Sean Deitrich never thought he would be a radio personality or an online podcaster. Nor a prose writer, a newfound passion which had preceded his recent debut as a live and audio performer. He grew up working blue collar jobs, and told us that if you suggested to him a few years ago that he would be living on the road traveling from one show to another with his wife, “I would’ve told you that you had the IQ of room-temperature mud.”
But he has become something of a populist sage of the south, starting with a syndicated newspaper column that shared homespun tales of life in the southeastern US, and now with him sharing them on stage before a live audience. Now with his Sean Of The South podcast, he presents a highly entertaining 45-minute program structured like an old time radio show, with musical guests and his own monologues sprinkled throughout. Think an audio brew blending Tom Bodette, and Garrison Keillor without the smug.
And the music he chooses for his shows is bluegrass. Recent musical guests have included Backline, Kristi Stanley, Lonesome Days, Lateral Blue, Commonwealth Bluegrass, Thunder and Rain, The Wooks, and The Family Sowell. These artists are well-represented in each episode, usually returning to perform several times in each.
The podcast is still in its infancy. Sean told us that he has just recorded the 40th episode, but it is finding an audience among people who appreciate the down-home feel, the wholesome and generally hilarious stories, and the good bluegrass sounds.
He said that it actually got started without any forethought or planning at all.
“We started traveling a few years ago because of my syndicated column, Sean of the South. My readers asked me to come speak at certain events. Initially, I turned these offers down. I’ve never considered myself a speaker. Eventually, they wore me down, and I started speaking live. I wasn’t sure that I even liked doing it at first, but the requests to come speak came in by the dozens, then the hundreds. So, over the past two years, my wife and I have sort of lived on the road full-time. Occasionally, we get a week or so to ourselves, here and there, and then it’s back on the road.
Anyway, a year ago, a friend of mine recorded one of my stories in Verbena, Alabama. He used a nice microphone and produced it. And when I heard it, I couldn’t believe it was me. It sounded like old radio variety show. My friend said, ‘Hey, you know what? You should record your stories and put them into a a podcast.’ And that was the beginning.”
Deitrich credits his wife as the brains behind the operation. She books the halls and handles promotion, while he concentrates on the technical needs for the stage show.
But though his monologues are scripted, they try to maintain a homeyness in all the episodes.
“Each show is a little different. Sometimes they are fundraisers for charitable events, and a committee has hired me to do the show. Other times, it’s just a small town event, and they’ve brought me in to sort of emcee it. We try to keep our events folksy. My favorite events are the ones where we include things like poundcake competitions, and fruit preserves contests. It feels like going back in time when we get to crown a white-haired woman as the winner. The last poundcake competition we did was in Monroeville, AL, and I ate so much cake I almost got sick!”
To get a feel for Sean Of The South, here is a recent episode called Baptist Angels, featuring Backline. It’s funny and fun, and most any southern listener will recognize the tropes and the personalities he embodies.
You can subscribe to the podcast for free on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Podbean, and all the other popular podcast apps. All previous episodes can he heard on the Sean Of The South web site, where you can also subscribe or download episodes to listen to later.
With a little success, sponsors have come calling, but so far Sean has managed to make a living from what they get from the live shows.
“We’ve had several sponsors approach us about running ads within the show. I’m pretty choosy about how this would be done—if at all. I really wanted this show to maintain the feel of an old radio variety show, just like it would feel for an audience member. But as the show has gotten bigger we’ve had to consider sponsors because it’s costing more to produce the show. I hate money matters, so I’ll resist them as long as I can. So for now, our first 40 episodes have been nothing but fun, music, and stories.”
If you love old time radio, and good bluegrass, Sean Of The South is something you are likely to enjoy.