Another Deep Southern Gen X sampler, from “the lists”

The section in level:deepsouth called “the lists” is for collecting and sharing articles, sound files, videos, and images from Generation X’s early years in the Deep South and from today. Below is a sampler.

Bear: The Hard Life and Good Times of Alabama’s Coach Bryant by Paul “Bear” Bryant  with John Underwood (1975)

Bear Bryant was the college football coach from the early 1960s through this retirement in 1983. Bryant left the game as the winningest coach of all time, with 315 wins, and he had won a half-dozen national championship between 1961 and 1979. This book came out at the height of his success. 

“Charlemagne Record Exchange closing after 42 years,” on, December 2019

From the late 1970s until December 2019, Charlemagne was Birmingham’s independent record store. Located in an upstairs shop in Five Points South, the store was a classic record store.

Jason and the Scorchers, “White Lies,” at Farm Aid in 1986

Nashville-based Jason and the Scorchers came early in the “alt-country” movement in the 1980s. This video shows them playing one of their hits at the Farm Aid benefit concert.

Beanland: Rising from the Riverbed (documentary, 2004)

Oxford, Mississippi-based Beanland was an early Southern jam band that played from 1986 to 1993. Members later played in the Kudzu Kings and Widespread Panic.

To contribute to the lists, use the contact form on the about page.

The Lower End of the Highest Rates

Sometimes I try to do things
and they just don’t work out the way I want ’em to . . .
— from “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies

In the era when Generation X was coming of age, suicide was a growing problem but was seldom discussed openly, honestly, or rationally. Then, as we came of age in the 1980s, the subject was becoming something that had to be addressed. Public outrage was aimed at Ozzy Osbourne’s “Suicide Solution” after a teenager killed himself in 1986. A few years later, in 1990, two sets of parents sued Judas Priest over allegations that subliminal messages in songs had caused their sons’ suicides in 1985. Parents of Gen-Xers nationwide were worried the gateway drugs of heavy metal and Dungeons & Dragons were going to lead kids to worship the devil and end their lives. Looking back, they were worried about the wrong things. 

Though times have changed and suicide prevention is discussed more openly, one CDC study tells us that the trends were scary in the ’80s and ’90s, especially among boys: 

The suicide rate for males aged 15–19 years increased from 12.0 to 18.1 per 100,000 population from 1975 to 1990, declined to 10.8 by 2007, and then increased 31% to 14.2 by 2015. The rate in 2015 for males was still lower than the peak rates in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. Rates for females aged 15–19 were lower than for males aged 15–19 but followed a similar pattern during 1975–2007 (increasing from 2.9 to 3.7 from 1975 to 1990, followed by a decline from 1990 to 2007). The rates for females then doubled from 2007 to 2015 (from 2.4 to 5.1). The rate in 2015 was the highest for females for the 1975–2015 period.

Source: CDC (shows national data)

That brief report doesn’t get into the causes but some studies have attributed the decline in teen-suicide rates to more effective antidepressants that came on the market in the late 1980s. The real question should have been: why do so many teenagers need antidepressants?

However, despite those heavy increases in teen suicides nationally, rates in the Deep South tended to be lower. A January 2001 publication titled “Juvenile Suicides, 1981 – 1998,” shows that rates in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina were near or below the national average. In Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee, rates were only slightly higher. Arkansas’s much-higher rate was an outlier for the region. That 2001 report also contains graphs showing that suicides were more common among white teenagers than black, and more common among boys than girls. These maps from that report give a visual representation of the differences:

Source:OJDP/CDC, 2001

The maps also show us something else about the culture of Generation X in the Deep South: murder rates were higher than suicide rates among teenagers. That says to me that, back then, violence was more likely to be turned outward than inward, especially in a culture where guns were prevalent.

Stories about teen suicide and efforts to prevent it littered Southern newspapers throughout the ’80s and ’90s. In September 1989, an AP wire article out of Little Rock explained that a state commission was looking at the problem, because Arkansas’s annual rate increase was “a staggering 88 percent.” Another article out of Mississippi in March 1987 said that teen suicides had doubled since 1970, though the increase there could have been attributed to “better overall record keeping since 1978 and an eroding stigma about putting suicide as the official cause of death on death certificates.” 

The numbers show that suicide was a major problem among Generation X. They also show that the problem was less severe in the Deep South, though it’s hard to say why. Maybe the Southern penchant for valuing family and tradition made a difference. Maybe it was a byproduct of a culture with a strong religious element. Maybe we were less tapped-in to pop culture. Whatever the reasons, they either aren’t clearly documented or aren’t easily located. 


A Deep Southern Gen X sampler, from “the lists”

The section in level:deepsouth called “the lists” is for collecting and sharing articles, sound files, videos, and images from Generation X’s early years in the Deep South and from today. Below is a sampler.

“The murder of Kevin Ives and Don Henry” in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas

In August 1987, the suspicious deaths of two teenage boys who had gone hunting in rural Arkansas was featured in an episode of NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries. 

“The Devil Went Down to ‘Bama” in Spin

In 1993, the Montgomery, Alabama public-access show “Channel Zero,” which featured alternative music, was taken off the air for allegedly promoting satanism.

Blood in the Soil: A True Tale of Racism, Sex, and Murder in the South by Carole Townsend (2016)

This 2016 true-crime book looks back at the 1978 shooting of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt in Georgia.

Get the Side Effects (with director’s commentary)

This short 1980 documentary, posted on YouTube with the director’s latter-day comments, takes a DIY look at the Athens, Georgia band The Side Effects.

To contribute to the lists, use the contact form on the about page.