« Revisionist History

Good Old Boys


If you disagree with someone — if you find what they think appalling — is there any value in talking to them? In the early 1970s, the talk show host Dick Cavett, the governor of Georgia Lester Maddox, and the singer Randy Newman tried to answer this question.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This episode contains explicit language in the fall of nineteen. Seventy or the musician Randy Newman released an album call good old boys them, beautiful silent. The record is the third song on the first side will pay. Vallon. You did too still living Marie drop silent ass. I have so much Thank you very much. Look like a princess My name is Malcolm Gladwell. Your listing to revision is history, my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood this.
Episode is about Randy Newman's girl boys, one of the most remarkable outlines of its error. I list into it for the first time years ago, but then I have, to listen to it again very recently and realized. Good I'll boys is not an album. You can hear just once and hope to do justice because it's not just remarkable its unsettling. I dont think not on like this. Could be made today and by the end of this episode, I suspect you will agree with me all. We I decided to go to California, sit down with Randy Newman and create a list Nous Guide to one of the most perplexing works of music that I have. Every counter drug right now baby, but I've got the beat the first
always Newman is, in his seventies, still writing music tall and slightly intimidating, he's Hollywood royalty. His uncle AL It was a composer who was nominated for an academy award forty four times, one nine times, Newman is at a second queer running for the movies as well. Like you, ve got a friend in me for toys story. Newman is unusual among songwriters because he writes in character. And the narrator of good old boys is a creation of Newman's he's called Johnny Cutler a steelworker from Birmingham Alabama thirty years.
All the song Marie is about Johnny Cutler, coming home late after a night out with the boys and gazing love struck at his sleeping life. I like the idea very much about being in our judgment without does not work. It would be unable to tell the words unless you drink something you know. I can say this to you and maybe to lack the ability to say those kind of words but he's dead. Did he has been drinking any and you realize you can only say what he saying, because he's your online because she's asleep yet right, But even tat makes me human. This him and even more. I feel so sore. Really loves her, I mean it would seem that vat is in drink, but it might be. Is this a good guy
My answer to that is that all I mean suspicious of of this on grandma baby, but I'm awake, I may not to shut out sometime Randy Newman ROPE Marie he created Johnny color. He dreamt up a beautiful love song for him, but he doesn't know if he understands him or even if he likes him as if Johnny Cutler came from his imagination, but is now somehow independent of it. It makes you wonder, who's in charge of the sun. Some crazy Yes, no weak It is so
listen. You say when you called me just wait first we the story behind good. Boys begins with a man named less dramatics Maddox was governor of Georgia from nineteen sixty seven to nineteen. Seventy one now he's mostly forgotten, but in his day he was authoress. I thank you for that. For real. I don't look myself and one very smart people, so I try to act like lest her mind
like inside, I feel and think and believe Maddox grew up in the pressure in Atlanta. His father was an alcoholic right there never made. Are any money. We can't wait a minute bathroom and have we had four rooms and pious private rooms and abandoned, we didn't have electricity Maddox dropped out of high school, got a job as a steel worker. To help support is five younger, siblings, married his childhood sweetheart Virginia and after the war He started a diner near George Attack the House, but he was skillet fried chicken. He called his place. The picric so I'm gonna name. No one s head. I came on the name or upon the name, Pickwick, and I found out, Why doesn't mean anything, but what you know it to be weak national Webster will tell you that Wick and someone it already use. The name Pickwick in England.
I can use. That too was about two o clock. One morning I been worried and four weeks medics was one of those people who you can't do a cartoon version of, because he already looks like a cartoon version of himself. He skinny with an oversized head ball, dome black plastic glasses, always in a black suit moves with a kind of loose limbed flabbiness like a clown. Are so many oral history interviews with less dramatics floating around a state of Georgia that he must have spent as many I was reminiscing about his time as governor as he actually spent serving as governor the man like to talk She don't pick me shit. I seriously to pick out to choose the selection and Rick needs to pile up to heap. I saw a name or rest your pic Rick. Instead, if you'd picnic pick Rick ticket out, we would risk it up We would we did and that's why I was named picric I've, never anything, I've been named, Picric Maddox advertised to pick Rick
Saturday Edition of the Atlantic Journal in a column with the title. Picric says lots of one liners and Maddox Systems, like the nineteen fifties version of tweets. Why talked about Christmas? I talked about marriage that talk about the monkey. Hassock grant part that talk about whether I talked about fission. In my age, but soon his column, Picric, says, becomes more and more political. Because this is a letter in the MID nineteen. Fifty is one of the birthplace of the civil Rights Movement and Patrick is a ten minute joy from Auburn Avenue, where Martin Luther King, and Andrew Young and Vernon Jordan and everyone else is starting to stir things up and less dramatics, is not at all happy with that he's a segregationist and the more strident Maddox gets in his weekly adds. The more popular Pickwick says becomes people start, buying the Atlanta Journal on Saturday just to read what medics his up to Maddox decides to run four mare of Atlanta he's
organization, no money, drives himself around and he loses, but the is closer than you think. So again and loses and runs a third time and loses But then the waiver desegregation protests hits Atlanta in the early nineties, sixties. The public schools are integrated. First, then the lunch counters, then the restaurants and since the picric restaurant does not admit black people. The civil rights protesters come knocking on the first time. I wasn't bad for. Why should she back came in. And again in our lacking dilation Saturday afternoon it or what to go and do not told me not conducive to say things what they were going to do with either picric with a television cameras is witness. I said you never been here before you wanna, first and fight. So I grab too much they want with John Lucia Brianna somebody just bad.
About the door when they haven't remember they supposed to lay down the floor if any sort of tat. I had a move that anyone. On the floor, and I couldn't random sarcoma black employees at the Kitchen- and I say this to you Trying to destroy our business, they don't want any whether you want to create a problem. Television radio and have one with him. And that's it. I'm gonna give you ten dollars for each one of these two out in the next thirty seconds, Maddox his employees through them out, but the protesters came back this time, Maddox metal. The door with a television cameras, rolling and a crowd starting to gather. You have brought what every Now you listen to me, you're, not one everyday use, Maddox ascended the picric with his black suit in bald head.
Protesters shouting cameras? All around he's in Heaven argued. I can allow you ve gone values played, argued, Lapierre, valued blackguard. Without you have my lawyers? Are you really think it bought it for it brought? It belonged to mate. My wife and my job Bobby anybody about the lad, a white one, our black, what our red headed up all aid when it does make you to dip Maddox, gets hauled into court because the Civil Rights ACT has been passed and what he's doing is illegal he's, given a choice, integrate was shut his doors. He decides to shut the picric one of the most. Popular and successful restaurants in Atlanta, the business that he has spent his lifetime. Building, that made him famous
and to every southern angry at the way the world is turning? He becomes a hero, a friend says to him. You know, maybe you should run for governor and magic, says. Ok and ninety sixty six. He wins a white nationalists in the hospitality business who came to public attention running pithy, politically charged statements in a widely read media forum runs against the political establishment and pulls off Ed victory about away it's a very close race. Maddox does actually get as many votes his opponent, but he wins when the election is thrown to the legislature. Oh and a huge part of Maddox. His rhetoric is how the media can be trusted. He's constantly accusing newspapers of lying about him. In fact, in the corner of his official governors portrait as a little table with a dead fish on it, wrapped in a copy of the Atlantic Journal, a white nationalist in the hospitality business who wrote pit
statements on a media platform runs against the political establishment, accuses the news media of running fake news about him, doesn't get as many votes as his opponent and then the less takes over the highest executive office. I mean what is that ever happened Magic search for years has to step down because of term limits. Jimmy Carter takes over as governor of Georgia, as the state, you might say, returns to its senses and ex consoles himself with running for and winning the job of lieutenant governor. He is well on his way to obscurity, and then he gets a call from New York from a Dick Cabot show the great late night talk show of the nineteen seventies. They want him as a guest. That's when we return.
A mirror, Won't have to run through the jungle and scuff up your feet. The first randy my son, I ever heard with sail away. Saying about drink. It we Merrick sail away is the title track of the album Randy Newman made right before he wrote good old boys. I was a kid when I first heard it and The same experience I would later have would Newman's other songs. I didn't get it at first, not sure I even paid attention to the words I just love, how grand it was. No inside me
Joseph sweet watermelon. We yeah? we will, but then I got a little older as I heard sail away. I said, wait a minute: everybody is as happy as a man can be climb aboard little Wog sail away with me: walk really offencive british colonial slang for someone who's, not white, it's the n word. Basically, I noticed some interesting story at behind away, the song. Oh, it was up the guy's gonna make a movie and he's gonna, give ten minutes to five or six poppy.
Oh then Morrison remembering Henrichson to do ten minute thing and I came with this. He had a sort of a sea shanty before it. You know very irish pine of YO hold. You know there and then the sky be standing in a clearing the jungle and sing a song, and that was what I was going to do My ten minutes randy and wrote a song about an american slave trader standing somewhere in West Africa, giving his sales pitch to potential recruits come to America, you're gonna love the subtle cotton plantation that I've lined up here Lastly, the nose. Last year the character is so kind of how rageous
yeah, but we're not laughing along with him were horrified by him. I mean it ya, but people laugh at that look nervous way. At the watermelon joking Sidra the budget's strict while all day net is awaited. That song so that it's not so shocking like the cover version done later, the same year by Bobby Darin, who was one of the biggest pop stars of the nineteen sixties Wrong John Bulgarians. Yeah yeah come to America a little get rid of the word of that's. That's like blasphemy. Seen in Bobby Deference version, the line climb aboard little log sail away with me, which is
who shall and establishing how vile the narrator is becomes climb aboard little one sail away with me. I'm sorry, I can't get a kick. It passes so quickly that somebody, evil than he did a happy version chests. This. Isn't there it is. The thing is Newman liked Bobby therein. He knew him and he didn't know what to think. I mean there is a world of difference between walk and one. Also, if I'm not mistaken, Bobby Daring substitutes towards Mombi snake with Mama snake, eight, no lions and tigers, and no nurturing mama snake generally. Even all do I like to do that and it's like a numerical determined will move But this is this: this licence is another term guy you this is, the song is like a it is.
Wallop it is emotional Wallen is, is searing song about this. The darkest bourbon America has a job like street over. They learn what little one poor little walk away with me. Just was so right, his showbiz instincts, couldn t restrain himself. How did you feel when you first heard that version I felt guilty Army Jesus Christ You know that the original intention of sail away was to make the listener uncomfortable. Whom takes a familiar figure, a salesman, an entrepreneur, a patriot and gives a rollicking see shanty, but then he forces you to acknowledge that, underneath all that their looks a monster, Bobby Daring, chickened out, you couldn't do it, he didn't want us to be unkind.
People and so walk became one and sail away became a glorified nursery rhyme. I don't mean to Single Bobby Darin out, because I think that most of us take the easy path in these situations too, but the Tick killer genius of Randy Newman is that he won't do that. He can't, Object have a show, so it's one thousand nine hundred and seventy Lester Maddox gets a call from Dick Cavett come on our show. He flies to New York and new tunes in that night. Randy Newman, javelin big cabin.
Dick have it is a year into his legendary late night show on a b c up against Johnny Carson tonight show covered show was like a highlight real, the nineteen seventies. He did the greatest ever interview, with Jimi Hendrix crouching marks was irregular, So was Mohammed Ali he once had Salvador dally on the same show as a legendary pitching great satchel page, the famous debate between Gordon I'll and Norman mailer that was under Cabot. Listen, we're very good children. I want him move right into it. Next show I don't know how do I know I haven't seen it. It might be a big dead. Why do people say that, at the beginning of a ship, Cabot looks like Paul Newman's baby brother, no more than five, with six impish big poker, doubted tie? his first guest is a woman named Alice, gray and entomology from the American Museum of Natural history, cat eyeglasses, glasses, hair and a bun who brings a box full of cockroaches. So what can we do about? Then? What can we learn about
the more they are friends now, not exactly our friends, but there are certainly our companions. Wait, I'm rather father them. You have a distinguished ledge. How many others could meet our ancestors of three hundred million years ago in recognising the cockroaches? Can they go back there for a go back? That policy is older than the dancer places alters the dinosaurs I'll buy back to the college. They were already recognizably cockroaches. It's always the people you don't like were the last to leave. As we have pointed this out, I'm sure covered does a good ten minutes. I'm cockroaches are these your cockroaches or some other organs. The cockroach lady finally leaves the stage and My next question is governing less dramatic. How comes matter
The gleaming bald head, the black suit paramedics. Do I still got a governor. Call me most in that you want to. Everybody else, does your septic, if you ever followed bugs before getting a few moments ago on your problems, but that's the only thing: that's the only time. God I love to covet. They shake hands, they take their seats, rust, colored, swivel, loungers, atop, agree, shag, carpet, cabbage shows the audience a photograph of Maddox holding his axe handle outside the PIC Rick, restaurant and Maddox, then corrects him and says- Oh, it's not an ax handle its a pic handle. It goes off on one of his long endless digressions about the meaning of the picric depicted no saw hardware.
And we had in the restaurant some of these pecans to gigs over my biggest far praise where we burn Hickory would nos six, although many issue the cakes and they were dark red, because that was the real is look something similar to a chicken wake up a camel does not like the exiled news media talks bath and covered. Who must be wondering what on earth simply says. Well, I've certainly learned a lot. Cabot brings on his next guessed, the football player Jim Brown, then one of the most famous professional black athletes in a country brown settles down next emetics, who is literally half his size and gives him a polite smile.
Covered- says to the two of them you feel separate, but equal were I realise that stand in sixty civil rights humour, but I still think it till areas Maddox turns to Brown and says I thought you was the singer. He thought Jim Brown was James Brown. He then volunteers, his personal definition of what being segregationist really means of segregation of Percinet, loves his race or love. All other races enough have enough racial pride and integrity to want reserved and not think or racist is one that doesn't care enough for his reign another raised to where they would not care where amalgamated those destroyed or not amalgamated good. Lord they'll think but this for a moment, Maddox is no longer governor. Georgia has come. To its senses and elected nice. Safe, modern, non racist, Jimmy Carter. Medics is a footnote. So what point
is there and having him on a mainstream. Talk show like to cabin. The magazine where I work the new Yorker had a case like this recently Donald Trump spend Golly. Steep Bannon was invited to speak at the magazines, annual literary festival and everyone flipped out. The new Yorkers writers took to Twitter a bunch of high Profiles celebrity invitees to the festival dropped out, and the argument that was made about banning is an argument that could, as easily had been plied to Maddox years ago. What's the point of giving someone like that platform, I mean what could possibly be learned from listen to them, talk and sure enough. What happens over the course of the next hour, the Dick Cavaco exactly what you would think that I think that what we are really talking about in this country's economic development, a black people, a one point
Jim Brown says something thoughtful and reasonable that he thinks the priority for black people ought to be economic development and Maddox jumps on economic development. All people Well, we're talking about. Should I'm getting back me up my time. Nor will I be I'm coming over tonight. I'll tell you. Why auxiliary whereby Now- and I hope we can all be given, as I think we're gonna stay. Where can I give you my boy? He rarely argued Ok, what I'm really saying is that there are some people who have suffered and this country for people generally but less say that we have various ethnic groups in this country that have attained a certain kind of you. Let it black people are more or less along with the Indians on The latter can, I finish Three governor what I'm saying is that I feel that the way to bring about equality of black people in the system is automatic. Already white people in Europe. You have done it.
Black people. Wouldn't, let me remind you of all the Vienna rotten we're gonna talk to then Maddox starts going on and on about all the things he's done for black people in a state of Georgia and Jim Brown turned to him with genuine curiosity and asks if he's had any blow back from white bigots remedy targets are having problems, whether from the white biggest, because you did so much to blackmail which is kind of a great question, because if Maddox has in fact been this great friend a black people, then you think he would have angered all the high course segregationist and everyone else who is opposed to civil rights movement Right Earnest ran Esther governor medics if you'd having trouble from your white admires for the fact that you have I admire that are now he said, bigots allowing you say why
you have no idea. Why didn't you say- and I say that what I am talking about Dick I do see today, workers away at em around and you mislead the people in Europe and now you ought to start being honest. All of you would you words what you're saying the people you cited Mars New said biggest want efforts is the last time. For the show is just Maddox. Getting more more agitated did Kevin, trying to calm him down and Embrowned, looking over Maddox like he's at misbehaving, child Maddox asks calves to apologize. Cabot refuses, the audience makes astonished noises. Matic stands up and starts to walk off the stage. Cabot says: come on sit down, Matic says all sit down when you apologize so Cabot says. If I called any of your, admirers, bigots we're not bigots. I apologize. This is insane what we d Cabot thinking, inviting this guy
Why don't you lad if they had the courage of those friends of mine who followed and beggars Only then would we Why don't we I'd like to Georgia, and he also my party, to take it back or he'll, walk out for good, at which point Jim Brown pipes up. We would want me how much time do I have yet again the circus. I would say that I praised the question in a way that was not exactly accurate in the sense that he did say, bigots have any white bigots been upset because you have done certain things that your black instead, my Mars, you have power judge you got the insect certain things that your black instead, my Mars, you have power. Judge you got that insect now. Let me use those fifteen seconds. I apologize for suggesting that a big it would be the way of characterizing all of your admirers.
Wait a minute wait, a minute, there's more time, Unless you met mention that the writer Truman capacity than shows up he's then at the height of his and I haven't even mention that the writer Truman capacity than shows up he's entity. You know. Curiously enough, I had a cousin lived in advance that I went went to visit and who took me to this restaurant did he ran? It was called pick a rare or something like that Did he ran the risk of a rare or something like that, rather than linear any was always at the door with guns you know to keep beneath any two days were negroes out of the restaurant in bed. I went there with his cousin man because he was near the campers college campuses.
The whole thing is so bananas, the cap. It feels the need to apologize to his audience. I am sorry the governor has left. The whole thing is so bananas. The Cabot feels the need to apologize to his audience. I am sorry the governor has left. I went outside this during the brake and he's out there with his hat and coat and asked him if he would please come back and use the less than its say whatever he would like to say air, because he felt that I guess that he was insulted. I did not mean to insult him at that moment. I have to say this and I hope I don't feel more first sounding what, but I found him in spite of the fact that I would probably, despite his feelings about segregation. If I were actually clear and with the with the are a likeable man, would anyone go along with this? We would you agree the audio he's not having a wise, where
I'm not backing down, shut up I'll, tell you when I'm back in town will be back at the Dickerson. He was a farce. What was the point, said to allow a segregationist to play the victim. What good is in giving someone like that, a platform except Randy Newman was watching whose imagination has a mind of its own. So you were you a regular DE cabinet watcher in those years? Not that I recall I was, but I would watch us up I'll watch. You think I was usually opening. This is still your typically, you are the cabin audience right. I am here it seemed like half an hour. No word. They were just yelling yelling in Yemen, ass. It was so alien I felt are form he didn't dismissed that whole exchange or shrugged or change the channel. He read
acted to it. He imagines what a supporter of less dramatics would think watching less dramatic storm off the stage I am only one minute louder, every how big a goddamn always show you do what you want He gives an imaginary supporter, a name Johnny Cutler, a home Birmingham, Alabama a job steelworks He imagines Johnny Cutler coming home, one night drunk gazing at his sleeping wife, and then he imagines him. Turning on the television, Last night I saw less dramatic soul tv show Some small as New York, Jew in a Jew laughed unless the medics I'd love to last Amerika. To William me, dolls,
to use or small as Neil Jus, that's good investment, honest less and less commenced. That's pretty good is a little click. Click click that became the first son good old boys. It's called rednecks when I first heard that I didn't MR bags was ain't. You know that it was but that idea of the Southern Europe going to New York and sitting down thinking the cabotage jewish to legitimize potassium Will it may be a fool, is to think that better than he'll, never wrong. When I hear, and it is up to us, you want to sing along, don't you like sail away all over again as well. The soul, but then comes this.
With Tom real down here, and make no northern town g been down its nineteen. Seventy the south is enough people less Maddox has just been humiliated by some smarter New York do. What do you think Johnny covers Gonna set man? There is
which now has a huge drunk everywhere? We get it Bob how weak? How did people respond to that signed at the time by pleaded in Lafayette whose you and they loved, I got a letter, the only one I ever got this far from from somebody, and he said your Sir I was in the audience in Lafayette when you played the song, the black blockage, and he said I don't know where you're coming from, but there I was, and I was enjoying the concert up to at all
sudden, I'm sitting in the middle of fifteen hundred white guys yelling legs were next year, Every said it very uncomfortable and the You want to. Let me know when, we don't know, lie ass. We re southern audiences started yelling for it. So could sing along with the chorus did it become, was taken over by. Didn't become a calm southern anthem for a certain kind of her did well. I thought that that was happening. I stop plan and in the south. He had to stop seeing many radio stations wouldn't play it, and you definitely would
who that song on the radio today it even feel strange to play it here. We ve become appropriately uncomfortable with the inward. In almost any context, you can only play rednecks now, if you explain where it came from and who Johnny Copper was, but you can't not play it just because it makes you feel uncomfortable because Johnny Cutler in Birmingham Alabama in nineteen. Seventy absolutely wanted to keep the niggers down can't gloss over that fact. If we're being honest, oh and by the way, Johnny Cutler wasn't done down here, we too we re alive nor sit near the free. He then Every slum in every northern city in a cage
New York City, red, wouldn't change in the south side of Chicago with red. Wouldn't change me saying what a minute and a half minutes long insist, coordinated balls. He says too, those smug northerners when you drive Your windows up and your door's locked to the projects of your own inner cities are you still sure you're better than me? You have to play that too because, if you're going to be honest about who less dramatics really was, you have to be honest about his critics to. Did you ever hear from less dramatics? He sent me relax handed really it's fantastic from his store.
He saw the sale of you pick pick and as he would Lester at its listened to a song about racial hatred, and he sent the man who wrote it a pic handle as a token of his gratitude. Revision of history is produced. I mean the Bell and Jacob Smith with communal Baptista are editor, is Julia Barton. Flood Williams is our engineer fact checking by Beth and original music by Luis Kara. Special thanks to come. We make Liore Heather Fain, Maggie Taylor, Maya Caning and Jacob iceberg provisions histories brought, you buy, Pushkin industries- I Malcolm Gladwin, by the way, is a great essay on this subject in a twenty fourteen book,
let the doublespeak by Stephen Heart heart writes that in sail away, Randy Newman showed one of America's greatest lies being crafted in his next album Newman. Show how the lie soaked into America's bones. One I think this is so happy. I salute the voices make it that when you can't do it all the way down to
Angela tenth twenty fifteen, a young woman named Sandra Bland, was stopped by a police officer on a highway in rural Texas. Then everything went wrong I've written a book called talking to strangers. It starts with that encounter, but I didn't just right. For the page, I recorded an audio book as well. New kind of audio book that allows you to hear the voices of the people I talk to and come with me to the places I go because You shouldn't just listen to an audio book. You should experience it talking to strangers the audio experience available now, where ever audio books or sold.
Transcript generated on 2020-01-12.