Well, Shut My Mouth!
An Interview with Ed Williams
by Joyce Dixon
Ed Williams is getting quite a reputation on the speakers circuit for his brand of rural humor about growing up in Juliette, Georgia. His day job is in Human Resources management for a large middle Georgia manufacturer, which adds to his insight of the ups and downs of the everyday man.
Williams has been presented the Georgia College and State University's Outstanding Young Alumni Award, but I'm not sure the university was aware of the road trip he lead to Macon's weekly Georgia Championship Wrestling event, where the college brothers stirred up a riot.
Ed Williams and Debbie, his wife of 22 years, have two teenagers -- Alison and Will (Ed IV). They live in Macon, Georgia.
Have you been surprised by the reception of readers to Sex, Dead Dogs and Me?
Surprised would be a very mild way of putting it. First off, I never expected it to be published in the first place. It was simply a good time spent writing stories about my dad and two best friends. What has since transpired has been an amazement to me. I'm so grateful to all the people who've read the book, and especially to those who helped spread the word afterwards. The hardback version started out in three Macon bookstores, and ended up being carried nationally by the Books-A-Million chain. The paperback version got me a shot on the Georgia Public Radio program "Cover to Cover," which really jumpstarted my speaking career. All in all, Sex, Dead Dogs, and Me has been a huge blessing for me, and I'm very grateful for it.
Are you enjoying the public speaking events? Any anecdotes?
Actually, as much as I love writing, I enjoy speaking even more. There's such an adrenaline rush to getting up in front of a group and telling them some of these old Juliette stories. It's funny, I've done enough speaking now to where I ought to be getting more used to doing it, but I still get mega butterflies inside before doing each and every one. The funny thing is that the whole time I'm up there, I'm thinking about how much better my dad or my Uncle Dog would have told these stories. They were masters at spinning a yarn.
As far as anecdotes go with the speaking, one clearly pops into mind. I've gotten used to the fact that people who only know me through reading the books regard me as this nice Southern guy laden with a healthy streak of hellraiser. Anyway, I'd finished a speaking engagement before this group of advertising executives, and was sitting at a table signing copies of Sex, Dead Dogs, and Me afterwards. One lady, who was an absolute knock-out, walked up to me and said, "I know you say you're married in the book, but I just think you use that to throw us women off. If you'd let me, I'd undress you thread by thread with my teeth if I had to!" Needless to say, I was flattered, and I won't say anything else about that conversation because I'm not a big believer in self-incrimination!
How has your family and the Brotherhood reacted to the notoriety? Do they worry about talking around you, in fear that it will end up in a column? Or does the Brotherhood egg you on in hopes of inspiring a future essay?
The funniest thing about the notoriety is when you do something like write a book, you think inwardly of how it will affect you but you don't think as much as you should about how it will affect those around you. For example, a few months after Sex, Dead Dogs, and Me came out, I got calls from both Ray and Hugh stating that they were being approached by people asking them to sign books. They were both amazed, but genuinely seemed to enjoy their experiences. My dad, Ed Jr., had it a bit harder. You see, after the book came out I had to have my own telephone number unlisted, but he's still listed in the Juliette phone directory by the name, "Ed Williams." He got a ton of phone calls from people, most of them either wanting to talk to me or to talk to him about his escapades in the book. The funniest thing were those times when he would get pitched by writers who wanted him to either read their manuscripts or to pass them on to me in the hopes that I would give them to my publisher. One time he told me that he had a six-inch stack of material on his living room table that different people had given him over time to forward on to me. When I asked him if I should come over to his house and get it, he replied, "Hell no, son, most of it's like written sludge. If it was worth a damn, why would they be givin' it to me?"
I don't think either Ed Jr. or the Brotherhood worries too much about talking to me these days, in fact, sometimes we'll do something together and they'll laugh, saying something like, "Oh hell, guess that's gonna make book #3." And frankly, it does inspire us to have even more experiences together, as our personal hellraising now has taken on the guise of "literary research."
I see you have organized the Brotherhood Groupies, but where are the t-shirts a la Hooters? What characteristics should a Brotherhood Groupie have?
Well-l-l, if these books do well enough, maybe some entrepreneur will consider the t-shirt idea. As far as the Brotherhood Groupies, I think most of it is in fun, but there are some women out there who I genuinely think would like to have more than just a handshake relationship with either one or all three of us! It just amazes the hell out of me - we're basically just three average middle-aged guys. Hugh once told me a story of being at a dinner party, and then being approached by a colonel's wife who'd had too much to drink. She came right up and told him she wanted to be the first woman to take on the entire Brotherhood all at the same time in the boudoir. I asked Hugh how he responded, and he said, "E, I told her that I couldn't pull all three of us together on such short notice, but that I was willing to be the appetizer and would try to serve her the main course later on." Needless to say, I laughed till tears came to my eyes.
Characteristics of a Brotherhood Groupie - A purchaser of both books, intelligence, a good sense of humor, a pretty face, large breasts, and the moral character of a Texas rabbit.
You start Rough as a Cob with an essay "On Being Southern." Are you more aware of your heritage today, since the first book? What does family, tradition, and football mean to you?
At one point, Ed Sr. takes you aside and tells you he is proud you have his name. Was that part of the reason you started putting your family's oral history on paper? Is that a responsibility with carrying the name that runs through your family tree?
That remark from Ed Sr. probably meant the most to me of anything I've ever been told - I'm very proud to be Ed the third, and to have had him as my grandfather, and, of course, to have had Ed Jr. as my dad. That all being said, I'd be lying to tell you that I wrote these stories down for any other reason than just the sheer enjoyment of telling them. Only in the past few months have I started thinking about the posterity aspects of writing, about how one day my great-grandchildren will read about our exploits. I also laugh out loud when I think about how my obituary will read - "Mr. Williams was the author of "Sex, Dead Dogs, and Me," "Rough As A Cob," "Honin' the Tulip," and so on. Won't that raise a few eyebrows?
What was it like when Hollywood came to Juliette?
The filming of the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" there literally brought life back to the old town. Juliette was an old mill village, and when the mill played out in the late fifties all that was left behind were the handful of people that chose to continue living there. Just to give y'all an idea, the official census count in Juliette when I was growing up was 400- I kid you not. When "Fried Green Tomatoes" was filmed and released, interest in Juliette just skyrocketed. People came there (and still do to this day) from all over the world to visit the place where the movie was filmed. It made me proud to see the interest, but also concerned me that the town might lose its sleepy, laid back character as a result. I'm very proud to say that that hasn't happened - Juliette seems to convert people to its ways, not the other way around.
Why do you think wrestling has such a strong position in Southern culture?
I think most rural Southern people worked their butts off just to make a living and survive. Wrestling was like their theatre - it was affordable, you could take your family, and people were instinctively drawn to the costumes, the interviews, and the age old struggle between good and evil that played out each week. People don't give wrestlers the credit they deserve for being such fabulous entertainers, in fact, right now, to this day, if I could meet anyone in the world it would have to be the Nature Boy, Ric Flair. That man has provided me with more entertainment over the years than just about anyone, save Elvis or BTO. What a performer!
Meeting BTO and forming a friendship with Robin Bachman must have felt like winning the Lotto. Yet you talk about being a simple country boy with the music business so far away. Considering that the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Capricorn Records, the Allmans, Little Richard, etc. call Macon home, what were you thinking?
Robbie is a super great guy, as are Fred, Randy, and Blair. We're all good friends now, and that's been the best part of meeting my rock and roll idols - finding out that they're great people as well as such wonderful entertainers. I don't think I'll ever get used to sitting onstage at concerts, or at receiving Christmas cards with BTO logos on the envelopes - it's like living a dream.
Regarding your question about Little Richard, the Allman Brothers Band, etc., being so close by, I guess I'll have to politely take exception to that. Growing up in Juliette, we considered a trip to Macon to be a mega big deal - it wasn't something we did very often, and we'd talk about it with our friends/relatives for weeks afterwards. For us, Macon was the big city, something we didn't access very often, and it really seemed a long ways away. That's what I meant.
What are you writing now?
I've finished the third book, tentatively titled, "Honin' the Tulip: Yet More Juliette Journals," and am currently working on a fourth. The fourth is different from the first three - I'm trying to write a Juliette Christmas story, one where I blend in actual things that happened in Juliette over the years with a little creative license. I hope it ends up something like a combination bio/novel, and I am having a great time writing it. It's as wild as a buck, as I'm so tired of all the syrupy sweet Christmas literature that I've read in the past. My Christmas book may cause me to bust hell wide open, but I hope it will be markedly different from the usual Christmas stuff.
The other writing I'm working on is my weekly column, "Free Wheelin'." I love writing it each week, as column writing is totally different from books. With columns, you have word count limitations, and you obviously can't say in columns what you can in books. Columns are actually more challenging - with books you can say or do anything, with columns you really have to think about how you want to get your point across. I love doing them both, and hope to continue for a long time to come. Please allow me to plug the fact that anyone out there who'd like to get on my weekly emailing list for the column can simply send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2003, Joyce Dixon, All Rights Reserved