Monday, December 08, 2008

Rock 'n Roll Never Forgets

NOTE: If you're not from Batesville, Arkansas, this will mean very little to you. Just a word of warning....

Old rockers never die.

With too many irons in the fire, I’ve been out of the loop longer than I like to think about. But then, there are only so many hours in a day, and spending a good portion of them sleeping has always been one of my life’s passions.

Occasionally though, mama will drag me away from the computer to someplace other than our local Native American gaming establishments, and usually I end up glad she did.

Such was the case this past Saturday night when I was (apparently) the last usta-be rock singer in Arkansas to discover the remarkable talent of a guy named Darren Ray. Well, that’s not entirely true. Only a week before, I’d heard him at Cherokee Casino (West Siloam Springs) with his other band, “Big Bad Bubba”, but I was, let’s say, too distracted then to pay much attention. At this private party though, Darren was performing with his other band, “Big’Uns”, in a small venue. People, let me tell you, this old crooner was blown away. That guy had a set of pipes like I haven’t heard anywhere in a very long time, and the band itself was tight as a jug. They covered everything from Delbert McClinton’s “Every Time I Roll the Dice” to Michael McDonald’s “Takin’ it to the Streets”, and everybody involved hit every note. Then they ended up with a Beatles set, culminating with “Hey Jude”, that even had Republicans swaying and singing along. And here in Northwest Arkansas, there’s a lot of those.

So, as they were loading out, doofus that I am, I had to go up and tell ‘em how good I thought they were – keeping them from getting their work done and getting home for just a while longer. Turns out Darren also performs with my ex-brother-in-law, Travis Kidd (Tulsa, OK). That was pretty cool. But the lead guitarist looked somewhat familiar, so I also bothered him to discuss the glory days and found out that the six degrees of separation thing really does exist. His name was Ed Nicholson, and he had been playing around, basically, forever. I quickly discovered that he was from Harrison, Arkansas. When I told him I was from Batesville, the names of musicians from the area he had played with came rolling out: Andy Buschman, Gib Ponder, Mary Henry, Danny Dozier…just the ones we had time to talk about before I finally recalled through my party-fuzzed haze what it’s like to try to load out with people bugging you, and started backing across the empty room toward the door. Ed told me he had only recently spoken with Andy on the phone – and I wondered how Andy had enough wind to do that while he was running. Always running. He must use a cell phone.

The meeting gave rebirth to a longtime fantasy I have had about getting all the old musicians from the Batesville area (and the new ones, too) together for some kind of big rock ‘n roll reunion concert. Would that be cool, or am I the only one that’s interested? Maybe some charity could use a few bucks that could be raised from such an event. Or, maybe that’s already happened at some point and nobody told me about it….?

I have always maintained that there is no place on the planet that has produced as much musical talent, per-capita, as Batesville (and the surrounding area). I could list all of them I remember here, in bold print, but I’d surely embarrass myself by leaving too many out. Surely, such an event would draw a respectable crowd, even if you only consider the families produced by the musicians involved. Kids. Grandkids. Oh my God, some of you are OLD! How much extra would it cost to have an elevator installed to get up to the stage? Maybe a few ambulances standing by, just in case?

When I recall the time we worked like dogs cleaning out the old, practically abandoned AC Gym to do a show, and all the people that showed up there; the crowds that used to come up the hill on Saturday night to the Salado Community Building or to Cave City or to the Jaycee building down by the bayou; and the way we used to curse the fact that there was just not much to do (anything changed?) – I can’t help but think my little rock ‘n roll fantasy isn’t such a bad idea.

Living two hundred miles away, and being the most disorganized person in the world, I would not be able to put such a thing together myself. I’m hoping there’s some other old timer reading this, with a lot of time on his/her hands, thinking he or she might just be the one for the job.

Who knows? Maybe it could turn into a yearly tradition. “The Batesville Whitewater Revival”?

Your thoughts?

© 2008 Rick Baber


Hammerman said...

Never been to Batesville. Not even sure I know where it is. Somewhere around West Memphis?
So, you're right, doesn't mean much to me. Sounds like a pretty cool town though with all those musicians. If you get this thing together maybe we'll make the trip!

Anonymous said...

NO dumbass, Batesville isn't near West Memphis.
And NO, who wants to pay money to hear a bunch of washed up old hippies try to scream into a microphone?

Hammerman said...

Well, THAT was rude!

nunnya said...

did this get printed? i haven't seen it in the paper

Cia said...

Let us take a few moments to review the many ways in which "anonymous" above is a douche bag.
K. Now that we have done that - I think the revival concept is a great one. Me & mine will hit the road for Batesville so let us know when.

Anonymous said...

Van Reynolds
Buster Johnson
Bill Coop
Jewel Caraway
Margaret Henley
A.B. Watkins
Robert Peel
Gail Crawford
Landers Theater (side door)
George Van Cleave
Great Pacific Pant Company
Ben Dodd
Saint Peter's Road Show

Rick Baber said...

Chillren, chillren. Let us not squabble.
NO DOUBT you're from Batesburg!
Now, match the name from your list to this quote:
"You wanna leave the show?"

Anonymous said...

Was it Clyde Reese?

Now, match the legal name with the name you gave me — Farmer Ted.

The name still sticks. My daughter called me that.
You didn't know you had these powers, did you?
It's why you need to be writing more columns.

Rick Baber said...

I guess too many bottles of Cognac have gone thru me to have the required recollection. I'm gonna need more hints.
I know this - since the paper hasn't yet seen fit to publish this particular column, you're either on my "Focus Group" list, or you somehow stumbled across my li'l blog by other means.
I think I've got it narrowed down to a chosen few, but Handsome Ransom Weaver is the only REAL farmer I know.....(I think).

Rick Baber said...

...Upon further reflection, Handsome Ransom is out. He din't go to BHS, so he wouldn't know lotsa the folks on the list. I'm leaning more now toward a "golden throated" singer with finger-picking of whom once had his underwear stolen.

Anonymous said...

Spot on, bro.
Had a warm email exchange some months ago with your beloved. She sold me that Greecian Urn pattern shirt, circa 1971, pictured in the '72 Pioneer.

Wesley Stewart
Debbie Ford
Janie Lovejoy
Caveman Keeling
Billy Bob Burns
Billie Porter 8B2
Purple Microdot

otisj said...

I just happened to check in on the blog and found this one. Did I miss it in the paper?
Anyway, good idea. I hope you get it together.

Anonymous said...

I want to see the list of all the so-called musical talent from Batesville. As far as I know all they can do there is drive racecars.

Rick Baber said...

If I'm not mistaken, everybody ( & thing) on the first list was, how should I say, dirtnapping. Am I wrong? Please don't tell me the same applies to the second list...I'd really be upset about Caveman.

Anon (at least pick a damn name, this gets confusing) - there is a bit of fast driving in Bville, but music is where the true talent lies.

debby ohl said...

great idea, i went to high school with the handsome farmer ransom weaver and consider him one of my best friends on the planet. we kicked around the idea a few years ago for our 30th reunion to get the old roundhouse band (sometimes know as st dominiques reqest)but that meant we woulda had to bust billy sutton outa the big house and billy really got a kick outta that when i wrote him in prison to start and formulate the plan. i have lived in some pretty hip music cities since that time, baton rouge, pompano beach, ft lauderdale but nowhere ever touched my soul like the innocent days at salado community center or when r.m. weaver let us practice in his barn with the concrete floor (ouch) and didnt even complain about the noise or cost of electricity . i could never remember the red head who sang for the white river band but i idolized her because she had talent which i didnt i was just the cute blond who sang backup for bobby cummings and the ballad "highway" written by zach mann and i guess in reality everybody just wanted to get in my pants which was okay and boosted my ego because i really knew that i couldnt sing and thats not why people loved me. anyway great article and i have to close with a shout out to the late great gary "trudy" mansfield who i loved with all my heart and soul God rest his sincerely debby j ohl

debby ohl said...

oh yeah my stage name was debby duffy.............

BoffoTheClown said...

I think I'm in love with Cia!

BoffoTheClown said...

AND maybe that Debby chick too. Can you get them to post pictures?

Rick Baber said...

I remember the name, but, as I've said before, there's a lot of fuzz in the pictures. Zach Mann is a great example though of the talent I'm talkin' 'bout. Mary Henry is the only redhead singer I remember with a voice from God. Could it have been her?

Ax 'em. You never know.

I guess this piece just came out in the paper today. You know where the blog is dude. Check here!

Dennis said...

Hi Rick, I’m Dennis Farrier. I read your article in the Batesville Guard about the Batesville Musicians. I’m one of those. I live in Searcy now. I used to play music with Fred Harris and Randy Weaver in the mid Seventies. I still play guitar and try to keep my chops up somewhat. Mainly blues and classic rock. I occasionally play guitar with a songwriter who lives near Rosebud. Never could get away from it. Its like a weird obession or something. Its therapy for me to crank up the old Fender tweed once in a while and wail away on a Strat. My Brother Mike used to play in a band with Danny Dozier, Pete Harris, Donald Defreese, Andy Bushman, and other assorted characters back in the 60s. I think I partied with you one night many years ago. Randy Weaver and I went to your house on West Side. I used to laugh like crazy with him. You know what I’m talkin about. Anyway if you ever get anything going with the old Batesville burn outs let me know. My home phone # is 501-305-4304.

Anonymous said...

By the way I have tons of funny stories about the good old days playing music with Zack, Randy, and Fred. Like the time we all went to a recording studio in Memphis to lay down a demo and Fred got to drunk to play. Or the time Weaver and I smoked a doobie and ended up inside the the steeple at Brown's Chapel pretending we were inside the Hindenburg. HA HA HA HA. My e-mail is I would love to contact some of the old freaks from those days and swap funny stories.

Rick Baber said...

Whoa, Hey!
We've all got lots of stories we could tell about the old days - but I'm not sure about statutes of limitations, etc., so let's not do that here if it includes any illegal activities or stuff we might not have shared with the chillerns.
Of course I remember you Dennis. You guys had a great sound. We used to go hear your band whenever we didn't have a conflicting schedule. I never knew your brother, but I've certainly heard of him.
Sometime, I'd really like to get with you and hear some of those stories. I've got plenty of my own about Fred & Ransom.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

OOPs. I got carried away. Sorry about that.

Rick Baber said...

NO problem brudder. I'm gonna e-mail you soon & try to catch up on what you've been doing.

billyD said...

Well aint this just a little lovefest whatever happened to the rick baber that wants to be combative all the time?

Anonymous said...

One word: punctuation

Aspendadio said...

Errr, I posted my comment under the "shoe" by mistake. Remind me again not to think and drive a mouse. Also, the date I had over there must have been a couple of years later because I was still on the Left coast in more like 1977.

Hey man,

Sorry I'm late posting here - I still find myself in 2009 while still trying to catch up with 2008.

Sign me up as the soundman for that great gig in the sky. You may recall that I made everybody sound a whole lot better than they really were. 'Course, I can't hear as much as I did then...but then who can?

I had flashbacks for a solid 10 minutes after reading some of those names and places people posted. Residual chemicals I guess...

And here's a musical point-n-time for you: Deer, AR, c. 1977, when we built a band from stray Batesville talent for a final gig after the originally-booked band no longer existed...

Bonus round: Name the dudes who jammed in the school cafeteria in Deer that night. (Or maybe it was the gym? Oh yeah, it was both, presumably not at the same time.)


Rick Baber said...

No way I'd have anybody else for the soundman. And, yes, I do remember that gig. Let's try this for the players, side's me, of course: The Bush, T-Tot, Bird, Doom?, Clint, Handsome Ransom, Zack the Mann, and... Buford?? No. That's too many guitars. Maybe T-Tot & Bird were gone and Zach on guitar and Buford on bass?
Hell, I only really remember driving there, late, by myself, because my asshole boss wouldn't let me off work in time (maybe that was the first trip to Deer?)- and the trip down from there to Morrilton where Zack played the "One dollar is all I got" bit on the Jewish hat salesman, and wound up with a great, and cheap, Stetson. might have to straighten me out on that one.

Aspendadio said...


We did manage to recruit Bufford on bass 'cause 'da bird was off somewhere. Not sure what we promised Rick to have him haul with us into a seriously remote parts of AR, but it worked. I swear I heard banjo music a couple of times. The other ax was slung by, errrr, ... (gack, my head is hurting on this one...) T-Tot? Ransom was rhythm, although I think I did some congas or something at one point. Maybe I was just playing the sound board. I have no doubt that it ranks among the top most strange gigs I have ever been a part of. Wouldn't trade it for a dozen fancier ones.

Like when a band I did sound for played backup for Loggins and Messina. Kenny was (and I assume still is) a jerk backstage. Jim was, well, in another state altogether. Kansas I think.