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”?
© 2008 Rick Baber