Lorenzo “Logie” Meachum, in his brimmed hat, sharp vest, and shiny leather shoes, is a force to be reckoned with. He knows his way around a guitar better than most trained musicians, and has been a part of North Carolina’s blues community for most of his life. Born and raised in Greensboro, he holds a deep, personal connection to the culture of our state; it’s not just about the music, but also the people who play it and the stories they tell.
Logie is one of those storytellers, a natural public speaker, who can captivate a room of five people or a room of 1,000. We were lucky to be one of those small rooms of people when we went to film Logie at Earthtones Recording Studio in downtown Greensboro. Before we started filming, he told us to come see him if we ever needed homegrown vegetables — he is an avid gardener and tends his vegetables religiously. Afterward, he recited a beautiful Maya Angelou poem for us by heart, having been a longtime friend of hers. See the video below of Logie Meachum performing two songs for us, “Samson and Delilah mixed with Tobacco Road” and “People Get Ready,” and read our Q&A with Logie about his beginnings, his influences, and his hopes for the future.
Q: You’ve been going to schools and working with kids for a long time. I remember when you came to my elementary school in Greensboro to do a performance and lesson with our class, and it was so fun. How did you get into teaching children?
Meachum: In 1987, Junius Leek and Bob Falls were two of the earlier founders and members of a group called Poetry Alive, out of Asheville. They came to me and asked if I would perform and teach children poetry in schools across America. I told them no; I was living in a cabin in the country, and I found no redeeming qualities in people. The artistic director got on his knees and said, “Please. Do it for four weeks.” So they sent me to Rochester, New York, and for four weeks I went all over the state.
I went to Corning, New York one day, and a little boy named Johnny was running around, and the teachers couldn’t catch him. During the performance, I included [Johnny’s name] in a poem and put him on my knee. And when the performance was over, Johnny ran at me at 100 miles an hour and said, “Mister, I love you.” I was an ex-Marine and had been a fireman for 10 years; I was ready to fight, but I wasn’t ready to love. But I realized, in performing for children, that God could use me to do what he wanted to do, in spite of who I was and how I felt. So Johnny was the reason that I got into performing for children. That was in the 80s, and it changed me so much. I don’t know where he is now, but thank you, little Johnny.
Q: I’m sure he’s thanking you, too. You’re a great storyteller. Do you have a specific topic that you enjoy speaking to people about the most?
Meachum: North Carolina. Every story I tell is a North Carolina story.
Q: Well, you were born and raised here.
Meachum: Yes, but I traveled around a lot. I was in Prague one time, drinking beer and eating good, and they said, “Stay, Logie! We’ll make you a king!” And I said, “No, I’m going back to North Carolina.” I have a kingdom overseas, but I’d rather be in North Carolina.
Q: As a blues musician, what North Carolina artists have inspired your music?
Meachum: Mostly Guitar Slim [James “Guitar Slim” Stephens] and a gentleman named John Surrat, who came to my home when I was a little boy and played guitar on weekends with my father. He would come over, and they would play pinochle [a card game] and cook food. John Surrat would bring his guitar and sing gospel, and I would just sit and watch him play the guitar. Then when I got older, I started hanging out with Guitar Slim. One of the reasons I founded the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society was for people like Slim to be acknowledged. That’s what got me into playing blues, performing blues, marketing blues through the Blues Society… Guitar Slim and John Surrat.
Q: What else would you like our readers to know about you?
Meachum: Just that I’m a Carolinian. And this state has been [revolutionary] in the definition of humanity and the definition and manifestations of American culture. My interests and my stories — and my reasons to tell stories — are all about my hope that North Carolina will once again be [revolutionary]. I don’t expect change to come from New York or Boston, or Chicago, or even California. Great things have happened here in Greensboro, and they will happen again. That’s why I’m here. North Carolina. Tobacco Road. Red dirt and sugar, honey.