“I grew up in a very, very small town. Charleston, Tennessee. It’s so small that when I went to college at Tennessee State there were more freshmen registering than all of the population of my home town. So I had sort of a culture shock. But it was great. I’m glad I was raised up in a little small town.
I had a great childhood; a good and solid level-headed background. Everybody knew everybody.
The drawback was everybody knew all your business, but the atmosphere was that people cared about and looked out for one another. As a kid, my mother and father never worried about somebody doing something to me when I was away from home. It was just, when it’s time for supper, be home.
But if I was over at a friend’s house and I misbehaved, my friend’s Mama would warm me up for my parents, bring me home, tell my Mama, and I’d get another one.
I had a sense of values instilled in me. My Daddy loved the ground my Mama walked on and she loved the ground he walked on. And they were a team. She was a big disciplinarian, and he didn’t take no stuff either. But by the time he got home from work, she had already taken care of business for both of them.
My Mama said, “Your daddy don’t need to be coming home to no problems. He works too hard for that.” So if there was any spanking to be done, my Mama did it and got it over with by the time he got home it was alright. Then I would go to him and say, “Daddy, Mama whooped me today.” And he would say, “What did you do?” And laugh! He would say, “Well, Son, you brought that on yourself.”
Oh my God, they had a good thing going. And that helped me as a grownup. I still remember a lot of those things I learned and was taught at home in a small town. And that carried me to where I am today.
I tend to write about things that are real. I don’t care much for the lightweight things…’I love you, you love me, oh so happy we will be.’ I like songs that are about life itself, real feelings, and having problems. The blues can express happiness, and sadness. It can express anger, or it can express love, or the lack thereof, but the thing about it is it expresses those things and people can outlet through it. It’s like a triumph over adversity.
You don’t go jump off the bridge. You sing a song about it. When thinga are bad, you sing about it, and after you sing that song you feel better and people listen to it and if they identify with it, it can have a positive effect on their lives.
In the end, it’s all about feelings; and we go through different feelings at different times anytime we have a relationship with anybody. That’s why my songs are what they are. Everybody has got to straighten out some things sometimes.”
Story ©Benny Latimore. Interview ©Jacob Katel 2017.
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On May 11, 2017 Latimore will be officially inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. Congratulations LAT!!