Clyde Edgerton and the Columbus Stockade Blues

        All us bluegrassers know the song:  “Way Down in Columbus Georgia….”   What you might not know is that author Clyde Edgerton (‘Raney’ and ‘Walking across Egypt’) plays the mandolin.  I saw it myself, so I know it for a fact.

        We have several of Mr. Edgerton’s books around the house, and I always suspected he was a bluegrass kind of guy.  Now I know it is true. 

        My Lit agent is a very smart man.  When he speaks, I listen.  So when he suggested the Chattanooga Arts and Education bi-annual convention for southern writers was a must for anyone interested in the genre, I went.  I was not disappointed.    

       There were many highlights, and it will take me a month to post all of them.  But to find out Clyde Edgerton is a mandolin guy was near the top ot the heap for me.  When he played and sang ‘Columbus Stockade’ and was accompanied by Mr. Louis D. Rubin, Jr. I all but fell out of my seat.  I dang near jumped up on the stage to jam with them.

        Mr. Rubin recalled his experience as an eight year old boy when he attended the last Confederate solider reunion in Richmond.  He described the train with 1,500 old gray-haired and bearded men who waved at the crowd as they passed by.  I am in awe of anyone who knows that much and can recall it in such vivid detail.  He is one of Mr. Edgerton’s mentors, and after this conference I understood why.

        Mr. Edgerton told a hilarious story about a Bible salesman and a cat you just have to hear.  If you want to understand what about Southern is universal to being human, I recommend you buy his book and read it out loud.  Too much.

         It hit me that bluegrass music and Southern Lit have a common denominator.  The artists continue on because they love it.  Every one of the writers I talked to do what they do because they are compelled to make their best effort to seek the truth by writing.  

         My agent always says you have to do your best to show the truth.  Well, for my money if Clyde Edgerton on the mandolin, Louis Rubin, Jr. on the harmonica, and the ‘Columbus Stockade Blues’ ain’t the truth about Southern Literature I don’t know what is.  They spoke my language and were fluent.   Maybe someday with enough work and re-writes I can jam with ’em.

Dr. B

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18 Comments on “Clyde Edgerton and the Columbus Stockade Blues”

  1. Billy Says:

    If you actually talked to Clyde Edgerton who wrote Raney, you talked to one of the best around. Here is a video that I found on YouTube of him playing a Banjo. You might be right — there must be a real connection between top Southern writers and Bluegrass.

    He certainly doesn’t look like a stuff shirt. And there are about as many books in his classroom as the cab of my truck.

  2. drtombibey Says:


    I did get to meet him, and shook his hand. Honest to goodness he was very down to Earth. He was humble and even seemed a bit mystifed by all the success he’s had.

    When they had a question and answer session, I started to ask him how many instruments he played but I was a little embarrassed to stand up in front of all those people. Will check out the video.

    Dr. B

  3. Dr. B, you’ll get to jam with the best of ’em once your book comes out. You’ve got a talent for telling a story and making it feel true and real, but also still feel like a story and not dry fact. I can’t wait to get to read a whole book like that.

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Lordy Ms slightly,

    You are a sweetheart. I’ve got just enough talent to be dangerous. (Except as a Doc, in that I am always very serious) I guess I had to have art to survive being a Doctor.

    One day we are gonna sing one at a bookstore gig, I promise.

    Dr. B

  5. danny fulks Says:

    Doc, and others who show up here: I think you all would like to read Rady Noles book, ORANGE BLOSSOM BOYS isbn 1574241044. You still won’t know whether Ervin Rouse or Chubby Wise wrote it but it’s a great story of the most famous fiddle tune. I have commented before about how songs and other great pieces of writing become so familiar big artists no longer play them, it’s like the tune overshadows itself and becomes identified a cliche. Wildwood Flower is like that. And you know, it’s a rare night when Alison will play the “special.” Alsion is so cool even 10 years ago when I first met her she would always leave you wanting more, always did a great show with integrity, but held a little bit back for dessert next time she came around. After show, once, I asked her if it would be too much trouble to set up the stage again because she didn’t sing BUT YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU. And she used to say, “Scratch it if it itches, even if it’s in your britches,” The book comes with a cd of about a dozen versons of “Orange” including Edwin’s.

  6. Felix Miller Says:

    Every one of these conferences I have attended has been full of folks like Clyde Edgerton, who, as you say,”do what they do because they are compelled to make their best effort to seek the truth by writing.” They don’t make much money at it, usually, most teach somewhere to pay the rent.

    I am a musical semi-literate, but parallels between writing and music seem somehow right.

  7. drtombibey Says:

    Dr. Fulks,

    Orange Blossum does indeed personify the difficult balance to strike between artistic and commercial. I want all my art to be ‘pure’ but my day job affords me the luxury. (Even though by Doc standards I am what they call a ‘low end provider’ ie I like to sit and talk with people rather than do procedures on them.)

    For the pros the full time commitment takes them to a higher artistic level, and yet there are some compromises that have to be made to survive. When you have a bus payment, you have to concede ‘no margin, no mission’ at times, and play what the people want. I’m just glad Russell Moore still enjoyes ‘Erase the Miles.” (At least I hope he does)

    Dr. B

  8. drtombibey Says:

    Mr Miller,

    Thanks so much for your visit and comments.

    The conference in Chattanooga was full of very intellectual folks. (There were three Pulitzer winners there.) Many of them were college professors for a living. All of them approached their craft with an impressive attention to detail.

    There was a panel discussion about these difficuties. Roy Blount, Jr. said he made his living in other ways, and when he wrote books, he just hoped he’d sell enough to where someone would let him write another one. And this was Roy Blount, Jr.!

    So, from a money perspective, there is no hope for me brother. I might as well continue on like I have been doing and attempt to write what I believe to be true about medicine and bluegrass music. Maybe I’ll get lucky and break even and they’ll let me write another one.

    The parallels to traditional music were spooky similar.

    Dr. B

  9. Joe Petree Says:

    Dr B,
    Good website.Enjoyed meeting you and that slick New Yorker at the Writer’s Conf.
    I hear that Nino was cautious about my ‘connection’ to the mafia.
    Keep pickin’ and grinnin’
    Best of luck on your novel.

  10. Felix Miller Says:

    Ah, don’t say there is no hope for your writing! I bet every one of the authors at the conference had a moment sometime that they said the same thing, or thought it. But they went back to the typewriter, legal pad, keyboard or whatever.

    Enjoyed meeting you at the lunch Saturday. Jill McCorkle was funny and serious at the same time, said a lot of things that made great sense. Clyde Edgerton and poor bunny with the swole-up head was great, too.

    Wonderful weekend.

  11. drtombibey Says:


    Hey thanks man and all the best of luck to you too. Will keep an eye out for your work.

    Always good to have a man like you on my side if I ever get in any trouble.

    Dr. B

  12. drtombibey Says:

    Mr Miller,

    It was all good, huh? Yeah, I have to carry on, ’cause like all the other folks there, I am compelled to do so.

    McCorkle was indeed both, and Edgerton cracked me up with that female Southern accent. It was so true to what I have heard all my life.

    Dr. B

  13. rekx Says:

    Hey Dr. B…I sent you an email a couple of days ago, but I am not sure it was to the right address…could you pls shoot me a line so I have your email?

  14. drtombibey Says:

    Sure will rekx. I don’t think I got it.

    Dr. B

  15. Ted Lehmann Says:

    Gosh, Dr. B, I guess you’ve hooked me on finding a new writer to read. I was impressed that Clyde Edgerton played the mandolin and wrote…. but the banjo? Most banjo players can’t walk and chew gum, so this guy must be something special. Glad you had a good conference. I saw your friends Darin & Brooke last weekend and wrote a little about them. Pickin’ and Writin’ are a lot alike; they both improve with practice. – Ted

  16. drtombibey Says:


    You are so right. Practice is the road to Carnegie Hall for sure, though my GPS can’t seem to quite get that far. Darin and Brooke might well grace that stage one day.

    Edgerton is a good’un. And he flat wrecks the stereotype of banjo players as illiterate, huh?

    Dr. B

  17. Smitty Neuse River Pres. Says:

    Doc, sounds like the Writer’s Conference was great. Bluegrass and books-sounds educational.

  18. drtombibey Says:


    Books and bluegrass in the same building. Too much.

    Ms. T woulda dug it too, and I think she will like some upcoming posts. I should write more about the conference soon.

    Y’all have a good holiday too. Because of this one there is hope for all of us.

    Dr. B

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