Thursday, July 13, 2006

Karen Black and Jeannie Kendall-When Google Searches Collide

Growing up as teenagers in Arkansas my friends and I didn't think of ourselves as hicks, which is, of course, the sign of a true hick. We weren't completely naive either. Maturing during the hyper self-conscious late 70s and early 80s, reading Rolling Stone and watching daily doses of All My Children made it clear to us that we were by no means worldly. But all we needed was thirty minutes with our friends from TRUE Ozark provinces like Desha, Cushman, and Oil Trough to reassure us that our world was, at least, respectably larger than theirs.

Being a citizen of that larger world meant staying current on techno, new wave bands, and keeping any love of country music on the DL. Dolly Parton and for whatever reason, bluegrass, were exluded from this moratorium (probably because we were hicks). Most of the time ignoring country music was not a problem. But every three years or so, my friend Felley and I would end up going on this closet country kick where we would start listening to KWOZ (the only local country station around for a long while). One of my weaknesses was The Kendalls, the father and daughter duo. Their hits Heaven's Just a Sin Away and If You're Waitin' on Me kept me watching Hee-Haw out of the corner of my eye on Saturday evenings for a few years looking for appearances (no CMT then). I don't think Felley ever let things get that far out of hand, watching Hee-Haw I mean.

I went on a Kendalls Googling binge not too long ago, just to see what became of them and especially Jeannie Kendall's voice, which was like a cross between sweet tea and liquid mercury. Turns out father Royce passed on in 1998, but Jeannie has moved to Yellville, Arkansas about three counties away from Batesville. Don't think I'm not tempted to stalk. It wouldn't be hard. Yellville isn't that big. After being out of the limelight for about 10 years, Jeannie put out a couple of really nice albums. I'd settle for seeing her perform, but can't figure out where she and her band play now.

Along with my little country roots quest, I've been revisiting quirky movies of the 1970s, too. After seeing Bob Altman's Prairie Home Companion I decided to combine the country/quirky movie searches by re-watching Altman's 1975 snapshot of American values, Nashville.

I'm no film studies major, and I don't pretend to understand all the nuances of Altman's movies, but Nashville is so darn interesting and entertaining to me, even with its slow, melancholy pace. The soundtrack makes me laugh (the actors wrote their own songs). One of my favorite characters is Connie White, the churlish, blonde and big-haired stand-in for every 70s Nashville starlet with a sense of self that was simultaneously over-inflated with pride and waterlogged with insecurity. It was a smallish role for Karen Black, who was big back then, but she nailed it. In fact I was so impressed with her performance that I went on a Google marathon for her, too! She also has been keeping a pretty low profile for the last 15 years or so, (fun fact: Karen is a scientologist). But guess what project she did last year. A music video for one of Jeannie Kendall's new songs, You Just Don't Get Me, Do Ya!

Now I ask you, what are the chances?! The video sucks and Karen's bit is pretty uninspired, but still, I would love to shake the hand of the production assistant whose off-beat taste in films made him or her think to get Karen back for a campy Nashville music video of a song by a blond artist from the 70s. Art happens everywhere.


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