Or, at least, to not cancel one.
Which is why the Gulf Shores “Hangout Beach Music and Arts Festival” will be going on as planned, starting Friday. What money the festival organizers make, after expenses, will be donated to “regional non-profits working to control environmental and economic damage” from the spill.
Good for them.
If you are looking for a reason to go to the Gulf this weekend, here it is. Check it out at www.hangoutmusicfest.com.
Wish I could go. Can’t.
But learning that the festival was still going on got me thinking: People usually associate “beach music” with Myrtle Beach. The Beach Boys sing about California. The Jersey Shore has its “sound.” So, what is the sound of the “Redneck Riviera”?
Although Buffett started out singing what he called “Gulf and Western Music” and mentioned places Alabama beach-goers know and love, he moved to the Florida Keys and turned Caribbean on us. If he accomplished anything, he created an atmosphere that brought out the repressed redneck in people from San Diego to Cincinnati to by-gum Boston, and I guess we should give him credit for that.
The lineup at the festival has the Zac Brown Band, whose song “Toes” (even in its censored version) has the laid-back, irreverent quality Redneck Riviera music should have, but the guy in the song goes from Georgia (where Zac is from) to Mexico, skipping the Alabama coast in the process. The other festival acts, good though they are, aren’t even that close to redneckery.
So what, you might ask, am I looking for?
How about something along the line of what Ken Wells described as the sort of music Jimmy Buffett “might have written if he had grown up, say, dirt-poor in a storm-damaged double-wide with cars on blocks in the front yard.” I’ve never met Wells, but I’d like to. A writer for The Wall Street Journal, he talked a publisher into paying him to travel across America drinking beer. You gotta admire anybody who can pull that off.
In return, he gave the world a fine book, Travels with Barley: A Journey through Beer Culture in America.
And the book begins, appropriately enough, at the Flora-Bama.
At the Bama, Wells discovered what I believe is the Sound of the Redneck Riviera that he named, appropriately enough, “Trailer Park Rock.”
Now, at this point I need to say that those of you with delicate sensibilities had probably better stop reading right here, for what follows can get a little, well, crude. But what would you expect?
Wells discovered Flora-Bama regulars Rusty and Mike (McHugh and Fincher), whose anti-social, anti-establishment repertoire included a song about Spring Break love (“I Went Home With a Mermaid and Woke Up With a Manatee”). They also sang about a “White People Party,” a “Caucasian occasion” that can and should be compared to another song, “Po’ ass People,” in which they celebrated the joys of being just that.
One of the things that gave the music of Rusty and Mike and the other Bama regulars the ring of authenticity was that they weren’t just visitors — the Riviera was home. In fact, some of them actually lived within walking distance of the Bama itself.
According to the Bama’s co-owner Joe Gilchrist, many of the Bama musicians didn’t have cars and “most couldn’t be trusted to drive, anyway.” So Gilchrist let them pull in trailers and put them on a piece of property he owned across the road from the bar. There on the Old River side of Orange Beach, within sight of the mansions of Ono Island, the squatters created Boys Town. It was, one of them mused, a place where “just a few of us old hippies and people who work across the street get to live down here and enjoy life.” Meanwhile, over on Ono, “millionaire folks [were] staring at poor folks” who were drinking beer, partying after hours, singing and occasionally sleeping. Other regulars lived nearby so the Bama and Boys Town became the center of what amounted to a musicians’ colony. There they lived the life they sang about.
And there they created Trailer Park Rock — the sound of the Redneck Riviera.
Rusty and Mike are gone now. Hard living and longevity seldom go hand in hand. But if you want to know what you missed, you can get their CDs at the Flora-Bama or find the duo on YouTube. If you go there, click on “Old Milwaukee.” But make sure the kids are out of the room.
If you like what you hear, the next time you are on the coast, wander into the Bama and judge for yourself if Trailer Park Rock has survived.
And while you are there, buy a Rusty and Mike CD.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and an editorial writer and columnist for The Star. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.