#843: Swamp Gravy Today on the show: A small town stakes its future on writing, directing, and starring in a musical.
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#843: Swamp Gravy

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#843: Swamp Gravy

#843: Swamp Gravy

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NOEL KING, HOST:

We thought that we had heard every kind of story about a dying small town trying to save itself.

KENNY MALONE, HOST:

And then we went to Colquitt, Ga.

KING: Leave the water in the car.

MALONE: Yeah. Leave it in the car.

KING: Oh, it's humid. I like it.

Colquitt has a population of about 2,000 people. It claims to be the mayhaw capital of the world. Mayhaw is a kind of berry that people like to make jam out of.

MALONE: And this city feels like it popped straight out of a book by the children's author Richard Scarry. Like, Colquitt is built around this town square. It's got the county hall right there in the middle. You walk five minutes, and there's the town newspaper.

KING: Hello.

TERRY TOOLE: Hey, come in.

MALONE: Inside is the editor and publisher by himself finishing up that week's paper.

KING: Are you - how many people work here?

TOOLE: Me and one more.

KING: Wow. Wow.

TOOLE: You don't know what a small community you're in.

MALONE: We're learning.

KING: We're learning.

And then you walk another five minutes, and you're at the town firehouse.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

CRAIG TULLY: Come in.

MALONE: Chief.

TULLY: Hey, how are you?

MALONE: There's Chief Tully at his desk by himself working on some firefighting plans.

TULLY: I mean, that's what I was doing before y'all come in. I'm having to adjust.

KING: And then you walk another five minutes, and there's the town bed and breakfast where the manager is saying welcome, and also your room is haunted.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Were you able to record Miss Ollie up there?

KING: Oh, no. Who's Miss Ollie?

MALONE: Please don't tell me...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: She's our ghost.

MALONE: Oh, my God.

KING: The place is haunted.

MALONE: We knew it.

KING: We knew it was haunted.

MALONE: The ghost, Miss Ollie, for the record, mostly nice, has allegedly thrown silverware at people. Anyway, it is in the lobby of this bed and breakfast that we meet the woman we came to Colquitt for - Joy Jinks.

JOY JINKS: Now, I brought you all a goody bag.

KING: Goody bags, Joy says. Joy Jinks is Colquitt's biggest booster, and so, of course, she has brought us local honey and local peanuts and these beautiful flowers.

JINKS: That's a camellia.

KING: Those are beautiful.

JINKS: Oh, yeah, they came out of my yard. So welcome to Colquitt.

MALONE: Both Noel and I thought Joy was in her 60s. She is, in fact, in her 80s. She just has this, like, vibrance and giant smile and a head full of what someone described to me as bright red Little Orphan Annie hair.

KING: Joy was a social worker. She was born and raised and retired in Colquitt. And this place is everything to her. The way she talks about Colquitt, she says things that sound like - but are not - quotes from, like, some famous Southern novel.

JINKS: I lived my childhood sitting in a mimosa tree reading.

KING: Sitting in a mimosa tree - that sounds like a pretty good life.

JINKS: Yeah.

MALONE: But since Joy was a little girl, she's watched Colquitt die the same slow death as a lot of America's rural cities. Starting around World War II, farm equipment got better. Low-skilled farming jobs started to die off. Then manufacturing got hit. Factories went overseas. Colquitt's sewing plant closed down. The population shrunk and shrunk and shrunk.

JINKS: It's that undercurrent of, well, are we going to survive, you know? What is the future for this town?

KING: Yeah, that must be a scary feeling.

JINKS: It's a feeling, like, of doom and death. The stores are boarded up. You know, no cars parked. There are no people.

MALONE: And then Joy Jinks stumbled across a bizarre way for Colquitt to try and save itself. The town would write, stage and star in an original musical.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MALONE: Hello, and welcome to PLANET MONEY. I'm Kenny Malone.

KING: And I'm Noel King. And this is a buzzy idea, a modern idea - let's build a town around the arts.

MALONE: But 25 years ago, before the books and the TED talks, it was just a crazy idea.

KING: Today on the show - what happened to a tiny peanut farming town where things got so bad they brought in a big-city director to try and save themselves with music.

MALONE: And a warning - there is one very bad swear word in this episode. In fact, that word almost ended the great Colquitt, Ga., theater experiment.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MALONE: Around 1990, Joy Jinks went to a leadership retreat in upstate New York. It was totally unrelated to theater, but at this retreat was none other than Richard Geer.

RICHARD GEER: My name is Richard Owen Geer, and I use my middle name so you don't think you're talking to "Pretty Woman" actor.

MALONE: I mean, to be fair, I don't know what "Pretty Woman" actor's middle name is.

GEER: Yeah. It isn't Owen.

KING: Richard Owen Geer is also an actor, but he's primarily a theater director.

MALONE: Are people disappointed when you show up and you're not that Richard Geer.

GEER: Thank you. You've just stolen my favorite line, which is I'm a disappointment wherever I go.

MALONE: (Laughter).

GEER: And they laugh just like that. And we're off to the races.

MALONE: That's good.

KING: Back in 1990, Richard Geer was a grad student. He was getting his Ph.D. in performance studies.

MALONE: You know, like a fancy theater degree that comes with a splash of anthropology. And that is why grad student Richard Geer was working through an idea - a vision really - that he was dying to try out. He thought if a group full of non-professional actors collected their community's stories, starred in those stories on stage, that this could be a powerful thing.

GEER: And especially from a part of the world that was thought to be a throwaway. That's what the rest of the country thought, and I knew if they could see something radically different, that's theater.

MALONE: So Richard Geer's at this retreat in New York. He's talking about his big ideas when this woman hears him and comes up to him.

GEER: And she said that her community was dying, and her community wasn't able to get industry to come in.

JINKS: And we tried to get some factories in here...

KING: That woman, of course, was Joy Jinks.

JINKS: ...But we realized nobody was coming here. But we wanted to do something to celebrate who we are as the people left behind.

GEER: And I think that's the first words that I spoke to her other than hello or something like that. And I said, if you do a play about your community's stories, I'd love to direct it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MALONE: Now it is important to know that at this point Joy was not thinking of this project as an economic driver. In her mind, this was a celebration of the people of Colquitt who were sticking it out in a city that was being left behind by the world.

KING: So Richard flew into Tallahassee, Fla., and Joy picked him up at the airport, and they drove to Colquitt. They literally crashed into a log truck on their way there. They were OK. And the main reason for this trip was that Joy needed Richard to go before the town arts council to get support to do this play.

MALONE: Now, Richard's pitch, in theory, was very simple. We're going to collect oral histories. We're going to stage those as vignettes. But, you know, Richard was a grad student back then.

JINKS: And he kept talking in this jargon that we had no idea what he was talking about. You know, it was...

KING: Like what?

JINKS: Ph.D. jargon, like Augusto Boal and a, you know, theater of the oppressed (laughter) and all this kind of stuff - too smart - too smart for us.

KING: And according to Joy, it was during this pitch that Richard started talking about economics.

MALONE: Is Joy wrong that you had the idea of this as an economic driver early on?

GEER: No, I probably said that.

MALONE: (Laughter).

GEER: I - no, I'm sure I did.

JINKS: It would grow the pie, as he said. It would bring in people and create a bigger economic base.

MALONE: And you guys were thinking what?

JINKS: What?

(LAUGHTER)

JINKS: What? It's a wonder we went along with this idea. But I guess we were so desperate we did.

MALONE: The arts council gave Richard the green light, and it started to raise money for this project.

KING: Yeah, they sold sausage and biscuits at farm shows. They held a bake sale in the town square.

MALONE: But most effective of all - they applied for grants. I mean, come on. It's a small town. It doesn't mean they don't know how to raise money.

KING: And it was agreed that the name for this show was going to be "Swamp Gravy."

MALONE: "Swamp Gravy" - now, look, we could explain this to you, but why would we do that when we have someone like this to do it?

TULLY: Swamp gravy's really for people who can't catch a lot of fish and they have to eat something else.

KING: That, again, is fire Chief Craig Tully, and he says people would make swamp gravy on the side of the creek when they went fishing.

TULLY: You took an old cast iron pot with you and just a little bit of grease and whatever you could clean out of the refrigerator - taters, okra, corn, whatever you wanted to put in there - caught a few fish, fried them up, took the drippings, put in there, and it was good stuff - still eat it.

MALONE: As word started to get out that the town was going to put on a play, Chief Tully was not a fan of this idea.

TULLY: I'm not going to say stupid.

MALONE: Silly is a...

TULLY: Silly would be more the word.

MALONE: And he's got, like a couple of pretty good zingers about the matter.

KING: First of all, this idea - you're going to make plays out of Colquitt oral history stories.

TULLY: I didn't understand why people would pay money to come see stories that they already knew. I mean, if I got time to go do that, I've got time to go fishing. That's kind of the way I was looking at it.

MALONE: And speaking of fishing, this "Swamp Gravy" name...

TULLY: See, swamp gravy - I come up eating swamp gravy, not watching it, you know. And, listen, I wasn't in the minority. I was in the majority because nobody in Colquitt really supported it.

KING: The "Swamp Gravy" dissenters could be divided into two camps. There was the Chief Tully camp - this is a dumb idea.

MALONE: And then there was a group with a deeper-seated concern. As the project got going, a team of people, including Richard, were out and about town interviewing people, collecting oral histories that were going to become the show.

KING: And it was around this idea that Joy started to hear some whispers.

JINKS: Well, I remember that people started saying to my friends and therefore to me that we don't really want to do this. We don't really need to do this because if we start telling our old, bad, bad stuff, you know, it might stop trouble in our community. When you live in a little town, you know all the dirt that's happened for a lot of years, and you're not proud of it.

KING: What were the kinds of stories that people said we don't want that to get out?

JINKS: There's been political stories about dirty, crooked politics. There were stories about when this town was really like a Western town. And then there's been racial conflict and, you know, we had the colored fountains and the white fountains and the colored waiting rooms and the white waiting rooms. And so people were afraid that something might be told that would really be detrimental to the town.

MALONE: OK.

While we were in Colquitt, Noel and I stopped in to the public library.

KING: And there are oral histories written down there, including some of the transcripts from the "Swamp Gravy" interviews.

MALONE: This one is about making moonshine and giving it as a gift to the elderly.

KING: Yes.

MALONE: And it's a good illustration of this concern. If you start interviewing people about old stories, all kinds of stuff is going to come out.

KING: And some of it is totally charming. There are stories in there about dad dressing up like Santa Claus, stories about ghosts.

NOEL KING AND KENNY MALONE: So many ghosts.

MALONE: And then there are deeply troubling stories, including an account from a man whose earliest memory was witnessing a lynching.

KING: The population of Colquitt is about half white and half black. And as much as Richard Geer wanted to stage a show that helped the city confront its past, he also didn't feel like this was the right time to do that.

MALONE: The town was already struggling. The show was a long shot to begin with. And so "Swamp Gravy" would avoid Colquitt's most difficult stories. If this went well, if they got second, a third show, maybe then "Swamp Gravy" could start to deal with more challenging material.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KING: The show was starting to come together. The stories had been collected. They'd hired a playwright to stitch those stories into a script. There was a music team. They were writing original songs.

MALONE: "Swamp Gravy" was going to be an hour long. It would be held at the elementary school auditorium, and the staging would be like old-timey, down on the farm, so hay bales, overalls, et cetera.

KING: And the cast was all local. They were all volunteers. They were all amateurs.

Was there anything surprising? Was there anyone where you were like, my God, she has a beautiful voice and we didn't know?

JINKS: Well, we had two African-American women that knew more about comedy in theater than most people on Broadway.

MALONE: One of the women was a housekeeper, the other was a factory worker from the next town over.

JINKS: They knew exactly how to pause to do the punchline.

MALONE: There were also kids who could carry scenes like nobody's business.

KING: There was an ambulance dispatcher with an amazing voice. She would get the big song on opening night.

MALONE: Richard was directing. Joy was kind of producing, I guess. She was making sure that things were going smoothly and shielding Richard from a lot of the negative feelings. And up to this point, Richard had mostly avoided causing those negative feelings.

KING: One of the biggest concerns Richard had when he'd agreed to parachute in and direct this show was that he'd mess up and get run out of town.

MALONE: Which may have sounded like some overblown, dramatic fear until the incident.

JINKS: Well, it was a week before we were to open our first show, and we were in a schoolhouse auditorium. And there were people on the stage and doing a scene...

MALONE: The show was in crunch mode. It was time for rehearsal. Richard looked up, and not all of the actors had shown up.

JINKS: And Richard just let it all out. He went into his professional theater director mode, a state of mind, and he kind of blurted out whatever.

MALONE: And what was whatever?

JINKS: I don't know.

MALONE: It was bad.

JINKS: It was - it was - it was a bad - it was bad. It was hell or damn or whatever.

MALONE: Those ones are, like, the lowest in the hierarchy of swears, so it might have been that low.

JINKS: I think probably it was because, I mean, we're not used to people swearing in front of children. You don't do that in the South.

MALONE: There was some debate as to what you said.

MALONE: Joy was tight-lipped about it.

GEER: Really?

MALONE: So just for the...

GEER: I don't think there's much debate about what I said, but that's fine.

MALONE: So for the record, the offending phrase was what?

GEER: I don't think it was a phrase. I just said fuck at the top of my lungs.

MALONE: Oh.

GEER: F-word - and started kicking grain bags and bales of hay and then looked up. And the next thing that I saw was all the men in the room were coming at me converging. And all the women and children were fleeing out the doors. And the men came up and said, you better get yourself out of town right now. We ought to tar and feather you. Get on a plane and never come back.

MALONE: They said those words to you?

GEER: Absolutely.

JINKS: And so the cast walked out. And at that point in time, Richard was staying at our house. And Richard and I sat on the sofa in my living room all weekend just about in tears because we didn't know what was going to happen. We had lost everything.

MALONE: How long did the boycott last?

JINKS: All weekend. And I think it was - maybe it was on Sunday afternoon or Monday. The Baptist preacher called us together, and he negotiated a truce. And Richard apologized profusely. I mean, he was practically down on his knees begging forgiveness. And that's quite a stretch for a theater director.

GEER: This project meant everything to me. But I just about lost it. Every time I start to get annoyed with folks, I remember what I did that day. I just forgot where I was, with who I was.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Just a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I got to go.

KING: It is Saturday, October 10, 1992 - the premiere of "Swamp Gravy."

MALONE: This is video first showing the lobby of the elementary school. You can see there's the fundraising quilt. And there's somebody selling "Swamp Gravy" T-Shirts. And then we're in the auditorium. The place is packed.

JINKS: So there was probably about 300 people there. But they were local people.

MALONE: Do you remember where you were? Were you in the audience?

JINKS: I was in the audience.

MALONE: Do you remember where your seat was?

JINKS: Probably about the fourth row back. I was damn front - near the front.

KING: The stage is dark. And when the lights come up, there are about 10 people in old-timey bonnets and overalls.

MALONE: And the entire room is silent for just a moment.

KING: And what were you feeling?

JINKS: I was just kind of intrigued. Like, what was going to happen? You know, how is this going to come out?

MALONE: The show starts with a reflection on Christopher Columbus. It was premiering on Columbus Day weekend after all.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Character) Columbus had an idea.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As Character) Now there was those who held that the Earth was flat. They believed...

MALONE: And to be totally honest with you, this is pretty tough to watch because it doesn't seem like the crowd is into it at all. And then it is still awkward when this Columbus section ends, and the new section begins.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character) I come from tall pines and short fuses.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #3: (As character) I come deep down in the swamp.

KING: It's a little hard to hear. But every actor is saying, I come from and then like a line - like I come from deep down in the swamp.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #4: (As character) I come from all dressed up with no place to go.

MALONE: All dressed and no place to go - and still it is really hard to tell if the audience is getting this at all. And then...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) I come from a county with no stop lights.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) I come from shut up and sit down.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: That first big laugh - and you can see the actors on stage break character. And they start smiling - kind of like, OK, thank God. Maybe this is going to work after all.

MALONE: Is it OK if I fast-forward a little bit - just skip to a couple places.

JINKS: Sure, yeah. Just keep going.

MALONE: All right, so highlights.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (Singing) Well, I go to work at the crack of dawn.

KING: There was a song about starting work at the crack of dawn.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (Singing) And I work all day until the sun is gone.

MALONE: There was a sketch about Colquitt's famous berries.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #4: (As character) They are good for you.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character) Good for digestive trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #4: (As character) I heard it was liver trouble.

KING: There was a story about two girls stealing a bottle of herbal elixir from their mom and then getting very confused.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Lydia E. Pinkham tonic for ladies.

JINKS: Lydia E. Pinkham - have you ever heard this story about - women used to take it for anemia. But the story was that there's a baby in every bottle.

MALONE: Wait. What?

KING: What does that mean?

JINKS: What it means is the woman would get built up, and she'd get pregnant again.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) What are we going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) I don't know, but one of us is going to have this baby.

(LAUGHTER)

MALONE: But the showstoppers were the closing songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

ANNETTE MILLER: (Singing) And he lost everything he had laid...

MALONE: This is Annette Miller, the ambulance dispatcher.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

MILLER: (Singing) But he never lost his faith in the lord.

JINKS: Boy, she was young then. Weren't we all?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

UNIDENTIFIED ENSEMBLE: (Singing) And we'll keep...

JINKS: You know, our experience for most people was what they had seen at a school play. And, you know, to have them on the stage performing in such an almost professional way - and it was so far beyond our wildest expectations. They stood up and gave us a standing ovation.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

JINKS: People were blown away. And it made it all worthwhile.

MALONE: Did you clap harder than you've ever clapped in your life? Did you cry? Did you - how did you react?

JINKS: I'm not a crier. But I think I was just cheering and beaming from ear to ear and clapping very much.

KATE WILLIS COOK: All right, let's circle up, you guys. I've got some folks to interview you all.

KING: It is now 25 years later, and "Swamp Gravy" is still going. This is a rehearsal for this year's version of the show.

COOK: Quiet please. Quiet please. So this is Kenny and Noel.

MALONE: Hey, everybody.

COOK: They will join us for the evening, So just don't worry about a thing.

MALONE: We are in not the school auditorium anymore. This is Cotton Hall. It is a permanent venue built for "Swamp Gravy." And it is beautiful. It's an old cotton warehouse that's been converted into a giant state-of-the-art theater.

UNIDENTIFIED ENSEMBLE: ...In the Lord forever and ever. Amen.

COOK: All right, you guys. Check your box, and take places please.

KING: The director you're hearing is obviously not Richard Geer. Richard has moved on and helped loads of other places start things like "Swamp Gravy."

MALONE: And as the show matured, it has dealt with some of Colquitt's tougher realities. They've tackled sexual abuse, racism. They even had a sketch about murder. But it's still overall more a celebration than it is an investigation.

KING: The director now is Kate Willis Cook. She's a 35-year-old former theater major who moved to Colquitt for this job. This show's writer is a local kid who grew up acting in "Swamp Gravy." He moved to New York. He worked on Broadway. And then he came back home because of "Swamp Gravy."

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: I'm so glad to have you here tonight. Sit back. Relax. Let's throw it up.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "SWAMP GRAVY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #5: (Singing) Oh, you got a story. And I've got a story. It's one we know so well.

MALONE: Now we're not just here because "Swamp Gravy" is still going. We're here because people write economic case studies about "Swamp Gravy."

KING: And remember. Twenty-five years ago, this was the part of Richard Geer's pitch that even Joy Jinks was not so sure about.

MALONE: Joy told us she remembers the exact moment she realized this thing could have a monetary impact. After that first show was a success locally, they decided to put the show on again. It took a couple of years - but new stories, new songs. And somehow, word traveled about this small town putting on a surprisingly great show. And into Colquitt's town square pulled a massive charter bus.

JINKS: Southern Coaches...

MALONE: Was the brand.

JINKS: ...Is the brand the tour bus.

MALONE: So you see that. And what do you think?

JINKS: I think, oh, my gosh, something really exciting must be happening in Colquitt (laughter).

MALONE: But it was your play.

JINKS: It was "Swamp Gravy."

KING: Eventually, "Swamp Gravy" became profitable. And along the way, "Swamp Gravy" has been invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

MALONE: They got to perform at the freaking Olympics when they were held in Atlanta.

KING: And every season, there are about two dozen performances of "Swamp Gravy." Many of those sell out. And the vast majority of tickets are bought by people from out of town.

MALONE: Colquitt's county, Miller County, brought in roughly $7 1/2 million in direct tourism spending last year.

JINKS: A lot happens - well, let me turn off this.

KING: We went on a little drive around town with Joy.

MALONE: You got a little calendar here in the car lest you forget what day it is while you're driving.

JINKS: Lest I forget what's happening on what day it is.

KING: (Laughter) You're very busy, huh?

JINKS: Oh, yeah.

MALONE: On this drive, we started to realize that because of "Swamp Gravy," there is something totally backwards about Colquitt.

KING: Yeah. In most cities, you've got developers and entrepreneurs - whatever - making money. And then they are the ones that support the arts in town.

MALONE: In Colquitt, it is completely flipped.

JINKS: Oh, bless. Little ones.

MALONE: We drive past this playground where there are a bunch of little kids toddling about.

JINKS: That's a project of the arts council. It's an early learning-slash-day care center.

KING: And this keeps happening. We drive past this charming old building called Market On The Square.

MALONE: That also is a project of the arts council. It's a retail incubator space owned and operated by the arts council.

KING: And the apartments above that space...

MALONE: Renovated, owned and rented out by the arts council.

KING: Even the bed-and-breakfast - the one with the ghost Miss Ollie.

MALONE: At one point, owned and operated by the arts council.

JINKS: There's something I want to say that I've got to dig out and just start talking.

MALONE: Just start talking. Go ahead.

JINKS: I think that what has come to the foreground about "Swamp Gravy" is not only the economic benefit to the town, but I think the real basic thing that it's given this town is a new feeling of we're somebody. We have arrived. We are important in the scheme of things - and that you cannot underestimate.

MALONE: We sort of take for granted the idea that arts can play a role in helping a city. It's a pretty popular idea these days. You'll read about the creative class and the value of building a community around smart, innovative people.

KING: Part of the reason "Swamp Gravy" has worked is that Colquitt figured all of this out first. It got there first. And now it gets to be Georgia's official folk-life play. And, of course, there can only be one official folk-life play.

TULLY: Well, I'm not going to say - I just was - I ain't never been scared to say what I think.

MALONE: You will recall a Fire Chief Craig Tully, "Swamp Gravy's" loudest critic.

TULLY: A lot of people just think it and don't say it. I'm going to tell you what I think.

MALONE: Even as the show grew, as the tour buses came to town, he still refused to see it. He just did not want to go.

KING: And then one day he gets a call that something is wrong down at Cotton Hall. Maybe someone smelled smoke. He can't remember exactly. But he had to go over.

MALONE: He gets there. Nothing actually is wrong. And the play is going on as normal.

TULLY: I stuck my head in there. And, you know, you look. And you see these people that you know who are up there doing things that you didn't know they could do.

MALONE: Like what?

TULLY: Acting - the lighting, the actors, the music - I think the music kindly caught me too.

MALONE: Chief Tully wants to show us just how much he has come around. He walks me out of his office into the firehouse garage.

All right, Chief, now we're staring at the side of one of your fire trucks.

He's pointing to the official crest of the Colquitt fire department.

TULLY: Fire on left side, rescue on the right - and in the center, we have just a painted fire helmet. And we then have home of "Swamp Gravy."

MALONE: As in, at the center of the fire logo are the words home of "Swamp Gravy."

TULLY: Which is - we're just letting people know we're proud to be the home of "Swamp Gravy." It is the best thing we got going. It's our future.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRANK FOSSEY'S "TRIPPY COOL")

KING: Today's show was produced by Nick Fountain.

MALONE: Our supervising producer is Alex Goldmark, and our editor is Bryant Urstadt.

KING: We want to thank the ladies at the Tarrer Inn in Colquitt for their hospitality.

MALONE: And a note about all of the "Swamp Gravy" MVPs that we could not get to during the episode - some of the people who worked with Joy Jinks to get the show off the ground include Kay and Don Chandler, Charlotte Phillips, Karen Kimbrell, and Iva Tabb.

KING: If you've got thoughts about today's show, you can hit us up on Facebook. We post a link to every episode, and you can leave a comment there. We are @planetmoney on Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.

MALONE: I'm Kenny Malone.

KING: And I'm Noel King. Thanks for listening.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRANK FOSSEY'S "TRIPPY COOL")

MALONE: Hey, Noel, as you know, I stayed in the Miss Ollie room.

KING: You did - the ghost - the haunted room.

MALONE: And you remember I promised to, like, record - just leave my recorder running.

KING: Yeah, for like eight hours.

MALONE: So I did.

OK, I'm about to go bed. I mean, I guess if Miss Ollie has anything she wants to say, say it.

And can I play for you, like, what I found on there?

KING: What did you get, dude?

MALONE: Here - Nick's going play it - just...

NICK FOUNTAIN, BYLINE: Yeah, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Come on. Come on, ooh.

KING: What? Kenny, is that real?

FOUNTAIN: Just kidding - that was Kenny.

MALONE: There wasn't any - I didn't - it's too long of a file. I can't have him look at it.

KING: You didn't look at it?

MALONE: I can't look at it. It's seven hours. It doesn't load.

KING: Oh, dude.

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