This gifted songwriter makes his home in the midlands, where he loves the climate and the people – and the chance to perform.
By Clair DeLune
Laurence Beall comes by his nickname, “Luckyman,” ironically.
As an emancipated teenager at the age of 15, he left his Fairfax, Virginia home, and hitchhiked throughout the South. Hundreds of interim jobs, thousands of music gigs, and one CD later, Luckyman landed in the Midlands of South Carolina in 2007.
Nine years and a second CD later he says he is here for good, which made it South Carolina’s lucky day because Luckyman Beall is one of the most gifted songwriters in the nation.
Long, lean and lanky, and with a drawl that beats all, Luckyman takes his “Most Exalted Potentate One-Man-Band of the Blues” act across the country, but lives on a small farm in Lexington County where he and his wife, Rhonda, raise chickens, grow much of their own food, and appreciate the beauty, climate and people here.
“The countryside here is beautiful. You can travel anywhere you want, but If you like lots of green trees and a pretty good climate, then this is where it’s at. Columbia has very few of the problems of more congested areas, but the main reason I chose to stay is because the people are so friendly. The people in the Carolinas are really nice people.”
Influenced by the disparate styles of musicians like Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, Lucky also cites stylistic influences from genres like Rockabilly, Country, Blues and Roots music as contributors to his distinctly Southern style. As an independent farmer, many of his songs revolve around food, including “Hoe Cake,” from the “Huntsville Sessions” CD.
Award-winning harmonica player and friend, Freddie Vanderford, joined us one afternoon on Lucky’s farm. They jammed together in the woodshed studio, and later, we were treated to a tasty batch of Lucky’s famous homemade hoe cakes.
“The secret of my hoe cakes is to use a hominy that is finely ground to the consistency of flour. Mix equal parts water, put a pinch of salt in the mix, stir, and cook them on each side in small batches in a half-inch of good pork grease for flavor,” Lucky explained as he stood over a sizzling hot iron frying pan making us up a delicious batch of these cakes that historically were heated on the blade of a hoe over an open fire.
Lucky believes that life is about integrating one’s interests. His many talents include food, art and music. In addition to playing as often as possible, he also serves the family’s own homemade barbecue at his hot dog and barbecue cart, weather permitting, most weekdays from 11-2 p.m. at 1423 Main Street. “People believe the myth that you have to cook food to death for it to be Southern, but that is not true. A lot of barbecue is overcooked and slathered with awful sauce. That’s just slop and you’d have to be mad at your dog to feed it to him. But, Southern cooking done right is some of the best cuisine I’ve ever had.”
“You can learn about life from farming,” he says, telling how raising chickens has helped him connect to the earth. “It used to sound like clucking, but now I can hear the difference in the chickens’ chatter – I can tell what they are happy about and what they are upset about, such as when the rooster sends an alert that a hawk is flying overhead and it’s time to run for the hiding place.”
He is proud to show off his farm and his chickens. The long rows of crops present the work he and Rhonda put into the earth. Eggs are touted for their beautiful range of colors, and he appreciates the speckled blue and brown shells, as well as the plain white ones, because he believes the mundane everyday things have as much beauty in them as the unusual ones do.
He observes life and learns from people as well as his chickens. Tuning in to the earth and the folks on it, the lyrics of his songs capture everyday events. One particular song, “She Make a Bulldog Break His Chain,” was written about a burly day worker who caught a fleeting glimpse of a beautiful young woman sunbathing on the property. Lucky heard the man utter that colorful phrase and ran to his truck to write the lyrics to what would become one of his most popular songs. Recognizing a uniquely Southern turn of phrase is one thing, but weaving words into a lyrical tapestry is what differentiates a songwriter from a mere performer.
“Music is a way of getting in touch with a part of yourself that you just can’t reach in and grab ahold of and the only thing that breaks through to that part of you, is some type of art form, in my case music,” he explains.
The “Huntsville Sessions” and his solo follow up to it, “Jus’ Lucky,” reflect two different sides of his musicianship. “Huntsville Sessions” was fully produced with respected studio musicians and has won a number of accolades, including selection as the album of the year on the Midlands only Blues show, WUSC’s Blues Moon Radio. "I'd had this sound in my head for years, of connecting the dots between Country and Blues and Rockabilly and Soul. I used Dan Hocter on Hammond organ, Mark Torstensen on Double Bass and Blues maestro Ardie Dean on old circa 1940s drums to build that bridge and it worked really well."
Lucky’s latest pursuit as a one-man-band reflects a streamlined sound on his most recent CD, breaking the music down to its essence - a very raw and rootsy, quintessentially Southern sound.
“I play a bass drum with my left foot and a snare and high hat with my right foot, pick a guitar with my hands and also sing. I play stand-up bass, but not on the same gig – there’s not enough hands to do guitar and bass at the same time so you’ll have to come to a different show to hear me play the bass,” he teased.
“What I’m hoping is that the emotional content of my songs will resonate – the picture I have in my head is not as important – but it is important for my audience to feel something and their vibration and energy should be intense in a positive way. I want someone to have a deeply positive emotional experience when they hear me play.”