Kevin Jasper is a rarity among national champions. While most elite athletes and performers shield themselves from encounters with the common man, Jasper actually seeks the interaction.
When I was looking for some advice from a National Hollerin’ Contest champion a few weeks ago, I didn’t have to look far. The four-time Hollerin’ champ has a web site (the aptly named www.givemeaholler.com) with his personal e-mail address and home phone number listed on the home page.
Intrigued, I fired off a late-night e-mail to solicit some advice. But I was convinced that this was merely some sort of PR ploy to make Jasper seem human. I imagined a computer program would read that e-mail before sending me an auto-reply form letter from Jasper. A few days later, I thought, I might even receive a 5×7 black and white facsimile-signed photograph of Jasper, with some additional information regarding his fan club.
Instead, I was surprised to wake up the next morning to a personally written (and funny, I might add) note from the man himself. A week later, on Memorial Day, Jasper and I chatted on the phone for an hour. Yes, you read that right. A four-time national champion took an hour out of a national holiday to chat shop with some random guy he met on the Internet.
Thanks to his advice, I’m half as nervous about competing in my first Hollerin’ Contest on Saturday.
Anyone Can Enter: How did you get interested in hollerin’?
Kevin Jasper: I had seen a winner or two of the contest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson back in the mid 70s, and I thought to myself, here’s a local yokel from North Carolina getting to meet Johnny Carson and be on his show. I filed that back in my brain and thought about it over and over, off and on for years. I moved away from North Carolina and lived in California, Kentucky, and Virginia, but I finally moved back to North Carolina in 1994. Three years later, I went down to the public library and asked what the Hollerin’ Contest was all about. The reference librarian came back with the name of the fellow who started the contest. His name was Ermon Godwin Jr. I called him up and he told me about the CD Hollerin’ and told me that would be a good way to learn.
Anyone Can Enter: So when you got the CD did you just start mimicking everything you heard?
Jasper: Yeah, I was trying to. As you’ve heard, it’s not easy to do some of them.
Anyone Can Enter: What do you remember about your first contest?
Jasper: The first year I did a few simple things. I couldn’t even tell you what I did. The second year, I started listening to it a little more and tried some of the more complicated hollers like Rollin’ Waters and Mr. Leonard Emmanuel’s Ditty.
Anyone Can Enter: How did you perfect the more advanced hollers?
Jasper: I lived in Burlington at the time. I quit my job and ended up taking a contract job at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. I was driving about 50 miles one-way. I recorded Ditty on a tape seven times in a row so I could listen to it and try to mimic it as I was driving in my car. That’s where I did most of my practicing after 1999.
Anyone Can Enter: I’m somewhat nervous about all this. Any more advice for a first timer?
Jasper: Well, if you take this seriously, and you listen to the CD, you’re going to do fine. People come up there and think it’s just how loud can you holler. There are people that come up there and make total asses out of themselves. That’s kind of part of the thing. We expect that. We kind of want that, but you’re taking it a lot more seriously. You’re not going to make an ass out of yourself. Of course, you might not win.