Atlanta Originals: Phillip Depoy and Beverly 'Guitar' Watkins

May 14, 2016

Some artists live in a city, others are of the city.

Phillip Depoy and Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, our two guests on this edition of "Two Way Street," are in the latter category. Yes, they both make their homes in Atlanta – Watkins in the Old Fourth Ward, Depoy in Decatur – but Atlanta and Georgia also are deeply influential in the art they produce.

Depoy is a novelist, playwright, composer and folklorist. His family moved to Atlanta from Illinois many years ago so his father could take a job as a French horn player with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and Depoy quickly began absorbing the culture and customs of Southern life. As a folklorist, he hauled an old reel to reel tape recorder to the North Georgia mountains to capture the music of Appalachian families; as a playwright, he wrote “Edward Foote,” a dark and moody take on Oedipus set in the backwoods of North Georgia; and as a novelist, he’s written about detectives working the streets of Atlanta. Phillip is indefatigable. He has two new books out right now, is working on a couple of new plays set in Atlanta, including a follow up to “Edward Foote,” and still has time to garden and cook and for all I know, compose a symphony with one arm tied behind his back!

Phillip is also a great conversationalist, and as you’ll hear, is the kind of guest who I can throw just about any subject out to and he’ll spin it into something interesting. Enjoy!

Beverly Watkins just turned 77 years old. She threw herself a birthday party by inviting friends and family and a few hangers-on like me and producer Jenny Ament to see her perform at Northside Tavern, one of the local spots where’s she’s been playing the blues for years.

Beverly spent her early years with her grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Commerce, Georgia. She got her first guitar when she was 8, and, as she described in our conversation, quickly realized it was God’s plan that she become a blues artist. Over the years, she’s played in bands backing up Ray Charles, B.B King, James Brown, Piano Red and other musical icons. She’s traveled the world playing the blues but she always comes home to her roots right here in Atlanta. She brought her guitar to the "Two Way Street" studio for our conversation, and so, you’ll get to hear her tell her story and sing the blues!

Here’s Beverly performing "Back in Business," the title track from the album that propelled her on a world tour in 1999.