It’s a crazy idea, really.

Who will come to some half-known venue to hear me talk with some mostly unknown person about their religious ideas, or journey, or book. About as many who watch these interviews on social media after I record them in a studio. Which is not many, even though my guests are fascinating and important (Robert P. Jones, Sujay Johnson Cook, Willie Francois III, and Brian McLaren, to name a few).

I started this in 1998 while on the faculty at Georgetown College. It was radio work, patterned after NPR, with Lee Huckleberry designing the one-hour show. Until Ellen Kushner came from Boston to Lexington and, after speaking at Temple Adath Israel, stopped by my downtown studio.

“Do you have help doing your show?” I asked, referring to “Sound and Spirit.”  Yes, she answered, five people.

“What else do they do?” I countered, and was stunned when she said, Nothing.

“You mean, you have a staff of five working fulltime helping you create and air a one-hour show?” To which she said yes, and after which I realized I was out of my league trying to do what I was doing (on top of teaching at the college and managing the chapel program).

All that pushed me off the air. I can’t do all this, I confessed to myself, thinking of the time I spent raising money just for the show. So, I shut it down and took up writing a weekly column. Out of which came the book, On the Other Side of Oddville.  It was published by Mercer University Press, and I have the only two boxes of those books left.

I will offer them for sale, along with my newer book Living with Hope, when I open The Tangle Tour of ’23 on Monday night, September 25, 2023. Furman University, Greenville, SC. 7 pm. We will sell other things, as well, and take donations (and hopefully pay for the expenses of the whole shebang).

People are not coming to listen to my interviews, I realize, but I plan to video record them anyway and publish them on my social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube, and the website. What the people are interested in, I have found out, are the two side acts I added on a whim.

First, there is music. I never have been much of a concertgoer but millions are, and a few of those people will show up to hear one of the eight individuals or bands I have recruited (like Brassfield in Nashville and The Blue Diamond Bluegrass Band in Owensboro). My only stipulation to these musicians is this: “Come prepared with six songs of any kind, but at least two of them must be covers of John Prine.”

That spoke to my preference; but clearly, I have many fellow lovers of the late, great performer. “Please add Birmingham to your tour,” one stranger wrote from Alabama. “We love John Prine down here.” One band, for the Raleigh stop on the tour, promised a repertoire of at least 15 songs! “We may not have time for any interviews,” I responded when he told me. That would be all right by me, but that would irritate another population that is energized by The Tangle Tour.

I refer to the vast audience that loves (and buys) the artwork of Ike Moody.

Yes, that is my son, he who has a most fascinating life story (and s only halfway finished). “I’m coming,” one person wrote from Illinois, and I knew that entailed a trip of four hours. Whether or not it happens, it bespeaks the kind of fascination people have with his art.

I’m going to interview Ike at each stop on The Tangle Tour.  Not about the same stuff but about different episodes on his journey:  addiction, incarceration, and art, along with love, loss, and that boy named Sam.

Not everybody took kindly to my addition of the music and art. “Stick with the religion stuff,” more than one Meetinghouse Inc board member urged me. “Besides, it looks like you concocted this entire parade just to showcase your son.”

Such accusations were difficult to take, as were the resignations in protest of three directors. It was a tough week, calling into question my motives, my plans, my desired outcomes.

Time, and The Tour itself, will tell whether they were right; but I stuck to my plans, recruited new directors, and finished (mostly) the planning for The Tangle Tour of ’23. After Greenville comes four stops in Kentucky: Campbellsville, Owensboro, Lexington, and Louisville.  Then, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Nashville, before ending up somewhere in Hendersonville.

It is a crazy idea, really, as I stated above. Who knows what will happen?

I know!

I’ll hear good music, listen to fascinating stories, meet interesting people, sell books, make friends, and watch Ike make some art. You will, too, if you find a venue near you and come out for the show. And if you will buy a book or make a contribution, I may make it home with the bills paid and everybody happy. Plus, in my hand will be 16 video interviews ready for broadcast on TheMeetingHouse.

Sounds like fun to me!  Hope you see you along the way!

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Published On: September 4th, 2023 / Categories: Commentary /

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