The Road Less Graveled-Homespun Humor Has Folks Laughin’ Along With Alabama Musician
Fatback, frog giggin’, mules and magnolias. They’re all part of a culture that shaped the mind of Alabama native Brent Holmes, who loves sharing the tales of the South in his book of redneck poetry and in children’s songs.Growing up in Brundidge, Ala., Holmes was just one generation removed from outhouses, mules and a simpler way of life, he said. However, his appreciation of humor and tall tales, helped mold him into a modern day poet and songwriter.Uncle Handsome’s Redneck Poetry; The Road Less Graveled, written by Holmes, is in its third printing and continues to draw new fans like flies to honey. But the author’s popularity is growing in other directions as well. He has written and recorded four children’s CDs that feature songs like “Welcome to Bermooda” and “I Met a Cow Wearing a Moo Moo,” which are hits from his first CD Cow Tunes for Kids.”I taught myself to play the banjo when I was about 15 years old,” Holmes recalled. “I ordered it from Sears, and it was wonderful. A friend helped me learn to play the guitar, and I always dreamed of going to Nashville.”But his longing for the big city lights and the music industry were overshadowed for years by his sensible side that told him he needed to get an education and make a living. He graduated from Huntingdon College with a degree in biology, and then moved to Auburn University where he was pursuing a master’s degree in aquaculture.”We grew up in town, but my dad (David Holmes) always had a farm a few miles away,” Holmes said. “We raised cattle and catfish, and I was very interested in aquaculture. But what I really wanted to do was go to Nashville. When I learned about a man near Nashville who was looking for someone to run his catfish farm, that was my ticket. It gave me a job to do while I was learning about how Nashville works.”While he was working on the catfish farm, Holmes enrolled in Belmont College where he took classes that included an introduction into the music industry. On weekends, he performed where he could, mostly for Methodist youth groups in the area.”I was writing songs, and I never wanted to try to become a country music star,” he said. “I really wanted to get a comedy song recorded.”That dream came true when he and a friend, Stuart Dill from Mobile, co-wrote a hilarious song entitled “Southern Air” that was recorded by Ray Stevens and the late comedic legends Minnie Pearl and Jerry Clower. “That was a turning point for me,” Holmes recalled. “I actually heard a song I wrote on the radio. It would have been great for any one of those artists to record my song, but to have all three of them involved was just unbelievable.”Holmes also wrote a country rap song recorded by Jerry Clower entitled “Top Gum.”About the same time his first song was recorded, Holmes began working on his book The Road Less Graveled which is a collection of redneck poetry about Southern living. Jerry Clower wrote in the forward of the book: “When God turned that talent spout on Brent Holmes, he let it run awhile. This book of poetry proves it.”The book features writings by Uncle Handsome, Holmes’ fictitious uncle who pokes fun at Southerners but makes no apologies for being one himself.Holmes was so humbled by the reception of the book that he decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation and Beyond Borders, a non-profit education program which teaches literary and vocational skills to some of Haiti’s most impoverished people.”I decided to do that in hopes that everyone would give a little something of what they make to help someone else,” Holmes said. “Think of what a difference we could make if we all did that.”Holmes’ gentle nature and easy smile, seem well suited for a man who writes and sings children’s songs, even though he’s never married nor has any children of his own. In fact, writing the children’s songs was sort of an accident, he said.”I had a dream one night about a cow in my grandmother’s kitchen,” Holmes said. “When I woke up, I was sort of embarrassed to have dreamt such a thing, me being a grown man and all. But I got to thinking about what a neat kid’s song that would be. So I wrote ‘The Cow’s in the Kitchen at Grandma’s House.’ Next I wrote a song called ‘Eating Ice Cream ‘Til the Cows Come Home,’ and I thought I might be on to something.”As Holmes began developing the idea of Cow Tunes for Kids, he toured Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Vermont. He asked his friend Dave Hoffner, who was a producer in Nashville, to take a look at the idea. After the songs were recorded on cassettes and CDs, Holmes began selling them at Ben and Jerry’s gift shop. Then he branched out to include lots of mom-and-pop stores in that state and then eventually sold the music in adjoining states.It was one of the shop owners in Vermont who suggested Holmes’ next CD–Moose Tunes for Kids. It features songs like “There’s a Chocolate Moose on the Loose,” “The Three Mooseketeers,” and “Merry Christmoose Darlin’.”Holmes was on a roll by then and expanded his collection to include Bear Tunes for Kids featuring songs like “I Can’t Wait to Hibernate”, and “I See a Barefoot Bear.”His most recent collection features animals of a different sort. Just last month he released Sea Tunes for Kids with songs like “The Peanut Butter Pirates,” “You & Me & the Baby Manatee” and “The Horseshoe Crab & The Seahorse.”A compilation of educational songs written and recorded by Holmes is set to be released this month. It’s called Fun Tunes for Teachers and has educational lyrics that encourage learning as well as sing-alongs aimed at students in kindergarten through third grade.”It gives me a lot of pleasure to write children’s songs,” Holmes said. “Nashville songs have to fit a certain formula to be successful. But with kids’ songs, you’re unlimited in what you can sing about–you can put a moose on the moon if you want to. I really think my children’s CDs will be around a lot longer than most hit songs. When you think about it, I have a new audience born every day.”Holmes, 40, now makes his home in Estes Park, Colo., and travels to Nashville only to record and produce songs. He spends a lot of his time traveling the countryside selling his songs and book to stores. While he hopes to write more children’s songs in the future, he also hopes to have his own folk album of adult songs featuring acoustics and ballads.Copies of the CDs cost $14.95, cassettes are $11.95 each and are available for purchase on the website: www.cowtunes.com or by calling 1-800-431-1579.Paperback copies of “The Road Less Graveled” sell for $9.95 and are available on the web at www.redneckpoetry.com or by calling 1-800-741-2712. CD versions of “The Road Less Graveled” also are available for $14.95.