Confessions of a Dixie Dandy

The Dixie Dandies, circa '72

Do you like to dance?  I don’t mean the slow-dancing stuff — anyone can do that. I’m talking enthusiastic footwork here — gyrations, gettin’ down, bustin’ a move and shakin’ that thang.

Honestly, I can’t recall the last time I danced with an unbridled oomph in my step. And come to think of it, that makes me a little sad.

I used to love to dance, especially back in the late ‘80s. While most of my friends were “boot scootin” at country joints with names like “Miss Kitty’s,” I preferred the “alternative rock” scene. This, in turn, resulted in alternative body contortions when I was on the dance floor.

I admit to owning my share of polyester and the tight-fittin’ britches back in the 70s and early 80s, but I never suffered from Disco fever. It was all too choreographed for me. “The Bump” was the only Disco dance I ever mastered because it required no skill, and I could do it and still wear cowboy boots — not exactly ideal footwear for doing “The Hustle.”

Actually, I would be lying if I said my dance moves were always choreography free. I got my first country groove on back in ’72 — that’s when I joined a “mountain dance” group called The Dixie Dandies. I know, go ahead and laugh. “Dixie Dandies” sounds like some Deep-South, country-fried incarnation of The Village People, right? True enough. I was embarrassed by the name, even then.

The Dixie Dandies were “cloggers.” Clogging — for those who don’t know — is one of several forms of traditional mountain dancing. “Buck Dancing” and “Flat-Footing” are among others.

Now, stick with me for a brief history lesson. Clogging originates from the Appalachian region and is associated with the predecessor to bluegrass — “old-time” music, which is based on Irish and Scots-Irish fiddle tunes.

The evolution of clogging is rooted in aspects of English, Irish, German, and Cherokee step dances, as well as African rhythms and movement. And it was from clogging (or as some claim, the “jig”) that tap dance eventually evolved.

My clogging gig only lasted a few years, but during that time we high-stepped it across the mountains — from county fairs and fall festivals, sharing the bill at country music shows with legendary performers such as George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard.

Clogging was part and parcel to my rural upbringing, and — name aside — I’m proud to have been a “Dixie Dandy.” And, even prouder that mom and dad once clogged on the Grand Ole Opry, “The Mother Church of Country Music” (where I once had my picture taken backstage with Johnny Cash).

I recently watched some old home movie footage of me clogging back some 39 years ago. I couldn’t stop smiling. I wish some footage existed from my alternative-rock days when the music of bands such as Hoodoo Gurus, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Cult and the Replacements moved me to careen and pogo around the dance floor.

I miss those days and the intoxicating euphoria that welled up as I danced unencumbered  until “last call” signaled closing time at places such as “The Masquerade” in Atlanta, or “Hog’s Breath” in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

The older I grow the more I appreciate those stages of my life, which I’m learning are but a dance from one stage to the next. I wonder whether I’ve lost a step after all these years? Does anyone know whether Southern Culture On The Skids still tours?


6 Responses to “Confessions of a Dixie Dandy”

  1. It sounds to me like you need a night out of dancin, bustin a move!!

  2. So true! hey who is the guy with brown shoes?

  3. Southern Culture is still kicking it. Saw them last year, or was it the year before?

    Anyway, I won’t hassle you anymore about your clogging days. Isn’t confession good for the soul?


  1. What you missed on RSM last week | Real Southern Men - April 11, 2011

    […] Before we can determine the kind of men we want to be, we need to take a good, long look at the men we are. Or the boys we were. And sometimes that picture includes southern mountain dancing, as in Kris Wheeler’s tale, “Confessions of a Dixie Dandy.” […]

  2. Real Southern Men Get Personal | Real Southern Men - June 14, 2011

    […] Or Kris Wheeler’s self-deprecating admission that he spent his early life as a Dixie Dandy. […]

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