Dock Boggs (#5)

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from “Dock Boggs in Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia” by Greil Marcus (Representations, No. 58 (Spring, 1997), pp. 1-23):

On a long night in December 1969, troubled by a legal dispute over a cesspool, Dock Boggs suddenly broke out: “I’m going over to the hardware and have them order me a snubnose .38 Special, Smith. The Smith grip. Don’t want to kill nobody but if anybody fool with me, they encountering danger.”

Mike Seeger tried to turn the conversation in a different direction, but Boggs simply turned a corner, and began ruminating over a traffic dispute: “If they hoodoo me too bad, I’m liable to end it pretty quick. If they try to take my driver’s license away from me, and my rights, and my insurance, I may walk in that insurance office and clean it up, clean it out.”

“Don’t do it, Dock,” Mike Seeger said, sounding scared. “Don’t do it.”

“If I do it I’m a dead man, I know,” Boggs said, his words dropping like stones in a lake. “I know my life will be over.”

In 1942 Dock Boggs experienced conversion and joined his wife’s church, the Old Regular Baptists, the fifteen thousand or so self- named “peculiar people” who range from the southwestern part of West Virginia to the Boggs’s patch of Kentucky and Virginia.

Boggs became a community man. In the worst weather, in the worst times, he and others collected food and clothes for those who had none and carried them over bad roads in the dead of night; speaking of it, Boggs broke down weeping at the memory of the misery he served.

In later years, when Boggs returned to his music, members of the Free Pentecostal Holiness Church of God on Guest River, his church then, would send him un- signed letters condemning him for his apostasy.

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One Response to “Dock Boggs (#5)”

  1. REED MARTIN Says:

    Dock Boggs was a unique person alright. I never knew anyone else who would be happy and upbeat one minute, and then spiral into the blues the next. Usually the key was one drink of liquor.
    He had a rough life in the coal mines, and I assume his harrowing experiences underground were in part related to his moods and songs.
    During one visit he told me that he used to swing his banjo (not the Gibson Mastertone) back and forth like the pendulum on a clock – and sometimes toss it in the air during certain songs. I handed him my openback, lightweight banjo to demonstrate, but although I asked many times – he never demonstrated those talents.

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