Cover To Cover is the anchor program for GPB’s literary coverage. Cover To Cover features a collection of distinctive Southern voices interviewing Georgia writers, Southern writers, and writers dealing with the South. The GPB Southern Lit Cadre will provide you with a varied, weekly glimpse at fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and even the occasional ‘old school’ nod to Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Confessions of "Crazy Cooter"

GPB Southern Lit Cadre member, Frank Reiss provides commentary on his interview with Congressman, Author, Actor, Entrepreneur Ben Jones, which airs Sunday at 8pm on Cover To Cover:

As I told former Congressman Ben Jones when I met him before our interview, he was my representative when I moved back to my hometown of Atlanta in 1989. "Surprise," he chuckled, at the thought of this famously crazy redneck being a congressman.

But having missed the entire run of The Dukes of Hazzard, the hit television show which made him famous, I hadn't appreciated what an unusual political figure he was at the time.

After reading his highly entertaining memoir, Redneck Boy in the Promised Land, and talking to him for "Cover to Cover," it's impossible not to recognize his many gifts. I half-jokingly asked him during the interview if he would consider being Barack Obama's running-mate to be the ticket balance the young liberal from Chicago might need: an older, more traditional Democrat with an authentic Southern twang. The truth is, it's a little too late in Jones' life to take such a suggestion seriously. And because he threw away so many years to alcoholism (which he details in his book) Jones' political career started too late for him to go as far as he might have. Plus, it came along right as the Republicans were about to make it a lot harder than it had ever been for a Democrat to get elected in the Deep South.

Jones is the real deal, though. A man who grew up in dire poverty, he understands and champions the plight of working people. A man who nearly drank himself to death by his mid-30s but who sobered up to have not just one, but two successful careers, he is intimately familiar with both ends of the American Dream. And a man who takes his craft of acting seriously enough to proudly embrace the easy-to-mock role and show that made his career. In fact, because of the show's ongoing popularity, Jones is now enjoying a third career as an entrepeneur, having created the wildly successful" Dukesfest" and also "Cooter's Place," a Dukes of Hazzard emporium in Nashville and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

He's a great talker. Enjoy listening.

Frank Reiss' interview airs this Sunday on Cover to Cover at 8:00PM on GPB Radio.