Whole Lotta Livin’ Goin’ On

Let in a little sunshine and read on – there’s a big surprise at the end.

As President of the Writer’s Society of Jefferson County (Missouri), I try to participate in the interests of our members. Recently, one of our published authors, Marty Ray, Three Gold Nuggets, invited me to a performance of his band at a local rural restaurant. I attended and found some additional gold in them thar hills.

I drove south from Festus on Interstate 55 to Laddie Boys II Restaurant (2595 Highway 61 South, Festus, Missouri, call them at 636-933-9394 for more detailed directions).

Laddie Boys II Restaurant

A very large, open room greeted me when I entered Laddie Boys; equipped with a bank of tables and chairs to the right and a glass case/counter in the far left corner. It reminded me of the nostalgic, typical automobile travel stops along rural roadways that offer good food and trinkets for purchase made by local crafters showcased behind the glass. Racks of animal horns hang on the walls behind the counter – too small for deer, I think.

Glass Case and Horn Racks

Further to the left is an even larger dining room with a high, raftered ceiling. Of course, all you have to do is follow the music and you are there. Families and friends were seated at over half the tables and booths available. I was pleasantly surprised that though people had come to gather and eat and have fun, no conversation was disturbing or disrespectful to the band. Ages from little ones to oldest ones were in attendance and all behaved beautifully.

“C. T. and the Retirees” is the moniker of the band that regaled us that lovely Saturday afternoon. The band boasted five men and one woman – the other female singer was out of town “looking to bring five men back with her” or “five horses”, I forget which. So said the big jokester band members.

C.T. and the Retirees

Country music has never been the music that moves me, but I have respect for almost all genres of music (gangster rap – NOOOO!!!) I suppose I enjoy looking backward at a strong and well-defined America. We knew who we were, our beliefs were clearly stated and the culture we built reflected our hard work ethics. Part of our culture includes the Midwest, the Heartland. Here, the unique chords of country/western tunes could be heard from strumming “ge-tars” on a front porch and softly wafting from radios behind a café and grill counter.

The C.T. band plays in a style reminiscent of the birth of old-time country. C.T. describes it this way, “We play old country and add a change to the beat. The words are the same. By adding the mouth harp, we present an old-fashioned Delta Blues style that goes well with the Dobro guitar – reminiscent of Jimmy Reed in the 1930’s.” For a real versatile, enjoyment opportunity, they add Bluegrass and ballads to the mix. The band members are dedicated to entertaining people but they also want to resurrect the old music and preserve it for future generations. To that end, they record all their performances.

To you city folks, the mouth harp is a harmonica; we’ll all have to guess what a Dobro guitar is. Show up at the next band performance, talk to the band members and get the answer to that one.

Mary, the lone female singer (and guitar player), struck me with her representation of long ago, truly down-home singers. She puts a vibration into her voice; a trilling, tremulous sound that strokes the memory chords of her listeners. I have dubbed her “The Warbler.” Of course, the quipsters in the band are now calling her “The Wobbler.” She takes their jesting with a genuine, gentle smile.

Some of the tunes that enthralled the audience were “Take These Chains From My Heart”, “Trying To Get To You”, and “Train, Train” accented with a realistic, high-pitched train whistle. I really liked that touch. “This Old House” got people clapping and tapping – and a cute one, “If I Fall For You, Will You Catch Me?” The band dedicated a song to me, “You Get A Line, I’ll Get A Pole”. Go figure. But I tapped and swayed right along with it.

And times, they are a-changin’. “C.T. and the Retirees” perform at locations that made my eyes widen in surprise. They play at Wendy’s in Herculaneum every Wednesday and every other Monday and at Laddie Boys Restaurant two Saturdays a month. They’ll be appearing at Windsor Library in Barnhart, Saturday, October 1, 2p.m. (how does that work? Don’t expect silence in the library on that day); and at the Soldier’s Home (that’s what C.T. called it – reminded me of the Civil War) in Warrensburg on September 9 and 10. For details call 314-225-7527.  All events are free.

Every successful performer has a following of “groupies” and they have theirs, too. Some of them are over ninety years old. See, they remember those days and they’re not dead yet. If they can’t dance, they stomp and sway in their chairs.

A few ladies I interviewed admitted they are groupies, too, and put it this way –

Bev – “I brought my fifteen year old granddaughter to one of their performances. Before the band reached the middle of their set, she was whistling at them with two fingers placed between her teeth. She almost drowned them out.”

Mary – “They play down-to-earth and sing-along music with rhythm and talent. I enjoy them very much.”

Pat – “They remind me of how the really famous country performers got their break – they started out in honky-tonks. I like the interplay between the members. You can tell they are really enjoying themselves.”

And though Laddie Boys is not a honky-tonk, (there’s not an alcoholic drink in the house), the audience ate their meals and their bottoms didn’t leave the chairs (except those that danced) until the band started packing up their gear. It was obvious they came for the entertainment – it doesn’t take two hours to eat a hamburger.

Eatin' and Enjoyin', Listenin' and Laughin'

I ordered a quarter pound burger with fries for $3.99 and was very pleased when I saw the fries were not those skinny, shriveled “string” fries but what I call “real” fries. The ketchup brand on the table was labeled “Gourmet table brand ketchup” – never heard of it before – but it was sweet and really good. And I tapped my feet and bobbed my head to the music while crunching those really crisp and tasty raw onions. What more can you ask for?

Oh, and they had a 50/50 drawing – I lost. So maybe I could have asked for that.

Bob, one of the guitar players, lost his wife only a month ago. One of the ladies in the audience lost her husband in December. Joyce and Alice, the “over fifty” dancers, might otherwise be in wheelchairs or worse. But all these people, and more, are expressing their humanness and indomitable spirit. They gather to meet old friends and make new ones. They are taking a mini-vacation from the troubles of life and enjoying a natural high as they appreciate the music and each other.

What I witnessed on that day, showed me that “C.T. and the Retirees” mean more to people than a “good time”. They touch people in a way that seems forgotten by today’s flash, deafening and shocking performers. C.T. and the other band members touch people “where they live” – in their hearts and simple lives.

I have saved the biggest announcement for last –


On August 27, 2011, at Laddie Boys Restaurant, Festus, Missouri, Elvis will be entering the building at 2:00pm! Be there – seated and ready when the show begins at 12:30pm.  “C.T. and the Retirees” will be presenting for your listening (and drooling) pleasure

—   Marty Ray as Elvis  —

White suit, black wig, scarves and all!!! Y’all come!!!

I, personally, can’t wait.


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marty Ray
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 09:15:09

    Annette, You have done a fantastic job describing our band, music and fans. I’m sure I speak for the entire group – You have created an extremely accurate snapshot of C T and the RETIREES. I admire your professional and energetic approach to your writing craft. Thank You!


  2. Juanita Nobles
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 12:54:48

    Great review, Annette. We have been to Laddie Boys’ many times, but have not heard music there. We’ll have to find when this group plays and go. Thanks for the informative article.


    • annettecrey
      Aug 21, 2011 @ 14:58:53

      It is not hard to find their schedule – call the contact phone number for the band in the article or call the Wendy’s in Herculaneum or Laddie Boys. The next show at Laddie Boys is August 20 – and Elvis will be there, too.


  3. James Gregory, Sr.
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 15:40:03

    While Marty may be a “newbie” to Elvis impersonation, he has been a skilled musician from the time Gary (his brother) and Marty started “string-pluckin'” in the early 1960s in south St. Louis. The two of them are genuinely decent people whose talents are being put to very good use.


  4. hotshot bald cop
    Sep 02, 2011 @ 12:43:11

    Wonderful blog!


  5. Marty Ray
    Sep 03, 2011 @ 15:13:22

    Jim, Thanks for the kind words.(I’ll pay you that 10.00 for the complement later. lol)


  6. Marty Ray
    Sep 03, 2011 @ 15:17:58

    Sorry about the typo – that should be compliment. (Sorry Annette – I know you strive for perfection)


  7. annettecrey
    Sep 03, 2011 @ 22:13:03

    Marty, I hope not to run friends away with my desire to write well. Friends are more important than perfection. Shoot for perfection in offering work for publication. Mistakes are forever after that.


  8. Margo Dill
    Sep 04, 2011 @ 15:47:24

    You know how to build up a band! 🙂 I love the photos you included in your post, too, and how you really revealed the big secret at the end. Nice job! 🙂


  9. Marilyn
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 10:00:47

    This is Marilyn from Margot’s blog class. I love how this blog post brings to life a place, its people, and culture. I especially liked how you expanded your post with quotes from audience members. And the details! I could taste that ketchup! Looking forward to blogs to come!


  10. jcnierad
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 11:54:54

    I agree this post has a lot of great descriptive details. My favorite was the ‘real fries’ — it’s not quite 11 AM here, but I know what I want for lunch!


  11. abbyplambeck
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 21:09:04

    Annette, I wish I lived closer to Missouri! This is fantastic. I felt like I was walking along with you and experiencing what you saw and heard. I agree with Marilyn, I could taste the ketchup! Great use of photos too. The visual appearance of your entire blog is really pleasing. Great design and great writing!


  12. Trackback: Librarians Think Outside the Box « Life Nuggets

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s