I have to wonder how much in life is fate and how much is a result of what we make happen. I’d also like to think that our actions, my actions, set my course in life, but sometimes circumstances and events bring me to a point where even I wonder if things aren’t somehow pre-determined. I love it when the unexpected happens and I can give the credit to fate.
Two years ago I was walking through Copley Square in Boston on my lunch break and I came across a small crowd gathering by news trucks and a podium. Always looking for something interesting to write about, I decided to stick around and see what this clearly imminent press conference was all about. As the speakers organized, I noticed a few familiar faces, including Boston’s Mayor Menino. But who I didn’t expect to see standing there was John Mellencamp. Seriously? What was the John Mellencamp doing standing 15 feet from me? Turns out, he was there to announce that FarmAid, an organization he co-founded with Willie Nelson and Neil Young 25 years ago, was holding it’s 23rd benefit concert in its “home state” of Massachusetts. That was cool.
Pretty excited about this news, I arranged to cover the concert event for a fellow entertainment writer and checked out the list of musicians participating in the FarmAid concert. The headliners were Willie, John, Neil and Dave Matthews, but also in the line up were artists you just don’t get to see on one stage! Kenny Chesney, Jerry ‘the Killer’ Lee Lewis, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, Jakob Dylan, son of Bob and formerly of The Wallflowers…talk about a must-see event!
There were a handful of artists I didn’t know, and one of those was One Flew South. I went to their Web site to read up about them, and talk about falling instantly in love with a group! Wow! These guys were amazing! One Flew South was a group of three singers, Eddie Bush, Royal Reed and Chris Roberts, who had a sound that didn’t really fall into one genre, although they were marketed as Country. They had a mix of sounds; a bit of Bluegrass, some Country, and a bit of Pop. And their voices? That was a thing of beauty. I’d never heard such gorgeous harmonies from any group (even though they are frequently compared to Crosby, Stills and Nash), and I couldn’t wait to hear more.
I set out on a mission to interview these guys. I knew that One Flew South was headed for the big time and I wanted to interview them before they earned their first GRAMMY®. When I arrived at the FarmAid press tent, the organizers asked me who I wanted to interview and I told them that while it would be amazing to interview Willie, Neil, John or Dave, I knew that would never happen. So I simply asked for one interview – One Flew South.
One Flew South performed early in the day and as they sang their 3 or so songs, I sat there in my seat with a silly little grin glued on my face. I was like a little kid in a candy store, eyes wide open and all giddy inside. I had heard One Flew South on their debut record, Last of the Good Guys, but hearing them live was a special kind of beauty. The live performance produced an even greater magic than could ever be captured on a recording. For me, that was the best 12 minutes of the day, and as I’ve said on many occasions since, it was for me the highlight of FarmAid.
I never did get that interview, but I left FarmAid completely hooked on One Flew South (OFS) and planned to follow them closely! I found OFS on Twitter, I tweeted them, and a few times I asked for an interview. No reply. I did what I could, but over the next year, I watched OFS slowly fade away as their Internet activity dwindled and nothing new came out.
At some point I found Eddie Bush, Royal Reed and One Flew South on Facebook, and managed to check in every now and again to see what was going on in their worlds. Then a funny thing happened – and this is where I say the Facebook Gods intervened. One day this past spring, I posted something on Eddie Bush’s wall and he decided to click on my name to see who I was. He saw a post on my wall that was of great interest to him and he left me a comment. WHOA! Hold the phone! Eddie Bush commented on MY wall! This was the first connection I’d made to any member of OFS in two years! I then did what any determined writer would do and sent him a note, asking if he might grant me a long-overdue interview. It would be cliché to say ‘and the rest is history’, and it would also be wrong, because it was, in fact, just the beginning.
Eddie Bush called me a day later and I have to say that I was down right excited! Finally, after two years of thinking about the ‘one that got away’, here I was, talking to a member of One Flew South. Thank you Facebook. Thank you fate. Thank you Betsy for being so darned persistent and stubborn. Thank you Eddie Bush.
In my interview with Eddie, I learned a lot. My focus had initially been about One Flew South, but the interview was about everything BUT One Flew South. I learned that OFS was no longer signed by Decca, that Eddie, Royal and Chris performed together infrequently, and that Eddie was one cool rocker! He told me of his love for Prince and Tony Harnell (the artist who brought us together on Facebook!), how he works with kids and had recently developed with EdisonLearning a school curriculum focusing on songwriting, and how for the past 20 years he has been teaching guitar to as many as 40 kids a week. I wasn’t learning a whole lot about One Flew South, but I was getting an invaluable introduction to the singer, songwriter, guitarist, educator and passionate artist Eddie Bush.
Over the next few months, Eddie and I partnered on his social media campaign and in October I flew south to Charleston to see and hear Eddie live. What an amazing talent! Totally hooked on Eddie, he’s an addiction, that you don’t have any need, or desire, to kick! I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to see One Flew South two years ago at FarmAid, and now here I was getting to know Eddie Bush the solo artist. It’s easy to overlook the talent of an individual artist when they are part of a group, and having seen and heard Eddie live, I began to develop an ever-growing respect for him. It was clear that Eddie’s career didn’t start with OFS, and his musicianship that connected him with Royal and Chris was what helped make the trio so magical.
Just prior to my visit to Charleston, Eddie happily informed me that One Flew South was going to have a concert in Charleston, a week after my visit. Laughing, I asked if he could make it during my visit, but that was just wishful thinking! Knowing that this was a rare opportunity to finally see One Flew South in a full concert, there was no way I was going to miss it! A week later, I was back in Charleston for what was sure to be an unforgettable concert!
The concert was a dual billing with GRAMMY award winner singer/songwriter Marcus Hummon. Marcus not only collaborated on Last of the Good Guys, he was instrumental in bringing Eddie, Chris and Royal together as a group. Their history is long, and their brotherhood is strong. But who, really, was this guy Marcus Hummon?
If you’re in Nashville, you know Marcus. Outside of Nashville, the songwriters aren’t the people we hear about. We know the singers, and whether you’re a country fan or not, everyone knows Alabama, Wynonna Judd, the Dixie Chicks, Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans, and Tim McGraw. And even the non-country fans have likely heard some of their hits, especially Bless the Broken Road. Marcus Hummon wrote that song, and it earned him a GRAMMY. And he wrote number one hits for the Dixie Chicks and Sara Evans, and top 40 hits for Alabama, Wynonna Judd and Tim McGraw. Who is Marcus Hummon? He’s the guy whose songs we sing on the radio; we just don’t know it.
I didn’t know anything about Marcus except for his involvement with One Flew South and his rich Nashville songwriting history. I didn’t know him as a singer and I didn’t know that he had also written operas as well as music for the stage. And I had no idea how much I was going to love his voice!
Marcus sang a number of songs from his latest CD Rosanna. He sang some of his hits, including Cowboy Take Me Away, Only Love and Bless the Broken Road, and he brought Eddie and Chris on stage for a few songs. I’m now a fan of Marcus Hummon.
Bringing One Flew South to Charleston for a concert wasn’t easy as both Chris and Royal live in Nashville. But the trio, along with Marcus Hummon, came together to ‘Rock the Dock’ at Red’s Ice House in Mount Pleasant, just over the bridge from Charleston. Red’s sits along Shem Creek, and One Flew South and Marcus Hummon performed on the deck of a boat docked in front of Red’s.
I was lucky enough to be present for the sound check, and it was there that I began to see the brotherhood of One Flew South. They hadn’t seen each other for five months, but you’d never have known it. It was the first time I would hear and see the trio in a casual setting, laughing, and reconnecting with friends. And it was also the first time I would hear Chris’ and Royal’s voices apart from the trio. I knew them as One Flew South, but I didn’t know their voices, and how good they were, as solo artists. Make no mistake… each of these guys, Eddie, Royal and Chris, are amazing talents. Their voices collectively are magical, and singly they make you want to hear more.
The concert was far more than I could ever have hoped for. Marcus Hummon sang a dozen songs, and I couldn’t help but be captured by his stories and songs. One Flew South sang many songs from Last of the Good Guys, including their Billboard charting single My Kind of Beautiful, they sang tunes from the Beatles, and they even sang Mellencamp’s Jack & Diane, which they dedicated to me since we never connected at FarmAid!
I had an opportunity to spend time with Royal, Chris, Marcus and Eddie, and the friends and fans who have been with them since the beginning. One Flew South is a special group and they are loved by all who know them. I hope that they have an opportunity to release a second CD, but until then I am more than thrilled to enjoy their music as solo artists.
With Royal and Chris in Nashville, and Eddie in Charleston, One Flew South comes together when opportunities are presented. Their concerts are a mix of rock, country, pop, and fun, and they really are unforgettable. It was a long road that brought me from FarmAid to Charleston to finally be a part of that One Flew South magic, and I’d like to think that fate played a role with me and One Flew South. I think that they’d just call it life.
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