Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout: A Hillbilly Poet’s Journey from Appalachia to Yale to Writing Hits for Elvis, Johnny Cash & More
~ Billy Edd Wheeler, Author
He calls himself a “hillbilly poet” in his new memoir, but Swannanoa’s Billy Edd Wheeler resembles a Renaissance man in his exploration of the arts. “I like poetry, songwriting, playwriting, painting and sculpting almost equally,” he says. His award-winning songs have been recorded by more than 90 artists, including Elvis, Neil Young, Kenny Rogers and the Kingston Trio. His songs include Coal Tattoo, Coward of the County and Jackson, whose lyrics lend themselves to the memoir’s title.
His book visits the famous as well as people who have interested and inspired him throughout his life. “I thought it would be great to revisit my past,” he says, “growing up in a coal camp, being a bastard child searching for a father, learning about songwriting and publishing.”
He studied playwriting at Yale and his long-running dramas include Hatfields & McCoys and Young Abe Lincoln. “If I get commissioned to write a play, I concentrate on doing research and writing it full-time,” Wheeler says. “It’s the same writing a song, but if it doesn’t come easily, I lay it aside until the muse kicks in. If I don’t have a pressing project, I usually start painting.” Wheeler was The Laurel of Asheville’s cover artist in January of 2013.
Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout: A Hillbilly Poet’s Journey from Appalachia to Yale to Writing Hits for Elvis, Johnny Cash & More, April, 2018, memoir, hardcover, $24.99, by Billy Edd Wheeler, and published by BMG, CA. A book signing will be held Saturday, July 28, at White Horse Black Mountain. For more information, visit billyeddwheeler.com.