By Edward B. Driscoll, Jr.
When it comes to entertainment, most people think of Broadway on the East Coast and Hollywood on the West Coast. But the flyover country of the South has contributed plenty of creativity to the American cultural scene.
The proof is in Chris Queen’s e-book “Football, Faith, and Flannery O’Connor: A Love Letter to the South.” It features a great roundup of entertaining endeavors in Dixie, from movies and television shows on location to a wide range of music. Here are the most memorable entertainment tidbits from Queen’s tome:
- The crime series “In the Heat of the Night” was filmed in Covington, Georgia. That made logical as well as geographic sense because the show, which aired from 1988 through 1995, centered on the police force of fictional Sparta, Mississippi. A native of Covington, Queen actually appeared for about two seconds in one episode as part of a high school choir.
- “The Vampire Diaries” currently films in Georgia. Covington, which bills itself as “The Hollywood of the South,” is one of the regular locations. The first movie filmed there was “A Man Called Peter” in 1955. The horror flick “Scalpel” came to town in 1977, and the Southern hit TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard” filmed its pilot in Covington.
- Several Hollywood hits set in the South have earned awards. Carroll O’Connor earned the 1989 Emmy for best lead actor while playing Sparta’s police chief in “In the Heat of the Night.” Marisa Tomei won the Oscar for best supporting actress in “My Cousin Vinny” after spending time in Covington.
- Macon is a city full of musical memories. Nicknamed “The Vatican of Music,” it gave the music industry multiple big names, including Little Richard and Otis Redding. “You can’t tell the history of the South without talking about the role music has played over the years,” Queen said.
- Country music is just one of many genres with Southern roots. Sure, with its headquarters in Nashville, country is king. But jazz, ragtime, blues and gospel musicians still have loyal followings decades after finding their voices in the South. “Southerners like Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong became famous on a national stage,” Queen noted. So did Johnny Cash and Conway Twitty.
- The pioneers of rock ‘n roll are from the South. Thousands of people per year travel to Memphis to see the home of Elvis Presley, the king of the genre. Others who helped shape the world of music we know today included Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.
- The South is still a frequently used gateway to fame today. The current lineup of country stars includes Black Shelton of “The Voice” fame and Carrie Underwood, not to mention storied performers like Garth Brooks, the Judds and Reba McEntire, who had her own TV series set in the South. The superstars of rhythm and blues, rap and hip-hop include Arrested Development, Ludacris, Lil Wayne and Usher.