Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

March 12, 2014

The beatniks go on

Author Kerouac's birthday bash March 20

ASHLAND — Area poets and musicians will once again gather this month to celebrate the birthday of author Jack Kerouac, whose words continue to resonate with modern readers despite his death in 1969.

Celebrating that Kerouac mentioned Ashland in his most revered book, “On the Road,” local fans and enthusiasts have been gathering each year to share their enthusiasm for the man many consider to be the father of the Beat Generation.

“It’s been at least seven or eight years we’ve been doing this,” said singer/songwriter Rob McNurlin, who founded the annual Kerouac birthday party along with musician Ritch Collins.

“Me and Ritchie both found out we like his books and stuff like that, and he mentions Ashland in ‘On the Road,’” McNurlin said, noting Kerouac’s Ashland reference follows the writer’s descriptions of Charleston and the Kanawha River as he traveled through the area. In Ashland, Kerouac immortalized the image of a lone girl standing beneath the marquis of a closed theater — generally believed to have been the Paramount Arts Center.

“We started out doing it around the anniversary of his death, but we switched it around to his birthday,” McNurlin said.

McNurlin said the birthday bash has traditionally been at the Paramount, although this year’s celebration will be at the Pendleton Art Center on Winchester Avenue. There is no charge to attend, although McNurlin said the musicians involved will pass a tip bucket to help cover expenses.

The event will be at 7 p.m. March 20, with musical performances by the Ritch Collins Three-O, as well as Rob McNurlin & His Cowboy Band.

“We will just play some music in that spirit and maybe tell some stories,” McNurlin said, emphasizing the event is open to veteran Kerouac fans and newcomers alike.

McNurlin said Kerouac’s writing continues to influence his own songwriting, as well as being influential for artists such as Bob Dylan, whose works have also made an impact on him.

“I always liked his spontaneity. He would just sit down and write — he did very little editing,” McNurlin said, concluding Kerouac ultimately taught him “you can do what you want to do.”

Kerouac was an American novelist and poet. Along with William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac was considered a founder and pioneer of the Beat Generation. He is recognized for his spontaneous writing style and covering topics including Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty and travel. In 1969, at 47, Kerouac died from internal bleeding because of long-term alcohol abuse. Since his death, his literary prestige has grown and several previously unseen works have been published.

All of Kerouac’s books are now in print, including “On the Road,” “Doctor Sax,” “The Dharma Bums,” “Mexico City Blues,” “The Subterraneans,” “Desolation Angels,” “Visions of Cody,” “The Sea is My Brother” and “Big Sur.”

For more information about the party, call (606) 369-0334.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.

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