Rickey Pittman is an award-winning author, storyteller, songwriter, and folksinger, from Dallas, Texas. He is known as The Bard of The South AmeriCymru spoke to Rickey about his work and his Celtic and Southern background.
AmeriCymru: Croeso i AmeriCymru Rickey and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. You are an Author, Folksinger, Songwriter and Storyteller. What would you consider your primary focus?
Rickey: My primary focus in my original music, books and in my stories is to tell the stories left out of the history books--the stories that have been forgotten, neglected, or ignored. My personal email signature has this quote: "The role of the artist is to not look away."--Akira Kurosawa Sometimes life and history make us uncomfortable. It is then that the true artist will refuse to look away and will describe things as they really are and as they really should be told. I do presentations all across the South and even beyond in time. I try to combine the three aspects of my art so that it has a positive and emotional effect on those I present to. I try to bring people and legends of the past to life so that as people encounter them, their lives can be changed even as mine was when I first encountered them. I think the Jim Limber story is what sparked this emphasis in my life and art. I had been a student of what is known as America's Civil War (War Between the States is more accurate) and I accidentally discovered the story of Jim Limber, a free child of color, who Jefferson Davis (also of Welsh ancestry) adopted during the War. That one story made me realize that there were many, many more like it waiting to be discovered and told.
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The Last Princess of Wales
Rickey: The story of Gwenllian was also a serendipitous discovery for me. I was researching Welsh history and discovered the Gwenllian Society, her story, and so many sad things about her. That is what prompted me to write my song, "The Last Princess of Wales." My Celtic heritage has grown in importance to me, especially the Welsh (Evans) branch of my family. There's another song I do, "Cousin Jack," about the Cornish miners. My great-uncle Ernest Evans was a coal miner in Colorado, as was the rest of his family and his parents, so that song immediately struck a chord in my heart.
AmeriCymru: You are known as 'The Bard of The South'. Many of your songs and stories deal with Southern themes. Care to elaborate on that for our readers?
Rickey: Yes, my Southern roots run deep. I feel a close affinity to my Southern heritage, and when I realized that my Welsh ancestors (who had no slaves) in Texas fought with the Confederacy for similar reasons the Welsh had fought the English, it bound me to the South even more. I have studied the Welsh bards, the harpists, and they motivated me to speak for and to the South in the same way they spoke to and for those in Wales.
AmeriCymru: In your opinion how significant is the oral storytelling tradition in contemporary America?
Rickey: How important is storytelling? I think for those who see its importance in the past and to their own family, it can be very important. However, apathy runs deep in our younger generation and I believe it is more difficult to make them see the beauty and life-meaning in the stories. I believe the various Celtic festivals have helped reawaken interest in storytelling and hopefully will touch young hearts in some way so that they too will be bards of their own generation.
AmeriCymru: Where can people go online to buy your cd's and publications?
Rickey: People can buy my books and CDs by going to my website and clicking on the links for BOOKS and MUSIC. http://www.bardofthesouth.com/
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?
Rickey: Cymru Am Byth
Interview by Ceri Shaw