kinks were a distinctly British band, but the subjects Ray Davies analyzed--urban renewal, alienation and economic anxiety, the rise of the suburbs, the expansion of the welfare state--were relatable to Americans, too. Ray's songs did not emerge in a vacuum. His art was born amid the changes going on in the postwar world all around him.
Manisha Sinha was born in India, but she moved to the U.S. to finish her education. Since graduating with a Ph.D. from Columbia--where she studied under Eric Foner--she has made an impact on the history world.
Her first book, The Counterrevolution of Slavery (2000), based on her dissertation, was nominated for the Bancroft Prize. A few years ago, Politico named it as one of the ten books on slavery "you need to read." Her most recent book, The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition (2016) won the coveted Frederick Douglass Prize.
Dr. Sinha stays busy. She lives in Massachusetts, but commutes to the University of Connecticut, where she is the Draper Chair in American History. She is hard at work on her next book, which examines the Reconstruction era.
Manisha talks with Colin about the publishing field, what it's like to cut 1/4 million words form a manuscript, and her appearance on The Daily Show during the Obama years.
Joseph L. Galloway is the author of the 1992 bestselling book We Were Soldiers Once and Young, which was made into a hit 2002 movie starring Mel Gibson. The book was inspired, oddly, by a scene from the sequel to American Graffiti.
Joe wrote We Were Soldiers with the help of Hal Moore (played by Gibson in the film), who was then a colonel. The book and movie examined the battle of Ia Drang, fought in November of 1965. It was the bloodiest battle of the war, and Joe Galloway saw it unfold. Joe has a new book out, They Were Soldiers: The Sacrifices and Contributions of Our Vietnam Veterans, which he co-wrote with Marvin J. Wolf.
Joe spent many years as a reporter, who traveled the globe, including time covering the Iraq War. In 2008, We Were Soldiers was named one of the 10 best war books of all time by History.Net. Joe has also been played by not one, but two Hollywood actors. And though Joe has experience with Hollywood, as he makes clear, he'll not be working with Oliver Stone any time soon.
In the intro, Colin talks about the recent unrest, which happened in many cities this last weekend, including his home town of Richmond, Virginia.
Heath Carpenter, a professor of English at Harding University in Arkansas, is the author of The Philosopher King: T. Bone Burnett and the Ethic of a Southern Cultural Renaissance (2019). He is also a native Arkansan, who is friends with previous podcast guest Bonnie Montgomery (featured in his book). Heath has traveled widely, but his globe-hopping has only emphasized the importance of having strong roots in his home state.
Musician and producer T. Bone Burnett has worked on such landmark soundtracks as Crazy Heart, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Cold Mountain and produced acts such as the Secret Sisters and Gregg Allman. His studio wizardry has changed the way Americans think about roots music.
Colin talks with Heath about how his book combines elements of history, film, literature, and music in its exploration of southern identity. In doing so, they examine how much the South has and hasn't changed and how people's perceptions of it are often at odds with reality--sometimes, as in the case of Deliverance, horrifyingly so.
Whatever you think of it, the South remains distinct and likes it that way. Arkansas has produced everyone from Johnny Cash and Al Green to Charlie Rich and Levon Helm as well as more recent acts such as The Gossip. Music remains one of its greatest exports. The state's unique blending of Delta blues, gospel, country, and rock and roll keeps musicians and fans interested. Also, it still has cotton fields, if that's your thing.
Dr. Court Carney returns to the podcast to talk about Bob Dylan. Court is not only a fan, he has taught a class on Dylan at Stephen F. Austin State University, where he is a professor history.
Court's interest in Dylan began when he listened to his dad's copy of Nashville Skyline thirty years ago. In grad school, he took a deeper dive into the Zimmerman catalog by absorbing such classics as Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks, and John Wesley Harding.
Court has also been fascinated by the Dylan-Guthrie connection, which has taken him to archives in Tulsa to examine Guthrie's personal papers. Guthrie died in 1967, by which time Dylan had retreated to Woodstock, NY, to recover and reconceptualize his art and music. While in Woodstock, Dylan began recording with The Band. What emerged was a new kind of American roots music.
In a country founded on legends and self-made men, Court and Colin examine the myth vs. reality of Dylan. They also tackle such questions as: how political was he? Is his Christmas album worth listening to? Was he really seriously injured in a motorcycle crash? And is "Rainy Day Women 12 & 35" a drug song? Dr. Carney explains all!
Not many undergraduates publish a book, but Drew Prehmus did. Drew grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where he now lives. In 2004, he enrolled at Hampden-Sydney College, where he majored in English. In his sophomore year, he started work on a book with Sam. The project took seven years to complete. The result was General Sam: A Biography of Lieutenant General Samuel Vaughan Wilson.
Colin chats with Drew about his background, work at Hampden-Sydney, and the seven years he spent on Sam’s biography. He also provides an inside look at being a student at Hampden-Sydney as well as reminiscences about certain professors, such as the late Victor Cabas.
Michael Foley lives in France, where he is a professor of history at University Grenoble Alpes. He might be far from home, but Mike is used to moving around. The son of a blue collar dad, his father's work took the family around New England and, briefly, into Pennsylvania. He grew up in the culture of Democratic politics and small town meetings, which has informed his later work. Yet, as an undergrad, he went to Florida to pursue a business degree.
After "five miserable years" working in Boston in the late 1980s as an auditor for mutual funds, Mike, inspired by historians of the civil rights movement, got his Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire. There, he studied with Harvard Sitkoff. Since then, he has approached his work with an activist bent. His first monograph, Confronting the War Machine, was about resistance to the draft during the Vietnam War. His work on the 1960s won him the attention of Mad Men, which asked him to be a consultant to the show. He continues to write about politics.
He also is a big music fan. In 2015, he published a book on the Dead Kennedys album for the popular 33 1/3 series. Now, he is writing a book on Johnny Cash's politics.
Move fanatic Michael Scott is a regular on the film podcast The Dana Buckler Show and a huge fan of the related podcast F This Movie! When he's not lending his expertise to an episode of "The 20th Century Movie Club," he's working in Utah as a prosecuting attorney.
Mike talks with Colin about his career path in the justice system--beginning with his time at Emory University law school--and gives some recommendations about films he's been watching lately. He also lets us know which lawyer movies get the details right. Hint: his favorite legal flick may not be what first comes to mind.
Mike and Colin share an early memory of Star Wars and talk about how the movies have changed in their lifetime. Are the movies better than ever? Have crowds killed the movie-going experience? And most important of all, will the movies survive?
This is part two of Colin's talk with Dr. Brent J. Steele of the University of Utah about the academic job market. Colin and Brent start out by walking us through the interview process, including the infamous Dinner, in which a candidate talks with the committee and tries not to order too many drinks and say something stupid. From there, they get into interview nightmares, which range from problems with technology to rude dinner and lunch companions, to phone calls from long-forgotten committee people.
In the intro, Colin provides a Coronavirus update and debates whether anything we now know about the job market has been rendered moot by the pandemic. Happy April, y'all!
Dr. Brent J. Steele, head of the Political Science Department at the University of Utah (and loyal friend of the podcast) returns to American Rambler to talk about the (challenging? woeful?) state of the job market for Ph.D.s. Unfortunately the Coronavirus is only going to make harder an already daunting job search process. Is there hope for those wanting to land a tenure track position or just a good, stable job at some kind of research institution?
2020 may suck so far, but times have always been hard for scholars. And in Part I of this discussion, Brent and Colin talk about the many tricky turns in navigating the job market, from building your CV, to applying en masse, to getting that coveted first interview. What are grad students to expect when they are looking for work? More so, what might anyone expect who is trying to land a job at a college or university? Well, the good doctors are here to help!
A fascination with Game of Thrones inspired Megan Kate Nelson's new book, The Three-Cornered War, which examines the role of the Union, Confederacy and Native Americans in the southwestern theatre of the Civil War. It's Megan's third book. Now that she is writing full time, she shows no signs of slowing down.
Megan is a native of the West herself, and to write The Three-Cornered War, she traveled to the places she describes in her book. She lives in Massachusetts, but she is still fascinated by the West she grew up in. She is already working on her fourth book, on the history of Yellowstone, which is slated for publication in 2022.
Are you thinking about grad school? While they both have Ph.D.s, Colin and Megan talk about the difficulties of being on the tenure track and how one should maybe consider the option of "alt-ac" careers. What do you do with a Ph.D. if academia isn't for you? Megan has shown that there is life, and success, beyond the Ivory Tower. And you can start by deciding not to write for free anymore.
You can find out more about Dr. Nelson at: http://www.megankatenelson.com/
She lives near Austin now, but musician Bonnie Montgomery is a native of Arkansas. Raised in a musical family in Searcy that owned a music shop, she started playing classical piano at a young age. Later, she picked up a guitar. After graduating with a graduate degree in music, she taught in China, lived in Nashville, and traveled overseas with the popular (though now defunct) Arkansas group The Gossip.
She is known for her alt-country records, but it was an opera she co-wrote with a college friend that got her noticed. The subject: Bill Clinton, of course. With an opera to her credit, she soon turned to writing country songs.
Her self-titled, full album debut, Bonnie Montgomery, was released in 2014. Her work won her an Ameripolitan award in 2016 and got the attention of the Outlaw Country community. In 2018, she released Forever, her second album, which combines country and classical elements and features a duet with Dale Watson. These days, you can find her playing not only with Dale Watson but Ray Wiley Hubbard and Rosie Flores. Bonnie made her first appearance on the Outlaw Country Cruise this year and lived to tell the tale.
Music in this episode: "Joy" from Bonnie Montgomery; "Black County" from Bonnie Montgomery; "Goin' Out Tonight (with Dale Watson) from Forever; and "No More" from Forever. You can read more about Bonnie and buy her music at www.bonniemontgomerymusic.com.
Part two of Colin's talk with author and historian G. J. Meyer goes deeper into the writing life. It's an honest discussion of how the business works and how success is fleeting and difficult to predict amid the "sorry state of the American publishing industry."
Jerry is working on a novel, so he and Colin discuss the literary influences that have made Jerry want to write fiction. For him, those included The Paris Review, Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O'Connor, and Annie Poulx. They also find time to discuss Faulkner, Walker Percy, Robert Penn Warren, and how Otto Von Bismarck turned out to be a not-so-great subject to write about.
He lives in England now, but historian G. J. Meyer is a native of St. Louis, who developed his journalism chops at newspapers in the mid-west. Jerry rose in the ranks at the St. Louis Dispatch, and his writing won him a Neiman fellowship at Harvard. He published a book on a Memphis serial killer in 1974, but he eventually left journalism to work in corporate America, which became the basis for his second book, Executive Blues. He returned to writing full-time once he landed in New York and found a publisher for World Undone, a tour de force history of World War I.
In part one of his two part talk with Colin, Jerry discusses his winding path to becoming a full-time writer. He also talks about how World Undone was different from other books on the Great War, and how that tragic conflict changed the global landscape.
Colin welcomes back Dana Buckler, the Florida-based host of the popular movie podcast, The Dana Buckler Show (formerly How is This Movie?). Dana tells Colin about his path to success as a podcaster, including an honest discussion of some missteps he's made along the way. Dana, however, has seen his audience grow over the years as well as his guest list. What began as a one-man show has turned into an interview podcast featuring guests such as State of Grace director Phil Jouano, screenwriter Jim Hemphill, and Dana's biggest catch to date, John Travolta. Dana gives some good advice to aspiring podcasters and also talks about his future career plans, which were made possible by his podcast.
New York City writer Adam Bulger returns to American Rambler to discuss the recent death of legendary Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart. He also talks about the band's back catalogue.
Rush has always existed somewhere between contemptuous critics and adoring fans. Robert Christgau once called the Canadian trio "the most obnoxious band currently making a killing on the zonked teen circuit." Rolling Stone has written of Rush's "preconceptual roots as dull, perennially second-billed metal plotzers." Rush did not join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until 2013, 14 years after the band was first eligible.
Rush, nevertheless, is a staple of classic rock radio with such songs as "Tom Sawyer," "Limelight," "Spirit of the Radio," "Time Stand Still," and "Closer to the Heart." Love them or hate them, they are on the soundtrack of late 20th century American suburban life.
But should you like them? Mr. Bulger takes a deep dive into Rush, learning to appreciate the band as a listener and a guitar player. He recommends the Netflix doc Beyond the Lighted Stage to get a better sense of the band's history and music. Was the nerdy Neil Peart a rock god? Rush might live forever on your FM dial, but can they make Ayn Rand interesting?
Also, in the wake of the recent white supremacy/NRA rally in Richmond, Colin and Adam talk about gun control for 20 minutes. If you want to get to skip to Rush, it starts around the 30 minute mark.
Eric Foner is one of the most accomplished historians of the 19th century United States. His first book, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, about the rise of the Republican Party, is a classic. So too is his 1988 work Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, which won the Bancroft Prize. More recently, he has turned his attention to Abraham Lincoln. His 2011 book, The Fiery Trial, about Lincoln's views on slavery, won the Pulitzer and Lincoln Prize.
Eric discusses his early career at Columbia, including his experiences working with the renowned historian Richard Hofstadter, who won the Pulitzer Prize twice in his short life. Dr. Foner also discusses his politics, his views on the current state of the history profession, and the Trump administration.
He is retired from teaching, but Eric shows no signs of slowing down. He is still on a speaking tour for his most recent book, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution, which came out in September of 2019.