Tag Archives: nashville

Scarecrow: The Music and Murder of Stringbean Akeman

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Wake up, wake up little Betty

What makes you sleep so sound

When the highway robbers are a-comin’

They’ll tear your playhouse down

The little cabin in Ridgetop, Tennessee hadn’t held a soul in over twenty years. The crime scene chalk and blood were wiped away and the cabin shuttered for some time.

The man renting the place went to light a fire in the large fireplace. Small bits of paper escaped from its mouth, softly falling from the brick façade like volcanic ash in the still cabin air. It was money. Tens of thousands of dollars floating in worthless portions, gathered gently on the cabin floor.

Stringbean’s fortune.

 

How Sweet It Is

David “Stringbean” Akeman fashioned his first banjo from a shoebox and a piece of thread. He was born in 1916 in Annville, Kentucky. They were so poor his mother would give him rocks to throw at birds, and, if his arm was good, they’d have boiled fowl for supper. When he was 12, he traded two bantam chickens for his first real banjo.

He would make his name – and his fortune – playing novelty songs in the tradition of the banjo-playing comedians of the Grand Ole Opry.

But String could pick.

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Van Heffer: Elvis, Ozzy and the Brazilian Bus Plunge

2318534Why aren’t there more films about effeminate Elvis impersonators doing Ozzy Osbourne songs with a crack bluegrass band? Co-writer/director/producer (and Nashville music producer) Scott Rouse set out to remedy this omission with his short film, Van Heffer.

The Comedy Central pilot traces the life, career and mysterious death of Sherman Van Heffer (Shane Caldwell) told in the style of the mockumentary pioneered by Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer with 1984’s This is Spinal Tap.

Van Heffer is peppered with a virtual who’s who of bluegrass legends playing themselves (Del McCoury, Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Vince Gill) as well as Nashville notables such as Station Inn owner J.T. Gray and Wichita Rutherford, which lend the film its sharp, sarcastic authenticity.

To the best of my knowledge nothing further came of the project with Comedy Central, but the pilot has become a cult classic, and was a hit at the 2006 Nashville Film Festival.

Look for yours truly (with a transitory southern accent) as the record store clerk. The running time is a mere 26 minutes, so there is very little commitment. Much like my acting.