Songwriter, singer, and guitarist Eddie Bush was born in Princeton, a small rural town in Indiana, in 1965 and he has lived in the Lowcountry since the early 70s. When he was four years old, his father taught him basic guitar chords and since then he never stopped learning and perfecting his craft. In the interview, Bush talks about the musicians that influenced him, remembers his teen years playing in Charleston and reflects about the evolution of Charleston music scene. Bush recalls some of the most memorable moments of his career such as touring with Eric Johnson, becoming a member of the harmony group One Flew South, standing on a stage by John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson, designing his own guitar and the overwhelming public response he received for his songs "Spirit of America" and "The Thin Blue Line." Finally, he discusses the challenges of making a living as a musician in the time of the internet and takes pride in his work as a guitar teacher. Teaching gives him the opportunity to nurture young talents and share his values as a musician.
Lebanese-American musician Peter Kfoury was born in Manchester, New Hampshire. His father was Lebanese and his mother Syrian. At thirteen, he learned to play guitar and soon after, he became fascinated with the oud, an old Mid-Eastern traditional instrument. He moved to Connecticut to attend college and for a few months, he took lessons with the Armenian musician George Mgrdichian. By that time, Kfoury started blending Middle Eastern music with jazz, rock, and funk. After a year, he decided to leave college and went to play music in New York. Later he returned to school and graduated as Dr. Chiropractor, the profession he has practiced for almost forty years. In the interview, Kfoury talks about the lack of diversity in the music offerings in Charleston as well as the lack of listening rooms. Responding to these voids, in 2016 he launched the World Music Cafe. John Holenko and Hazel Ketchum from Hungry Monk Music supported his efforts. Since then, World Music Cafe produces a monthly show that features three musicians of different musical traditions and styles. Finally, Kfoury talks about creating, recording and presenting his album At the Heart of Two Worlds.
Vocalist Aisha Kenyetta (a.k.a Aisha Frazier) was born in 1980, in Monetta, South Carolina. Before going to college, her life revolved around family and church activities. Kenyetta describes herself as a freelance vocalist with a powerful voice: "I'm a power singer... but when I sing, my diction is rhythmic. My voice is an extension of the percussion instruments. It's not—I'm not the violin. I'm the bass." She performs with her own band AmpSquared and several other such as Super Deluxe, Plane Jane, and the musician collective Emerald Empire. Additionally, she is the North Charleston Seacoast Church's Worship Leader. In the interview, Kenyetta discusses balancing family, day work, and music career and states she is grateful for the many opportunities to perform. At the time of the interview, Kenyetta was writing her own material.
Saxophonist Abe White was born in downtown Charleston in 1935. He attended Burke High and there he realized he could be a musician. Soon, with almost no training, he started playing at the local bars in Reynolds Avenue in North Charleston and in downtown Charleston. The job allowed him to make money and support his mother financially but also exposed him to the nightlife dangers. After graduating from high school, White joined the Air Force in administrative positions. He was stationed in Texas, Colorado, California, Florida, Germany, and Thailand. On each place, after his office hours, he pursued opportunities to play. When he returned to the civil life, he started his own business, "The Abe White Affair". In the interview, White reflects about his music and career and the long journey that took him from playing at armors and bars to his performances in local concerts and the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.
Karl Beckwith Smith (pronouns: He/Him) born in Saranac Lake, N.Y. in 1950, describes his early childhood in New York state and in Darien, Conn. as well as his relationship with his family, particularly his engineer father, whom he describes as a “man’s man,” and notable athlete, despite his father’s life-long struggle with diabetes. (At his death at age ninety, his father was reputed to be one of the world’s longest survivors and users of insulin.) Smith also discusses the eventual death of his mother and his time in St. Paul’s, a prestigious prep school in Concord, N.H., and his difficulties with classmates, whom he says knew he was gay before he himself knew. He speaks of how art provided an “escape” from many of the obstacles in his early life. He then delves into his time at Princeton University, where he studied art history and was one of the first students to paint for his thesis. While there, he lived for a few years in a commune-like setting with many others, including Lisa Halabey, eventually Queen Noor of Jordan. He makes mention of his mentor, the artist Esteban Vicente, and his exposure to other notable artists including Helen Frankenthaler. Smith recalls the date of April 1, 1972, when he met Hal Truesdale as one of the turning points of his life. He details the early years of their partnership, their travels in Europe and their “pioneering” loft living and entertaining extravagantly in lower Manhattan, where after giving up acting, Hal had his private hairdressing salon with prominent clients. Also discussed is the time they lived in Cold Springs, N.Y., their summer cottage at Loon Lake, Vt., and Smith’s very successful competitive sailing seasons in Newport, R.I. In 1984, Smith gave up other jobs to become an artist full-time, mostly painting furniture, interiors and mural. Returning to Truesdale’s birthplace of Columbia, S.C., to take care of his mother, the couple then moved to Charleston in 1992, where Beckwith painted murals for Charleston Place Hotel and a mural on André Michaux at the Charleston International Airport. After brief mentions of the AIDS crisis in NY and the Stonewall riot, Smith describes their settle life in Charleston. He and Truesdale were united in a civil union in 2000 in Vermont and married in 2013 in New York.
Lee Anne Leland (pronouns: She/Hers) now living in McClellanville, SC, tells her story of coming to terms with and exploring her identity as a self-identified gender-nonconforming, lesbian, transgender woman. Being raised as a boy in a family of five siblings, she grew up in a prominent, socially and religiously conservative Mount Pleasant family where she struggled to understand and come to terms with her identity facing the disapproval of many. She describes a continuing and confusing search for self-expression and the impact such words as “cross-dresser” and “transsexual” had on her and her search for community, until, with the help of friends, she found her transgender identity. She recounts how she dealt with coming out, her experience with depression, thoughts of suicide, dysphoria over her appearance, various work experiences, and self-acceptance as an adult. Through all of this, Leland discusses the love and support she has received from her wife, Cindy, and the role she has had as an activist. Leland continues as coordinator of the Charleston Area Transgender Support (CATS), a board member of We Are Family, and a speaker at public events such as Transgender Day of Remembrance. She discusses how she perceives that claiming and living her authentic existence, even walking down the street, can be an act of political activism. Leland stresses the need for conversations and political activism especially in the political climate of 2018. Additionally, Leland recounts experiences and histories of Charleston’s gay bars, specifically the Lion’s Head, and the King Street Garden and Gun Club. She also mentions White Point Garden as a cruising spot, the Spoleto Festival, and the impact that the transsexual Dawn Langley Hall Simmons had on the Charleston community.
John Martin Taylor (pronouns: He/His/Him) born in Baton Rouge, LA in 1949, discusses his youth, university years, his travels, various careers in art and the culinary world, his family, friends, lovers and his husband. His father was a scientist with the Manhattan Project who moved the family to Orangeburg, S.C. Taylor speaks of a happy outdoor childhood, with some African American friends in the segregated South and little awareness of gay life or issues. The family also summered at Hilton Head, S.C. before its development, giving Taylor firsthand experience with the land and its foodways. He attended the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. at two different times, for undergraduate and graduate degrees. He speaks at length of the artistic circles there, including that of the musical group, The B-52s, whose first concerts he attended and with whom he remained friends, later describing their visit to the Charleston gay bar, Les Jardins. He came to Charleston, S.C. in 1975, left for the Virgin Islands, and lived in Paris, France and in Italy, pursuing a career as a visual artist and a photographer, eventually, becoming American Liaison and Food Editor of the French periodical ICI New York. Returning to Charleston, he had little to do with the local gay scene, feeling an equal attraction to men and women, or mostly to particular individuals who interested him. As his love for cooking grew, influenced by what he calls his strong “maternal instinct,” his childhood experience crabbing and fishing in the Lowcountry, his mother’s culinary skills, and his father’s interest in wines, he began to focus on a career. After learning the business in New York City, Taylor opened Hoppin’ John’s, a cookbook store in Charleston, and quickly became the recognized expert on Lowcountry and regional cooking and foodways, eventually publishing articles on the topic in local, regional and national publications. A serendipitous find of a manuscript cookbook from St. John’s Parish of Berkeley County prompted and nourished further research. After recovering from the damage done to his bookstore by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, Taylor published his first book, Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking in 1992. He has published three books since then and mentored many while enjoying the friendship and respect of leading scholars in the field. Taylor notes the changes in the local culinary and restaurant scene, lauding many chefs and proprietors for their contributions. He and Mikel Lane Harrington were married in Washington, D.C. in 2010. Through Harrington’s work with the Peace Corps, the couple, based in Savannah, Ga. and Washington, D.C. have lived in various locations across the world.
Kristen Lowe (pronouns: She/Her/Hers) was born in Florence, South Carolina, and currently resides in Charleston with her partner, and works professionally as a hand therapist in a sports medicine practice. She discusses growing up in the small-town atmosphere of Florence, and the impacts of her largely conservative and Southern Baptist religious upbringing. She recalls happy childhood memories with her parents and two younger brothers, including spending summers on the lake. Attending a private Baptist high school, she was unaware of her identity and saw no LGBTQ role models anywhere, having her first experience at age twenty. A graduate of the College of Charleston and later the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), she hid her sexual identity at the former institution, afraid of being labelled if she attended Gay Straight Alliance meetings, but at MUSC, she eventually served as Vice President of the Alliance for Equality. Lowe describes the difficulty of arriving at self-acceptance, feeling solitary, and at first being fearful of going to church and educational figures, or even close friends for advice. Becoming more and more open, she searched for a place within the LGBTQ community, finding fulfillment and social acceptance in becoming a board member of Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA). She details the advocacy work AFFA does, achieving, just at the time of the interview, a victory in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina in its passing a non-discrimination ordinance. Being out has given her a freedom to do as she wants, dress as she wants and she also has a variety of reproductive options available to her and her partner, as well. Any harassments received for being perceived as a lesbian were minor, she notes. In answer to queries about the issues facing the LGBTQ community today, she reflects on the number of different identities within it, and although there is much more visibility currently, she reiterates the difficulty of coming out, recalling how she at first had to do it via letters to her parents. If it takes an individual years to come to terms with her identity, she reasons, family members should be given time to adapt as well. She also explains how naturally children will take to the idea of LGBTQ relations among adults since children come into the world unprejudiced and will remain so if their society will allow it.
Musician, educator, and community leader Lonnie Hamilton III was born in Charleston in 1927. He is a graduate of South Carolina State College and VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. In the interview, Hamilton reflects about growing up and developing his career in the segregated South since his beginnings at Burke High and the Jenkins Orphanage Band. He speaks about his long and gratifying career as an educator teaching music at Sims High School in Union, South Carolina and at Bonds-Wilson High School at North Charleston, South Carolina, and the many relationships he forged with his students over the years. He talks about the highlights of his performing career, playing daily on Channel 2, attaining the dream to have his own club, Lonnie's, his successful years playing at Henry's on North Market Street, and having the opportunity to compose an original song, "Ugly Way Blues" that he performed on the movie Rich in Love. Hamilton recalls the excitement he felt when he listened to jazz music for the first time in a show called Silas Green Minstrel in downtown Charleston and describes playing at Mosquito Beach as a unique and wonderful experience. Hamilton takes pride in his accomplishments, as an educator, as a musician, as a businessperson, and as a City Council member. He affirms he was able to break Charleston's racial and economic barriers thanks to his saxophone.
Interview with Yvonne Tucker, who purchased the house at 258 Ashley Avenue through Historic Charleston Foundation's Neighborhood Impact Initiative. Ms. Tucker recalls growing up on the East Side, later moving away, then returning to Elliottborough. After an unsuccessful attempt to purchase a home on Bogard Street through the Charleston Bank Consortium Program, Ms. Tucker believed that she'd never be able to buy a home until sometime later, Historic Charleston Foundation contacted her about its Neighborhood Impact Initiative and offered 258 Ashley Avenue to her. Skeptical at first due to the condition of the house and neighborhood at the time, she purchased the house with assistance from HCF, which also undertook the restoration of the house. Ms. Tucker recalls participating with HCF during the restoration and she learned to appreciate preservation. Asked about how the neighborhood has changed since she bought the house, Ms. Tucker states that there is much less crime and that she and her two daughters who grew up in the house feel safe. There are also more local businesses and her job is within walking distance. The downside is that the neighborhood has priced out some homeowners and that a historic house is expensive to maintain. Despite all the odds stacked against her, Ms. Tucker states that she wouldn't have been able to purchase a home without HCF and that both she and her daughters are proud of their home. "I didn't go looking for a home; a home came looking for me." Interviewed by Katherine Pemberton on March 3, 2016, at Ms. Tucker's home at 258 Ashley Avenue. Richard Almes, videographer. Recorded as part of HCF's "Changing Neighborhoods" series, made possible by a grant from the SC Humanities Commission.