Grant Blankenship

Reporter

Grant came to public media after a career spent in newspaper photojournalism. As an all platform journalist he seeks to wed the values of public radio storytelling and the best of photojournalism online.

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Macon rapper Floco Torres has released something like 20 releases  and says he may have 600 unreleased songs lurking on hard drives. He's primed to release a batch of songs this Summer on what he's calling the Porsche EP. In this Field Session, listen to the track '87 911 off the upcoming release plus the song Freedom off of last Summer's Vinsanity release. Recorded at the Cannonball House in Macon, Ga.

The demolition of the Tindall Heights housing project in Macon, and the relocation of its residents, provides a lens into the issue of affordable housing in the United States on the We Live Here podcast from St. Louis Public Radio. With reporting from Grant Blankenship of GPB Macon, Devin Katayama KQED in San Francisco and the We Live Here team from St. Louis Public Radio.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Billy Joe Shaver might not be the household name that other country musicians of his generation are. The Texas native who still calls Waco home used to run with Willie and threatened Waylon to make good on a promise to record his songs. But before that he was just a laborer and a cowboy who had to lose three fingers before making a deal with God to do what he was supposed to do: write songs. From the Capitol Theatre in Macon. 

Can Kids Be Scared Straight?

Jun 8, 2016
Grant Blankenship / GPB

At the inmate’s direction, the children drop to the floor.

“Down!” she shouts, almost screeches. Almost immediately there’s a new command.

“Up!”

A new command, just as fast.

“Jump!”

The kids can’t keep up. They aren’t meant to. Pretty soon it’s obvious that many of these kids, especially the ones who are not yet teenagers, are terrified.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Macon-Bibb County political leaders got their first look at an old school at the heart of a new housing development Tuesday.

A few members of the Macon-Bibb County Commission and Mayor Robert Reichert toured the still under renovation A.L. Miller High School building. For Commission member and Miller Alumnus Elaine Lucas, the tour brought memories and hopes for what will come once this is low income housing.

"It's going to be a boost for this whole area. A lot of our neighborhoods are in decline and this is one of them," Lucas said.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Ashley Pointer says with her violin, she can pretty much do anything the human voice can do. 

Ironically, she says it wasn't her decision to pick up her bow. But today, as the first violinist to be accepted into the competitive Grammy Camp summer program, she is glad it happened. 

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

 

A new report paints a bleak picture for North Georgia bats and scientists say they know why.

Blame White-Nose Syndrome. A summation of last year’s bat count numbers by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources makes that plain. DNR scientists have been counting each winter in ten different North Georgia cave sites since White-Nose Syndrome hit Georgia in 2013. After last year’s count they say cave hibernating populations have plummeted by 92 percent of their before White-Nose numbers.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Before his album of duets with Carla Thomas, before "Dock of the Bay," even before wowing the crowd at the Monterey Pop Festival, Otis Redding was in a band not as the front man, but mostly because he could drive.

That band was Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers, a staple of the Macon music scene in the early days of rock and roll. And yes, guitar ace Jenkins couldn't drive, but he also  had the foresight to give Redding the microphone. The partnership led to one of Redding's first singles, the rocker "Shout Bama Lama."

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

 

Demolition formally began Monday in one of Macon’s oldest and largest public housing projects, Tindall Heights.

During a ceremony that could have looked like a groundbreaking from a distance, officials and politicians swung golden sledgehammers to break the first piece of the project’s red brick.

For longtime educator and former Bibb County School Board President,  Thelma Dillard, the day was bittersweet.

“I'm here today because I want to see the ending of my beginning,” she said.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

 

It looks like the Georgia Milestones test might not be tied to grade promotion this year after all.

So far, students in third, fifth and eighth grades had to perform up to grade level in core areas of study to pass onto the next grade.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

A string of small arsons and racist graffiti at Mercer University in Macon are distracting students at the end of the semester when they would otherwise be worried about finals.

The graffiti was both written and removed Wednesday night on doors in Sherwood Hall, a co-ed freshman dormitory.  Freshman finance and accounting major Kenny Olaganju didn’t see the graffiti before it was removed, but he heard about it.

“All that I heard is that someone went through on the first floor and wrote the N-word with a hard R on peoples’ doors,” he said

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

High-stakes tests are by now a familiar part of  our educational system. Their aim is usually clear: making sure students are learning what they need to know to compete with their peers around the country, or even the world. But what isn't so clear is what these tests cost once they are done.

You could see a little of what Georgia's high-stakes test has cost teachers on a Wednesday morning  at Heritage Elementary School in Macon. 

Flickr/Creative Commons/DigBoston

    

On this edition of Diggin' the Field with the Field Note Stenographers we talk about the renaissance of an all ages venue in Macon, get a first look at some of the artists on the bill for the Bragg Jam Festival coming later in the Summer and listen to some tracks from our Field Sessions live performance series.  

Needle drops at....

:47- Frankie Cosmos: On The Lips

The Scandinavian duo My bubba started singing together after Bubba Tomasdottír answered an ad to rent a room in My Larsdotter's apartment. The name of their band is taken from an anglicized pronunciation of the two singers' first names. And while Larsdotter is from Sweden and Tomasdottír is from Iceland, their music has the sound of something born in America — a blend of old country, blues and bluegrass. Click through for an interview with the duo with NPR's Scott Simon.

Christie Clancy / Penn State

  

Probably no other region of the country has been sung about as much as the South. Results, as they say, have varied. Some songs, and songwriters, stand out however.

Rosanne Cash is a good example. Her 2014 album The River and the Thread traces the veins of the Southern experience through its many sounds and through the imagined voices of its people. It casts an image of beauty and of pain.

Brett Harris can simply write a song. Each one is a pop gem, a full but never baroque combination of his capable tenor and finger picked guitar. Our friends at the Field Note Stenographers have spent some time with Harris' new album "Up In The Air" and have this full length review.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

In Athens in the 1980s, they formed one corner of a holy trinity: R.E.M, B-52s and...Pylon. Though they broke up, for the first time, in 1983, Pylon's itchy, dancey influence can still be felt around the world of what we now call indie rock.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

The tick tick tick with the turn of the key only meant one thing: this moving truck wasn't starting.

Battery? Dead.

Not too long before on this sunny Wednesday afternoon, Kenny Howell Jr. had pulled up behind the apartment he, his girlfriend and their three kids shared in the Tindall Heights public housing project in Macon, ready to load up and go.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

While tornado watches are set to expire into Friday evening, The National Weather Service is investigating what, if any, of the wind damage that came from storms that hit Georgia early Friday morning was caused by tornadoes.

 

In all, the National Weather Service issued seven tornado warnings in Georgia between 3 a.m. and noon Friday.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

    

 

The scene in the small courtroom inside the Bibb County Law Enforcement center was a familiar one.

 

On a day scheduled for first court appearance, there was one charge on the docket. A murder.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

When it comes to guns, Marciarea Torney-Daramanu is sure of one thing.

“With my kids now? When they get of age to own a gun I will make sure they are trained to use a gun,” she said.

She didn’t always feel this way. On a rainy day she shows me into her kitchen in her home in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Macon. She points to a magnet on her refrigerator.

“This is my son right here,” Marciarea said.

The photo is Stacy K. Johnson, Jr., Marciarea’s son. He’s holding his children.

“He’s the one that got killed right there,” she said.

Grant Blankenship/GPB

 

 

All life is like this. All life is a trade off. This is just a field of gray, there's no black or white.

Michael Hayden wants college students, tomorrow’s leaders, to know just that. Hayden ran the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and the CIA from 2006 to 2009. Today he includes among his responsibilities teaching at George Mason University. Before a lecture at Mercer University in Macon, GA, Hayden shared the core of what he wants students to know.  His words follow.

Tennessee Surf Rock With Repeat Repeat

Mar 15, 2016
Grant Blankenship / GPB

Repeat Repeat started its life as surf rock from high atop the Cumberland Plateau. East Nashville, Tenn. to be exact.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 Jim Alexander has done a lot of things.

 

At one time or another he has been a bookstore owner, the general manager of a newspaper delivery service and a car detailer. He ran a pool room, taught horseback riding and was a diesel engine mechanic in the Navy.

“So in my life I’ve done things,” he said

But what really defines Alexander are his camera and his activism.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Anthony Ponder has been cutting hair for most of his life. He has also spent a lot of time in prison. Ponder lost his equipment the last time he was incarcerated. A pair of Macon churches have set him up with gear again. In return he is cutting hair on Sunday mornings for other men who like him are getting back on their feet.

"I was told that my father was a barber. My father got killed when I was seven years old but I often heard that he was a barber. Maybe that stuck in my head that I wanted to be like my father.”

 

In this session, Col. Bruce Hampton recorded at Capricorn Studio.

Col. Bruce is a legend of Georgia music who has been unafraid to wave his freak flag high since the 1960s. In this interview with Chris Nylund and Jared Wright of the Field Note Stenographers music collective, Col. Bruce introduces us to the numerology of Southern humidity and gives us a glimpse of the weird heyday of a late 60s music boomtown called Macon. A note, in this first story, Gregg is none other than Gregg Allman.

Grant Blankenship / Georgia Public Broadcasting

T. Hardy Morris has moved some molecules in his day as a member of the very loud Athens, GA band Dead Confederate. In recent years, Morris has turned it down a notch with solo work both quieter and more personal. In this Field Session Morris talks about how turning into your Dad isn't so bad, about work life balance for a touring musician with a wife, a kid and a baby on the way and on the difference between a poet and a songwriter. Produced with the Field Note Stenographers.

Grant Blankenship / Georgia Public Broadcasting

Lobo Marino is Jameson Price on percussion and Laney Sullivan on harmonium and voice. Together they make atmospheric music that echoes the sounds they've experienced on their global travels. It's world music that asks you to slow down and just be. Produced with the Field Note Stenographers and students from the Mercer University Center for Collaborative Journalism

Grant Blankenship / Georgia Public Broadcasting

Brett Harris writes the sort of crystalline pop songs that hearken back to the days of Power Pop. Plus, he's a really good guitarist who knows better than to upstage his own voice.  Between songs from his new album Up In The Air, Harris talks about how he first discovered music he could call his own and about to how adapt songs he wrote for a band to a solo tour. Brett's new album Up In The Air will be released on March, 4.  Listen above or watch below. 

Grant Blankenship / Georgia Public Broadcasting

For Southerners who have lived and struggled with the issue of race all their lives, it can be tough to see it with fresh eyes.

Sometimes you need an outsider. When it comes to race in one Southern city, Macon, Ga.,  playwright Mark Mobley is just that.

The play “What Color Is Your Brother?” is the product of Mobley taking his outsider's view into conversations with Macon locals on the issue of race. The project grew out of Mobley's longtime friendship with a Macon native, renown violinist Robert McDuffie.

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