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    Tune to Lou: Alex Smith Talks Howell Dawdy
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    Alex Smith is the brains behind Howell Dawdy, Lydia Burrell, “Probably Not” podcast, and if you’re into pipe organs he’s probably repaired yours at some point. With so many trades and names, it’s hard to keep them all straight, but he “couldn’t give the world another Alex Smith.”

    Howell Dawdy is one of Smith’s more well-known projects: an absurd entertainer that's hard to forget. “It’s easy to remember my name, it’s Howell Dawdy. Just think Howdy Doody but switch the first ‘-dy’ with an ‘e’ and two ‘l’s’. Remember ‘oo’ goes to ‘aw’ the second name like ‘doo-daw’. It’s easy,” according to his song, “Cool Dinosaur Coat”. 

    Howell Dawdy mixes catchy beats with rhymes about whatever random thought floats into his head. He’s a spectacle composed of “Dawdy Dukes” and a blazer complimented with a beard and some unforgettable dance moves. Louisville.com had the opportunity to meet the Smith behind the Dawdy and get the details on the comical creation. 

    Louisville.com: How did Howell Dawdy come into existence?
    Alex Smith: I was at my friend’s show at Bellarmine in December 2012. There’s this greenroom that’s the hangout spot for the theater kids. They had a big gong in that room and my friend was like, “Can we bring that gong on stage?” They took it up there for him and he had me go out and bang the gong at the beginning of the show and at the end of the show. In between that I was leaning against a fire extinguisher all the way in the back. It was this big theater-grade fire extinguisher. The whole concept for the song, “Fire Extinguisher” sort of tumbled into my brain. I went home, wrote it in a couple of hours, and recorded it as I was writing it. I did the video that weekend and then just put it out. I never really thought about what it was or what I was doing. I just made it. It was very random. I guess that’s how he was born, out of a whim.

    Louisville.com: What happened after "Fire Extinguisher"? 
    Alex: At the time I was fascinated by Riff Raff and I probably still am. He’s an interesting cultural figure. The year before I put out “Fire Extinguisher” he made like 80 videos or something in one year, I don’t know how many it was, but it was an insane amount of videos. I thought, well, I could probably do that. I could do a video a month myself, so I called it Howell Dawdy and decided I was going to keep going as long as I could.
     
    Louisville.com: Where did the name Howell Dawdy come from?
    Alex: Howell Dawdy is an ancestor of mine. If you go back to my great-great-grandfather and then add like seven greats [Howell Dawdy] was an indentured servant who came over from Scotland or England or somewhere. He escaped being an indentured servant, eventually fought in the Revolutionary War, then settled somewhere in St. Louis. I know who he is because I have an ad from a newspaper back then advertising an escaped indentured servant and four pounds reward if you captured this guy. I have a copy of it printed out that my mom gave to me. She thought he sounded like me. It was this guy with a red beard and a ponytail. He played the fiddle and liked to tell stories. She really liked the description of him. I just liked the name a lot.
     
    Louisville.com: Who is Howell Dawdy today? Is he a comedian, a musician, and recording artist, all of the above?
    Alex: He is an entertainer, but that didn’t come about until my friend, Greg Ward, from Twenty-First Century Fox and Karass, out right demanded that I play live with Karass at a show. I never even considered performing. It was just going to be this video project, but it turned out to be something I found very enjoyable, easy, and something I was good at. I basically do a stand-up set but with songs going on the whole time, which is why I think of [Howell Dawdy] as an entertainer because it’s almost like vaudeville or variety act.
     
    Louisville.com: What’s it like being an “entertainer” and performing with bands?
    Alex: It’s always a crap shoot with crowds whether or not they’re going to get you.  I did Fox Hollow Farms and that was a crowd that was very patient and very nice to me. The majority of them weren’t getting why I was there standing in the middle of the field shouting weird jokes that aren’t often punch line jokes. Most of the time when I have performed with bands it’s been very good. People have been very receptive to it. I’ve been very lucky.
     
    Louisville.com: What would you do if someone started to boo you?
    Alex: That’s a good question. I like to think I’d be able to handle it.
     
    Louisville.com: Start performing “Boo, I’m a Ghost”?
    Alex: That’s a great idea. I will use that. There’s no better answer than that.

    Louisville.com: Did you ever do comedy before?
    Alex: When I was a little kid in school. I was probably 10. I would do stand-up at school talent shows. I completely stopped. I did not follow through on it. It was something I did three or four times.
     
    Louisville.com: Do you remember any of your jokes?
    Alex: Oh, God. What’s so sad about it is that they were all political jokes. I was a ten-year-old kid doing entirely George H.W. Bush jokes.
     
    Louisville.com: What was the reception to your jokes about George H.W. Bush?
    Alex: Oh my god, it was nothing, absolutely nothing. Crickets, nothing but crickets. I honestly cannot believe I did that. I was an awkward kid. I was also a weirdly stressed out and emotional. I would freak out as a kid a lot. Like if I didn’t have a pen I was the kind of kid that would start crying in class because they didn’t have a pen. The fact that I was like that and then got up in front of everybody and did [air quotes] “stand-up comedy” with nobody responding at all is so weird to me. It’s a complete anomaly to my childhood memories. I don’t know what inspired me to do it and I don’t how I survived it.
     
    Louisville.com: Did your parents record any of this?
    Alex: No. I’m pretty sure I did some of my bits for them.
     
    Louisville.com: They didn’t stop you.
    Alex: They didn’t stop me.
     
    Louisville.com: They threw you to the wolves, but look where it got you.
    Alex: I guess, in a very roundabout way.
     
    Louisville.com: Where does Howell Dawdy get his dance moves?
    Alex: People tell me I have very distinct dance moves. I’m just feeling it. I have always loved dancing, probably not as a little stressed out, weirdo comedian kid.  I didn’t dance a whole lot then, but in this section of my life I’ve always loved dancing. I can’t say that my moves come from anywhere specifically. I’m a bit of a mimic. If I’m somewhere and I see somebody doing some really good moves, it affects me. I start to mirror it a little bit because I want to be that. If I see somebody dancing well I want to be that person dancing well, but I can only do what I can do. So, it probably just translates into my weird whatever.
     
    Louisville: So none of your onstage dances are thought out before?
    Alex: Oh, no. It’s all completely 100 percent on the spot. I don’t think about that at all. That’s how I feel dancing should be.
     
    Louisville.com:  You dance, write music, make videos, fix pipe organs, and perform. Is there anything else you do we don’t know about?
    Alex: I like hiking a lot. Hiking is my other thing I do.
     
    Louisville.com: Where do you like to hike?
    Alex: Everywhere. I’ve hiked a lot in England with my dad and I’ve hiked the entire Appalachian Mountains. I set out on this journey to find myself or whatever people convince themselves of before that set out to do some big hike. I was going to have this great feeling of solitude, just me and the wilderness for a long time. It’s never quite what you think it’s going to be. It was six months of my life. There’s not this one main central theme to it. There’s a ton of different things happening all the time. One thing I knew for sure coming home from doing that was if all I do is make music and videos from here on out until I’m dead, then I’m very happy. If I spend time with my friends and my family and make videos and music that’s my priority.
     
    “H-O-W-E-double L  D-A-W-D-Y that’s who he’ll be till he dies.”
     
    Here are Howell Dawdy's upcoming Shows:
     
    exBEERiment 
    October 8/6:00 PM
     
    Lydia Burrell and Howell Dawdy Release Show
    (fearturing a split 7-inch vinyl by This Man Records)
    October 23
     
    Photo Courtesy of Howell Dawdy 
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    About Katie Molck

    Loretta Lynn is the best country music singer of all time and if you don't like pickled foods, you can leave.

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