Tuesday, January 30, 2007


On first glance, Dwight Fryer reminds you of the smart, but mischievous kid who sat behind you in class. You know, the one with the big grin and the twinkle in the eyes, who, as soon as you weren't looking, reached over and tugged on your ponytail or else playfully thumped you upside the head? But when you turned to confront him, he shrugged and issued you one of those, "What? Who me?" looks.

Make no mistake though, Fryer is man who is all about business, especially when it comes to the art and craft of writing. His first book, The Legend of Quito Road, recently earned him an NAACP Image Award nomination in the category of "Outstanding Literary Works From A Debut Author."

Dwight and I are both writers with strong ties to the South and specifically, Memphis, Tennessee, where Dwight and his family still currently reside. We first met there in 2005 after being introduced, via the internet, by a mutual friend and fellow scribe (big shout-out to Sharon J.). But while I was born in the Big M Town and consider myself a product of it's grittier, more urban terrain, Dwight actually hails from Grand Junction, a small rural town in west Tennessee.

In my opinion, Dwight's unique ability to tap into his southern, Black rural roots are what give his work that special "umpf" quality and helps distinguish him from the "same ole same" of today's Urban Lit crowd. In the short time that I've known Dwight, I've come to admire his drive, his tenacity, his dedication to craft and his willingness to share what he's learned with others.

If you're interested in learning more about Dwight Fryer, author of The Legend of Quito Road and 2007 NAACP Image Award nominee, I invite you to start with the following Q & A.

Q: Your book, The Legend of Quito Road, what's it about? A: The book is a story about a 13-year-old country boy named Son Erby whose religious daddy showed him how to make moonshine. It's a southern tale set in the 1930's, at the height of the depression and near the end of prohibition. The main theme of the book is that "the worst things wrong with most of us were planted by those who loved us best."

Q: Is there really a Quito Road? If so, where is it? A: Yes, it's in south Tipton County, about 30 minutes northwest of Memphis. When I started writing this book, I was living up near that area.

Q: How long did it take you to write The Legend of Quito Road? A: I wrote the first words to this book on a Sunday afternoon in late July in 1998. I was at a writing class in a Barnes & Noble in Wichita Kansas. It took me 4 and 1/2 years. I finished it at Christmas in 2002; it was my Christmas gift to myself.

Q: Wow, 4 years is a long time! Did you ever consider giving up? A: I considered giving up a whole lot of times. Number one thing, writing a novel and pushing through just to complete it is an enormous task. I laugh a lot of times because I'm glad I didn't know how much work it was when I started it, because I'm afraid I wouldn't have . . .

Also, I had so many unique things happen to me after I started writing this book. I began writing the book in July of 1998. In August, I accepted a call to the Ministry. In September, I lost my job and two days later found out I had colon cancer and needed radical surgery and chemotherapy.

So, through all of that and even 2 years later when my youngest child died suddenly of meningitis, I kept writing this novel.

Q: Your perserverance in the face of so much is both humbling and truly amazing. Even now, I know you wear a lot of different hats--author, minister, motivational speaker and manger for a global transportation company. Being that you're also a husband and father, I assume, you have some semblance of a life away from work (smile). How do you find time to write? A: I'm an old guy and I don't need much sleep. So, I'm in bed most nights by 9:00-9:30 and I'm up the next morning by 4:30. I write for a couple of hours before I get ready for work. On Saturday mornings, I get up about 6:00 am and I write. So, if it's important to you, you'll fit it in. And you don't need that much time if you know how to structure yourself . . . All you have have to do is think, 'what am I going to write today?' and look at that part of your outline and write it.

Q: Since you brought up being "an old guy" (your words, not mine *smile*)what's your take on being an older writer? A: Your life experiences, to me, kind of begin to come together between 35 and 50. For me, life is really coming together as I approach 50. When I first started thinking about this book, 16 years ago, I was in my early 30's. This would have been a very different book from a much angrier young man had I written it then.


Friday, January 26, 2007


I'm sure, at some point, as kids, most of us narrowed our eyes at something our parents did and mumbled to ourselves, "When I grow up, I'm never gonna ________ (fill in the blank). I know I did.

During a recent exchange of emails, a friend mentioned that while growing up, his family always drank powdered milk. He promised himself, when he grew up, he'd NEVER drink it again. Lo and behold, he says now that's all he buys (LOL).

How does that happen? How do we end up doing the exact same thing or things we once vowed NEVER to do? I'm not really sure. I do know for me, the blank in the statement, "When I grow up, I'm never gonna________" would be listen to jazz.

I can remember just as clearly the day, I vowed never to get caught listening to the maddening sounds my Dad seemed to love so well. We were living in Idaho at the time. I was probably somewhere between the 3rd and 4th grade. It was a Saturday morning and as usual, my Dad had the stereo on full blast. The song, the one he'd been playing over and over again and for several Saturdays straight, was one entitled,"Compared To What," and performed by Les McCann and Eddie Harris.

I'm not sure if I hated the song or was just tired of hearing it every doggone Saturday. I do know that I found some of the lyrics particularly disturbing, including the following--

"Slaughter houses are killin hogs
Twisted children are killin' frogs
Poor dumb rednecks rolling logs
Tired old lady, kissin' dogs . . ."
from the song
"Compared to What"
by Les McCann and Eddie Harris
The folks killing the hogs and killing the frogs were bad enough, but the old lady kissing the dogs . . . I'm sorry, but for the life of me, I just couldn't understand why anybody in their right mind would want to listen to a song about some old lady who enjoyed kissing dogs. I remember telling myself, you know, when I grow up, I'm never gonna listen to any mess like this. I don't like jazz is what I told myself, not just that song, none of it--Coltrane, Miles, Parker, Dizzy, Lady Day . . .
Of course, years later, after I got grown and lived on my own, what became my radio station preference? Any station that played jazz, quite naturally. And on those rare occasions when I would hear "Compared To What" I'd actually stop, listen, smile and if possible turn that mess up (LOL). I'm not sure at what point it all changed, but now, I really do love the song and consider it one of my favorites.
A love for jazz is one of the more positive things I picked up from my parents. One of the more negatives, I hate to admit, was smoking. I grew up thinking smoking was one right nasty habit and vowed to never indulge. But for a brief period of time during college, finding me with a cigarette dangling from my lips wasn't all that unusual.
So, how would you fill in the blank? What do you do now that you once said, when you grew up, you'd never do?

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I seldom read one book at a time. I'd like to think it's because I'm easily bored, as opposed to attributing it to some sort of obsessive-compulsive or attention deficient disorder . . .

Believe it or not, I'm currently reading (or thumbing through) a total of 9 books. The titles on my list include:

1) MORAL DISORDER (Margaret Atwood) Category: Fiction, Short story collection; Why: I'm a fan of both short story collections and Ms. Atwood's work; Source: Purchased at Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC; Notes: I almost put this one down in disgust after reading the first two stories. But I'm glad I kept reading. I'm a couple of stories short of finishing the collection.

2) WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE (Tavis Smiley) Category: Non-fiction, Autobiography; Why: My interest was piquied after stumbling upon a C-SPAN interview of him talking about his life; Source: Purchased at Urban Knowledge Bookstore in Memphis, TN; Notes: Most folks seem to either really love Smiley or really hate him. I've always been somewhere in the middle. After the C-SPAN interview, I had a greater respect for him and a desire to learn more;

3) PUBLICIZE YOUR BOOK (Jacqueline Deval) Category: Non-fiction, Reference; Why: I'm in the process of forming my own strategy for AFTER THE DANCE; Source: Purchased at Barnes & Noble in Charlotte, NC; Notes: Great source of information for the new author. I highly reccommend;

4) A HAND TO GUIDE ME (Denzel Washington) Category: Non-fiction, Essays; Why: I almost bypassed this one. On first glance, I thought it was just another celebrity biography. Thank goodness it's not. As the subtitle indicates, it's a book about those who inspired various leaders and entertainment personalities; Source: Purchased at Borders, Charlotte, NC; Notes: Proceeds from the book go toward the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

5) THE LEGEND OF QUITO ROAD (Dwight Fryer) Category: Fiction, Novel; Why:

Dwight is a friend and a fellow Memphian. I've been planning to read his book for some time now; Source: Purchased at Barnes & Noble in Charlotte, NC; notes: I try to limit the number of fiction titles I'm reading at one time. So, I'll really get into this book after I've finished Atwood's Moral Disorder;

6) BLACK, WHITE AND JEWISH (Rebecca Walker)

Category: Non-fiction, Autobiography; Why: It's something I've been planning to read for years. When I noticed it on the bookstore's discount table, I didn't have a reason to put it off any longer. Source: Purchased at Barnes & Noble in Richmond, Ohio; Notes: I'm finding Ms. Walker's perspective as the bi-racial, only child of author Alice Walker even more interesting than I thought it would be.

7) TURN UP THE HEAT (G. Garvin) Category: Non-fiction, Cookbook; Why: I'm always looking for new recipe ideas and I'm a big fan . . . okay, groupie of G. and his show on TVOne; Source: Christmas gift from the hubby; Notes: As G. likes to say, "It's all about cooking the healthy Soul way, baby!"

8) HOME: THE BLUEPRINT OF OUR LIVES (Sen. John Edwards)Category: Non-fiction, photos & essays; Why: I saw a Life Magazine write-up about the book; Source: Christmas gift from the hubby; Notes: It's a nice coffee-table book.

9) LETTERS TO A YOUNG ARTIST (Anna Deavere Smith) Category: Non-fiction; Why: I bought this last year for a friend's graduating granddaughter and ended up buying one for myself; Source: purchased at Borders in Beachwood, Ohio; Notes: It's a neat book for a "young" artist. It also has me wondering if Ms. Smith has ever considered doing something similar for us "old" artists.

How does one read 9 books at one time? In bits and pieces. I literally keep books all over the house--living room, kitchen, study, next to the tub and next to the bed. Also, not being terribly interested in television helps. I'm sure there's someone who does this, besides me, right? (smile) In any case, feel free to share your own reading habits and/or list.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Does the name JENNIFER BYNUM sound familiar? For those of you who answered, "No," my response is, well, it should . . . particularly if you watched Hustle & Flow, the movie released in 2005 about the Memphis pimp who aspires to be a rapper. JENNIFER BYNUM appeared in one of the film's most pivotal and memorable scenes. She sang CHANGED MUH NAME (also known as "Change Muh Name") the spiritual that moved Terrence Howard's character, "DJay" to tears and set him out on the journey to change his life.

In a 2005 interview on the Oprah show, I heard Howard say that even after having viewed the movie a number of times, the church scene still makes him cry. To quote him, "The one scene where I didn't act was inside the church listening to the song. I asked Jesus if He'll change my name . . . To even think about it makes me well-up because it's such an honest place."

Indeed, JENNIFER'S music can have that kind of an effect and believe me, I should know. Before I moved from Memphis, I belonged to the same church, Parkway Gardens Presbyterian (now known as Parkway Gardens United Presbyterian Church) where JENNIFER, a classically trained soprano and accomplished pianist graced us with her talents most every Sunday.

While in Memphis over the Christmas holidays, I saw JENNIFER at church and told her how much I missed hearing her music on a regular basis. Upon my return to Charlotte, JENNIFER was kind enough to send me a sampling of her work, including CHANGED MUH NAME and PSALM 90, a song written by JENNIFER and (similar to T. Howard) one that typcially moves me to tears whenever I hear it performed live.

I do think it's both a sin and a shame (if not incredibly telling) that JENNIFER'S musical role in Hustle & Flow didn't thrust her into the same type of national spotlight that Three 6 Mafia's did. I know who I personally would have rather seen at the Oscars, the Grammy's or anywhere else representing the Best of Memphis . . .

Interestingly enough, the Negro Spiritual (CHANGED MUH NAME) which JENNIFER rearranged and at Terrence Howard's request, performed live during the movie's filming, doesn't even appear on the Hustle & Flow Soundtrack. But I suppose it might have been a tad out of place situated amongst songs with titles like Whoop That Trick, It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp, Murder Game, Booty Language . . . and worse.

In any case, if you'd like to learn more about the remarkable JENNIFER BYNUM and/or listen to her music, I'd encourage you to start here Jennifer Bynum or here.

If and when you do, don't forget to be on your Old School Mix EVERDAY BEST and show MS. BYNUM some love (smile).

Friday, January 12, 2007


A few days ago, while waiting in the grocery store checkout line, I picked up the JET magazine with James Brown on the cover. When the cashier saw me with it, she said something along the lines of, "Ain't it a shame, all that mess that's going on with James Brown and his funeral? How come they just can't bury the man and be done with it?"

I said, "Yeah, I think they've had like, what, 3 different funerals now?"

She said, "Uh-huh, 3 funerals in 3 different places with 3 different outfits!"

When I got home, the thought occured to me--Umph, I be dog if these folks ain't got poor James Brown still out here on tour . . .

Of course, just the other day I heard they still hadn't buried the man. They've got him locked up in his home, in a temperature-controlled room. Come on now, I know I'm not the only one who smells a rat . . . Watch, six months from now J.B.'s gonna be coming out with some material, uh-huh, just like Tupac did.

All kidding aside, the following is a list of some of my favorite James Brown Songs. But check this out . . . I only own 1 JB tune and that's a 45 (remember those) that was given to me by my folks. And the song, Make It Funky, isn't even one of my favorites. Go figure.

1) Payback (1974) 2) Say It Loud (1968) 3) I Got The Feeling (1968) 4) Cold Sweat (1967) 5) Santa Claus, Go Straight To the Ghetto (1968) 6) Papa Don't Take No Mess (1974) 7) Hot Pants (1971) 8) Get Up / Sex Machine (1970) 9) It's Man's World (1966) 10) Get On the Good Foot (1972) 11) Super Bad (1970) 12) Papa's Got A Brand New Bag (1965) 13) Talking Loud and Saying Nothing (1972) 14) Licking Stick (1968)

Do you have a JB favorite that doesn't appear on the list or any other comments about the Godfather of Soul that you'd like to share?

Monday, January 08, 2007


Yes, I did talk bad about James Brown's hair (see #8 on the OSM TOP TEN LIST OF BROTHERS WHO NEED TO LET THE PERM GO). But as far as his contribution to R&B is concerned, I'm willing to give JB his props. The hollering, sweating, process-wearing, camel-walking brother with the South Carolina and Georgia roots was indeed Super Bad (1970) if not a cape-donning trailblazer when it came to soul music, stage presence and showmanship.

Even though I can remember watching my parents and their friends doing the bump and the double bump to James Brown's Payback (1974), I tend to associate JB with the folks of my grandparent's generation. One of the reasons his garbled (and often ridiculed) manner of speaking never really fazed me was because to my ears, he sounded like a lot of my Mississippi-bred grandparents and their contemporaries.

In all honesty, whenever I hear a James Brown beat, a murky image of my Grandmother, standing behind the bar in Binghamton's Tillman Grill is the first thing to come to mind.

Z. M. Hawkins & friend (boss?)
in Tillman Grill
from Lori's Pic Collection
(date unknown)

Tillman Grill, a dark cafe, located (once upon a time) in the heart of North East Memphis's Binghamton community is where my mama's mama worked for a number of years as a cook. The cafe had a jukebox and even though I can't be sure, the mental ties is so strong, I want to say the first time I ever heard any James Brown was on that jukebox. When I close my eyes and concentrate on that cafe jukebox, inevitably, the two JB songs I hear are Cold Sweat (1967) and Say It Loud--I'm Black and I'm Proud (1968). I never asked, but I'm willing to bet my Grandmother's own favortie JB tune was something along the lines of a Please, Please, Please (1956) or Try Me (1959). Those songs have more of a Blues feel to them and to be sure, my Granny (Zenna Mae Hawkins) loved herself some Blues (smile).

Yes, whenever I hear James Brown, I can't help but think about my Granny, a dark Memphis cafe and a doggone jukebox. No doubt that link will grow even stronger since oddly enough, both my Granny and the Godfather made their respective transitions (hers in 2002 and his in 2006) on Christmas Day.

I bet somewhere up there, beyond the pearly gates, JB is on stage screaming, sweating, spinning around and putting on one hell, oops . . . I mean, one heck of a show. My Granny is there too . . . somewhere in a dark corner . . . with a hand cocked to her hip, a grin on her face, her head bobbing real slow like to the JB beat . . . and waiting, all the while, for one of her regulars to call out for another round or place an order for a burger and plate of home fries. After all, who says there's only one way to rest in peace?

Z.M. Hawkins and customers
in a North Memphis cafe
sometime in the 1980's
from Lori's Pic collection

Friday, January 05, 2007

A FEW CHANGES . . . Yes, I've changed the layout. I'm still not sure if this is the one I will go with . . . So, don't be surprised if on your next visit, it's changed again (smile). Also, look for me to add some new links to the sidebar in the coming weeks. I plan to give some shoutouts to the sites and blogs I visit on a regular basis. If you have any comments about the layout (pro or con) or suggestions about changes you'd like to see, feel free to leave them in the comments section or email me at after.dance@hotmail.com

Monday, January 01, 2007

THE OSM WISH LIST FOR 2007 . . . A list of things I'd like to see happen in 2007 . . . but probably won't . . .

1) An end to war, terrorism and all other senseless violence in the U.S. and abroad;

2) An end to the unsightly trend of young men wearing their pants 3 sizes too large, showing their doggone drawers and calling it a fashion statement;

3) An end to young women (old a$$ one's too) exposing their midriffs, thongs, butt-cracks, back-fat, etc., etc., at school, work, church and the like and thinking that mess is cute;

4) An end to parents sending their daughters out on Halloween (or any other time) dressed like hookers, strippers, hoochies and/or the likes of Paris Hilton, Lil Kim or Britney Spears (okay, so I'm being a bit redundant . . .);

5) An end to the televised ignorance of Flava Flav, Jessica Simpson, 3-6-Mafia, The MTV Yo Mama folks, etc.;

6) A successful African American TV drama that doesn't feature Taye Diggs;

7) TV programs with Black actresses in serious roles who resemble the average Black woman;

8) Help for O.J, Mike Tyson, T.O., Michael Jackson, Bobbie Brown & Whitney;

9) A serious commitment to the education of our nation's youth;

10) A national discussion about poor folks and poverty that doesn't involve finger-pointing, name-calling, Bill Cosby, Eric Michael Dyson or any mention of boot-straps.

So, those are some of the items on my 2007 Wish List. Care to share any of yours?