Tallassee

Years after he died, I found a penny with his birthdate. It reminded me of him. A man who once loved me enough to jog beside my bike, even though I inevitably disappointed him.

Tallassee, Alabama—what a night. I’m in a tiny town. An ancient theater. I am standing where Hank Williams stood. I’m about to sing and tell stories to an audience.

I’m clutching a penny so hard it leaves a mark on my palm. The penny bears the birthdate of my late father upon it.

It was in this room that The Drifter himself once performed to a full house, singing through a tin-can microphone.

The Mount Vernon Theater hasn’t changed much since Hank. It is your all-American brick building. A ticket booth, folding seats, stage, velvet curtains.

I’m a kid in an opry house. What a night.

Anyway, one reason I’m here is to record the fiftieth episode of our podcast show.

Fifty episodes might not sound like much of an achievement—and it’s not, really. But if you’re me, it’s a big deal.

Nobody expected much out of me when I was a kid. Take, for example, the day my father taught me to ride a bicycle. He jogged beside my bike, holding my seat for balance, cheering, “You can do it!”

Then he released me. I rolled forward. I wobbled. I fell. I tumbled. I bled. My mother gave me ice cream for supper.

I wanted to please my father so badly. I wanted to pedal a bicycle, then shout, “LOOK DADDY! I DIDN’T FALL!” But all I could do was skin my knees, and look like a clown doing it.

Years after he died, I found a penny with his birthdate. It reminded me of the man who once loved me enough to jog beside my bike, even though I inevitably disappointed him.

But right now I’m not disappointed about a thing.

I can see the audience through the curtains. And I am overcome. I’m clutching this penny tight. What a cotton-picking night.

The Goat Hill String Band plays foot-stomping melodies. A man in overalls, jumps from his chair. The music gets to him. The man starts moving his body in rhythm. Someone in the back row hollers, “YEEE HAAW!” while the fiddle player saws his violin in two.

Yee haw? Where am I?

This is big fun. A real old-fashioned barn dance.

We started this little broadcasted show one year ago. It all began one night when a buddy of mine heard my idea, then said: “Give it a shot, man. What do you have to lose?”

It was crazy. And juvenile. We bought mics and recording equipment from a classified ad in the newspaper for fifty-seven bucks. Our first shows were god-awful—come to think of it, some of our recent shows are, too.

But that’s not the point here.

The point is: this past year we’ve been having fun. Real fun. My wife and I have driven the entire Southeast. We’ve put over one hundred thousand miles on our vehicle, and slept in cheap motels—everywhere from Jacksonville to Raleigh. And she’s been with me through it all.

We’ve recorded this small show at theaters, breweries, fairgrounds, city halls, Methodist churches, potlucks, poundcake contests, courthouses, college auditoriums, fellowship halls, ballrooms, city halls, school gymnasiums.

And I’m going to be perfectly honest: I have no idea what I’m doing.

I guess that’s why I’m clutching this stupid penny. Because I don’t deserve to be here. I should probably be hanging drywall, throwing a newspaper, or digging a ditch.

But if you can believe it—Lord knows I can’t—we have listeners in Idaho, Kansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, California, Texas, Nevada, Virginia, and even the godless epicenter of my one-and-only panic attack in history, New York City.

Earlier this week, a woman from Shanghai, China, emailed me. She is originally from Opelika.

“My husband and I listen to the show each week…” she wrote. “And I just wanted to teach you to say, ‘War Eagle!’ in Mandarin. Here it is: ‘War @#$%^ Eagle, BABY!’”

A man in Winnipeg, wrote:

“…I was born and raised in South Alabama. I miss home, brother… My uncle died last week, and I couldn’t get back for the funeral. Thanks for helping me feel at home in a foreign world for a few minutes each week, brother…”

And I don’t even know where Winnipeg is.

So this probably wasn’t what you wanted to read today. And I don’t blame you. In fact, I don’t even know why I’m writing this.

Then again, maybe what you just read was actually written for a man I once knew. A man who loved Hank Williams. A man whose birthdate is on a penny I’m holding. No matter how old I get, I’d still like to make that man proud.

What a night.

Look, Daddy. I didn’t fall.

46 comments

  1. Jan Bruck - August 27, 2018 5:46 am

    Your daddy would be beaming with pride! Of this I am sure! You are one special man, and I am so happy that I’ve finally found the way to get your emails every day. Big Hugs!

    Reply
  2. Debbie Galladora - August 27, 2018 5:46 am

    Hey Sean! I’m the one who introduced Temecula, CA to. We’re about an hour north of San Diego inland…just off I-15 and due east of San Juan Capistrano. I moved out here with my family in 1994 after my husband was hired by SkyWest as a pilot. I was a Delta stew at the time. It was fine for a long time, but I’m ready to come back to GA. We moved there in 1954 when my Dad was playing for the Crackers. I’m homesick…

    Reply
    • theholtgirls - August 28, 2018 5:10 pm

      Aw, Debbie, come home? Someone will leave the light on for you!

      Reply
  3. Jan Fincher - August 27, 2018 8:45 am

    Dear Sean, we sure would like for you to come to Charleston, SC! There’s a venue named The Pour House on James Island that should work. My husband and I can guarantee you an awesome meal if y’all have the time to eat out. You’re the first thing I read every morning. I’m an Alabama girl transplanted to beautiful Charleston. But how can you not bring a lifetime of Alabama with you?
    Anyway, come see us and tell us your stories.

    Your fan,
    Jan

    Reply
  4. Leslie in NC - August 27, 2018 8:52 am

    Hey Sean, you have listeners in North Carolina too! Well, one for sure that I know of. Your description of your daddy running along side your bicycle and the penny brought back memories of my own father running along side mine and I can remember the tinkling sound of his change in his pocket as he ran. Hadn’t thought of that in many moons. Thanks for the memory!

    Reply
  5. Steven P Bailey - August 27, 2018 9:39 am

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  6. GaryD - August 27, 2018 10:05 am

    I remember my first bike. A red bike my daddy bought me at Western Auto in Downtown Mobile. I use to park it under the tree in the front yard when I was finished riding it and admire it from the living room window on Windsor Avenue. Then one day the wind blew it over and it got a one inch scratch on it. I was devastated! It bothered me every time I looked at it. A few years later after a move to Georgia my parents bought me a metallic green three speed Sting Ray bicycle. Wow! I was the envy of the neighborhood. Rode that bicycle everywhere. Sweet memories.

    Reply
  7. Cynthia Saunders - August 27, 2018 10:56 am

    You are right where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing!

    Reply
  8. Dianne - August 27, 2018 11:45 am

    Sean, I’m sure your Daddy is very proud of you, and rightly so. You are doing what you love, and you do it very, very well. Thank you!

    Reply
  9. Patricia Schmaltz - August 27, 2018 12:09 pm

    I love you. I LOVE hearing your stories and how you share other’s stories. Keep moving forward!

    Reply
  10. Barb Knight - August 27, 2018 12:19 pm

    You left S.C. out my friend! We love you here! Head to Greenville sometime, and you are welcome in my home anytime! You are a spot of goodness in this wonderful world! All the best to you, and head on over to Greenville, we would love you!

    Reply
  11. Joy - August 27, 2018 12:22 pm

    Thank you for your stories…and the memories they always bring to mind. Sean I am sure your Daddy is very proud…and you bring so much happiness to all of us who read you.daily. I liked the point that you found a penny with your Daddy’s birth date and carry it…in some ways it is like your Daddy is always with you. Thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts and stories together so we can read them. You are a great gifted writer and a friend…even though we have never met I consider you a very dear friend.

    Reply
  12. Lisa Helms - August 27, 2018 12:29 pm

    Sean, I’ve lived within 40 miles of Montgomery all of my life – a proud Auburn Graduate! Your stories of the people and places in this great State make me proud. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences. Thank you for making people feel special just by giving them your undivided attention. Thank you for taking time to “smell the roses” the sweet fragrance of Alabama (and also the Florida panhandle.) What a gift you have been given! Please continue to use, I’m confident you will be blessed!

    Reply
  13. Terri Boykin - August 27, 2018 12:32 pm

    Humble and kind, Sean, did they write that song about you?

    Reply
  14. Connie Havard Ryland - August 27, 2018 12:55 pm

    Honey, you never have to worry. You made your daddy proud. You’ve touched lives all over the place. Love and hugs from small town Alabama.

    Reply
  15. Phillip Saunders - August 27, 2018 1:10 pm

    Sean, I was there. You were great. The Goat Hill guys were great. The theater is great. The moon was great. It was a great night. Maybe that’s too many greats, but I don’t care. Keep on strummin’ and singin’ and speakin’ and writin’. Oh, and by the way, I’m sure your daddy is very proud of his boy. Keep squeezing that penny.

    Reply
  16. Betty F. - August 27, 2018 1:15 pm

    For those of us brought up in the dark ages, can you explain how to find and watch a podcast? Is it something on Facebook or YouTube or one of those mysteries?

    Reply
    • Hollie - August 27, 2018 1:58 pm

      Hi Betty, go to : https://seanofthesouthshow.com/ (it’s a link to Sean’s webpage). They are also available on the iTunes store (if you have iThings), Android, or Google. On the right of that page, under “Sean of the South”, there’s 3 little buttons. Hit one of those, according to how you computerize. 🙂 Hope this helps! ~Hollie

      Reply
      • Jane Wood - August 27, 2018 4:40 pm

        Thanks Betty, I found the podcast.

        Reply
  17. janiesjottings - August 27, 2018 1:23 pm

    Once again you have touched my heart. Oh, if your daddy could only see what you have done with your gift of writing, all the lives and hearts you touch every day. I am proud of you and for you. Keep it up!

    Reply
  18. Haskel JP - August 27, 2018 1:38 pm

    Yes Sean, what a night it was in a small town where years ago cotton was king and now something else is. The Vernon Theater is identical to the former Tiger Theater in Auburn. I reminisced from the moment I walked in the door and although times have changed, not necessarily for the best, I know “real” people remain and a room full gathered at the Vernon and watched you ride with your Dad and Hank looking on.

    Reply
  19. Iris Robinson - August 27, 2018 1:45 pm

    Dear Sean,
    I grew up in Tallassee went to see Hank in tatt very theater. I was very young but remember it. I now live in Eufaula Al. been here for 53 yrs. but that sweet little town will always be he. I have fond memories of playing with friends until till dark, running up and down the creek banks. For a monent you took me back home. To a slower time with lots of fond memories. I enjoy your stories. Thanks . Iris Gibson Robinson.

    Reply
  20. Kathy Smith - August 27, 2018 1:46 pm

    I love this. I found a quote this morning that I want to share with you. “Today I want you to think about all that you are instead of all that you are not. What you are is a fantastic writer. I can totally identify with you as a Southerner. Please keep it up! You make so many people’s day and you don’t even realize it.

    Reply
  21. MermaidGrammy - August 27, 2018 1:48 pm

    You are our version of Garrison Keillor!

    Reply
  22. Meg - August 27, 2018 1:56 pm

    I’m from the Florida Panhandle and now live in Virginia. I love your podcast and listen when I can. I read you every day before work. Coming here and reading you is like entering a sanctuary. It’s where I know I can find peace before the chaos of the day. Thank you. Oh,and I love y’alls music. Thank you!!

    Reply
  23. Mern Brewer - August 27, 2018 2:09 pm

    Tell me about ur Podcast!!?
    Where and when,seriouely

    Reply
    • Hollie - August 27, 2018 2:11 pm

      Mern, Look under “Betty F.’s” comment. I left instructions. 🙂 ~H

      Reply
  24. Kim - August 27, 2018 2:10 pm

    Maybe your daddy stopped being able to express it or show it, but I’d be willing to bet that he never stopped loving you. This Mississippi girl appreciates you and the way your spoken and written words make me feel.

    Reply
  25. Judy - August 27, 2018 2:12 pm

    See! You can do it! You are doing great! Just keep doing it because we love you!

    Reply
  26. Brenda - August 27, 2018 2:16 pm

    That is exactly what I wanted to read this morning. I have never been disappointed .

    Reply
  27. Sandra Smith - August 27, 2018 2:19 pm

    No, you didn’t fall Sean. You rose ! I SO wish my Daddy was alive to hear you, read your writings, meet you. He’d love you as much as he loved Hank. Keep rising ! ❤

    Reply
  28. Lee Headrick - August 27, 2018 3:23 pm

    I have seen you in person twice, read your emails daily and even have 2 of your books. I never knew you had a podcast! I will listen today!

    Reply
  29. Edna B. - August 27, 2018 4:08 pm

    Thank you Holly for the link to the podcast. Now that I have it, I can listen too. You can rest assured that your Daddy listens in too. Sean, I look forward to your stories every day. If you’re ever going to be in Suffolk, VA, let us know. I’ll fly down there to see your show. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  30. Mac - August 27, 2018 5:27 pm

    We absolutely enjoyed having you in Tallassee Sean! It was so nice to meet you. You are talented beyond anything I could have imagined! I have to say the yee-haw was me haha. Your a wonderful person and I can’t wait to see you again !

    I’ll fly away

    Mac

    Reply
  31. Bob Hubbard (aka "Billy Bob fgrom Alabnam - August 27, 2018 7:12 pm

    Sean, sometime in the future – near I hope – please put our town of Perry GA on your list of places to visit, hold a camp meeting or host one of your shows. Perry is right in the middle of Georgia and you have many fans. Heck, if nothing else, I believe I could book you for the Methodist Church on any night you want to come. As an old Alabama boy in exile here in Georgia, I read and appreciate your stuff. Give me a call 478 397 7643 and I can take you to the best place in Georgia to eat – right here in Perry…..

    Bob Hubbard

    Reply
  32. Marcia MacLean - August 27, 2018 7:18 pm

    Another great story from a talented writer, musician, speaker, entertainer and the nicest person I’ve ever met. I still can’t believe you will be performing at Mosley High School in Lynn Haven, FL on September 27 (www.mosleyfins.com).

    Reply
  33. Pamela McEachern - August 27, 2018 7:34 pm

    You make alot of us so proud and I know in my heart your Daddy is standing beside you all the times you want to make him proud. You are a true son of the South!

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  34. jnearen - August 27, 2018 8:50 pm

    What is the name of the show and the streaming address?

    Reply
  35. Jack Darnell - August 27, 2018 9:16 pm

    I’m just as clueless as jncaren above. But I did enjoy the read. Always a great visit!

    Reply
  36. Marcia Zuhlje - August 27, 2018 9:27 pm

    Sean will you consider coming to the frozen tundra of the Nirth? Lol. As I write this it is 87 out and very muggy. You’d be right at home on the shores of Lake Erie I’m WNY. We are just regular folks. We have nothing to do with the distant land of NYC. ps Winnipeg is in Canada. 20 mins from here! We dont think of it as ‘a foreign land’.

    Reply
  37. Myra McGlothin Guca - August 27, 2018 11:34 pm

    Looking at the audience through the curtains, eh? Well, I was the one there on Row #2’s endcap wearing a grin that like to split my face in two. In fact, it’s starting to grow again just thinking of Saturday night. You were so great, and getting to meet Jamie … well, that was the best. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Reply
  38. Shelton Armour - August 27, 2018 11:58 pm

    Sean…You don’t fall, you soar and help us join you. Let me know the next time you are in Jacksonville, FL. I’d like to hear you.

    Reply
  39. Melanie - August 28, 2018 4:24 am

    Once again I am clueless. 😭You have a podcast?

    Reply
  40. Melissa Claunch - August 28, 2018 9:54 am

    I saw you a while back in Opeluka. My family came to see you in Tallassee. You and the Goat Hill String Band made us forget our troubles for a little while. The show was heartwarming and at times side splitting hilarious My cousin went into labor during the show. I’m told by my family that my Great Uncle, Frank Fuller,laid the brick on the Mount Vernon theater.

    Reply
  41. Barbara - August 28, 2018 11:00 am

    Sean, you didn’t fall, and in this crazy world you help take us back to an earlier time where things made sense. Thank You!

    Reply
  42. LARRY WALL - September 4, 2018 4:58 pm

    You sure didn’t Sean. And we know that he knows it and is very proud about it all. And we listen to and enjoy each and every podcast.

    Reply

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