February 2014 saw the passing of Maurice Bessinger and Tim Wilson, two Southerners who represented different elements of Southern culture: barbeque and comedy respectively.
No one cooks like Southerners. This dates to the colonial period. It used to be said that Southerners dined, Yankees just ate. David Hackett Fischer noted in his significant work Albion’s Seed that colonial Virginians enjoyed fried food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and delicate seasonings while Puritans in Massachusetts ate stale brown bread and cold baked beans.
Southern elections in the colonial period were grand events full of food and grog. Voters expected to be bribed with barbequed meat and whiskey. Those politicians who stuffed the voter’s bellies with pork would in turn receive more votes from the satisfied freeholders. Voting was done in public pronouncements. Prospective officeholders knew if their food and moonshine performed well by how many votes they tallied.
Maurice Bessinger ran Piggy Park in Columbia, South Carolina for over fifty years. His yellow gold barbeque sauce, slow cooked meats, and homemade slaw melt in your mouth. I ate there at least twice a week when I was in graduate school. But Maurice was also well known as a public advocate for Southern history and culture (see the video below). The South lost a great champion with his passing.
Southerners have always been a spirited people, full of song and cheer. Perhaps it is from the large number of Celts who migrated to the South. Regardless, Southerners tell great jokes, and there is a long tradition of Southern comedy in America. From Oliver Hardy, Will Rogers, and He-Haw to Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy, Southerns have, at times, defined American comedy. Tim Wilson from Columbus, Georgia was not as well known–he did write some of Foxworthy’s material–but he was just as funny and proud to be Southern. He was a libertarian, populist, Southern comedian and he knew Southern culture well.
I first heard him on the Rick and Bubba Show out of Birmingham, AL. His routines focused on the common South and they were always good. He kept it clean most of the time and never went too far. Wilson fused song and comedy into a hilarious tour through Southern culture. He will be missed. Enjoy the tune below.
Tim Wilson (First Baptist Bar and Grill):