published Thursday, April 18th, 2013

'Good Ol' Girls' onstage

Friends hit high note at the Celebration of Southern Literature


What: An Evening with Jill McCorkle, Lee Smith, Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman: The Voices Behind "Good Ol' Girls"

When: 5:15-6:15 p.m. today, April 18

Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

Admission: $10; free with Celebration badge

Phone: 423-267-1218



Film Screening

What: "The Rough South of Larry Brown," named one of the 13 Essential Southern Documentaries by Oxford American Magazine

When: 8 p.m. Friday, April 19

Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

Admission: $10 (free with Celebration badge)


What: "Bethany" by Laura Marks, winner of the 2013 Bryan Family Foundation Award for Drama, followed by talk-back with the cast

When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20; separate reception with beer, wine and light snacks will follow at 7:30 p.m., ending with viewing of Spark fireworks finale from patio at 9:40 p.m.

Where: Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.

Admission: $5 reading (free with Celebration badge); $15 reception

Phone: 423-267-8534


Note: Not an official Southern Lit Alliance event but is being offered free to participants


The Celebration of Southern Literature will include book signings, readings and panel discussions with 50 authors. It will take place at the Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St., 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday, April 18; 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday, April 19; and 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 19. Three-day admission is $100 for adults, $30 for students. Daily passes are $50, and there's a Saturday luncheon, featuring Beth Henley, for $35. For the full schedule of events, visit For other information, call 423-267-1218.

A couple of times a year, authors Jill McCorkle and Lee Smith get together with musicians Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman to tell stories and perform a few songs from a production they worked on in 1998. Since it has become a Broadway musical, they aren't supposed to use the name, but most folks know it as "Good Ol' Girls."

They will revive their collaboration today, April 18, at the Tivoli Theatre as part of the Celebration of Southern Literature.

"It's the four of us," Chapman said. "Lee and Jill will read some of the passages, and we'll sing a little. What's different is that for the first time since 1998, we will all have new product. We will throw in some new stuff."

Chapman said they can easily do two hours or more, but for this they will be onstage for about an hour.

"We will also have a big surprise, which I can't tell you about," she teased.

McCorkle and Smith are part of the larger event presented by the Southern Lit Alliance and will participate throughout the weekend.

"For me and Matraca, we will hit it and quit it," Chapman said.

"Good Ol' Girls" was created after Berg called Chapman with the idea almost 15 years ago.

"She called out of the blue, and I didn't know her that well, and quite frankly I was intimidated by her," Chapman recalled. "I think she had six No. 1 singles that year. She later told me she was intimidated by me and my ... rock 'n' roll reputation."

Berg was calling because she wanted to do a musical and call it "Good Ol' Girls" with Chapman and Lee Smith.

Berg asked Chapman if she would contact Smith, whom Chapman knew but hadn't spoken to in some time. Chapman tells the rest of the story mimicking Smith's high-pitched Southern accent.

"I called her, and she said, 'I love Matraca,' and then I told her she wanted to do a musical, and she went 'Oh,' " Chapman said. "That was about it, so I figured message delivered."

A few days later, Smith called back and said, "OK, I went to this cocktail party in Chapel Hill (N.C.) and ran into this brilliant director, and also I think we should bring Jill McCorkle in, and Paul Ferguson is going to direct it."

The musical is based on the writings of Smith and McCorkle. Berg and Chapman contributed some songs, a few of which had existed before the collaboration.

Chapman will release her 13th CD, "Blaze of Glory," on May 28. She said she firmly believes it is her best, which comes as a big surprise to her since she didn't think she could top her last, "Big Lonesome."

"I'm just so ecstatic with it," she said. "I had these songs coming out, and this was the soonest I've ever been ready to record. I just feel so alive, and I'm so stunned to find myself with these."

She said the songs were recorded in the order they were written. When she finished writing the title track, the final cut, she knew the project was ready for recording.

"When I finished," she said, "it wasn't just a period but an exclamation point."

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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