On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with Hot Springs, Arkansas native Rashod Ollison. His memoir, Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues, & Coming of Age Through Vinyl, was published by Beacon Press in 2016.
Growing up in Hot Springs and Little Rock in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Rashod Ollison experienced a world of “cold love, redolent of vinegar, without the slightest hint of sweetness.”
And the only thing that helped him endure was music.
Nicknamed “Dusty” by his family, in his memoir Ollison details the lives of his often absent father, his indomitable grandmother, Mama Teacake, his irascible sisters Dusa and Reagan and his tough-as-nails mother, Dianne. Music was the place where he found the most coherence and delicious engagement.
A University of Central Arkansas alumnus, Ollison now writes for The Virginian-Pilot as the Norfolk, Virginia-based newspaper’s music and culture critic.
Taking its name after a single covered by Aretha Franklin, Soul Serenade begins with a description:
“The picture revealed the happiness I never knew. On the back of the beat-up, black-and-white, wallet-size snapshot, the names are in lovely penmanship, probably Mama's: Raymond + Dianne Ollison.
“In the picture, they sit in a cafe booth in Juarez, Mexico in September of 1970. Daddy's arm wraps around Mama's slim shoulders and he presses his dark, angular face next to hers. He gives the camera a seductive stare. With flipped bouffant hair, Mama looks like a member of the Marvelettes. Her smile is so wide, sweet and radiant it melts the heart…”
Support for this program was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
We'd like to extend a special thanks to Tim Anthony for composing the soundtrack to this episode.
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