Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Independent Bookstore" (Live)- Josiah Meigs and Me- A Song Cycle for Puppets, November 2001 (Unreleased)

In November 2001, Vic performed a handful of shows, in New York, that were entitled "Josiah Meigs and Me: A Song Cycle for Puppets." The shows featured words and music by Vic, and a stage production by filmmaker Jane Geiser, one of the country's most foremost puppeteers. The stage show, which was called “a grand little live-action silent movie,” was elaborate and artistic, and was well received by both press and fans alike.

The cycle revolved around the man Josiah Meigs; an academic, writer, lawyer and former President of the University of Georgia. His influence was great, and even though he was unlamented as President, his name is still prominent at the University, and in Athens.

Vic recognized similarities between Josiah and his late father. The biggest being that both were ousted from their jobs due to corporate and political idealism. Josiah resigned his duty as President in 1810 after several disputes with the Board of Trustees. In Vic's father's case, he was let go from his job at Eastern Airlines, and died within a year as a result. His death is something that Vic never let go of, and rightfully so.

When asked about his fascination with Meigs, Vic was quoted as saying:

"He was a smart man with deep convictions, and he was surrounded by political opponents. I had a dream in which he was talking to me. I don't remember what he said, but it was my late father's head he was talking with. That's what really hooked me- he'd climbed deep into m psyche and hooked up with my father. This song cycle is about finding Meigs and what that led me to discover about myself and my country."
The concerts consisted of Vic on stage left, with an array of different sized puppets,
each of which representing a character from the cycle, rotating through the storyline center stage.There's was a three-quarter sized Vic marionette animated to relay his memories and thoughts (including both a rowboat and dreaming sequences), a life-sized, large headed Josiah Meigs cranking a wheel of a printing press, a miniature reenactment of the founding of UGA, and other assorted puppets.

The song cycle included all new compositions (save one- Flying, which was an old track about Vic's father.) The story starts with the discovery of a book, by Vic, at a used bookstore about the history of UGA. There he discovered the history of Meigs and understood the correlation between Josiah and his father. The storyline develops into the telling of his heritage and about how that knowledge changed his perspective on life.

The song that is included here is first song of the storyline. It tells of the discovery of the above mentioned book, and is a fun listen.

I know that Vic held this production as one of the high points in his performance career, and I'm glad that a document of the evenings exist. Vic's music has always been theatrical and imaginative. This production is proof of that.

Further reading:


Once I found myself in Oxford, Mississippi
One sunny summer afternoon
I was hungry, hungry downtown on the square
But all the restaurants were closed

Well just when I felt on the verge of blasphemy
I realized it was a Sunday
And that is the one day
When around there all the restaurants would be closed
(Spoken: Baptists don't eat on Sunday, ya know?)
I was starting to swoon, yeah.
The sun was doing more than loom
When out the corner of my eye
Something sparkled.
It looked like and then proved to be a great little independent bookstore sign

Well, I guess for a heathen like me, that's a steeple beckoning
So I started in over towards it, but as soon as my hand hit the door
Every single author I had ever come across or, especially the four or five that I'd been dying to read...

They flew right out of mind
They flew right out of mind
Yes, They flew right out of mind
They flew right out of mind
They flew right out of mind

So, where oh where would I start to look,
in all those stacks of dusty books
For the one of many that I know was there
that even I could appreciate

I used my eagle eye
to spy the table 'Marked to Move.'Then I sorta sidled over
I stuck in my thumb and pulled out like a plum
a text with a title that took me aback.

It was entitled, "College Life in The Old South- as Seen at the University of Georgia."
Well, that's kind of like my Alma mater
Seeing as I've lived in that historic college town ever since I dropped or flunked out

And the book is only three dang dollars
The book is only three dang dollars
Yeah, the book is only three dang dollars
Yeah, the book is only three dang dollars
Yeah, the book is only three dang dollars...
and I'm a cheap fucker...
It's only three dang dollars

Yeah, the book is only three dang dollars
The book is only three dang dollars
Yeah, the book is only three dang dollars
The book is only three dang dollars

Yes, the book was only three dang dollars so I didn't have to shoplift it.


  1. hopefully, a dvd of this performance will eventually be made available. glad to see these pictures. puts the audio into greater perspective. i kind of want that Vic puppet. how cool and creepy.

  2. Well, I do have the DVD, but I don't know about getting it out there just yet. Vic would have been cool with it, but I don't know Jane. It is her work as well.

  3. I, too, would hope that the performance might find a new/wider audience on dvd, but regardless, thanks for posting the pictures and the song. I've heard about this for years but never really knew much about it.

  4. Please for the love of Jesus get a hold of Jane and ask her if you can post it. Put a PayPal link and give half the proceeds to Vic's estate and half to Jane. I don't know how many days/years on this earth I have left, none of us do, and this is something I don't want to leave this realm without seeing. What's the point of hiding this away?

  5. I'd like to see this out there, too. I had tickets for both nights, but was unable to fly up from mobile (where I was living at the time) to brooklyn. luckily, cheddarcat recorded and sent me an audio copy of the show (and got vic's signature on it!), but these are the first images I've seen of the thing. I'd love to see this, too.

  6. Charles,

    Could I buy a personal copy of the DVD from you? If I promise it won't leave my house? E-mail =

  7. Hi, Charles. Has anything transpired regarding the dvd? I have a personal connection with both Josiah and Vic. Josiah is my 5th great grandfather and I have been a fan of Vic’s for years. I had the opportunity to meet Vic a few times and see several of his shows in Athens. I had no idea he was into Josiah until the puppet show happened in NY. I did talk to Vic about it afterwards and he was shocked that I was Josiah’s decedent. He said he was obsessed with Josiah for years. That was pretty cool to think Vic Chestnut wrote songs about MY grandfather. If there is any way I could get a copy of the dvd, please let me know. It would mean a lot to me and my family. Sincerely, Amy Haynie (