REDNECK MASTERPIECE THEATER! Episode 1: The Dancing Outlaw

Welcome to the first installment of Redneck Masterpiece Theater, where I, David W Barbee, will usher you through the mangy wilderness of redneck culture.  We’ll see the sights and hear the stories.  We’ll laugh at the jokes and weep for the human gene pool.  And to start, we’re starting with a modern day outlaw.  Those of you who have read my new book (A Town Called Suckhole) will know that a character therein is named after Jesco White.

Jesco is a hard-drinking, gas-sniffing, pot-smoking, tatted-up hillbilly tap dancer from West Virginia.  In the eighties PBS did a special on him and his family, the Whites.  The father, D Ray, created a totally new style of tap dancing and taught his sons how to do it.  They went on tour and had success, but Jesco is the only one still clicking and picking.  His dad and most of his brothers were killed by various forms of gunplay.  That’s right.  Shot.  Like some Wild West shit.  So suffice it to say Jesco’s had a weird and tough life.  It’s only natural that he’s gone a little crazy over the years.  Here he is in the second documentary made about him, The Dancing Outlaw, giving his opinion on his wife’s cooking:

Through the power of sniffing lighter fluid and gasoline, Jesco had other great thoughts about life, love, and human society.  While talking to Jesco, the conversation might drift from the Rapture to dinosaurs in the Congo to millions of Hitlers to terrorists to Vietnamese tests for STDs.  It’s legally crazy, but it’s also hilarious.  As Jesco has said, “Anybody will say anything under the influence of madness.”

I’ve met people with brain damage, and from my experiences they’re a lot more fun to be around than you’d think.  When your brain doesn’t function normally, you don’t take all of life’s bullshit so seriously.  Here’s Jesco (and his sister Mamie) explaining how part of his brain is like cigarette ash and how he enjoys getting “fucked up plumb out the frame” still to this day.  It’s from the latest doc on Jesco and the White family, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.

So Jesco White’s a crazy motherfucker.  But at least he’s enjoying his life (at least, he enjoys the times when being crazy is fun and games–the man’s got problems just like everybody else).  He’s a cult legend and he still gets to dance.  He’s part Elvis Presley, part Charles Manson, and he tap dances on picnic tables while Hank Williams III plays guitar and sings.

Jesco White is perhaps my favorite redneck of all time, and that’s why I named a character in my book after him.  And if you’re reading this, Jesco, just say the word and I’ll send you a copy of my book and some of my wife’s kick-ass fried eggs.


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