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Annabelle Russell, R.I.P. October 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, People.
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Annabelle Russell, 68, who with her husband Harley Russell made up the irreverent Mediocre Music Makers at their Sandhills Curiosity Shop in Erick, Oklahoma, died Tuesday afternoon after a 3 1/2-year bout with cancer.

The Facebook page for Harley and Annabelle posted sad but typical message Tuesday:

Dear friends, my Precious Annabelle just passed away 1:10p.m. this afternoon Sept.30, 2014. Thank all of you for everything you have done.

You Get the Best of Our Love!!! YEE HAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Annabelle was moved into hospice care in Oklahoma City in early September. She began aggressive treatment for the cancer after a four-hour surgery in March 2011. Although the cancer was incurable, she recovered her strength enough to play a number of Mediocre Music Makers shows with Harley.

The Mediocre Music Makers act began more than a decade ago in the Russells’ old City Meat Market building a block south of Route 66 in downtown Erick. They previously tried to make it go as a health-food store. The Mediocre Music Makers act happened spontaneously: The Russells once were going through guitar practices in the store when a tour group stopped by. Afterward, the group threw money down on the tables for tips, and its guide said he’d bring more tours by in the future. And a long and well-known entertainment career on Route 66 was born.

The act was mostly music with a heaping helping of wacky comedy inside a shop brimming with antiques. Annabelle served as rhythm guitarist, singer and “straight man” in the act (where you could “see rednecks work and play in their own environment”). But close observers noted she often was the instigator to Harley’s madcap antics, and Harley told me she had written 300 songs — a few which made into their set list.

Harley, in a Facebook message on Sept. 25, said:

My Precious Annabelle was the key factor behind our success at our “Sandhills Curiosity Shop” in Erick, Oklahoma, where we performed our “Insanity at it`s Finest” program (off-color comedy and mediocre music). In this space I cannot begin to tell you of the many tasks she performed! As a matter of fact I don`t even know myself! And you, all our friends played a big part in it as well!

(Incidentally, Harley ultimately called their act “mediocre” because he was a professional musician for many years.)

But the duo continued to entertain thousands of Route 66 travelers from dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of countries. A significant number said the Harley & Annabelle Experience was the highlight of their Route 66 trip.

As a testament to their popularity, well-wishes came by the dozens from all over the globe on Harley and Annabelle’s Facebook page during her diagnosis and later treatments.

As for the future of the Sandhills Curiosity Shop in Erick, Harley posted this a few days ago:

I have asked my Precious Annabelle what she wanted me to do after this is all over….She says, try to keep doing what we were doing at our shop “The Sandhills Curiosity Shop” so that’s what I will try to do. But it will never be the same! You Get the Best of Our Love!!! YEE HAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This brings up something else. Facebook is cussed and discussed — often for good reasons — for years. But it served as a viable link to Harley and Annabelle and all of their fans and friends from across the globe during the long ordeal. Harley told me himself Annabelle’s health problems were “hell,” but I suspect all the well-wishes from hundreds of people made the last few years a bit more tolerable. The words of sympathy and support that flooded his Facebook page on Tuesday afternoon and evening reiterated that.

(Image of Harley and Annabelle Russell performing in February 2014 by Dusty Track via Flickr)

Two rockers on the road September 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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In recent days, Music Vault has posted two vintage videos of rock bands covering Bobby Troup’s big road song.

The first is by Earth Quake, playing at Winterland in San Francisco in 1974:

The next one is by the Greg Kihn Band, playing at Capital Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey in 1984.

A look back at the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival September 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Music, Towns.
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The folks in Springfield, Missouri, already are publicizing next year’s Birthplace of Route 66 Festival — scheduled for Aug. 7-8 — by showing a few of the highlights of the festival last month.

That includes a performance of “Chicken Train” by some local legends, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.

Birthplace of Route 66 Festival from SGF CityView on Vimeo.

Roger Miller Festival moving from downtown Erick September 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Music.
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The annual Roger Miller Festival is moving from its longtime downtown location in his adopted hometown of Erick, Oklahoma, to the Lost Creek Arena west of town on old Route 66, according to a news release from the venue.

The event — which will feature lots of live music, including Roger Miller’s son, Dean Miller — is set for Oct. 25. The festival also is getting aid and cooperation from nearby towns, including the Route 66 communities of Sayre, Oklahoma, and Shamrock, Texas.

More from the release:

Kicking off the day’s festivities is a new tradition bound to heat up old rivalries and start new ones, with the first-ever Oklahoma-vs-Texas “King of the Road Classic Car and Truck Show.” Winners in various classes will be awarded a unique 1st place prize: A custom-made, personalized Roger Miller “King of the Road” jacket. Show entries will be placed in categories such as the “Baddest Pick-Up Truck” class for the toughest, strongest and best looking trucks.

Festival goers will enjoy live music, savory food from an excellent vendor lineup and shopping with the local arts and crafts booths. Inclement weather will not hinder festivities with activities held inside the enclosed arena, excluding the car and truck show. [...]

Guests may bring chairs and camp out all weekend. Additional detailed information and tickets sales will be announced soon. Fans can keep up with the festival on www.rogermillerfest.com and Facebook.

The Lost Creek Arena hosted the inaugural Buckin Wild Music Festival in July, and drew 3,000 people. I suspect the city fathers in Erick saw those numbers and decided they could do a lot better than in downtown, where space and parking are a bit lacking.

Plus the venue’s owner, Brian Austin, has connections to the music industry and publicists — no small thing if you’re organizing what essentially is a music festival.

And in case you’re not familiar with Roger Miller, here’s a short bio:

Country music singer and songwriter legend Roger Miller came from humble beginnings on a farm near Erick, but rose to stardom in the country music world in the 1960s until his untimely death in 1992. With such legendary hits as “King of the Road” and “Dang Me,” Roger made a name for himself as an original. He also wrote #1 Hits such as “Invitation to the Blues” for other artists including Ray Price. He penned the hit Broadway musical, “Big River,” which earned seven Tony Awards in 1985. Roger Miller was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995. His iconic music was recognized with 11 Grammy Awards during his lifetime.

(Illustration of Roger Miller via Klaus Hiltscher via Flickr)

“66 Mainstreet, Americana” September 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, People, Road trips.
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This film documents a couple of Brits, film director Andy Harrison and photographer Natalie Pluck, taking in a Route 66 trip.

I like this film very much, mostly because it seems to be simply willing to go its own way.

66 Mainstreet, Americana from Andy Harrison on Vimeo.

A few things to note before you view it:

  1. The film works best in full-screen mode on your computer.
  2. Make sure you watch the whole thing to see a nice little surprise near the end.
  3. The excellent song by Matt McCloskey is available for download here.

Hello from Moscow September 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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I bet you haven’t heard this one. It’s Ned Wright, singing Bobby Troup’s “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66″ in 1955 in Moscow as part of The Everyman’s Opera Concerto. It’s a lot jazzier than you might think it is.

Wright, by the way, was one of the first Americans allowed to perform behind the Iron Curtain, performing in Czechoslovakia and Romania as well.

Wright, an Ohio native, was best-known as being part of The Phoenix Singers during the 1960s and a member of the Belafonte Folk Singers. He died in 1981 at age 55.

“Route 66″ performed on Indonesia TV September 14, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Television.
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Bobby Troup’s estate got another dose of cha-ching Friday. On a show called “Rising Star Indonesia,” contestant Reyna Qotrunnada performed his best-known song.

Yes, her English during the song is a clumsy, but do remember it’s not her mother tongue.

But it seemed a lot of people in the audience recognized it. It’s amazing how “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66″ has rocketed all over the world.

And lest you scoff at Indonesia, it is a nation of 250 million people. That’s a lot of potential Route 66 fans.

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