The songs Clay Rice performs are about life in Colleton County and the surrounding Lowcountry. They were written for a broader audience, however, so when he played the guitar and sang "Frogmore Standard Time," he said "It's really Wiggins standard time," and based on a broken clock at The Brickyard, the Rice family plantation along the Chehaw River.
He shared stories of growing up and of watching his grandfather, Carew Rice, cut silhouettes, tell stories and hunt, fish and farm. Saturday afternoon, he completed silhouettes of children in the Colleton Center gallery surrounded by an exhibit of his silhouettes and those of his grandfather. The exhibit runs through Saturday.
"I've got a good many silhouettes in this part of the world," he said before a delayed start to his first time performing on the Hampton Street Auditorium stage. "I'm glad to see everyone is so enthusiastic about granddaddy's work. It's kind of nice to bring it all together with the family history."
Rice is already back on tour, sharing his songs, stories and art. Before his brief stay in Colleton County, he had visited 20 cities in Virginia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Illinois in the past two weeks, and is now traveling the South.
While singing his hunting song, if a 1962 Impala counts as hunting, he said, "You know you have to relate all this to life," and offered a lesson about dealing with things, like the sudden appearance of a deer, you never see coming.
His songs have been inspired by a visit to the Morris lighthouse, the first time he soloed in a johnboat, and a sign along the highway that read "Honk if you love hotdogs." That sign prompted a love song, with lyrics "I brake for boiled peanuts, but I'd back up for you ... you reversed my whole world."
He called his sons Connor and Charlie on stage to help him with a song and a surprise for the audience. "What's the South's oldest junk food?" he asked, then went behind the curtain for two boxes of Moon Pies. While he sang "RC Cola and Moon Pies," the boys tried to throw the treats to the audience, most of whom were sitting in the back rows, out of range for the young boys.
Connor was the model for the silhouette of the boy in Rice's first children's book. Rice said he has two books coming out this summer. After Rice read "The Lonely Shadow," he repeated the story in song.
Many of the originals for the book are included in the Carew Rice and Clay Rice exhibit which opened with a reception after the performance. Audience members were encouraged to wear black and white to honor the art of silhouette.
Just prior to the performance, a mural downtown, based on Carew Rice's silhouettes, was unveiled. The reception debuted a large Carew Rice piece acquired and restored by Jeff and Barbara Grigg that they donated to the Colleton Museum and is on permanent display at the Colleton Center.