‘Candy man’ Mr Ziedman lived for many years in musician Pierce’s notebooks

IT would have been no mean feat to locate a Jewish resident in a small town in Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s.

Yet, perhaps the only Jewish person living in Fort Payne inspired Pierce Pettis to write a song about him on his forthcoming album.

Father’s Son, which will be released by Compass Records next Friday, is Pierce’s first album for almost a decade.

And he delves into his childhood for the track Mr Ziedman — the “one and only Jew” in his little town, who always wore long sleeves to “keep an ugly thing from view” (his Holocaust tattoo).

Musician Andrea Zonn has arranged the strings on the song, which ends with Pierce lighting a candle for “our one and only Jew”.

Pierce told me from his home in Alabama: “Mr Ziedman lived in my notebooks for a long time. He made a big impression on me.

“He owned a ladies’ apparel store in our town and I knew him very well.

“There are some details in the song which I have added, but songwriters, like novelists, take liberties!

“My grandmother always told me not to let facts get in the way of a good story.”

Pierce believes that Mr Ziedman, who was from Poland, was a Holocaust survivor.

He said: “I don’t know for sure, as it is an assumption of mine, but, looking at the timing of when he arrived in America, in 1946, and the fact a couple, who lived in Fort Payne, sponsored him to come over.

“It is hard to think that anyone who came out of Poland at the time would not have been affected by the Holocaust in some way.”

The 64-year-old was later told that Mr Ziedman retired, sold his business and moved to Miami, where he married.

But Pierce was also told that Mr Ziedman committed suicide by jumping off his balcony in Miami.

“I am not sure if that was a fact too, but I was shocked by it and it stayed with me for a long time,” he explained.

Mr Ziedman’s shop was next to Pierce’s father’s hardware store and the two were friends.

“Mr Ziedman was a very kind man and whenever children came into the store, he would fetch a big bowl of candy to give to them,” Pierce recalled.

“As far as I recalled, he was the only Jewish person in town and probably in the entire county.

“I learned about the Holocaust from my father and he had a lot of affection for Jewish people.

“He grew up in a town smaller than Fort Payne and, when I took him back there, he showed me his house and a house across the street and told me, ‘that’s where the Cohens lived’ — they were the only Jewish family in town.

“He and his brothers, and the Cohens’ sons grew up together, so I was raised in a home with a lot of respect for Jewish people.

“There was no antisemitism in my house.”

* Watch Pierce perform Mr Ziedman at

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