friends of Chuck Larkin wrote longer thoughts. Click on the name to
read their reminiscences.
When I die
I may not go to heaven;
I don't know if they let liberals in.
If they don't, then let me go to Radford (SUUSI).
Radford is as close as I've been.
all alone at Baptist suppers;
'piscapalian collars fit too tight.
Well I've argued with the doctors at the temple
That it's good when it's feeling right.
through all of Hell or half of Georgia
Just to hear Chuck Larkin sing his song.
I'm a test for any congregation
But you're home when you're feeling you belong.
When I die
I may not go to heaven;
I don't know if they let liberals in.
If they don't, then let me go to Radford (SUUSI).
Radford is as close as I've been.
Larkin, 71, storyteller, TV host
By MIKE MORRIS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
With a look
as unique as the yarns he spun, Chuck Larkin was one of Atlanta's
most recognizable storytellers for more than 30 years.
the mustachioed host of the 1980s WPBA-TV variety show "Tonight
at Ferlinghetti's," died Friday of a heart attack. He was 71.
service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Unitarian Universalist
Congregation of Atlanta on Cliff Valley Way.
A charter member
of the Southern Order of Storytellers, Mr. Larkin was a regular
at the National Storytelling Festival held each year in Jonesborough,
Tenn., relaying his tall tales in a style akin to the late Justin
Wilson, the popular Cajun TV chef and raconteur.
of stories fascinates me," Mr. Larkin said in a 1991 interview.
"I've been telling a tale for years about it being so hot that the
shade moved into the middle of a tree to get out of the sun.
"Then one day,
not long ago, I was reading in the ancient Upanishads tales from
India, which are at least 3,000 years old. And lo and behold, there
was the same story."
said he got a lot of his stories from his job with the federal government.
say, I hear plenty of 'tall tales' every day," he said. "In fact,
I add to them by greeting every applicant with two of the greatest
lies in U.S. officialdom: 'We're glad you're here,' and 'I'm here
to help you.' "
which began on the Atlanta public television station during the
1982-83 season, followed a format similar to public radio's popular
"Prairie Home Companion." The show, which also featured local musical
acts, ran through August 1987.
Born Nov. 17,
1931, in New York City, Mr. Larkin was a "Navy brat" whose family
moved several times before settling in St. Petersburg, Fla., said
his daughter Karen Larkin Rehm of Marietta.
Mr. Larkin graduated
from the University of Florida in Gainesville and earned a master's
degree in sociology from the school.** He was a hospital corpsman
in the Navy during the Korean War, and worked for 28 years with
the Florida Council for the Blind, helping the visually impaired
In 1969, he
moved to Atlanta and began working as a training and employment
specialist with the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Labor Department
job took him to the hills of Tennessee and Kentucky, "and that's
where he picked up his storytelling," his daughter said.
to storytelling, Mr. Larkin played several traditional musical instruments
such as the banjo, musical saw, jaw harp and spoons. He built his
own zither, and in recent years had learned to play the American
Indian flute, according to his daughter.
Mr. Larkin had
appeared in 26 states, and was active in storytelling up until his
death while sitting at his computer in his Midtown home. His last
appearance was earlier this month at a festival in Ocala, Fla.
to his daughter, Mr. Larkin is survived by two other daughters,
Kathryn Larkin of St. Petersburg and Karla Roberts of Alpharetta,
and three granddaughters.
Chuck has left
this earth, but he is not gone. The Legend of Larkin remains.
kindness, generousity, mentoring, coaching, teaching, helping hands
and welcoming arms. His limitless stories and jokes which he encouraged
everyone to use and tell. His array of unique instruments that really
did make music - and made baggage inspection interesting. His love
of humor and just plain folks. He was larger than life - a legend
in his time.
In fact I figure
his legend is continuing.
Right now Chuck
is probably sitting on God's knee (I picture him about the size
of a mouse on your knee) asking Her hundreds of questions that he's
always tried to figure out. "What is the significance of numbers?
Nine? Three? Thirteen?" With a twinkle in his eye, he will even
slip into a few stories to get an Almighty laugh. Even if God has
heard the tales before, which I'm sure She has, She will laugh again
when Chuck tells them. Chuck reveled in making everyone laugh, this
will be his best performance.
After his personal
audience with God an angel will take him on a guided tour of the
place to answer the rest of his questions. He'll see the gated communities
for those who thing they have the only way to get into heaven, and
all kinds of other places.
Yes, he will
even ask to see that other place. The angel will wait by the gates
and won't go in, but Chuck will - with his thumb set firmly in his
fist between his big finger and ring finger on both hands for protection.
Ol' Scratch will greet him and they will swap lies back and forth
for some time. (That's the advantage of having a big repertoire.)
Chuck will brag his hunting exploits - how he killed a turkey, a
partridge, 5 doves, a rabbit, a squirrel, a deer, a moose, and a
dragon all with a single shot. Ol' Scratch will turn up the heat,
hoping to keep Chuck around to entertain him. But Chuck will tell
him about the time it was so hot in Georgia the cows rolled on their
backs and gave themselves milk baths, the mule out plowing the corn
field in sweltering heat froze solid when the corn popped and the
mule thought it was snow, and how he himself had outrun a bear he
met at the berry bushes that day - it was a long chase before the
bear fell through the ice of a not-quite-frozen lake in Minnesota
in December. Ol' Scratch will get laughing so hard that he won't
even notice when Chuck gets up, wraps a hot coal in a snowball for
a souvenir, and strolls back out the gate to where the angel is
Then the angel
will show Chuck that special place they have just for him in the
storytellers heaven. No gates on storyteller heaven - everyone is
welcomed to stop by. Chuck will have a spot near the entrance where
he can sit and see who's wandering by. He will invite them in with
stories, music and jokes and will "hold court" there forever. Maybe
someday I'll get to be there too.
The legend of
Chuck Larkin continues.
Dear Storytell Family and Chucks other Family,
I read this
news from Mikes original post last evening and felt too shocked
and sad to reply. I didn't want to believe it. I kept hoping that
somehow maybe it was a mistake - I kept looking for a post from
Chuck ..you know..'the news of my death has been greatly exaggerated'...
I thought about him a lot last night. I appreciate you sharing the
hard news with us, Mike.
Then this morning
more confirmation that it is true. Thanks Linda for answering the
question I woke up with on my mind - how he died. I am glad it was
sort of peaceful.
I first met
Chuck many years ago at the festival in Jonesboro. I was just getting
started and he sat with me, a perfect stranger and shared ideas
on storytelling. I never did get to know him very well in person,
but I sure did get to know and like and respect his thinking right
here on the list. I think he was pretty wise as well as entertining.
I wrote him
sometimes off list and I remember when I asked him for some funny
stories or even jokes for my husband to share with his best friend
who was dying and had asked for some funny stuff - I knew he would
have just the thing - and he emailed me so many that it came out
to about fifty printed pages. He knew I didn't have time for a snail
mail disk, as Bob did. And so my husband and his friend had a last
evening of good laughs because of Chuck's generosity and humor.
I later found
out, and always meant to tell him that my husband's dying friend
was a man he knew and respected, Hawk Littlejohn, the Cherokee man
who made a flute for Chuck. Maybe that one he played with Stephen
in TN. He would have liked to know that he gave some pleasure to
Hawk. Maybe now he does. Maybe Hawk met played him home with flute
I too will
truly miss him, and will re-read many of his saved posts as need
for that advice arises..I think this afternoon I will spend some
time again at his website and read some classic Chuck.
It seems odd
to me in a way that I feel such a deep loss, since unlike Stephen
and many others of you I did not know him well in person. But I
feel like I did know him and i liked him a lot.
What a light
for storytelling. I am glad he was here with us on this list. I
am glad to have all of you, too. Feels like we really are family
gathering closer at such sad news.
Like all of
you, I'm very sad to learn of Chuck's death. Do you suppose there
is any significance to the fact he died on Good Friday, the day
touched my heart. I'm sure many people people could tell such stories
about Chuck's generosity.
I never had the opportunity to become well acquainted with Chuck,
but I've heard him tell and talked with him at the conference many
times over the years.
Since my first
memories of Chuck came to mind, I'd like to share them with you.
The last conference that was held at Washington College in Jonesborough
was my first introduction to what was then NAAPS. I was fascinated
with Chuck himself, his stories, and his mustache during the conference.
At the end, as a closing, Jay O'Callahan had us all form a circle.
He asked us to share something from the conference we'd like to
tuck into an imaginary bag tied to our belts to take home. When
it was Chuck's turn he tucked a story called The Liar (found in
Apples of Immortality, a book of Armenian tales) that I had told
in a workshop done by a theater director named Richard, whose last
name I've long since forgotten, into his bag. I never saw Chuck
again, or told the story again without remembering the thrill of
Teller of Truth
I did not get
a chance to hang out with Chuck very much. I met him at the Storytelling
festival up by San Luis Obispo. And chatted with him online, and
at some of the Conferences. He had style and wit, and a great sense
of humor. I told a story at swap, and ran over time (the cardinal
offense). I apologized to him and was worried about it. He said
not to worry, and not to do it again. Besides, he said, "I love
a great selkie story". He was garroulous and I sense, sometimes
a bit opinionated and grumpy. All the things I look for in a man
of character. Chuck, you were many things, and all of them a class
By three things
you will know him;
By his outrageous
acts of poesy By his long and outstretched hand By his mirth,and
May he visit
Tir Nan Og, and regale at the feasts May his first meal be the salmon
of knowledge and the mead of poetry May his desert be the apples
Not easy will
it be to replace him Not easy will his words die Not easy will his
generosity be found again*** May he be the great eagle,above the
plains May he be the Gold Horned, red eared Stag, white, within
the forest May he be the Salmon of Knowledge,deep in the halls of
And may he know
joy in this world and the next, And may I stand him a cup, again.
And swap lies and truths with much abandon.
Thank you for
sharing your beautiful memories of Chuck Larkin with all of us.
I logged in this morning with thoughts of asking your suggestions
for a telling at an Arts Festival next week. Then I read the posts
about Chuck not being with us anymore (in body and on the list,
thru postings). It was your posting, Mary Lee, of "Fiddlers' Green"
that allowed me to cry, ruing the loss of any further connection
with this very generous, kind and wise good fellow.
may not be exactly the venue for "Fergus, the Lad Who Had No Story",
I'm going to tell it Tuesday and tell it in honor of Chuck. It was
one of the first stories he shared with me, and it is with joy that
I'll tell it. He had said he hoped he'd get to hear me tell it someday.
Now he will.
How rich those
of you who knew him well are, and how lucky I feel to have been
gifted by him. Thanks for sharing your memories.
Folks, I met
Chuck before I was even a storyteller - wasn't even aware I would
become a teller. But was with friends in Atlanta for the SOS Olde
Christmas Storytelling Festival in January 1986. I met Chuck at
the home of one of the tellers. My friends and I were there to see
how a storytelling conference is run as we were planning to do one
in July of that year. Chuck was very encouraging in his suggestions.
Later that evening, Chuck and I spent some time in Susan's kitchen
just talking about storytelling - I think he was the first person
who realized that there was a storyteller in me waiting to be freed.
I told my first stories eight months later! In my travels to SOS
conferences in the early '90s it was always a treat just to see
Chuck in action - I think someone mentioned earlier that there was
always a crowd around him - he drew people like a magnet and was
so generous with his time and energies.
after I quit my job to start telling stories full time, Chuck called
me. He was coming to KC for a gig and wanted to get together with
local storytellers. We talked for about an hour on the phone, and
set up to meet at his hotel the evening before his gig. I found
a few local storytellers to join me and we had a great time learning
new interests such as the mouth harp and nose flute and the musical
saw, then we told stories. We found that we had some things in common.
Chuck was a former Federal Employee... So was I! Chuck loved to
tell "real" ghost stories... So did I! Chuck had multiple talents...
Well two out of three's not bad! We began to get together every
national event, and really could talk to each other from experience.
I will miss
his friendship and leadership.
storyteller and friend to many of us, left this world on March 18,
Good Friday. He was at home, at his computer, and apparently had
a heart attack. He was generous, knowledgable, warm, and funny and
will be missed. Nancy Kavanaugh is putting out a call for memories
of Chuck and Ray-- especially of their early days in storytelling
-- for both the NSN web site and Storytelling Magazine. Please send
your memories as soon as possible to firstname.lastname@example.org The
web site of Chuck's home church is: Unitarian Universalist Congregation
of Atlanta , http://www.uuca.org/
In lieu of flowers
his family is asking for his friends to do a kind deed to someone
in need, which is what they feel he would want.
being posted at ChuckLarkin.com
Tellers, When I attended my first NSA Festival - the 9th, I was
introduced to Chuck who immediately took me under his wing and I've
been there in some form or other ever since. about four years ago,
my younger brother Fred was dying of cancer at the VA hospital in
Atlanta and we didn't know how bad he was because he lied about
his condition. He had emotional issues with some family members
and had his own deep, emotional problems - period.
I was frantic
to help him and had called Chuck because he and George Goldman,
a retired Atlantan and storyteller I'd met at a couple of festivals,
were the only folks I could think of that I knew lived there and
that might visit my brother or get others to visit him. Chuck was
the one who contacted George for me. We are Jewish and so is George.
Chuck also contacted another member of the Atlanta Guild who visited
doctor finally broke patient confidentiality and called my mom in
San Antonio that the end was near and somebody should get there
fast, I called Chuck, and he arranged to get my mother(flying in
from Texas) and my sister (flying in from New York) who is Orthodox
and somehow is better in these situations than I. He picked up my
mom who arrived first and when they got to the hospital, they learned
that my brother had died as her plane was landing at 6:30 PM.
Chuck had been
to visit him a couple of times in the weeks before it got that bad.
He later picked up my sister and he hosted the two of them overnight.
He got hold of George who it turns out, had been visiting my brother
earlier that day. George took my mother and sister out to eat the
next day and talked about the time he spent with Fred. He helped
with VA arrangements for my brother being shipped back to New York
for funeral and burial, and he was the one who tracked down my brother's
possessions and had them shipped free of charge to my mom later.
This wouldn't have happened without Chuck's initial help in contacting
God bless the
Storytelling Community! And God bless you, Chuck!
Lee & Frank Sweet
Chuck was an
amazingly well informed citizen and a truly great storyteller n
the old Irish tradition. We had the good fortune of knowing him
for almost ten years. He freely shared all of his stories, and his
storytelling expertise has benefited and influenced tellers across
our nation. His "wing" was wide, and we too enjoyed the benefit
of his support and encouragement. Frank and I will miss him as a
friend and a mentor. I'm sure he's on his way to the Irish Ceile
(party) in Fiddler's Green.
As I roved by
the dockside on evening so rare
To view the still waters and take the salt air
I heard an old fisherman singing this song
O take me away boys my time is not long
Dress me up in me oilskin and jumper
No more on the docks I'll be seen
Just tell me old shipmates
I'm taking a trip, mates
And I'll see them someday in Fiddler's Green
Green is a place I've heard tell
Where fishermen go when they don't go to Hell
Where the weather is fair and the dolphins do play
And the cold coast of Greenland is far, far away
The sky's always clear and there's never a gale
And the fish jump on board with a flip of their tail
You can lie at your leisure, there's no work to do
And the skipper's below making tea for the crew
And when you're
in dock and the long trip is thru
There's pubs and there's clubs, and there's lassies there too
Now the girls are all pretty and the beer is all free
And there's bottles of rum hanging from every tree
I don't want
a harp or a halo, not me
Just give me a breeze and a good rolling sea
And I'll play me old squeeze box as we sail along
When the wind's in the rigging to sing me this song
So long, Chuck.
We'll miss you.
"So fill to
me the parting glass
and joy be with you all."
Mary Lee & Frank
Sweet, Palm Coast, Florida
I was working
my way through my Inbox (Storytell filters into another folder)
when I came to a message from Ina about Chuck. My 1st reaction was:
WHAT! ! ! Then I flipped to the Storytell Inbox & saw this was too
true. The ironic thing was that just then my CD player chose exactly
that moment to give the final revived volume of Chopin's Funeral
Even that reminds
me of Chuck as he had the best funereal version of Happy Birthday.
When he came
to my library I remember approaching my library director, our storytelling
group, the newspapers, & the general public by saying he was a National
Treasure. He proved it easily to the largest crowd we ever received
for a storytelling program. After his visit, those of our group
that saw him in action KNEW what a tall tale was. Any of us who
attended his coaching session saw in action the things he tried
to explain about technique on STORYTELL.
The other thing
that pops into my head is that I _was there!!!_ when the incident
he loved to tell happened. The Michigan Storytellers Festival was
held in a tent that had become dangerously overloaded with rain.
Chuck was the M.C. & it fell to him to interrupt Jackie Torrance
in mid-story as she sat enthroned on a piano bench. Chuck loved
to talk about the importance of Para-language ... this was up to
the standards of Grand Opera! LoiS (ad news may travel fast, but
fond memories last)
I wrote to Rabbi
Fred Davidow, a member for many years of the Atlanta storytelling
group about all the accolades Chuck was getting and how he went
above and beyond making sure Chuck gave them a helping hand. Rabbi
Davidow passed this on to me to add to the list of remembrances.
Fred has moved
away to become the Rabbi in Wilkes Barre, PA. mentioning the direct
critiquing that Chuck did give. Once I was with a small group of
storytellers at Underground Atlanta. We were there to attract listeners
who had come to Underground Atlanta for purposes other than settling
down to listen to stories. I was standing up telling a story with
a very small number of listeners, struggling to hold their attention
against all the distractions in the marketplace. After the story
was over, Chuck said to me, "Sit down to tell the story and take
the pressure off yourself."
Now that's a
piece of advice I have followed many times since, a piece of advice
that I can trace to Chuck's astute comment. If you want to share
this with others, please do so.
I asked, "Have
any of you been in the situation where you knew a loved one's time
was nearing an end? What did you do? How did you approach them?
What did you say?" This was Chuck's answer to me: "Yes, too many
times. Celebrate their life. Talk about the fun memories by the
bed side. Place their cycle of life into one of meaning. Laughter
and grinning is a narcotic for pain and suffering. Hold their hands,
hold onto love and acceptance of death's departure. Chuck I am struck
by his words "Celebrate their life. Talk about the fun memories...place
their cycle of life into one of meaning..." Chuck knew what was
important in life and he was certainly a role model to many.
I've had 24
hours to let the news of Chuck's passing sink in. Today I told stories
all day and he was there in my stories. So, I just had to write...In
1982 when I went to Washington College for the first of many conferences
that I would attend, I met Chuck and his sidekick George. Even then,
Chuck did things his own way. He set a tent, as I recollect, and
did not stay in the dorms (which were only a set up from camping
anyway). I remember sitting in lawn chairs behind some building.
There was Chuck holding court for the renegades. It was just a friendly
gathering but it had its own charm. There were hidey-holes like
that in the early conferences where we could go off and have our
own "fringe" conference. It was there that I regaled Chuck with
my famous snake tongue and eyeball trick. It was Chuck who told
me to get a story with a "crazed snake" in it so I could put the
two together. Yup, I found the story alright. Whenever I saw Chuck
thereafter, I greeted him as Br'er Snake. He never failed to throw
back his head in a throaty laugh. As the nights wore on there at
the early conferences, the sweet huckleberry became a heady scent
and our stories became a steady steam of pure white gold.
by others' experiences, Chuck had a way of making you feel like
you were special. While you were in his presence, he was all yours.
Chuck could be harsh. He laid it on the line. But you knew he told
you those things because he had your best interests at heart. If
he didn't care so darn much, he would have just left you alone.
I can think of many times that I saw Chuck give advice that was
right on the money.
saw a post from Chuck, I'd read it. His writings were often masterful.
He knew how to get the info out there in a concise, informative
and enjoyable way - just look at one of his last posts about using
a sound system. He deeply cared that we presented our stories in
the best way possible. I also liked his writings on world mythology,
paralanguage and humor. I can't think of Chuck without thinking
of his bodacious humor. "I'd rather eat fried chicken than lie to
ya!" He made me laugh, not just a giggle, but a knee-slappin' hee-haw
kind of laugh that cleanses one's soul. I can't say his political
leanings were mine, but you never had to second guess where he was
coming from. He respectully accepted others opinions, but stuck
to his own six-shooters. He was so proud of his Celtic and Southern
heritage. He wore both badges proudly. It came out in his stories
and his writings.
One year he
came to St. Louis for our festival. I was still in the late fledgling
stage and he asked me out to dinner. Me! He could have spent more
time with the featured tellers, but he chose to have supper with
me. He did that all the time with so many other wannabes. Always
ready to take them under his wing. One time at the New Salem festival,
he insisted that I tell one of his favorite stories during his session.
Now, how many storytellers of his caliber have you seen do that?
And, of course,
not just the storytelling community is mourning his loss. Besides
his family and former co-workers, he will be missed by the folk
music people. Chuck loved music. He's the only person I know that
could sing in the key of "saw." Late at night at Washington College
the midsummer wind carried those haunted notes to the top of the
mountains where the whipporwill and hoppy toads sang three part
My last comment
is that Chuck was so intelligent. He was a raconteur who could talk
on a variety of subjects. I just loved to hear him get off on a
subject. BTW, he was a big-time kidder. Sometimes you didn't know
he was "kiddin' with ya" till it was too late. Gotcha!
So, Chuck, wherever
you are...thanks for the melodies. Their haunting notes will play
Marilyn A. Kinsella,
Taleypo the Storyteller