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SOUTHERN FRIED

Mississippi native Kris Blakely has one of the most breathtaking guitar collections we’ve ever encountered, ranging from instruments that saw action in World War II, to Paul Kossoff’s 1959 Les Paul Standard. Chris Vinnicombe pays him a visit…

PRIVATE COLLECTION

If you’ve ever whiled away the hours gazing at fine guitars on the internet – and if you haven’t, it’s entirely possible that you are reading the wrong magazine – you may well be familiar with Kris Blakely, especially if your lust for gear has led you to The Les Paul Forum or Instagram, where Blakely goes by the name ‘Fried Okra’.

A popular Southern dish made by frying battered okra in a cast-iron skillet until it’s crispy, Fried Okra became Kris’s nickname over 30 years ago. As a somewhat worse-for-wear 17-year-old at a house party, he caused a small fire while trying to satiate a case of the munchies by throwing a frozen box of breaded okra into a very hot pan… and promptly falling asleep. Happily, there were no injuries, but the nickname stuck.

Like so many Southern families, music went way back in the Blakely house: “It all started with my father, as well as his family,” Kris recalls. “They played various stringed instruments, guitars, mandolins, banjos, et cetera. Every year we have a family reunion back in the hills, near the old stomping grounds as the old folks say. Though it’s becoming less every year, it’s still a lot of bluegrass and gospel music played whenever the old timers get together. It really is something special.

“My dad, a brother of nine, grew up with his father ‘Pawpaw’ cutting and hauling pulp wood. Pawpaw was known for making moonshine for a meagre living.

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