Some of you may think you don’t know Chuck Leavell, but I guarantee you’ve heard his music and you’ve felt his passion for the environment.
Chuck is the keyboardist for the Rolling Stones and has been for 31 years now. In the early to mid ‘70s, he was the keyboardist for the Allman Brothers Band. Specifically, you may recognize his beautiful piano solo in their classic and timeless hit, “Jessica,” which has been featured in movies, TV shows, commercials and even video games. Besides his work with the Rolling Stones, Chuck is a first call session musician and a solo artist. He has worked with Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Gov’t. Mule, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Black Crowes, The Marshall Tucker Band, John Mayer and many others. Chuck is also a celebrated author and one of the foremost authorities on forestry and conservation. He is a tree farmer, and a practicer of and advocator for sustainable forest management and has taken his cause to Capitol Hill where he has played a pivotal role in shaping the forestry aspect of recent U.S. Farm bills. He is the cofounder of Mother Nature Network, the preeminent independent website for all things environmental and more.
You’ll learn even more about this amazing man in the following interview for which he so graciously gave of his time to TheCelebrityCafe.com’s Tina Henry.
TCC: While once explaining why you aren’t the stereotypical rock ‘n’ roller that parties ’til all hours of the morning, you said, “To me, it’s all about the music and it’s all about being able to have that experience on the stage.”
TCC: Can you describe what that experience is like?
CL: Well, you know, that first part of the statement, it’s all about the music, and that’s what it’s been for me since I was a kid, growing up in Alabama, and playing in my first bands, and then working my way up the ladder, so, it’s the thrill of…of the…it’s the thrill of the chase, I guess you could say. It’s being in the moment on stage, having musical conversations with my fellow musicians and, you know, somebody catches a hold of a rhythm or a little melody, and next thing you know the magic starts to happen and, boy it’s just the greatest buzz in the world, so I think we are constantly, those of us that love doing this, we’re all constantly striving for that moment, for that magic moment where you go off the rails a little bit, and then it gets scary and then somehow it comes back together and you reach certain heights and it’s, it’s just a real thrill.
TCC: So you like improvisation.
CL: Yeah I do! I like to push the envelope, and, of course it’s important in some settings and some songs, you know, to stick to the script, so to speak, and to play the parts that need to be there, but, when you have the opportunities to stretch, to go out of bounds a little bit, those are the moments that tend to give you the thrill.
TCC: Well, you picked a good band to do that with, with the Allman Brothers.
CL: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
from 1972, during Chuck’s Allman Brothers Days (photo un-credited; courtesy of Chuck Leavell)
TCC: You knew when you were 13 what you wanted to do as a career after you saw Ray Charles, is that right?
CL: Absolutely, yeah.
TCC: Wasting no time, you were playing as a session musician at Muscle Shoals Fame Studios by the age of 15. What was the Muscle Shoals experience like for you and did it have anything to do with influencing the fact that you’re still a… first-call, session musician today?
CL: Well, that was an early experience in studios for me, and, not that I got to interact all that much at Muscle Shoals, but I did get some opportunities there, and, at the time, I think the Muscle Shoals Sound had just gotten a new 8-track machine, which was state of the art, baby, I mean, you know…
They went from 4 tracks to 8 tracks and that was amazing and it opened up a lot of possibilities for recording and overdubbing and then we used to do what we called ping-ponging, so, let’s say you had 4 tracks of drums and you would combine those 4 tracks down to 2, you would mix them down to 2 tracks and that would open up another 2 tracks for you to overdub this or that on whether it’s extra vocals or a guitar solo or a piano part or an organ part or whatever, and that’s where I started getting an education in the recording process and learning these things and watching the engineers and working with producers and watching this process go.
It progressed rather quickly as time went on. Within two or three years, it went from 8 tracks to 16 tracks, 16 to 24, 24 to 48, and now we’re in the digital domain where you have unlimited tracks really to do anything with. It’s been an amazing journey to follow that technology through the, what is it, 40 years of my career and, 40 plus I guess, but those early days were very, very important and very educational and very formative.
And also, just the interaction with other musicians and learning from them and having the opportunity to play on some of those rhythm and blues records when I was recording back in those days and, by the way, it wasn’t all at Muscle Shoals. Birmingham had a couple of nice studios and we would go up there occasionally and work and… Tuscaloosa, maybe not so much, there was a couple of small places in Tuscaloosa that we did go to, but, certainly Muscle Shoals had the reputation and became so famous and it was indigenous for me because I’m from the south, but it was also a big deal to know that you had artists like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin and eventually Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones and people of that stature coming down to the south to record because it was the south.
TCC: Did you have the opportunity to meet Duane while you were there? You were there at the same time, weren’t you?
CL: You know, I did not really get to know Duane. I watched Duane play many times when it was the Allman Joys and they would come to Tuscaloosa. They’d play at a place called the Fort Brandon Armory and I would go there as often as I could whenever they were… and there were other bands that we would go see but always enjoyed them, they always knocked my socks off. As I began to interact with Capricorn Records in Macon, we used to open up for the Allman Brothers Band when I was with Alex Taylor and also with Dr. John and…
TCC: …and Sea Level too, didn’t you? After you had been with them?
CL: Well, no, Sea Level was after the Allman Brothers broke up so we didn’t ever open up, but in any case, to get back to Duane, there was one occasion when we were both flown in to Muscle Shoals and we were recording a record for the band Cowboy, and Duane had just finished his part and was leaving and he had his guitar case in hand and I had just arrived and I was coming in to do my part to overdub and literally we passed each other in the hallway, smiled and said, “Hey man, how you doing?” and that was the extent of my relationship with Duane Allman. In some ways it was quite prophetic because little had I thought that at some point I would be in that chair, you know, not that it was his… you know, it’s a completely different instrument so it’s not exactly that way but… that I had a position in the band.
TCC: Well, and that position was made vacant by him (his death) and, I mean, that was prophetic.
CL: Certainly, like so many others, I have nothing but the utmost admiration and love for the guy. He was a monster and he did so much for southern music.
TCC: I wrote a piece on him just a week or so ago…
CL: Oh, did you?
TCC: …for the anniversary of his death…
CL: Oh, right.
TCC: Learned a lot more about him.
CL: That was the 40th anniversary I guess, wasn’t it?
TCC: It was the… 42nd I think.
CL: Oh really. Beyond that.
TCC: It was ’71?
CL: ’71. That’s right, so 42nd. That’s correct. Yep.
TCC: (to Dan Beeson) He’s thinking of another 40th anniversary, I’m sure. (laughs)
DB: Yeah. (laughs)
TCC: Happy Anniversary, by the way. (laughs) (It is Chuck and his wife, Rose Lane’s, 40th wedding anniversary this year.)
CL: Thank you!
TCC: And congratulations.
CL: Thank you very much.
TCC: When you joined the Allman Brothers, there were no longer two lead guitarists, but there were now two keyboardists. Though your music was used mostly as a dual lead with Dickey Betts’ guitar, were there times that you and Gregg played off of each other? During one of your jams maybe?
CL: Oh absolutely. And, you know, I had loved Gregg’s organ playing since I heard him in Tuscaloosa with the Allman Joys and Gregg is one of the most tasteful organists I can tell you about. He really is… he knows how to play the right thing at the right time. He’s not so much known as a soloist, and so our interaction tended to be, you know, more when I took over solo… I mean, not that he didn’t have solos, he did in “Elizabeth Reed” and other songs that he did stand out in, but, let’s take the song “Jessica,” for instance. What was great about that was the three part harmony between the guitar, the Hammond and the piano. And to my knowledge, to that day, there had never been anything quite like that with those three textures playing the harmony parts and so that was an example of working with Gregg in that regard and we’ve maintained a wonderful relationship, and by the way, I will be involved in the… I’ll be in the core band of the tribute to Gregg Allman.
TCC: Ah, you will?
TCC: I wanted to go to that so much, but boy those tickets came and went. (laughs)
CL: They did. And also, I’m proud to tell you about another show that’s happening the week after that, which is January the 18th, and that’s a bit of a story, but I’ll give you the background so you can condense it. My wife is on the board of the Humanities council. And the Humanities, along with the Smithsonian and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, formulated this project called New Harmonies, and it’s a music project. It was celebrating roots music and it went around the state of Georgia… it went around other states as well, but for two years it has been in the state of Georgia. The concept is to put it in cities with a population of 20,000 or less. So you’re focusing on small cities, giving them this opportunity. So, for instance, Perry, Ga., Breman and some other cities of that size. For two years this thing has bounced around the state and the culmination of it is going to be a grand finale here in Atlanta, January 18th. Gregg has agreed to be a special guest and Jimmy Hall is going to be a guest. Robert McDuffie, the famous violinist, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is going to have a presence and I’m very excited about that. So that’s two opportunities with Gregg within a week’s time that I’m looking forward to.
TCC: Wow, wow. I’ll see if there’s any tickets left for that one.
CL: Yeah! Yeah!
TCC: You just recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of Brothers and Sisters also.
CL: That’s right, yeah, absolutely, and… my how fast this merry-go-round goes these days. You know, who would have thought 40 years, my goodness, but, I thought it was a really great package. Not only did they include the remastered version of the original record but they included the jams and the outtakes and the… this is very interesting because at that time they obviously were breaking me and Lamar Williams into the band so there were rehearsal tapes where we were just learning some of the songs that we would be playing on tour with the band and they included those, so, I thought it was a class package and I think it’s done quite well, as far as I know, and…
TCC: I don’t know how it couldn’t.
CL: It’s a collector’s item, for sure.
TCC: Definitely…. You’ve not only been the keyboardist for the Rolling Stones for the past 31 years, you’ve also been dubbed their “unofficial” music director. Are they ever going to change that to official?
CL: You know what? Actually, in the last program they included that title so they finally acquiesced.
TCC: Good, it’s about time.
TCC: Mick has said that you are a quite talented arranger as well as a historian for the band, and Keith Richards was quoted as saying, “Without the continuity that Chuck Leavell brings to us, the Stones would not be the Stones.” How does that make you feel?
CL: Well, wonderful. A lot of that goes back to my relationship with Ian Stewart. Stu was very much like a big brother to me when I first came in the band. He immediately welcomed me, he pushed for me to be in the band and encouraged the other guys to include me. When we were touring, Stu and I were constant companions and we just got to be very close. I think, especially from Keith’s perspective, because Stu played that wonderful boogie-woogie style on some of those classic records that the band did early on, and I learned a lot of that style from Stu and so, Keith sees me… I think that’s what he means in his statement about continuity, that Stu sort of lives on with what I learned from him and what I can bring to the table.
And then with Mick, it’s a lot of time spent together working on set lists, a lot of time talking about the entire presentation from beginning to end, how we can make a set flow and make it work and make it enjoyable for us as well as the audience, to put the iconic songs in the right places and still leave room for a little bit of experimentation and some lesser known material that the hardcore fans want to hear.
And then, of course, that relationship extends to Charlie and to Ronnie and it’s just an honor to have the seat and, obviously, since 1982, and I did come into the band at that time, the role has escalated as time goes on and it’s just a real pleasure to still be here and to have the role be stronger than it was in the beginning.
TCC: I saw you and the Stones in ’89, I believe it was, in Los Angeles at the Steel Wheels tour.
CL: Yeah! That was to me a very strong sort of landmark era for the band. It was important that we come out and reestablish the validity and … to be recrowned in some ways, if you know what I mean. There had been a number of years that there had been no tours, since 1982. There had been the two records in between and then, Steel Wheels being the third record in that era and the band knew and understood it needed to be a really strong album, really strong record, good songs, but, even more importantly, when they decided to embark on a tour, it was important that we really explore the catalog, and that’s when, for me, it was a bit of a turnaround. That’s when I began to really take a lot of notes on every rehearsal, every night that we rehearsed, what we did, any changes in the arrangements we might make, and documenting all of this and… so that I could quickly reference and answer any questions that the guys had. I think that’s when my role as unofficial musical director may have begun, because I think they depended on me… that role to perform those things. And then… from then on subsequent tours, it got even stronger.
TCC: As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, you have a new DVD and Blu-ray coming out next week.
TCC: Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live. That concert’s been called a homecoming for the band… for Mick and Keith and Charlie, I guess.
TCC: That’s who started there… or had the ’69 concert in Hyde Park.
in concert with the Stones – jamming with Ronnie Wood – at one of the Hyde Park London shows, July, 2012 (credit: Chuck Leavell/file)
TCC: But you have sort of a homecoming of your own this Friday, is that right?
CL: Well that’s right!
TCC: At the Bama Theatre in Tuscaloosa?
CL: Day after tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it and I played the Bama about four years ago and it was just an extraordinary experience.
TCC: And you sold it out too.
CL: We did sell it out and we’re hoping to do so this time. We’ve had strong sales and we’re at the last few days here and hopefully we’ll top it off, but… yeah, Tuscaloosa was an amazing place to grow up. It really was. There were a lot of opportunities. My first band played the YMCA every Friday night and then when the first television station came to town we were actually hired to have a Saturday morning television show. And so music became not only a passion, but an enterprise for me in Tuscaloosa at a young age and then as time went on and that band broke up and other bands were formed in Tuscaloosa that I was involved in, we began to play the fraternity parties …. but there were always opportunities – clubs, fraternities, events at the quadrangle at the campus, you know. And don’t forget, we’re talking about the late ’60s here so there was the revolution… the cultural revolution and musical revolution and sexual revolution and everything else was going on at that time.
But, again it was just a wonderful town to grow up in and it’s great to go out… I still have friends there. No family in Tuscaloosa anymore, but hopefully my sister Judy is going to come. She lives up here and we’ve been communicating and she said, “Chuck, I’m going to really try to make it,” so that will be a little bit of family with me. My wife will be with me, our daughter Amy and son-in-law Steve are coming with the grandsons, so we’re going to have a fabulous time.
TCC: That’s great, great. A lot of the things I’ve read, especially things that you’ve written, and your diary… you and your wife’s diary, she seems to travel quite a bit with you on your tours.
CL: Ever since we went into empty nest. We raised two daughters and, of course we strived to be decent parents and Rose Lane was a great mother. Once the youngest daughter Ashley got out of high school and started going to college, then it was like we could go together all the time. Even before that, oftentimes she would come with me and, if we needed to find someone to help look after Ashley, we could do that, but…. And then, on every possible occasion that made sense, we took the kids with us. When Amy, our first born, was a baby, we went on tour with the Allman Brothers Band and we had a backpack that I would put on and carry her around in. If we were in San Diego, we’d go to the San Diego Zoo and we would do family-oriented activities all through her childhood. And we’ve tried to always inject a little rock-and-roll in their lives, and I think that’s worked out pretty well.
TCC: That’s great. I think you’re a couple of cool parents to have.
TCC: As a solo artist you’ve released several CDs and you’ve got a fairly new one out on that front, Back to the Woods?
CL: Yes, a celebration of early blues piano players.
TCC: I have it and I think it’s wonderful.
CL: Thank you.
TCC: And speaking of boogie-woogie… he did teach you well.
CL: Well, thanks. The blues genre, when most people think of it, what do they think of… guitar players, you know, Muddy Waters, and singers and songwriters, Howling Wolf or Lightning Hopkins or Robert Johnson. But it tends to be very guitar orientated, and I wanted to celebrate the piano in the blues genre, and bring to life that “hey, you know, the guitar wasn’t the only thing out there, or harmonicas, you know, that are known for the blues idiom.”
It was actually my son-in-law, Steve Bransford, who is a Ph.D. graduate from Emory University and his discipline is in American History with a focus on roots music and visual art. So Steve came to me and he made the statement, “The piano needs to be better understood as a blues instrument and I think you’re the guy to do it,” and I said, “Okay, we’ll do it and you co-produce it.”
So Steve and I co-produced the project. He was really helpful in the research and pre-production stage to go through… he gave me three CDs with about 150 songs on it. A lot of that I knew but a lot of it was news to me, so I really appreciated his research and knowledge of the field. I think we’ll be collaborating on the next project which, right now what we’re thinking about, Steve came to me and he said, “You know, Chuck, you’ve got deep roots in Alabama. You grew up there. It’s a great music state. And then you went to Georgia and you’ve got deep roots in Georgia now and it’s a great music state. Why don’t we look at celebrating music that comes from those two states and put a project together.” So that’s what we’re thinking. We haven’t started it but we’re in the early stages of kicking around the ideas.
TCC: That sounds like a good idea. I’ll be watching for that.
TCC: Okay, I’m going to switch to your passion for trees.
TCC: You and your lovely wife, Rose Lane, inherited… she inherited a piece of land from her grandmother, in the early ’80s, was it?
CL: Yep, ’81.
TCC: …with a family tradition of land stewardship. I’ve read it but I love your story (both laugh). Tell me what made you decide to go into tree farming.
CL: Well, you know, when the inheritance came to her, and by the way, the reason it did was because unfortunately her father passed away after we had been married only about six months or so… he had cancer and died. The grandmother survived. Juliette White was her name. And so when she passed on, her estate went to about half to her brother Alton and half to her. And Ms. White left the house that she lived in to Rose Lane, which we always call “The Home Place,” and thus the title of my autobiography, Between Rock and a Home Place.
TCC: Oh, I didn’t put two and two together there.
CL: Well that’s what that’s all about. So… but let’s back up to when we first started dating and we were married in ’73 and we would go out and spend time with the family and I just got a sense of the deep respect for the land, the passion for the land that the family had. I would travel around the crops that they planted and nurtured along. I would walk through the timber that they had planted. Went with them on some occasions to check on the cattle and it just really began to sink in to me how wonderful being a steward of the land is and what a great responsibility it is. And so when the… fast forward to ’81, when Rose Lane inherited the land, it became our responsibility to carry on this heritage. But I had to find a practical way to do it. And cattle farming, row cropping was going to take a lot of day-to-day time that I feel like I could not put in. But it was actually at the breakfast table one morning when her brother Alton said, “You know there’s this 50-acre field up here that we used to always plant every year in a crop, and, if you’re not going to plant it this year, you may consider planting trees on it.” And I went, “Ah, planting trees. Wow. Okay.”
I began to kind of put together, number one, where does this resource that gives me this instrument that has given me so much joy and a great career come from? It comes from the resource of wood and all the other things that wood does for us – this fine table we’re sitting at, the furniture around the room, the construction wood to build buildings and so forth and, you know, books, magazines, newspapers and clean air, clean water, home and shelter to wildlife…. So I began to study forestry and eventually entered a correspondence course and, somewhere around ’82 or ‘3 when I was traveling with the Fabulous Thunderbirds… and I got through that course and it was very, very helpful.
At the same time I was reading other books on the subject of forestry and land use and wildlife and going to seminars when I could to try to get more knowledge, and visiting other landowners. Because that’s really the best source, the people that have worked the land. So it was an educational process, an educational journey for me and a wonderful journey, and the more I studied it and the more I lived that life, the more I enjoyed it and the more passionate I became. So, along with that first 50 acres, we began to plant other trees and we began to manage our land for the purpose of long term sustainable forestry and for wildlife as well. And, you know, I could not have picked something that fits my life better, something that I can’t imagine anything else I could be more passionate about.
Chuck on his tree farm, Charlane Plantation, with one of his horses (credit: Fernando Decillis)
TCC: I love how you like to interweave your passion for music with your passion for trees, anytime you can find a connection.
CL: Anytime I can do it, you know. You can’t shut me up when I’m talking about trees. (laughs)
TCC: Well, you have given a piece of, what was it, Southern Yellow Pine?
CL: Southern Yellow Pine, yeah.
TCC: …for an electric guitar prototype.
CL: Yeah I did.
TCC: And how’s that coming?
CL: Well, it’s still being built. It’s a very small company that was interested in this and you have to have a certain width of wood from any source, any tree, to make a solid guitar without piecing it together, right? So it has to be a pretty wide board and I found that nice thick piece of Southern Yellow Pine and it’s being crafted as we speak. It’s a process. But this passion for not just trees and forests, but for environmental concerns morphed into this, into the Mother Nature Network (where interview was being held). And that’s kind of what escalated to this point.
TCC: And it is about everything environmental you could ever want to know, and more.
CL: Well, you may have read this as well, but I’ll tell you that my partner, Joel Babbit, who has had a wonderful career in public relations and advertising, and built up two companies and sold them to bigger companies, and at the time, we had become friends – by the way, Dan was the one that introduced us – we began to communicate a little bit and Joel was president of Grey International out of the Atlanta office here, and he calls me up one day and says, “I wish you’d come talk to me.” “Sure.” And he said, “You know, my… things are changing, attitudes are changing within corporations. They’re beginning to have an understanding that they have to change some of their practices and become more eco-friendly, and they want to get these messages out, specifically on the internet because the internet is just exploding. And they have no problem knowing where to put them in other media, but the internet is a really important new place to do this and I can’t find any site that I’m comfortable with. What can you tell me?”
And I said, “Well, you know, I know about TreeHugger and I know about Grist and I know about this site and that site. There was organizational sites, Sierra Club and… but they’re focused on one aspect of the environment. They’re looking for donations and membership and there’s certain governmental sites, but they’re very accurate as far as environmental information but they’re poorly written and difficult to navigate.”
So we’re having this conversation and at one point Joel turns to me and says, “You wanna build it?” “Build what?” And he says, “an environmental website that could fit this function and serve as the iconic site for all things environmental.” And I said, “Sure, man. I’m up for a challenge. Come on.” So he said, “I’ll resign my position if you’ll go in with me, and he put the plan together. We collaborated on certain aspects of it. He, of course, had a lot of wonderful business contacts that eventually became our investors and our board members. But I’ll give you some of the initial thoughts that we had that we knew we wanted to implement. One was to not have the word “green” or “eco” in the title. We wanted it to be broader than that. We wanted it to be nonpolitical – have zero political slant. We wanted it to cover all aspects of the environment, not just, you know, pollution or recycling or electric cars or this… just every aspect of environmental concerns. We wanted it to have an element of social responsibility. And we wanted it to be accurate and true to itself. So we embarked on that.
Joel began to hire some very talented eco-journalists, mostly from the Atlanta area. That was January of ’09 that we launched and we’ve been growing ever since. Now we have acquired the TreeHugger site that we talked about early on, and Planet Green, which is another Discovery company owned site. We’re very proud to have those under our wing now. We’ve grown from probably initially 7 to 8 employees to about 30 now, and we’re just excited about the success. It’s been a really, really wonderful trip for me.
TCC: I’m excited about your success and what you’ve given us. It’s fun to read.
CL: I think the success in terms of the number of visitations that we have, which now is topping about 10 million a month, I think it really just speaks to the heart and soul of America, that Americans really care about this subject deeply. I don’t think it gets the attention it deserves. You know, whichever side of the political fence one may be on, the environment seems to get pushed under. I mean, right now we’ve got Syria to worry about in the Middle East. You’ve got economic matters to worry about. You’ve got healthcare to worry about. And it seems difficult to get our government as a whole refocused on the environment. But I think our public wants that and I think we are a major advocate of getting that done. So, you know, we’re going to keep pushing.
TCC: I just recently watched the documentary Musicwood. It’s about making guitars and the Sitka Spruce. It was a guy from Greenpeace. He got the head of Martin, Taylor and Gibson together to join this coalition, named Musicwood, to go to the corporation in Alaska that’s doing the clear-cutting in the Tongass.
CL: Our forests have… we have all kinds of challenges going on, you know. We want to be able to use this material obviously, but you want to use it in a sustainable way and some of the difficulties that we’ve seen in forests in recent years include the wildfires that everybody reads about in the paper. The Mountain Pine infestation that has devastated forests from Colorado all the way up to British Columbia. Here in the south we have the Southern Pine beetle and there’s a lot of challenges we have, including some harvesting methods that unfortunately still exist. Listen, we have more forest land in the United States now than we had 100 years ago and I think that really speaks volumes about how we’re now managing our forests, especially in this country.
TCC: I’ve heard you say that. But I’ve also seen where you’ve warned that urbanization and the fires and whatever are taking away a lot of our forests. Are we growing more than we’re losing and so we’re still gaining a little bit?
CL: We’re still gaining. We’re still gaining and that’s good news. But again, these challenges like the disease and infestations and the wildfires are not positive things. And to speak to your specific comment, this is what I call the invisible forest health crisis. Because you can see what’s happening when a wildfire occurs. You see what’s happening when beetles destroy thousands… hundreds of thousands of acres of land, but you can’t really notice so much when that extra parking lot is put in or that extra strip mall. And that kind of just sneaks up on you. But it’s something that everybody needs to be aware of because that’s eating up our forest lands as well.
TCC: Yes, my husband and I, we’ll just drive by a place and say, “I can remember when that was all woods.”
CL: Well exactly. In the intro to my book, my latest book, Growing a Better America, I talk about as a child coming up here into Atlanta and seeing that sign on Peachtree, which at the time was about a million and a half, and now it’s about 6. So you know, Atlanta’s a prime example of this. But the good news about Atlanta is, you know, really, when you see it from the air, you look out the windows of our offices, you see that there are fantastic urban forests here, and that’s a good thing.
TCC: One more question. How are your Chestnut trees doing?
CL: Oh great! As a matter of fact, I just received another dozen two days ago. The initial planting was four trees. They’re all surviving very well.
TCC: And they were 94 percent American?
CL: No, well it’s 15/16th’s percent American Chestnut and 1/16th percent Chinese Chestnut, because the Chinese is resistant to the blight.
CL: And I’ve got to give a shout-out to the American Chestnut Foundation. They do a great job. That’s where I got my trees. You know, I hope as time goes on, I’ll be planting hundreds of those things on my place, but, you know, I’ve got another dozen to put somewhere now. They’re sitting in containers in a barn at my place and luckily, right now we’re in the dormant season, so I’ve got a long time to think about where I want to put them. But, it’s exciting and the Chestnut Foundation has a goal of planting a million Chestnut trees throughout the native area over the next seven years. So we’re hoping that we can help meet that goal.
DB: Tina, thank you so much for coming over.
TCC: Thank you. Thank you, Chuck.
CL: Yeah, Great! You bet. It was wonderful to meet you and spend some time with you.
TCC: It was nice meeting you, Chuck.
Head shot image credit: Fernando Decillis