Bourbon and Major Wilkes' Rocking Chair - the Old South
Jean Shepherd's America - Season 2
May 7, 1985
"BOURBON AND MAJOR WILKES' ROCKING CHAIR"
The lore and lure of the Old South are celebrated in "Bourbon and Major Wilkes' Rocking Chair," as Colonel Beauregard Shepherd sips a mint julep and muses on the graciousness and grandeur of days gone by: expansive fields of cotton bordered by crisp white fences , golden honey ham and beaten biscuits and a Southern libation with "the kick of six mules . ''
[ Courtesy: Pete Delaney - 09-18-2016 ]
It is 1858 in the deep south. Riding his 22 year old mare Nelly down a country lane is Colonel Beauregard Shepherd, a politically correct rich farmer who, though he employs sharecroppers and abhors slavery, is willing to fight for the Confederacy.
Jean hams if up big time in this salute to the pre-Civil War south's landmark historic mansions, plantations, Spanish moss, peanut boils and most notably, mint juleps where "That ol' Wild Turkey sings a song that goes right to the soul."
The most moving scenes in any Jean Shepherd's America show are in this episode when we visit Alabama's Shorter Mansion and hear a spiritual sung by the Shape Note Singers of the Morris Chapel Baptist church. The gravestones of past parishioners are seen as Jean assures us that "They are still part of the congregation."
A peppy musical interlude follows (Phil Harris singing his classic "That's What I Like About The South") as a montage of modern Southern images flashes on the screen.
There's a last look at South Carolina's 16,000 acre Greenwood Plantation before Col. Beauregard Shepherd and Nelly ride off into the sunset.
In the 1985 Press Kit Shep wrote a small piece
The Devil Has All the Best Lines
by Jean Shepherd
I'm not one for fantasies. In fact, I can't honestly say that l've ever consciously had one. As a kid, I never fantasized that I was Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle or Humphrey Bogart. Sure I admired them. But fantasizing that I was them? Never.
But there are things that we all secretly would like to have done-or have been had time and circumstances allowed. I wonder how it would have felt to have been a knight during the reign of Richard The Lion-Hearted, or a buHalo hnnter on the Great Plains in the days of Cochise.
I've always seen television, at least my television, as a kind of magic wand. You can go places and do things that nobody in his right mind could ever pull off. For example, who among us has never wanted to visit Death Valley? Now there's a romantic name. Death Valley Soottyl The 20-mule team! .All of that. Well, why not go? And not just as a visitor, but as a participant.
So, in my new public television series, I played the role of a grizzled prospector struggling across the salt flats under the blazing sun, my only companion my faithful burro Flower. Who wouldn't like to do that? And what red-blooded male hasn't
always secretly wanted to turn a few laos at Indianapolis - the Brickyard- the home of the legendary 500? Why not? So seated in a magnificent million-dollar Dusenberg, in another of my new shows dressed in the costume of an early Indy
race driver, I raced against the heroic "Duke" Nalon, a real race driver of the Indy's glory days. What a gas!
How 'bout playing the Dev.il, with cape and sinister Palm Beach hat, visiting night time New Orleans for a little recreation and a field trip to see how sin is progressing on earth? We did, and 1 can tell you l began to feel that I was typecast as Satan by the end of the shoot. I loved it. As George Bernard Shaw said, "The Devil has all the best lines."
Fantasies? No. Television is magic, and I love it.