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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Kings Prairie concert brings back musical memories

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dewayne Bowman let out one of his big characteristic laughs in mid-song during the Saturday performance of Swingin' West at the Kings Prairie benefit concert.
Around 300 people turned out for the 13th annual Kings Prairie benefit concert at the historic Kings Prairie school, east of Monett, on Saturday night. The performers revelled in perfect weather and the scenic setting, providing nearly three hours of toe-tapping music.

Promptly at 6 p.m., Red Bridge began its bluegrass set, sending a shower of banjo notes from Mark Zimmerman into the air to open "Shuckin' the Corn." Group leader Larry Mayfield on lead guitar provided lead vocals on numbers like "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" and "Little Mountain Church House."

Warren Hull on mandolin and Alan Young on resophonic guitar and fiddle propelled the ensemble's traditional sound. Mary Mayfield, playing bass, jumped in on vocals for "Just Any Day Now," framed around a cascade of mandolin and banjo accompaniment. Larry and Mary Mayfield blended their voices on several of the group's dozen selections.

Dewayne Bowman and his band Swinging' West brought the first concert of Western swing music to the local festival. From left are: Ernie Reid, fiddle; Johnny Henderson, steel guitar; Bowman; Ronnie Bleaker, drums; and Gary Hill, rhythm guitar.
Saving the best till last, Red Bridge shaped a bluegrass arrangement of Stephen Foster's "Oh! Susanna" with Hull on the slow vocal solo surrounded by an unusually sensitive bluegrass accompaniment. Band members joined in on harmony for the refrain.

To close in upbeat upbeat bluegrass style, the band cut loose on "Panhandle Rag." Larry Mayfield showed off the melody on the first run-through, turning the tune over to Hull on mandolin, Zimmerman on banjo and then Young on the resophonic guitar. One final take brought in all the instruments, showing off their solo licks simultaneously for big romp.

This year's show was dedicated to the memory of Louella Helmkamp, one of the festival team's founding organizers who served as committee secretary and coordinated pie sales. Helmkamp died during the past year. Her daughter, Linda Hammons, and son, Sam Helmkamp, appeared on stage with festival organizer Al Brumley Jr. for a tribute. Brumley also offered a tip of the hat to Vedas Davis, who had the original idea for the annual music event.

Brumley, who announced he was planning to retire from performing soon, offered a set of songs to showcase the work of his father, gospel music titan Albert E. Brumley. He opened with the 1937 song "Turn Your Radio On," playing along on guitar with additional accompaniment by award winning guitarist and songwriter Dwayne Friend.

Brumley continued "Amazing Grace, the Sweetest Song I Know" with an added taped bluegrass accompaniment. He then gave single verse versions of "If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven" and "I'll Meet You in the Morning."

Friend played Chet Atkins' instrumental, "Bells of St. Mary's," the first song Friend learned to play in the Atkins style, displaying Friend's polish from a lifetime of guitar playing. Tapping into the audience's nostalgia, Friend then asked audience members if they recalled their days in a rural school with eight grades taught at once in one room, or getting a new pair of shoes from the Sears Roebuck catalogue. There were voices responding in the crowd as Friend described scrubbing clothes on a washboard in a #2 galvanized steel tub in the back yard under a walnut tree.

Then Friend jumped into one of his best known songs, "Let's Go Eat," a favorite post-church song often performed at the festival by Speedy Haworth, part of the Happy Goodmans with whom Friend has performed.

Brumley sang "Glory To God, He Set Me Free" and "Blessed Jesus, Hold My Hand." With a recorded accompaniment by Merle Haggard, Brumley sang a song he wrote with the late Dale Best, "That Road Down the Road a Ways." He closed with two of his father's best known songs, "Rank Strangers" and "I'll Fly Away."

Dewayne Bowman and four members of his band, Swingin' West, took the stage at 7:30 p.m. With a big infectious laugh, Bowman launched his group with "Remington Ride," written by Bob Wills' steel guitar player, Herbie Remington. The big sound of the five-member Western swing band was quickly apparent with Bowman on lead guitar, Johnny Henderson on steel guitary, Ernie Reid on electric fiddle, Gary Hill on rhythm guitar and Ronnie Bleacker on drums.

Guitarist and songwriter Dwayne Friend, at left, and Al Brumley Jr., at right, performed a set of songs mostly by Albert E. Brumley at the Kings Prairie concert.
Bowman sang lead vocals on numbers such as "Sugar Moon," "Heart Over Mine" and "Make the World Go Away." On Willie Nelson's "Home in San Antone," Henderson took the lead vocals as he played on the steel guitar. Hill took the vocal on "Right or Wrong." Reid's electric fiddle added a synthesizer quality to "Make the World Go Away" and he and Bowman shared the instrumental showcase on "Sweet Georgia Brown."

The band's driving sound captivated the crowd in a set that lasted for 19 songs over 85 minutes. The mood ventured into classic country melancholy with Faron Young's song "Face to the Wall," about a boyfriend's photo turned around while another man took his place, and Bob Wills' "Misery." Songs like Dave Owens' "Everything's Rosy Down at the Cosy Inn," "Same Old Me" and a Western swing version of "No Teardrops Tonight" rebounded with an irrepressible spirit.

Bowman closed with Ray Price's "The Night Life" as a slow ballad, then took an upbeat stance with a Western swing version of the "American Bandstand" theme song.

A round of applause was offered by organizers of the annual Kings Prairie concert for the volunteers who make the event possible. Linda Hammons, at left, and her brother Sam Helmkamp, at right, with Al Brumley Jr. offered a special tribute to Louella Helmkamp, longtime festival coordinator who passed away during the past year. Not present was Perry Helmkamp, Louella's other son. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Brumley closed the show by returning to the stage and leading the festival's traditional ending, a sing-along version of "I'll Fly Away."

Donations raised $1,200, in addition to concession sales. Proceeds will be used on maintenance and improvements on the grounds of the historic Kings Prairie school. The festival began as an effort to develop the site into an active community center. Over the years, a well has been dug for new bathrooms. The next step will be to erect a building for the bathrooms.

Donations of materials and labor are now being sought for the project. Construction could begin as early as this fall with additional pledges of support. Anyone interested in helping is asked to contact Larry Hyde at 235-7860.

Al Brumley Jr. performing.
Supporting this year's event were: Al and Robannell Brumley; the performers; Malcolm Mosby and his team of sound technicians; The Monett Times; the Monett Rural Fire Association providing assistance with parking; Weiser Tent for providing the stage; Wickman Gardens for the stage decorations; Tyson Foods for the ice; Buchanan Funeral Home for the chairs; Wolf Pack Port-A-Pottys; and the volunteers who provided support and assistance in the concession sales.

Dwayne Friend performing at the Kings Prairie concert.
The historic Kings Prairie school glowed in the evening light at Saturday's Kings Prairie concert. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
A view out the window of the historic Kings Prairie school, which serves as the rural community's gathering center, with the concert visible through the window.
A big part of the annual Kings Prairie benefit concert on Friday was enjoying the outdoors, socializing and enjoying hamburgers and homemade pie while gathered on the grounds of the history Kings Prairie school. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
At twilight, the grounds of the historic Kings Prairie school glowed with light from the school, at left, and the performing stage, at right, during Saturday's annual concert. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Producing a tightly balanced sound in the bluegrass ensemble Red Bridge, from left, are: Larry Mayfield, lead guitar; Mark Zimmerman, banjo; Mary Mayfield, bass; and Warren Hull, mandolin.
Performing in the bluegrass band Red Bridge, from left, are: Mark Zimmerman, banjo; Warren Hull, mandolin; Mary Mayfield, bass; Larry Mayfield, lead guitar; and Alan Young, resophonic guitar.

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