January-February, 2004


February 17th--George's Majestic Lounge--Fayetteville, Arkansas--Tonight, Robben Ford was supposed to show up for his concert and blow away everyone with his impeccable style and musicianship.  Well, Robben apparently fell ill and could not make the trip.  Fine by me... What transpired was even more eventful for my tastes.  Brian put together an All-Star band consisting of what you all know as Oreo Blue and plugging in the great aforementioned Earl Cate and one of our favorites, "Baby" Jason Davis.  Jason, Earl, and Gary Lee really sparked from the get-go and I must admit that after all the fun I had over the previous nights, it was a wonder that it could get much better.  But it just kept going.  These last few weeks have really been a musical blessing and the only tragedy in it all is that we don't get to play enough.  As you can tell, things have been awfully quiet since the 17th.  Brian has been getting George's spiffed up and ready to take its rightful place as the hippest club this side of either coast.  As a matter of fact, as of this writing, I have just returned from a show at George's by the Gamble Brothers from Memphis (Feb 28th).  Man...what a band.  So funky, and so cool.  Just a taste of what's to come at Arkansas' oldest and best nightclub.  See you guys in March!


Jimmy Nace, Gary Hutchison, Earl Cate at last year's jam.

February 6-7th--Gary's 51st Birthday Celebration--Ft. Smith and Fayetteville, Arkansas--Last year, when Gary turned 50, we began what has now become an annual celebration that has taken on a life of its own.  With three great bands--The Nace Brothers, The Cate Brothers, and Oreo Blue--the nights have been musically electrifying.  Fort Smith's Adelaide Ballroom crowd was unimpressive, but the bands were stellar.  The folks in the River Valley missed an opportunity to witness one of the best musical performances in the area in some time.  With the top three regional (and probably national) guitarists on stage at the same time, licks were flying about like machine gun bullets on the beaches at Normandy.  But it was all so musical and delivered with taste and style.  Jimmy Nace, Earl Cate, and Gary Hutchison are our version of G3, but with a musical style that is much more attractive than their "world-renown" counterparts.  In each show, the Nace Brothers kicked off the night with their soulful and flavorful set of original sonic cuisine.  Great vocals, great harmonies, wonderful songwriting, and a projection of joy leapt off the stage.  Next up, Oreo Blue (sans Brian in the Fort Smith show) ran down some of Gary's favorite blues and rock and roll renditions.  When Gary is in the company of his peers, he can turn things up a notch often getting sheepish grins from pals, Jimmy and Earl.  At George's in Fayetteville, Oreo invited to the stage Darren Ray (Big Bad Bubba's great vocalist), and Jimmy Nace to share in the fun.  George's was absolutely packed as reportedly hundreds may have even been turned away at the door.  Further proof that Fayetteville appreciates live music like no other and that Gary's friends are plentiful.  Next up were the Cate Brothers with their blue-eyed soul selections.  They kept the already packed dance floor bouncing for their hour-long set.  When the three bands had completed their sets, it was time for what is becoming a legendary jam to finish the night.  All the members of the three great bands sardined onto the stage:  Jimmy Nace, David Nace, TJ Erhardt, Tim Williams, Earl Cate, Ernie Cate, Mickey Eoff, Ron Eoff, Gary, Brian, Rod, and myself.   Even Jed Clampit hopped up for a few tunes.  The atmosphere was electrifying.  The music was surreal and the crowd was better than ever.  I am sore as a boil today after drumming with all of these great players.  I was in musical Nirvana.  Plans are already in the works to have the Gary Hutchison 52nd Birthday Bash in the first week of February 2005.  If I were you, I would mark your calendars...(photos coming soon)

The Cate Brothers and Nace Brothers

January 31st--Hog Calls--Fort Smith, Arkansas--This night was not meant to be.  Brian could not attend the show due to circumstances beyond control, so I hooked up the trailer and sped down the hill to meet Rod and Gary for a three-piece rock show.  About 20 miles into the trip, the tire blew (again) on the trailer.  So, I was stuck without a spare.  Fortunately, band-friend and Mr. Save-the-Day, Bryan Martin made the 40-mile round trip to bail me out.  Unfortunately, I was an hour late to the show.  But...the show must go on!

Oreo Blue is not Oreo Blue without Brian Crowne.  One might even say that Brian is Oreo Blue. Neither can there be substitutes nor can his absence result in a complete Oreo Blue.  With that said, Gary, Rod, and I had a great time performing tonight.  Three-quarters of a normal ensemble forces the remaining members to stretch their boundaries.  To fill gaps.  To gel in a way that the whole becomes much greater than the sum of its parts.  Musically, we make it work and it becomes something different and something extremely fun in the wake of something that can, under other circumstances, be rather uncomfortable.  What is missed the most is Brian's clear and present dictation and leadership both within the set list (or lack thereof) and with the audience.  Brian is a take-charge guy, no doubt.  So when Gary and I are running the show...it's like school-kids with unlimited milk-money.  We survived and are better people for it.  But it certainly is not an Oreo Blue show...


January 24th--Bum's Hideaway--Ozark, Missouri--A quaint little place somewhere between Branson and Springfield.  The food is good and the staff is top notch.  The arrangements are a little odd with a small stage and some of great-grandma's antique furniture taking up a corner where the bass man stands.  But it was a good crowd.  We hear they sold out for our first visit a few weeks in advance.  I am not sure they knew what to expect, but Charles Ingram from the Blues Society of the Ozarks rolled out to show them all how to party.  No stranger to the blues or great musicians, Charles not only appreciates what we do and how we do it, but he was a great influence on the rest of the OB virgins at Bum's Hideaway leading each standing ovation.  (Thanks, Charles)  It was also our honor to be the "Spotlight Show" for the Blues Society this weekend.  Find out more cool stuff at www.ozarkblues.org

photo© John Blair

January 17th--Charity Fundraiser--Fort Smith, Arkansas--Chuck Fawcett always knows how to kick a party up a notch.  The tennis association of FS was putting together an auction to raise money for charity and Chuck offered up the band for auction.  We thought, what the heck, we have big hearts.  Chuck ended up buying us himself.  


January 3rd--Players Billiards--Texarkana, Texas--We have been having some really fun shows down in Texarkana since Players started inviting us down.  The folks there are really attentive and they appreciate good live music.  We had been chatting with a few of the great folks over at Texarkanarocks.com and it was cool to have some of them roll out to catch the band.  According to some of the reports on the site, I think they enjoyed the show.  You can see some of their comments here.  Gary really pulled out all the stops this night and performed the longest balancing act I have see to date.  I think Gary knows when there are players in the crowd and plays beyond whatever they may expect.  Of course, no trip to Texarkana would be complete without a trip to Backyard Burgers for a few backyard dogs and some cobbler...after we red-eyed it home, Brian was headed to Colorado for a ski trip with the family.  We will get rolling again later this month...


photo© John Blair

December 31st--The Tivoli Auditorium--Ardmore, Oklahoma--It has been a tremendous year for Oreo Blue and what a way to cap it off by rocking one of our favorite towns.  Aubry and Angela Harris of Two Frogs Grill in Ardmore (the best place to eat in Oklahoma), have become quite salty at putting on live shows in their venue.  This night, with the anticipation of a larger crowd, they partnered with Lance at the Tivoli to put on a great show.  Wes Jeans took the stage to open buttressed by Oreo rhythm sectionaires, Rod and Stephen.  The set was hot from the start as Wes tore through Superstition, Shape I'm In, and a half dozen others.  Oreo climbed up and rocked the revelers with their party set and then it was time for Aubry to get aboard the groove train.  Aubry loves to jam.  He is probably cut from the same mold as Gary as they both seem to be stuck on age 12.  At least with regard to their penchant for fun.  Then, Wes joined us all on stage again for the big jam.  Yes, it was loud, but it was really fun.  Wes led the finale with his version of All Along the Watchtower which included solos by all.  When it was all over and the countdown reached 2004, we packed it all up and headed to Watsonburger for some 3:00am chow and storytelling.  The next morning (or later that day), we hopped into the Rock and Roll Suburban and headed out on the 5-hour journey home.  Just outside of Ft. Smith, a tire blew out on the trailer and I lurched the stumbling thing over to the roadside.  We thought we might limp into Ft. Smith and drop the trailer at Rod's house, but figured he would have none of that, so we pulled it into a truck stop about a quarter mile down the road.  Figuring on New Year's Day, there would be nothing open, Brian asked the clerk if there might be a place to fix a tire.  She said "pull it around back".  Just behind the truck stop was a 24-hour tire repair guy who happened to have a trailer tire just our size.  What are the chances?  We were fixed up and on our way in half an hour.  2004 is going to be a good year...

photo© John Blair


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