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Chapter 2 Yes Indeed Race, Revival, and Rock ’n’ Roll My family lived all over the United States and Canada while I was in school, but Beaumont, where I spent my first seven years and have frequently visited throughout my life, shaped my musical tastes more than any other place.SoutheastTexas has many different kinds of music,including large helpings of Cajun and zydeco, but the kinds of music I knew first were country and rhythm and blues,two genres that suggest the importance of race inAmerican vernacular music.The very earliest wasAnglo-American country music (see chapter 1), and I’m still a fan, but in 1954, when I first became conscious of African American rhythm and blues, it and emerging rock ’n’ roll became the dominant music in my life. The immediate appeal of black vernacular music took place within the context of race relations in Beaumont when I was growing up. My hometown was totally segregated in 1941, the year I was born, and it continued to be segregated until the civil rights movement of the sixties. SoutheastTexas was culturally a part of the old Deep South,and the segregation extended to housing,schools,and all facets of social life.I remember the“colored”drinking fountains at theWhite House and the big downtown department store,the“colored”waiting room at the Greyhound bus station, and“Negroes”in the back of city buses. There was a large black population in Beaumont, but the only black person I knew as a child was Melissy, the woman who did the ironing for everyone in our family. One day when I was six or seven, Melissy was in the dining room ironing , and I was in the kitchen eating lunch. I was playing with the salt and pepper shakers and said,“This one is white,this one is a nigger.”My mother scolded me, pointing to the other room where Melissy could hear me. I remember feeling ashamed because I might have hurt Melissy’s feelings. I Yes Indeed 21 had been taught to say“colored” or“Negro” and to be kind to black people in the patronizing way that polite southern whites had at the time. Melissy did ironing for both of my grandmothers and most of my aunts, and they had a genuine concern for her well-being. As was the custom, we gave our old clothes to her and her family, and she would sometimes take leftovers home. Black people were all around us, but as far as I could tell then,there was no cultural contact except for these paternalistic interactions. At the time, I was innocent about the violent forms of racism that existed in Beaumont, which later we especially associated with the town of Vidor just across the Neches River. Vidor had the reputation of a place where black people had to be out of town by sundown. It was sort of a scapegoat for Beaumont residents who did not want to be associated with violence driven by racism, but both places had plenty of racist behavior. Wewenttothetwoblackneighborhoodsclosesttousfairlyoften—taking Melissy home across the railroad tracks to the northeast where part of the drive was on Railroad Avenue, which had tracks down the middle of the street.Much to the delight of my brother and me,we were often driving next toboxcars,tankers,andlocomotivesaswewentdownthestreet.Whengoing to the black neighborhood to the west,we crossed another railroad track on the way to the place that cleaned and refrigerated ducks Daddy had shot on hunting trips.The other black-owned business there was Patillo’s Barbecue on Washington Boulevard, later Martin Luther King Drive. Patillo’s was where I developed my taste for barbecued brisket, smoked for eight hours over hickory wood. Cuisine was like music in being a cultural connector between black and white,and for me another means of romanticizing black culture through the international language of music and food.Washington Boulevard connected our all-white neighborhood of South Park with Pear Orchard, the black neighborhood to the west. South Park is now mainly black, and all my family has moved to other parts of town. My parents returned to South Park after Daddy’s retirement in the seventies, and they had black neighbors next door.Desegregation had been a slow and difficult process, but by the seventies everyone seemed to get along fine. Growing up in the forties, I learned certain racial stereotypes from my white cultural surroundings. As a result of segregation and cultural...


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