J. Garland McKee Laughin' With 'Em: Southern Negro Humor in Dialect (Americana Recording, 1969)
Amos & Andy. Stepin Fetchit. Aunt Jemima. Jar Jar Binks. American history is littered with people and characters who have found success by exploiting African-American stereotypes. Meet the Rev. J. Garland McKee - humorist, minister, negro impersonator. From the liner notes:
"Possessing a warm, merry heart and a genuine sense of humor himself, J. Garland McKee has long been most appreciative for the contribution the southern negro had made to his own life with their delightful, natural humor."
I see. But how did Mr. McKee become such an expert in negro humor?
"Born and reared in the heart of the Mississippi Delta in Greenville, Mississippi, Mr. McKee has been closely acquainted with many negro people since early childhood."
Oh, ok. I bet some of his best friends were black! This LP, a recording of an "after-dinner address presented to the Southwest Louisiana Chapter, American Institute of Banking," is more than anything else a time capsule of the last days of the era when even the best-intentioned "us" considered black people to be "them". It would never do to have Southern Negroes telling their own jokes and stories. The white man needed a safe, respectable filter between himself and the world of the black man. McKee saw himself as a cultural documentarian, an ethnographer - Margaret Mead in blackface.
"Feeling their wonderful and unusual folklore is a treasured part of Southern heritage and also distinctly Americana, he seeks to be a good ambassador in helping preserve a part of this unique humor for the present and future generations."
So how does he do? Here's a few clips of the record - decide for yourself.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Want to know the most surprising thing aboutJ. Garland McKee
? He's still around! Book him for your next company seminar! And be sure to invite us - we want to see how well he's preserved his humor for future generations.Nick DiFonzo is a Houston record collector and bizarre-recordings aficionado. See his Web site at www.bizarrerecords.com.