Upholding tradition for a song

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BRANSON MO NEWS: Pralines ought to be an easy sell to pleasure-seeking tourists, but after Hurricane Irma thinned the crowds on Market Street, glossy brochures tucked into hotel racks and the aroma of cooked sugar weren’t enough to lure spenders into one of the row’s candy shops. So on a recent evening, a young T-shirted employee wandered down the street holding a platter stacked with samples and silver serving tongs.When he passed by The Fudgery, a competing confectioner, store front man Shakeil Dozier shook his head. “Hey, DHEC going to get you now,” he said. And then the 22-year-old broke into song.

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At The Fudgery, the come-on is musical. It’s not a strategy unique to the company’s Charleston location: The concept dates back to 1980, when A.C. Marshall instructed the four employees at his fudge counter in coastal North Carolina to serenade customers. Now, “fudge theater” is performed at 27 stores from Seattle to Destin, Florida. But the approach has a particular resonance in City Market, where the history of melodic hawking dates back centuries.In 1910, Harriette Kershaw Leiding published an illustrated pamphlet with musical notations for the street cries that swirled outside her downtown window, sent up by African-American women with baskets of vegetables balanced on their heads and African-American men driving donkey-drawn carts. Leiding described the crisscrossing calls of “Raw! Raw! Raw shrimp!” and “Don’t be mad; here’s your shad!” as Charleston’s “queer, original but fast fading, street symphony.”“It was cacophonous, to say the least,” says culinary historian Jessica Harris, who in “I’m Talkin’ ‘Bout the Food I Sells” documented the “verve and verbal dexterity” that entrepreneurs of African descent brought to the streets of New York City, New Orleans, Chicago (where a young Sam Cooke had a perch on …


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