This past weekend , I did my 3rd coverage of The White Family (specifically Jesco and Mamie White) of Boone County, West Virginia. In the first 2 events in which I covered them, my access was limited in both time and proximity, but this one was more personal and the contact was near constant over a 16 hour period, even transporting them in my vehicle. What I experienced is truly memorable and I am honored, to have been allowed into their comfort zone for such an extended period of time. When I say 16 hours, I mean the whole span of time and AWAKE !!! I arrived at 4:00pm. On the 17th of December and departed their presence at just after 8:00am on the 18th. I enjoy contacts of this time span, because, in most cases, it reveals a side of a performer or musician that can remain hidden over short tracts of time. In this case, what it was at the beginning is “What it was”. The Whites are REAL as they come.
here is no pretense, there is no ‘sugar coating” and they don’t take on any noticeable change usually exposed over extended periods of time, like I’m used to experiencing. In this time, what our gracious benefactor and White’s Producer and Promoter, STORM TAYLOR had been trying to impart to me, began to sink in. Over the several hours together, I began to see that Jesco and Mamie were bigger, more complex, smarter, more serious, and deeper than the “Legend” may well ever expose. Sure, they are a bit more “raw” than any city dweller and sure they act goofy sometimes, but really....who doesn’t? What I experienced were some truly sweet hearted, considerate, and kind people, who were ever so gracious as to allow me, a stranger, into their personal space.
I also began to see the unseen side that Storm told me about. A pensive side, a side that reveals the lifetime of experiences they have gone through. I saw a difference that comes from being from the area that is Boone County, West Virginia and the determination to capitalize on an opportunity to raise themselves from out of all that; to leave a legacy and a mark on this world. Now, don’t get me wrong, The “legend” is a reality. There is no part of it that I can see as untrue, even in perception, but again, there is so much more. At the Movie Premier for “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia”, I too sat and giggled at the antics and the sometimes ludicrous and even violently disturbing behavior of various members of the White clan, and as predicted by Storm, in the end I realized “Oh My God, these AREN’T actors !” This place is REAL, these people are REAL, and the conditions from whence they sprang are REAL... and incredibly ignored.. I’m not gonna make this into a social diagnostic, but felt the preface necessary.
What is the “Legend”? Well, it is that these are HARD PARTYING, Wild, Untamed, Unchecked, Unconventional, Uni-Geared, Willful, and sometimes Dangerous people. I find no fault in the Legend. The public record alone speaks to it’s truth. As well, there is the “Look in the eye” that spells “There is a limit” and of course the “Mother Bear with Cubs” atmosphere surrounding Mamie. Yeah, that ‘s all there! The visit started this way; as I said I showed up in Johnson City about 4:00pm.
I met with Storm Jesco and Mamie and from that point it was ON. I spent the rest of the day and night in the abode (Hotel Room and other locals) of Jesco and Mamie. At first it was a just a visit, the “getting to know each other better phase”, in which I established, because of my conservative appearance, that I am not a COP :o) Then on to a series of filmed interviews with Jesco, Mamie, ROGER ALAN WADE, and a few of the fans that keep such close track of the Whites. Not sure if Y’all know this yet, but the legend is huge and the following is also quietly and loyally so.(and we’d like to fix that quiet part.)
As I hovered with my camera and partied my arse off, the evening began to unfold in front of me. A stream of fans “dropped by” to pay homage contribute to what was gonna be ONE HELLUVA NIGHT ! We left around 5:30 to get some food at a local Johnson City Eatery called MAIN STREET PIZZA, that had arranged for us, a wonderful meal. No surprise that the Owner and the General manager were big Jesco fans. As wild and untamed as they are made out to be, the Whites are grateful people and they return the sentiment that is issued to them. We spent better than an hour at the Restaurant and the vibe was exceptional and the food was GOOD !!! After the meal, we retired back to the hotel and did what seems to consistently happen around Jesco and Mamie...WE PARTIED !
A few scant hours later, we loaded up and headed to the venue. The place is called CAPONES and it is a righteous venue with a real “Pub” feel. Storm was running around, doing his thing (Herding Cats) and was ever so patient with all of us. Never seen anyone that can keep their composure so well and focus on the job at hand, despite what can only be defined as CHAOS. We were all escorted upstairs, by a very competent staff, and guess what?.... the party resumed; this time with a change out of crowd. People had traveled fro far and wide to this event, as they usually do. One thing I’ve noted, every time I have been around Jesco and Mamie, is that the atmosphere becomes electric. People are “Wowed” by these folks and I can only surmise that it is their reality that does it. People become real around them. Inhibitions start to roll away and the true mountain party spirit gets released.
It is contagious. After some serious imbibing and “hullabaloo” in the upstairs of the venue, the show began. ROGER ALAN WADE took the stage and got the crowd really warmed up. I have recently become a fan of Roger’s work. His song “All Likkered Up” struck a cord with e the first time I heard it and I could not but help to sing the words at the top of my lungs, as he played. Before Roger ever took the stage there were intermittent chants of “Jesco, Jesco, Jesco” and when he wrapped the crowd went wild ! They had received a surprise they didn’t realize would happen; Roger’s musical talent. With the crowd at a fever pitch, jesco was escorted down the stairs and to the stage and it was ON! The Main Event. Jesco and Roger both put on “One Hell of a Show” to “One Hell of a crowd” and those around the star attraction knew, this evening is NOT OVER.! After a time it was back to the Hotel and well.... the party “ramped up” several notches, if you can imagine that. I thought I could, until it began.
This was a marathon and none would quit. Several waves of fans collected over and over again until finally the “Moon” had gotten so bright we realized it was actually day again. It was at this point that I said my goodbyes, loaded up Black Betty (my camera) and began the drive home to Metal Mountain. Funny, the car was going 65 on cruise control, but I was gong 150 in my head. After a 2 hour drive, I collapsed onto my couch, got my feet up and recollected the events of the last several hours. So much happened, so fast, it was like time compression. I cannot thank Storm, Jesco and Mamie enough for their continued hospitality in covering their events and we at TWISTED HILLBILLY MAGAZINE simply cannot wait for the next time. God bless all of you out there and we hope your coming New Year is productive and PLEASURABLE..