Harrell’s stories are verbal vitamin B12

Published 11:00 pm Monday, January 21, 2013

Although his name might suggest that he’s a riverboat gambler or the dealer in high-class casino, Michael Reno Harrell is, simply put, a story slinger. And he slings with the best of storytellers in the county.

That’s why he’s coming almost right back to the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival on Saturday at the Trojan Center Theater on the campus of Troy University.

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Harrell was a featured teller at the 2010 storytelling festival. People liked the man with “the long, white hair” and asked for him to come back. So, Harrell’s back.

“It truly is an honor and a pleasure to be asked back to the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival,” Harrell said. “It really is one of the premier events in the storytelling world.

“What fun to be a part of the Pike Piddlers again. I’d come back even if they held the festival in South America.”

Harrell spoke with tongue in cheek for he says his stories take place in South America – Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia – “that South America.”

“With all the bad news we get flooded with every day, finding out that I was invited back to the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival was like winning the lottery. Well, maybe not the Powerball but pretty dang close.”

Storytelling comes naturally to Harrell. His style has been described as being like a breakfast of butter and sugar cane syrup on a warm buttered biscuit.

Lawrence Bowden, vice president of the sponsoring Brundidge Historical Society, said that that Harrell’s storytelling is more like a big dose of vitamin B12.

“He’ll get you up and going,” Bowden said. “He tells a story and then he sings the story. It’s a very interesting combination.”

Harrell travels all across the county telling stories that reflect events and histories common to all. He is a master of taking his listeners back to the good ol’ days, back to the days of bicycles, fireworks, piano lessons, good dogs and bad school lunches.

Bowden said Harrell’s “Southern Suggestions” could have been written about Pike County because it’s about all the things, Pike Countains hold true – like corn meal on green tomatoes, clear fingernail polish when chiggers get a-hold of your legs and tractor tires painted white for planters and car tires tied to a rope for a swing.

Harrell’s performances have been compared to his granddaddy’s pocketknife – well worn and familiar feeling but razor sharp and with a point.

He has appeared at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., the International Storytelling Center and major storytelling festivals across the country and the British Isles and at major music festivals, including MerleFest and the Walnut Valley Festival.

The Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival features three storytelling concerts at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Trojan Center Theater on the campus of Troy University.

Pre-show music is by Broken Strings Bluegrass Band (morning), The Benton Brothers and Company (afternoon) and The Lighthouse String Ensemble (evening). Music will begin 30 minutes prior to the storytelling concerts.

For tickets, call (334) 735-3125 or visit Studio 116 in Brundidge or The Messenger in Troy.

The Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival is sponsored in part by the Alabama State Council on the Arts with support for the National Endowment for the Arts.