Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Frenchy Comes Home

Jeff Francoeur-A Brave Returns

By Doc Lawrence

KISSISSIMEE, FLORIDA-He was a Sports Illustrated cover boy, a local kid from Parkview High School who turned down a football scholarship to Clemson for a chance to become an Atlanta Brave. Jeff Francoeur, after being unceremoniously traded away years ago by the team he seemed destined to play for, is back, a full-fledged Brave once again.

The 32-year-old outfielder may just be all the glitter this edition of baseball’s Braves has, a far cry from what was once one of the most storied succession of winning years in baseball’s glorious history.

Labeled “Frenchy” by the baseball's all-time nick-namer Bobby Cox, Francoeur (who has French Canadian ancestry), combined talent with a captivating smile that once earned impressive fan loyalty during an era when the team didn’t necessarily need it.

Now, these Braves, about to leave the city for new digs, sorely needs some fresh energy and new hope. After the disasters of recent years (“Upton Mania”) and the winnowing of talent from the roster, this team is but a shell of what once was.

Maybe that smile, the kind you remember Dale Murphy flashing, will at least connect us to the baseball spirit that once was ours here in Atlanta.
My favorite memory of Francoeur wasn’t from a game. One day in the cold of winter when the Braves were still considered a dynasty, I attended a gathering at the Georgia World Congress Center. All the greats were there: Glavine, Smoltz, Chipper,, but the one who had all the children and pretty girls crowded around for autographs and photos was Jeff Francoeur. He never stopped smiling and laughing. The room glowed with joy and good will.

                                            Welcome home, Jeff. We missed you.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Easter Feast Down South

Authentic Recipes From Lara Lyn Carter

By Doc Lawrence

Guy Fieri with Lara Lyn Carter
ALBANY, Georgia-Fresh from a spectacular celebrity chef performance at the renowned South Beach Wine & Food festival, Lara Lyn Carter isn’t slowing down one bit. This rising star Georgia girl has very high ambitions, always aiming for that mythical culinary paradise where excellence and talent blend seamlessly, combining kitchen skills with generations of cooking tradition that produce terrific taste.

“I loved every moment at South Beach,” Lara Lyn said, “and being elbow to elbow with legends like Guy Fieri, Martha Stewart and many others told me that our food in the South is the hottest cuisine in the country today.” Ms. Carter, whose hit 2015 TV series  Thyme for Sharing with Lara Lyn Carter on Georgia Public Broadcasting introduced her to a new expanded audience, showcasing her recipes and charming stories in the gentle style of her hardcover cookbook, Southern Thymes Shared, had tourists from the planet’s four corners lined up at the international food event. “My Georgia shrimp and grits and popular whiskey bites flavored with Jack Daniel’s really caused a stir,” she recalled with laughter.

“When these very friendly people asked about the ingredients, I replied that most everything was grown in Georgia. Just like me!”

It’s Easter week down South where the Easter Sunday feast is a hallowed tradition. Chef Lara Lyn Carter has several appropriate recipes, all originals from her heralded Albany, Georgia kitchen. Nothing is from a cooking team or stylist. Everything is as authentic as her soft South Georgia accent.

8 lamb chops cut 1/2 inch in thickness
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh rosemary chopped finely
Juice of 1 lemon
Combine the olive oil, rosemary and lemon juice together. Place lamb chops in a shallow baking dish. Rub both sides of the chops with mixture. Cover the chops with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Grill the chops over medium heat turning every 5 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Remove chops from the grill and serve with Sweet Onion Sauce.

Sweet Onion Sauce 

1 large sweet onion diced (Vidalia if available)  

1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup brown sugar2 tbsp. fresh rosemary chopped finely1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 

In a skillet combine the onion, olive oil, brown sugar, and rosemary. Cook over medium-low heat to gently cook the onions until tender and just beginning to caramelize. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar until well blended. Serve the sauce warm for wonderful flavor.

4 cups of fresh English peas
2 tsp. salt
6 ounces pancetta diced
2 medium Vidalia onions sliced thinly
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. butter
Cook peas in salt and enough water to cover peas. Bring peas to a boil then cover and reduce heat cooking 45-50 minutes or until tender.
While peas cook, place pancetta in a skillet over medium heat until brown. Remove pancetta from skillet and drain on paper towels. Add butter to skillet and put sliced onion and sugar in skillet until onions soften and begin to caramelize.
When peas are done, drain the peas and pour in a bowl. Mix the pancetta and onions in with the peas and serve warm. Add salt and pepper to taste.  

2 ½ cups cake flour sifted then measured
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 2/3 cups sugar
½ cup butter at room temperature
2 egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Sift dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. Cream the butter and add the egg yolks and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and the milk alternately beating well. Beat for one minute after all ingredients are in bowl. Pour batter into two greased 9-inch cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes then turn onto rack to finish cooling.  Cool completely before frosting. 
2 cups plus 2 tbsp. of sugar
1 cup water
½ cup egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups sweetened coconut
Combine two cups of sugar and water over high heat stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Stop stirring when mixture reaches boiling point. Remove pot from heat. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites, two tbsp. sugar and salt until stiff and gradually pour in hot mixture while beating constantly. Add the vanilla while still beating. Frost layers and sprinkle generously with coconut. Frost the outside of the cake and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Wines have an exalted place alongside Lara Lyn’s Easter feast. Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhône wine region in southeastern France, one of the most renowned appellations of the southern part of the Rhône Valley, connects history and tradition with flavors, just what you expect from a Southern dinner on this meaningful day.

           Happy Easter

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Light From Hank Williams

New Movie, Timeless Music, Pure Americana
I was a fool to wander and stray
Straight is the gate and narrow's the way
Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the Lord I saw the light
                    I Saw The Light, by Hank Williams

By Doc Lawrence

Scene in "I Saw The Light." (Sony Pictures)
I know people who still refer to New Years Day as the day Hank Williams died. Hank Williams’s life ended suddenly in 1953 at the age of 29 while traveling to his next scheduled concert on New Years Day in Canton, Ohio where 4,000 were waiting to see his show. Twenty thousand people tried to get into the Montgomery, Alabama Auditorium to see his funeral. There were unfinished handwritten lyrics to songs he never recorded. Bob Dylan led a project to complete them for a 2008 album with lyrics finished and performed by Norah Jones, Levon Helm, Sheryl Crow, Jack White, Merle Haggard and other top recording stars.

The world never tires of Hank. This week’s debut of I Saw The Light adds to the legend. It is compelling and authentic. While denied the thrill of actually watching him perform, I have been to some of the stages where Hank entertained, notably Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and Shreveport’s Louisiana Hayride where most of the movie was filmed. The Hayride, a huge art deco all-red brick music palace, still functions and was the launchpad to greatness for Hank, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.

Hiddleston as Hank. (Sony Pictures)
British actor Tom Hiddleston plays Hank and with the coaching of Country music’s Rodney Crowell, practiced for five weeks in Nashville to perform standards like Honky Tonk Blues, Lovesick Blues and Hey, Good Looking. Doing Hank, even for the most accomplished singers, is a tall order, particularly since so many are familiar with his songs and voice.

Lost Highway is a musical play about the life and songs of Hank Williams. I saw it at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery and again at Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit. It begins with Hank’s childhood friend Rufus Payne, known as Tee-Tot, teaching him the blues, with all the pain, sorrows and survival it incorporates. Listen to Williams’ songs and you’ll hear lots of Tee-Tot.

Holly Williams
The best book I know about Hank Williams is Lovesick Blues, by the late Atlanta author Paul Hemphill. The song I Saw The Light was a gospel number Williams composed by Williams recorded under the non de plume of Luke the Drifter. It is part of the America’s music vernacular, taking its place with This Land is Your Land. The movie of the same name has won the praise of Holly Williams, Hank’s very talented granddaughter. It’s a story about a man from rural Alabama who died too young, whose songs still work magic. Accolades are many, notably from Bob Dylan, who, in 1991 said “to me, Hank Williams is the best songwriter”

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Atlanta's Beloved Irish Priest

Father Thomas O’Reilly Saved Churches From Sherman's Torch
                       St. Patrick's Day Remembrance
Father Thomas O'Reilly (Atlanta History Center)

By Doc Lawrence

Since childhood days, I’ve known the story. It remains one of the most fascinating stories I know about the Civil War and St. Patrick’s Day.

This wasn’t about battlefield courage, a strategy that resulted in a monumental victory, or a stirring, inspirational speech. No, it was about how an Irish immigrant priest acting alone on behalf of God and innocent civilians, confronted a mighty warrior, faced threats of execution squarely in the eye and peacefully won a victory that somehow escaped history books.

A native of County Cavan, Ireland, Thomas O’Reilly, appointed as pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, arrived in Atlanta in 1861. Atlanta was a strategic transportation center for the Confederacy, and in 1864, the Union army, commanded by Gen. William T. Sherman, held Atlanta under siege with intense artillery bombardment. During the horror of Sherman’s extended assault, Father O’Reilly ministered to the wounded and dying of both armies, along with civilian casualties.
"War is Hell," By Mort Kuntsler

After the Battle of Atlanta, the city fell and was occupied by Sherman’s army. The decision was made to destroy Georgia’s infrastructure as part of Sherman’s well-known “March to the Sea.” Sherman issued the order for Atlanta to be burned, including all homes and churches. Enraged, O’Reilly gained an audience with Sherman at his headquarters, now the site of the Carter Center and Presidential Library.

Father O'Reilly Memorial
The confrontation was unpleasant. O’Reilly, failing in his efforts to persuade Sherman to spare the city, was told by Sherman that he was pondering whether to have the priest summarily executed by firing squad. Undeterred, O’Reilly reminded Sherman that his army was substantially Irish Catholic conscripts who would likely mutiny before burning a Catholic church. O’Reilly also informed Sherman that, in the event of the destruction of churches, he would take official measures to have every Irish Catholic soldier in Sherman’s army excommunicated.

Sherman relented. Although over 5,000 homes were destroyed, five Atlanta churches were spared. Three -Immaculate Conception, Trinity Methodist and Central Presbyterian-remain active today.

O’Reilly was not executed. Upon his death in 1872 at age 41, he was buried in the basement of his church. A few possessions are on display. His resting place, which may be viewed by appointment, has the feel of a sacred shrine. I have visited there regularly over the years.
Each year, at the end of Atlanta’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Hibernian Benevolent Society of Atlanta places a wreath at the memorial for Thomas O’Reilly, which stands on the corner of Atlanta’s city hall. The congregations of the churches he saved erected it long ago.

The courage and tenacity of Father Thomas O’Reilly embody the ecumenical spirit that continues to define Atlanta as an international beacon for human rights.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Monday, March 14, 2016


Piano Red’s Yo-Yo

“Mama tol' me, papa did, too
'Some-a these here women
Gonna be the death of you'
'Better find out which 'un you crave, son
Some a-these here women'll
Take you to yo grave'!

You got the right string, baby
But the wrong yo-yo”
                    “Wrong Yo-Yo”
                               By Piano Red

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-The radio show started at 3 p.m. weekdays. Along with thousands of other white kids, when school was over I raced home to turn the radio on to station WAOK to hear two hours of “The Piano Red Show.” Not only was it live, but Red played the piano and sang, interspersing everything with R&B hit recordings, commercials and anecdotes. The commercials were highly entertaining. “Peters Street Grocery,” by Bobby Tuggle and the All-Stars, the upcoming shows with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters at the Royal Peacock on Auburn Avenue, concerts featuring Chuck Berry and Ray Charles at the City Auditorium and Herndon Stadium.

Piano Red, some believe, was the first to use the phrase rock and roll. It doesn’t matter if that is scientifically provable. He did play a barrelhouse piano better than anyone I saw or heard and his songs, sometimes politely ribald, made me very happy. That was in part because Red was happy.

I left Atlanta for college at FSU when I was 17. But Red didn’t leave me. His band, Dr. Feelgood and the Interns, played the frat houses of the Deep South, so I’d see him from time to time, still singing “Wrong Yo-Yo” and playing “Rockin’ with Red” plus dozens of R&B songs of the era.
Dr. Feelgood & the Interns (1961)

Later, I would enjoy Red’s songs and piano styling at Muhlenbrink’s Saloon in Atlanta, last seeing him in a Cajun restaurant in Atlanta’s Buckhead. Bad health finally took Red in 1985. I joined local DJ Stuart Meyers on his radio show for a personal tribute to Red. No tears. Red wouldn’t tolerate that.

For many years, the great Atlanta night club band, The League of Decency, packed ‘em in with songs by James Brown, Little Richard, Duke Ellington, Otis Redding, Louis Prima and others. No show was ever performed that did not include their tribute to “Mr. Piano Red.” Of course it was “Wrong Yo-Yo.” The song was also recorded by one of Rock’s founders, Carl Perkins.

2016 has been officially designated as the Year of Georgia Music. Piano Red, a man who provided lots of joy along with his songs, has a well-deserved place at the top of those we remember and honor.

Colette Paul's Poems Soar


”Stumbling blocks are not a means to quit, yet a means to grow
I will keep riding this wave to express and share God's gift.”
                             From Butterflies Dance in the Rain by Colette V. Paul

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-Poets sometimes come into your life just as you really need them. One fine day almost 10 years ago, Colette Paul introduced herself to me in Atlanta’s Peachtree Center where we both worked. She wanted to be a writer, she said, and our conversation-the first of many-marked the beginning of a friendship that I treasure. Listening to her then and over the years is t

o enjoy a voice infused with emotions that can only come from the soul of a good woman, who reveals with her published effort, that she is also an outstanding poet with a very bright future.

Ms. Paul’s wonderful collection of poems, Butterflies Dance in the Rain, is her testimony of survival. A single parent whose life journey has experienced the sting of racism, the beauty of love, the fulfillment that springs from self-discovery also reveals impressive determination: she never gave in to lesser instincts believing in the power of her better angels to show the way. Poets are uniquely empowered to do these survival essentials better than most of us.

Poetry embraces the cadence of heartbeats, and leads us to choose the path of universal principles. Poems are part of a journey to a higher life. Much of Colette Paul’s work reminds me of the poetry by Emory University professor Natasha Thretawey, a Pulitzer Prize recipient who recently served as United States Poet Laureate. Both were born and raised in the Deep South and through the synthesis of imagery combined with powerful experience tell stories that need telling.
Which brings me to say thank you to Ms. Paul. She trusted me to guide her, make suggestions and provide encouragement, and I am honored. I rejoice at her triumph. Butterflies suggests that we will soon be seeing more wonderful work by this gifted rising star poet.

Colette Paul’s life is in her poetry. Butterflies Dance in the Rain is written in harmony with the sights and sounds of life. Read this when you feel a little down. Her voice is in her verse that becomes an uplifting tonic inspiring a celebration of each new day.

NOTE: Butterflies Dance in the Rain is available on Amazon. It will make a wonderful gift for Mother’s Day.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Memories of Pat Conroy

Atlanta’s Sarah Mallas Wayman

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-Like her friend Pat Conroy, Sarah Mallas Wayman was born in Atlanta. A longtime practicing attorney, Ms. Wayman and the novelist were neighbors in Atlanta’s Midtown as Mr. Conroy’s career was blossoming. For five years, she recalls, “many of my days were filled with his wonderful stories, usually over coffee in my office.”

I spoke with Sarah Wayman when I learned of Conroy’s death and asked her to share some memories.

“Pat was such a Southern gentleman, “ she said, “and our time around the very popular office coffee pot was priceless. Pat spoke and wrote beautifully and my life is richer for the times we would see each other, leisurely talking and laughing.”
Sarah Mallas Wayman

“I have some books,” said Ms. Wayman, “that Pat inscribed including The Boo, The Water is Wide and The Great Santini. Pat invited me to the premiere of two movies, Conrack and The Great Santini where I met his family and friends.”

Sarah Wayman said that when she learned of Mr. Conroy’s death, she thought of an old verse: “Kindness is something the blind can see and the deaf can hear. I join all those who knew Pat personally or through his books and movies in expressing gratitude for so many lasting contributions to the literature of the South.”

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Clarinda Ross Glows at Art Station
                             A Magnificent Performance

By Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-It’s only one writer’s opinion, but if there is an American accent, it has to be very Southern. Scarlett O’Hara, Elvis, Jimmy Carter, Andy Griffith, Hank Williams, Dr. King, Harper Lee, Bill Clinton and Jack Daniel make some persuasive evidence. Actress Clarinda Ross spoke in the authentic voice of her Appalachian forbears as she performed her magnificent play, From My Grandmother’s Grandmother Unto Me at Stone Mountain’s Art Station Theatre. A Georgia girl who grew up in Western North Carolina and lives in Los Angeles, Ms. Ross crafted the story about 30 years ago in Atlanta with development assistance from David Thomas, who directs the performance.

What began three decades ago in an Atlanta garage soon became a runaway hit at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina and was featured in the Olympic Arts Festival in Lillehammer, Norway in 1994 and the Cultural Olympiad during the Summer Games in Atlanta in 1996. Ms. Ross also starred in the acclaimed PBS version directed by John David Allen.

For 90 minutes, I took a trip back to visit my ancestors from Georgia and Alabama and felt the unbridled joy from grand women named Stella, Minnie, Sarah, Carrie Lou and others I never knew but knew about. The audience recalled their own Southern women as Clarinda Ross began the story with the final days of the Cherokee in Georgia, particularly two Indian women who saved a child named Nancy- who became the first grandmother-from death after serious injury. Clarinda’s song  presented in Cherokee honors their holistic healing.

Verses from familiar hymns are performed throughout each generation of grandmothers including Beulah Land, Angel Band and Onward Christian Soldiers. Genuineness can be challenging when portraying Southern women then and now, but Clarinda, blessed with a good voice, does it right.

The audience is entertained with front porch stories of marriage, divorce, children, war, loss, education, the Great Depression and a whole lot of good humor. The recollections resonate. After all, who doesn’t enjoy visiting an ancestor particularly some of those remarkable women whose DNA we carry?

From My Grandmother's Grandmother Unto Me
by Clarinda Ross. Developed and Directed by David Thomas
…a 30th Anniversary Production.
More information:  (770) 469.1105

Pencil Drawing by Dr. Jane Chu