[ Texas ]


By Richard "Cactus" Pryor


From the town that brought you Molly Ivins, Liz Carpenter, John Henry Faulk, and Greater Tuna, here's Cactus Pryor. For decades, Cactus' wit and wisdom have delighted radio listeners, as well as the many social, political, business, and philanthropic groups throughout the United States whose functions have been enlivened by this accomplished master of ceremonies and after-dinner speaker.

Now the University of Texas Press takes great pleasure in bringing you this quintessential Texas humorist. Playback gathers over forty of Cactus Pryor's favorite radio essays, translating "ear words into eye words," as he puts it. In these pieces, Cactus paints vivid word pictures of people and places, offering readers the same "you are there" immediacy that makes his radio broadcasts so popular. In them, you'll take a sentimental journey with Cactus and his wife to the Maui grave site of Charles Lindbergh—discover how legendary University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal faced the agony of defeat with humor—meet unsung heroes like the 104-year-old who's teaching himself to read and write—get acquainted with the notable folks Cactus has known, including Lady Bird Johnson, John Wayne, Jane Fonda, and James Michener—and, of course, share Cactus' love of family, friends, and the Texas coast.

As Bailey White's essays on National Public Radio have introduced listeners across the country to the lifeways of the Deep South, so Cactus Pryor offers a humorous, revealing look at how we Texans view ourselves, our neighbors, and the world. Read Playback now, and see what you've been missing.

1. A Half Century of Radio
2. A River Runs Through
3. The Family Secret
4. The Longest Laugh
5. Rubadubdub
6. The City of Angels
7. Seashells
8. Dangerously Live
9. Thanksgiving
10. Reunion on Maui
11. I Am You
12. Death in Louisville
13. Joshua’s Shoes
14. The Net Caster
15. The Panhandle Pundit
16. Gift to George
17. Lufkin Man
18. There Is Hope
19. The Credit Card
20. The Naming
21. Fish Oil
22. Great Britain and Texas via Idaho
23. Déjà Vu
24. The 104-Year-Old Student
25. The Putting Preacher
26. Winter Beach
27. D-Day Fifty Years After
28. Eulogy to John
29. The Leper
30. Song-and-Dance Man
31. The Love Couple
32. The Duke of Wayne
33. Ambassador Davis
34. The Homeplace
35. A Conversation with Michener
36. The Visitors
37. Allison’s Gift
38. Saltwater Mustangs
39. Washington, D.C., Taxi
40. The Loser
41. The Hands of Time

Richard "Cactus" Pryor (1923—2011) began his career as a broadcaster at the end of World War II and was a popular humorist on radio for decades.

“Cactus is an original—sooey generous, as he would say. He’s as Texas as the bluebonnet (although not as pretty) but at ease anywhere in the world. These vignettes tell of a life rich in experience, friendships, and goodwill, not to mention the keen-eyed and open-hearted observations of a wise and witty man.”
—Bill Moyers

“Cactus Pryor has been a friend to people in cities and audiences all over Texas and miscellaneous places from the capital of politics in Washington, D.C., to the capital of show biz, Hollywood. His name as well as his overflowing, finely chiseled wit make him unforgettable.”
—From the foreword by Liz Carpenter

“Cactus Pryor became a Texas institution in large part because of his gifts as a raconteur, and he is just as engaging a storyteller in prose as he is in person. He has an authentic feel for his territory, a sly humor, and a deep affection for his subjects.”
—Stephen Harrigan, author of Comanche Midnight and Water and Light: A Diver’s Journey to a Coral Reef

“I am a writer. But radio is my baby. She’s my favorite. She’s intimate. She’s just you and me, babe. Me in my house shoes and jeans talking to you in your bathrobe with your hair in curlers and mine in the dresser top drawer.”
—Cactus Pryor