‘An Orientation Toward the Infinite': Dahlonega’s brilliant Grimm Family

This appears in the current issue of Georgia Music Magazine:

Once upon a time on a faraway farm, a fiddler cast a spell over a family with his old-timey ballads, and when he was finished playing, he stashed his magic instrument by the baby’s crib.

“You know how kids will put things in their mouths?” says John Grimm, recalling his first taste of rosin. “I grabbed that violin and chewed on its scroll, and I think a splinter of it got into my bloodstream and just never left.”

So begins the story of the Grimms, Dahlonega’s first family of music.

This tuneful brood of faeries, pixies, and sprites lives up to the storybook surname with otherworldly powers of song. John Grimm, the patriarch, is known primarily for his virtuosity on fiddle and guitar, but he can play pretty much all of the strings for sale at his shop, Vintage Music, which, with its new and used instruments, private lessons, and recording studio, functions as the seed-bed of the mountain town’s flowering music scene. 

Because he helped revive the tradition of downtown, weekend jams, Grimm’s influence can be heard in almost every note plinked and strummed around here, from guitar lessons he has given to Zac Brown and other up-and-comers such as Spencer Durham, Kurt Thomas, and Corey Smith to his contributions on Shawn Mullins’ early recordings. Playing seriously since he was a teen-ager in Ohio, Grimm has performed in too many bands to list. Lately, he anchors the Georgia Potlickers and the Georgia Mudcats; works as sound engineer for the Crimson Moon; and serves as the go-to stalwart of the Mountain Music and Medicine Show and other theatrical and folkloric projects.

“John is the cornerstone of every single aspect of music up here and has played a major role in revitalizing downtown with music,” says Joel Cordle, a fiddler who teaches bluegrass history in the Appalachian Studies Center.

Grimm, who is laconic with an intense gaze framed by spectacles, evokes the old “still waters run deep” line, while his wife, Meredith, who sings and teaches piano, beams serenity at the din surrounding her. They have five offspring, about three years apart in age: Joe, 31; Larkin, 28; Annelise, 25; Hannah, 22; and Spencer, 17. Some parapsychologists might dub them a litter of maturing “indigo children” – preternaturally intuitive and gifted. So far, they all have attended Ivy League universities, usually with scholarships (Spencer is a high-school senior at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School) and excelled in eclectic pursuits with convention-defying felicity. In ways both mischievous and serious, the Brothers and Sisters Grimm are bending and distending all kinds of ancient sounds to innovative effect – freak folk, throat-singing, hip-hop, Balkan punk interpretations of Sousa’s marching tunes — and they give credit to their fey, free-thinking, and aurally stimulating upbringing. Like their father, they were teethed on instruments: jaw harps and psalteries, dulcimers and mandolins, fiddles and pennywhistles, among others.

“One of my earliest memories: falling asleep to the sounds of my dad and his friends playing old-time music in the living room,” says Joe, a minimalist “peace noise” composer and performer known as “The Wind-Up Bird.”  “The hypnotic drones of open strings resonated beneath the melodies, and the trance-inducing cyclic repetitions of the musical structure induced a kind of weird, propulsive stasis.  The same material repeated and reworked with minute variations, toward the horizon and toward the past.  It was mesmerizing.”

He eventually joined his dad for jams on the square.

“When I was older I played those same tunes with him,” Joe says. “Over time the tunes had warped and changed in subtle ways — bowings refined, rhythmic emphases shifted.  Now I was a part of the process as well.”

After graduating from Yale with a degree in philosophy and then earning a master’s at Brown University, Joe was awarded a full-ride scholarship at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is parsing the more esoteric nuances of soundscapes.

“The music I’m doing now deals with resonance of vibration through physical materials, the overtone series, the statistical distribution of sound events in time, and the transmutation of flickering light-patterns into sound-patterns,” he says.

Or, in terms more accessible to the average “Top 40” listener: If you have heard of Mongolian/Tibetan throat-singing, you have some idea of Joe’s academic specialty. His father explains, “In some cases, you can play a note slightly off-pitch, and there’s this third part that is heard but not played, so you can have only two guys singing but hear this third part.”

Joe’s sister Larkin is equally ethereal, albeit in a more pell-mell way.

Ironically, she considers herself the “shy one” of the bunch, despite a recent rush of irresistibly confessional interviews and giddy publicity that has burnished her image as an outré, feral wood nymph– the darkling princess of “freak folk.” In promotional literature for her acclaimed 2008 album “Parplar,” Larkin recalls hitchhiking around Alaska until she found a “place so beautiful I couldn’t leave, camped out there in my tent for about two months with the plan to starve to death, get eaten, or get enlightened.” There, a Cherokee shaman lyrically named Jezebel Crow initiated her into the “practice of using natural hallucinogens to gain spiritual wisdom. On one such trip, I got my first jolt of golden light to the brain and was possessed by a forest spirit who taught me to sing.”

That explanation makes perfect sense when you hear her shimmery, keening vocals, which seem to warble from Middle Earth. If there is any trace of hillbilly in that exquisitely hair-raising voice, it is the spooky old Appalachia of haints, panthers, and witchy wise-women.

Echoing other besotted promoters and reviewers, her “Parplar” co-producer, the avant-garde Michael Gira rhapsodizes: “Larkin is a magic woman. She lives in the mountains in north Georgia. She collects bones, smooth stones, and she casts spells. She worships the moon. She is very beautiful, and her voice is like the passionate cry of a beast heard echoing across the mountains just after a tremendous thunder storm, when the air is alive with electricity. I don’t consider her folk though – she is pre-folk, even pre-music. She is the sound of the eternal mother and the wrath of all women. She goes barefoot everywhere, and her feet are leathery and filthy. She wears jewels, glitter, and glistening insects in her hair.”

Larkin, also a Yalie despite the institution’s off-putting “elitism,” divides her time between Dahlonega and New York. She toured recently with the Mountain Goats, and she is at work on another album with Tony Visconti, the longtime producer of David Bowie. She also is mastering the harp.

Her father shakes his head and says, “We gave all of our children music lessons except Larkin,” who studied visual art, “so she just started playing out of nowhere, without much academic knowledge. She makes up her own, alternate tunings and comes up with melodies that are simple, beautiful and completely unique, with great feeling. The first time I heard her play, I said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t take lessons.’ Of course, she has never wanted to do anything in a conventional way, ever, even when she was an infant.”

Nor, apparently, does sister Annelise, perhaps the most kinetic and high-decibel of the Grimms. She plays a bass drum for What Cheer?, a 19-piece punkish, marching brass band of street performers based in Providence, R.I. The northern cousin to Atlanta’s wacky Seed & Feed troupe, the costumed marchers incorporate influences from the Balkans, India, Bollywood, and Brazil into “Luddite Hardcore, loud, mobile music requiring no electricity” with the goal of reclaiming public spaces and shaking folks out of their patterns of “rampant consumerism and prefabricated culture.”

What Cheer?, which was reportedly how the American Indians greeted the state founder Roger Williams, has camped it up at Lollapalooza and toured Europe, where the musicians performed at a festival in a small town in Serbia, reportedly leaving the locals “really excited and confused” – a fun irony for Annalise, who studied international relations at Brown.

She also raps with an all-women hip-hop quartet called Wide (())n, which performs snappy numbers such as “Relaxin’s the Shit.”

 “Annalise has to be able to dance and move,” Larkin says fondly. “She’s a little like Beyonce or Rihanna, dancing and singing at the same time, to loud, pre-arranged beats and guerilla party music that can be played anywhere, like parks, warehouses, under bridges.”
           
Hannah, who just graduated from Princeton, teaches at Rabun-Gap Nacoochee. She sings, too, with a preference for old folk songs and traditional music, Larkin says, and little brother Spencer recently started writing and playing songs.

“He’s sort of a surfer dude who likes Brazilian samba,” Larkin says, as if those elements routinely link up in north Georgia. “He’s been a little shy and secretive about what he’s working on, but I know he’s writing, and I know it’s going to be very good.”

All of this progressive experimentation is even more arresting given John Grimm’s decidedly old-school tastes. Walking up the narrow wooden stairs to his shop, with its mandolins, banjos, and Civil War-era Marshalls lining the wall, can feel like wading pleasantly into a daguerreotype. “What is that scent in the air – resin, rosin?” someone asks, and Meredith smiles and says, “It’s the smell of *old* instruments.”

The couple met in San Francisco’s counterculture and then lived for a time in Memphis, starting a family at the utopian Christian community called the Holy Order of MANS, an acronym for Mysterion, Agape, Nous, Sophia. (“I was very, very shocked and disturbed when we left the commune and entered ‘the real world,”’ Larkin has said in other interviews. “I am still very idealistic and believe very strongly in the power of kindness, openness, and love… This is not as easy and flowing and peaceful as you might think.”)

When John Grimm was in his 20s, his retro enthusiasms took hold during a fiddlers convention when he encountered Tommy Jarrell.

 “Jarrell was an old moonshiner from North Carolina who had learned to play from Civil War veterans,” Grimm says. “His playing was rough, archaic, primitive. If you didn’t pay attention, you might not realize how incredible it actually was.” He nods toward a wall in his shop where an outsider-art style portrait of Jarrell hangs with the straightforward motto: “He drank some good corn likker and played the violin for awhile. Then he died.”

“Of course,” Grimm says, “you had to catch him early in a show because he would get so drunk.”

Hooked, the young musician took lessons from Bruce Molsky, a venerated Jarrell protégé, and learned the finer points of old-time fiddling — how to rock his bow, how to sing while playing, and how to saw “crooked tunes,” jumping a beat and compensating with the next note. “That always trips up the square dancers,” he says, “so with modern music, there’s a tendency to smooth it out, to refine it and cram as many notes in as possible. But a less perfect sound sounds more perfect to me.”

So Grimm can trace his techniques directly to the Civil War era. This unusual skill set helped him land the role of Fiddlin’ John Carson in the PBS film “The People v. Leo Frank,” which aired last fall. The gig marked a sort of full-circle moment; Carson, the first artist ever to record a country record, used to play in jam sessions on Dahlonega’s square in the 1920s.

Grimm’s oldest son, reflecting on his roots, says, “I work with sensory thresholds, with physical phenomena that cross back and forth across the border of perceptibility.  But I’ve always carried with me the experiences that I first had with my dad’s old-time music — the experience of trance, of deep listening, and the orientation toward the infinite.”

Surprisingly, though, family time at the Grimm home was never one big, toe-tapping sing-along, the kids point out. “We support each other, and we’re proud of each other, but we all turned out so differently,” Larkin says. “We’re all passionate, creative, very stubborn individuals who are totally on our own trips. We never wanted to be the Partridge Family.”

Awopbopaloobop! Meet the king — and queen — of rock ‘n’ roll

This appears in The 11th Hour, a gleefully subversive Village Voice-style publication in Middle Georgia that I urge you to check out.

Little Richard feels pretty.

“I’m beautiful!” he squeals at every concert, between manic performances of “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” and other standards that still rattle the rafters. He probably tells his postal carrier, too, and his manicurist. “I’m not conceited – I’m convinced!” At age 77, without a doubt in the house, “The Beauty is still on Duty.”

He is perhaps, among other titles, the Inventor of Daily Affirmations.

That guileless and unassailable self-love has proved one of the few constants for Little Richard, the Macon-born “architect of rock ’n’ roll,” whose career otherwise has been defined by its zigzagging contradictions. He has sallied back and forth, tracking glittery stardust all over the South’s switchback dirt-trail between the juke joint and the church; between flesh and spirit; and between men, women, and the trannies in between. Through it all, Little Richard seems never to have wavered, though, in his conviction that he is beautiful and blessed, “a child of God.” And so are you.

This singular anointing of agape helps explain not only his triumphs, but also his very survival. Plug his particulars into any actuarial table — the runt son of twelve black children born into Depression-era poverty in a small, segregated Southern town; eyes and legs that were slightly mismatched in size, resulting in a mischievous leer and a limp; some pronounced sexual ambiguities, including a penchant for drag; and plenty of cheeky attitude to boot – and the odds-on projections would doom Richard Penniman as another hate-crime statistic, most likely a pineywoods lynching too harrowing to speak of.

“I was what they called a freak,” he says.

So how did Little Richard transcend the bullies, Klansmen, and workaday enforcers of conformity to become a beloved international superstar and, in his words, “the king and queen of rock ’n’ roll”?

“I think he’s just too charming,” says David Kirby, who just published Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ’n’ Roll (Continuum), a meditation on art and culture through a lens heavily lined with kohl. “Richard is a cuddle bear; who’d want to hurt him? In his heyday, he was a threat to everything parents and preachers and politicians stood for, sure, but he coated that threat in happiness, sass, and gobs of Pancake 31 makeup.”

Little Richard, born Richard (or Ricardo, according to some accounts) Wayne Penniman in Macon’s Pleasant Hill neighborhood in 1932, is a vocalist; songwriter; pianist; evangelist; pompadour-crowned dandy; hedonist; and outsize cut-up – a glow-in-the-dark Personality, capital “P” — who is credited with launching rock ’n’ roll, and, by extension, the explosion of a rebellious youth culture primed to shake off social, racial, and sexual repression. He was one of the first 10 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone ranked him No. 8 on its list of “Immortals,” while citing three of his songs – “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly” – in the “Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

“People called rock ’n’ roll ‘African music,’” Penniman wrote in the magazine when he received the “Immortal” designation. “They called it ‘voodoo music.’ They said that it would drive the kids insane. … Only it was worse back then, because, you have to remember, I was the first black artist whose records the white kids were starting to buy. And the parents were really bitter about me. We played places where they told us not to come back, because the kids got so wild. They were tearing up the streets and throwing bottles and jumping off the theater balconies at shows. At that time, the white kids had to be up in the balcony — they were ‘white spectators.’ But then they’d leap over the balcony to get downstairs where the black kids were.”

The music liberated their bodies, and their spirits followed. For context, recall that “Tutti Frutti” was released in 1955, just after Emmett Till’s senseless murder in Mississippi.

“All new music changes the world, but no music changed the world the way this song did,” asserts Kirby, whose goal is to honor this spangled revolutionary in his proper place on the historical stage. He writes, “…all the parts that make up rock ’n’ roll had been moving toward critical mass for years, but when Little Richard shouted, ‘A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop, a-lop-bam-boom,’ suddenly, to quote the Book of Genesis, there was a firmament in the midst of the waters. It’s a huge song musically, but it’s also a seminal text in American culture, as much as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, ‘Song of Myself,’ and the great documents of the Civil Rights era are. In a sense, it’s America’s Other National Anthem.”

In a poem Kirby published years earlier, he riffs, “I hear America singing, and it sounds like Little Richard.”

“Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are fine by me,” he says now. “But when the world can be changed by a gay, black cripple from a town that no one had heard of, that’s when I start taking notes.”

Keith Richards famously observed that “Tutti Frutti” was like flipping a switch that changed the world from monochrome to glorious Technicolor.

However, the ecosystem that produced Little Richard was always plenty colorful, and that factor, too, has to account in some way for his scrappy survival.

One of the most authoritative guides to the midstate’s demimonde is The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock, an authorized biography, which is more of an as-told-to oral history edited by BBC’s “Dr. Rock,” Charles White, and published in 1985. Even today, it shocks readers with its frank, salty, offhand details about Little Richard’s cocaine addiction, threesomes with Buddy Holly, dalliances accessorized with a colostomy bag, and other acts of what Freud might call polymorphous perversity. It concludes, however, with Penniman’s earnest, counteractive religious testimony. Still, one message that blares like a trumpet in both books is that Little Richard was an extraordinarily talented “freak” in a city that, based on anecdotal research, is second only to New Orleans in its assembly-line production of eccentrics.

“I’ve had some of the weirdest conversations in my life in Macon,” Kirby marvels.

The city, in the sweaty navel of Georgia, holds a prominent zip code, if not the honorific of “capital,” in what cultural historian Greil Marcus dubs the “Old, Weird America,” that deliciously gamey pageant of hucksters, shake dancers, geeks, vaudevillians, snake-oil pitchmen, hermaphrodites, and other raffish characters one does not see at the chrome-and-glass mall. Macon was once headquarters of the Silas Green Show, the country’s largest and most successful African-American traveling revue, and among the gold-toothed chorines was a dancer christened “Arty Missy Candy Fishey Georgia Yancy Barntown Williams.”

“My daddy was a bootlegger, and most of the time that boot was empty,” Little Richard says, of his father who eventually was shot to death outside the Tip In Inn in 1952. One of Penniman’s first jobs, which taught him the knack of the hustle, was recruiting customers for Doc Hudson, who sold a questionably curative “elixir” in a medicine show. Still a kid, Little Richard ran away with the circus, and as a “drag baby,” called himself “Princess Lavonne,” dressed all in red and tottering on high heels. Other influences on his showmanship include Eskew Reeder, better known as the big-haired, piano-playing drag queen “Esquerita” (“rhymes with excreta,” his protégé would quip) and later as “Fabulash”; Atlanta crooner Billy Wright for  his “loud-colored clothin’ and shoethin’”; and Dr. Mobilio, the turban-wearing Macon “prophet” who would brandish a “Devil’s Child,” described by Penniman as a “dried-up body of a baby with claw feet like a bird and horns on its head.”

Given all that, the primal scream of “Tutti Frutti” seems inevitable.

The lyrics are seminal in every sense of the word, having originated as a jaunty paean to anal sex in the gay bars; Little Richard probably picked it up, along with sundry companions, at Miss Ann’s Tick Tock: “Tutti Frutti/ Good booty/ If it don’t fit, don’t force it/ You can grease it,/ make it easy.” A young wordsmith, Dorothy LaBostrie, was brought into the studio to sanitize the lyrics, which a sheepish Little Richard trilled with his back to her. She later attributed her inspiration to more wholesome dreams of ice cream. (A guileless-seeming teenager named Enortis Johnson reportedly furnished the adulterous concept of “Long Tall Sally,” which she had scrawled on a napkin.)

Not surprisingly, some Maconites have groused privately about the gnarly descriptions and over-the-top characterizations in Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll. “The important people love my book,” says Kirby, who kept a research file of his sources labeled “OTG,” for “old, toothless guys.” “I haven’t heard from the town fathers yet. But remember, Little Richard’s message is that we shouldn’t let the grownups take over, so I think that’s appropriate.”

The image of Macon conjured by this discursive, little book is not exactly the tourist-brochure material favored by burghers, deacons, and Junior League-types, the crowd who once gave Penniman the bum’s rush, “running him out of town” for reasons that are still hotly debated – driving around town with a “nekkid lady,” pimping and tricking at the bus station – but could be succinctly chalked up to “flamboyance.”

Music promoter Alan Walden recalls a typically memorable sighting of Little Richard in downtown Macon: “He was in flaming glory, dressed in a tight, red suit with red shoes and a matching red parasol. Both Phil (Walden) and I were star-struck and shy at the same time. One of our friends called out ‘Tutti Frutti,” and Richard, in true style, without missing a beat, called back ‘good booty,’ then shook his butt in a couple of fancy steps before strolling down Cherry Street, twirling that red umbrella. Did this ever make our day!”

In White’s bio, Penniman writes, “We decided that my image should be crazy and way-out so that the adults would think I was harmless. I’d appear in one show dressed as the Queen of England and in the next as the pope.”

The Georgia Music Hall of Fame displays the original piano that Penniman played at Miss Ann’s Tic Toc Room, along with a black and silver jacket and some sequined, red Italian boots he wore on stage. Recently, he has expressed a desire for Macon to erect a statue of him, a fountain that sprays water from his “pretty hands,” which friends agree would make a perfect yin-yang counterpart to the Confederate soldier who stands sentry downtown.

His famous opening line, “A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop, a-lop-bam-boom,” started as a coded, but clarion, howl of rebellion against “the man.” Little Richard was washing dishes at the Greyhound bus station, where he indulged his compulsive habit of drumming on pots and pans. “When the supervisor tried to hurry things along, Little Richard would scream that as kind of a G-rated version of cussing out the boss,” Kirby says.

The entertainer also claims to have shrieked the non sequitur in the face of segregationist governor George Wallace. “He didn’t know what I meant…and neither did I,” Penniman writes, burnishing his image as a sort of holy fool who is a crazy like a fox.

“He is genuinely comical,” says Macon music producer and promoter Gary Montgomery, who has maintained a friendship with Penniman for almost 30 years. “What you see on stage is what you get in person; he’s a card. But never underestimate him. He’s one of the smartest — if not the smartest — person I’ve ever met in the business, and he is a man of his word, a man with character, a consistently loyal friend.”

Montgomery met Little Richard, he says, over a stack of Bibles.

Fittingly, Little Richard’s first time in front of a screaming crowd was at Macon’s City Auditorium, at the behest of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a buxom siren who sang fervent gospel with a wink at the boogie-woogie side of life. She had heard him warbling as he helped her unload her gear. The applause hooked him.

Years later, at the pinnacle of his career in 1957, Little Richard underwent one of the world’s most celebrated conversions. During a tour of Australia, he glimpsed Sputnik, the Russian satellite, scudding across the sky. “It looked as though the big ball of fire came directly over the stadium about two or three hundred feet above our heads,” he writes in White’s biography. “It shook my mind. I got up from the piano and said, ‘This is it. … I am leaving show business to go back to God.”

Disregarding millions of dollars in canceled bookings and lawsuits, he enrolled in Oakwood College in Alabama and became a minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, launching a career in evangelism that would include his marriage and a son, some exquisite gospel recordings, and a role officiating at the Las Vegas wedding of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. In 1984, he encountered Montgomery at the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam in Nashville.

“I had set up a table with Bibles to give away, and Richard liked that idea,” says Montgomery who owns Left Lane Entertainment. “So he grabbed some Bibles to throw out to the crowd. We ended up talking theology, and we still talk more about Scripture than we do the music business.”

At the time, Little Richard was speaking at crusades and hawking “black heritage” Bibles for the Memorial Bible Company. “For awhile, he honored the Sabbath by not performing or traveling between sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday,” Montgomery says. “The William Morris Agency finally told him, ‘We can’t book you – nobody wants to come out on Tuesday night.’ So Richard adapted his theology a little. He said, ‘My daddy was Holiness, and my mama was Seventh Day Adventist. I’ve become a Holiness now so I can perform on weekends.’”

Even after so many decades, Penniman remains ambivalent about the old Saturday night/Sunday morning impulses, Montgomery says. “He has mixed feelings in that he believes if you’re going to do rock, do rock, and if you’re going to do gospel, do gospel, but don’t mix the two – that’s how strong his upbringing was on that subject. But he still rocks out on the old songs.”

Ingrained habits do die hard. Like any proper Southern belle, Little Richard usually does not leave the house without full makeup and a cresting pouf of wig. However, other behaviors have changed, Montgomery says:  “He’s completely cleaned up his act and become a different person from what he was in the ’70s. Richard is a true Christian – no drugging and no messing around with girls or boys.”

One of the entertainer’s trademark rhymes: “God has never been too far. I may stumble, but I didn’t crumble because He was there when I fumbled.”

His faith has sustained him, agrees another old friend, Seaborn Jones, a nationally recognized poet who met the singer outside the Macon Coliseum around 1970. “Little Richard had the reputation in Macon for being someone you could count on because he didn’t drink and wasn’t a troublemaker,” Jones says. “The Little Richard I know is so different from his public image. He’s calm, not a frantic wild-man. He’s the ultimate gentleman, always appropriate – no profanity, no whiskey, no drugs. And he’s completely focused on others, not on tooting his own horn. He was really the first person to give me any encouragement as a writer, to tell me I could do it.”

And, always, behind all of the kabuki mugging, he is full of love.

“When I was working as a herpetologist, he was concerned about my safety and kept asking if I was afraid of the snakes,” recalls Jones, who worked at the Museum of Arts and Sciences. “I told him that I respected the snakes. He said, ‘That’s what’s wrong with the world – people don’t respect snakes or each other.’ … We’d been talking on the phone, and before he hung up, he asked me to do him a favor. He asked my daughter’s name. I told him ‘Bronwyn.’ He said, ‘When you hang up, I want you to call Bronwyn and tell her Little Richard loves her.’ He had the most tender tone in his voice. That spelled out something to me and touched me deeply. That’s the real Little Richard – a gentle being.”

Asked if he has ever written a poem about Little Richard, Jones says, “He is a poem. How do you write a poem about a poem?” Then he recalls some verse by William Matthews in which a narrator, sitting next to Little Richard on a plane, exclaims, “I know who you are!”And Little Richard replies, “You sure do, I’s a child of God.”