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The Kudzu House of Horrors

Two boys, a haunted tale, and leaping kudzu...

Take a journey with adolescent friends our hero and Carver Canute through the woods that surround their small Kentucky town.

On this episode, we interview visual artist, musician, and author JD Wilkes about his Southern gothic novel, "The Vine That Ate The South," published by Two Dollar Radio. In the novel, the adult hero reflects back upon his adolescent adventures with his friend Carver, as they transverse the Southern mythos searching for their small town's "urban" legend, the Kudzu House of Horrors. This legend tells about a pair of dead lovers lifted up by kudzu vines into the Kentucky treetops.

The narrator says, "Understand, much of my actual youth was spent in a state of arrested development inside a fatherless home. I typically stayed out of the sun, alone in the woods or indoors reading books. I loved anything having to do with Greek mythology, philosophy, the classics, or the Bible. Alas, I am now the type of guy who says 'alas.'"

Kentucky Colonel JD Wilkes is an American musician, visual artist, author, filmmaker and self-proclaimed "southern surrealist." He is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist (notably on harmonica and banjo), having recorded with such artists as Merle Haggard, John Carter Cash, Mike Patton, and Hank Williams III.

Wilkes is perhaps best known as the founder of the Legendary Shack Shakers, a Southern gothic rock and blues band formed in the mid-90s. Legendary Shack Shakers have toured with the likes of Robert Plant and The Black Keys, among others. Their music has been featured in HBO’s True Blood series and in a long-running Geico commercial.

Wilkes is a Kentucky Colonel, an honorable title bestowed by the state's Governor upon those with a connection to, or who are famous residents of the state of Kentucky. In 2015, Wilkes was featured on the BBC original series "Songs of the South," in an episode focusing on the musical history of Tennessee and Kentucky.

Wilkes has also authored the book “Barn Dances and Jamborees Across Kentucky,” an exploration of his state’s social music and dance history based on extensive fieldwork and research. A true Southern renaissance man, Wilkes is also an accomplished visual artist and his art work is included in “The Vine That Ate The South.” He is currently writing the sequel.

A very special thanks to JD Wilkes and Miranda Ceara for the music recorded at UA Little Rock Public Radio and for sharing some of their solo music.

Thanks to our actors Dr. George K. Simon, Johnny Payne, and Jessica Fuller for contributing their voices. Thank you to Stickyz Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.

Generous funding for Arts & Letters Radio was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Thank you to BJ and Jimmy Moses for their support of Arts & Letters Radio.

Connect with us! Twitter: @ArtsLettersKUAR | Facebook: @artsandlettersradio | Instagram: @artsandlettersradio | YouTube: artsandlettersradio | Spotify Playlist: Arts & Letters Radio

Contact Arts & Letters Radio at artsletters@kuar.org or via phone at 501-916-6400. Our mailing address is: Arts & Letters Radio | KUAR 89.1 | 5820 Asher Avenue, Suite 400 | Little Rock, AR 72204.

Executive Producer and Host: J. Bradley Minnick
Producer & Story Editor: Mary Ellen Kubit
Recorded with assistance from: Michael Hibblen
Sound Mastering: Simon Sound Services

This episode is a production by Living The Dream Media, Inc.

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