Southern culture, with all its facets and idiosyncrasies, has always been a point of fascination as well as a source of subject matter for David Ray Skinner. Born and raised in Nashville, he grew up immersed in both the music and the history that has shaped that region of this country. At 18, Skinner attended Carson-Newman, a small Baptist college in East Tennessee, where he studied art and watercolor painting, and later on, journalism. As a freshman he provided editorial cartoons to the school's newspaper and served as editor-in-chief of the paper his junior and senior year (winning two Southeastern College Newspaper Competition awards his senior year). During college he also served as the editorial cartoonist for an East Tennessee daily newspaper and, after graduating, went on to be the editor/ reporter/ cartoonist and delivery boy for the Sevier County Times, a weekly paper in the Smoky Mountains. While in the Smokies, he started playing bluegrass in a weekend hillbilly bar band called PigFish BoatRamp, for which he began writing songs about a forgotten Confederate general named John Hunt Morgan. Skinner's love for art, design and music eventually landed him in New York City, where he became the cartoonist and, eventually, the Art Director for the now-defunct international music trade magazine, Record World. After five years at Record World, he spent his last few years in New York art directing Doubleday's prestigious Literary Guild Magazine. However, the lure of home, friends, kinfolks and the South proved to be too strong, and in 1984, Skinner moved to Atlanta. Here, he helped establish a small design and advertising agency with two partners and continued to write songs with a Southern edge. Once in Atlanta, Skinner became involved in various projects, including Johnny Cash's gospel video, Return to the Promised Land, for which he designed the logo and co-wrote the title track with Cash and Hugh Waddell. He also renewed his interest in John Hunt Morgan and began writing more songs which eventually took the form of a concept album. The album, John Hunt Morgan: A Southern Legend, a kind of novel-in-music, was the culmination of Skinner's life-long interest in the Civil War and particularly, John Morgan. In 1997, the album was nominated for Gettysburg College's prestigious Lincoln Prize. Skinner's most recent release, Jolly Roger Tailgunner, chronicles his father's role in World War II as a tail gunner for the famed Jolly Rogers bomb group.
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