‘Still Called The Blues’ Tollette, Arkansas
Music, entertainment and all things creative completes me. The story of my life and I love it. Ronnie Green and the Parks and Recreation Committee of Tollette presented me with an offer that I couldn’t, wouldn’t refuse. ‘We would like you to come and MC the 2nd Annual Blues Show,’ he said. ‘Hello! absolutely I’m there,’ I replied. When one is called upon for an experience that may seem off the beaten path, it’s all good for I feel that one can accomplish many great things in a lifetime just not all at once. I’ve been engaged on the ‘I love my life tour’ since earlier this year and not likely to let it go until. I was elated when an opportunity knocked. I answered the call; destination Tollette, Arkansas.
Pete, my faithful chariot having been tuned, tires road ready, all fluids in tact was up for the task. We were fired up and ready to roll. Let’s do this! We eased out of my driveway about 12 noon and hit the road. We were facing about 6 hours in front of us. I had prepared a CD set list lined up for the ride that I was sure that the good vibes of the blues would make the trip shorter and extremely pleasant. We stayed in character, setting the mood.
6 hours later, a wrong turn landed us in Hope, Arkansas. It may have seemed a mistake but yet so appropriate. Hope? not a mistake after all but a blessing and symbolism of sorts, a good start. It didn’t take long for help to arrive and guide us into Tollette. Misdirection can be purposeful. As we navigated through Columbus and Saratoga in the effort to get back on track, a wonderful thing happened. We found ourselves deep in the country. There were odd showers in places; a surprise awaited. I had never experienced in my glorious years the occurrence that laid before me. There was rain falling on the hot pavement rising like fog but actually a mist rising off these country roads. I had a strong desire to pull over to the side of the road, give Pete a moment and let the mist anoint me. I didn’t because our guide was waiting and there was no time to ‘lollygag’. We were expected.
I hit the ground running. The fever pitch of preparations for the blues show was in effect. We had four days to tie up the loose ends, time to acclimatize to my environment, feel the pulse of the people. The atmosphere was electric, expectant as the annual homecoming was in existence. Folks were arriving every day from points far and wide, coming home to rejoice in their heritage. Vendors were everywhere lined up around the perimeter of the old school building where most of the homecoming events were being held. The barbecue and fried fish was off the chain! I was forced to show some restraint because I desired to taste it all but not if I wanted to feel comfortable in my attire. Still, I savored as much as I could within reason that is. I was introduced to many of the locals. I appreciated being able to bond before showtime. It was important to feel a part of the community. As they say, ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do.’
Saturday night was on like hot buttery pop the popcorn! The stage had been built resting in the far corner of the park. The green was filled with people relaxing in their lawn chairs, scattered as far as the eye could see from left to right and beyond. There was a hum of activity backstage. The artists were gearing up to give a fantastic performance. Showtime was upon us. Security was on the case. Everyone were relaxed and visiting with each other, an aura of calm as the crowd poured through the gate, taking their places. Hospitality was in check, no want for anything because it was all there. I felt at home and prayed to God that I would not disappoint. Actually I didn’t stress too hard because a great show had been lined up. The energy was alive and present. Ronnie Green and his team, me included were ready. Already!
Luenell, a native of Tollette, successful comedian, actor and Grand Marshall of the homecoming parade delivered opening remarks followed by the band ‘Chimney Rock’ a local band from Nashville, AK who opened the show. They were awesome with their unique take on the blues. Folks were settling in enjoying being entertained. The music continued to flow as ‘Baby Boy the Bluesman’ followed by Reneii Figures whose timely performance set the audience a light with her old school performance and premiering her latest single ‘Paperwork’. The audience was gripped as some swayed in their seats while others danced in the field. Ellis Blake, with his signature tune ‘Try Me’ led the line up as we traversed into the veteran blues performers. Rue Davis,’The Man with the Thousand Voices’ who holds eight music awards and twenty-one number one hits left the stage and onto the field of people having us surrounding him in a circle of love. A seasoned and gifted performer, he showed out! Donnie Ray, ‘The Baby Boy with the Golden Voice’, with hits like ‘A Letter To My Baby’ and ‘Who’s Rocking You’ headlining the show took us to the bridge, the end. A fantastic night was had by all.
I love my life! I affirm that everyday. I now go on to fulfill my next adventure as a National Delegate to re-elect our President Barack Obama in Charlotte, North Carolina but I hope to return to Tollette one day and experience the great talents of the blues again!