Hoe-Down handoff: George Bros. say farewell
EUREKA SPRINGS -- Since the news broke that Randall and DeWayne George had sold the Ozark Mountain Hoe-Down, they've fielded calls and emails from fans near and far asking: What happened? And when is the farewell concert?
The answers: the sale was culmination of something the George Brothers, who have played there for more than 20 years, have been thinking about for several years and discussing with Larry Reitz, the new owner, for the past six months.
"It's time for us to do something new," Randall said.
The Hoe-Down's new show, the Carl Acuff, Jr. Band, opens in three weeks, and rehearsals have already started, so there is no time for a farewell performance, Randall said. Last Monday, he and Dawayne packed up their gear into a trailer and handed the theater over to Reitz and Acuff, along with their good wishes.
"We've had a good run here," Randall said. "I hope it's a good run for you."
The George Brothers have been performing at the Hoe-Down since 1992, and bought it with their father, Leonard, in 2004. They sold it to Reitz, a cattle rancher in Lenapaw, Oklahoma, who has been watching it since he bought and renovated the Cinnamon Valley Resort several years ago. Larry and spouse Sharon Reitz alo bought acreage adjacent to the Hoe-Down parking lot that borders the access road to the resort, and knew the George Brothers were interested in selling at some point.
Their reason for buying the theater:
"We kinda had to have it because of the same entrance," Reitz said.
The George Brothers have signed a new record deal with Way Out West. Knowing they would be on the road promoting the record, they had lined up Carl Acuff, Jr. and his band to play the Hoe-down on the dates they were out of town. With Reitz purchasing the theater, the natural choice was to offer the lease to Acuff.
Acuff, who lives in Harrison, said he and his band -- Bubba Fisk, Jackie Harris, Wayne Hackett and Fred Reeves -- were happy to accept.
"We are ready to sleep in our own beds for a time," Acuff said.
Last season, Acuff's band played at the White River Hoe-Down in Mountain View, Ark. While there, Hot Links Entertainment approached Acuff about backing his show, he said, and are now backing him at the Ozark Mountain Hoe-down. The timing couldn't have been better.
"The other one went away on December 31, and Randall called in January," Acuff said.
Born and raised in Harrison, Acuff, like the George Brothers, grew up in a musical family. His father, Carl Acuff, Sr., had a rock and roll band, and bought Carl Jr. a drum set when he was 3 years old to save wear on the pots and pans. By the time he was 6 years old, Carl Jr. was singing in the choir at Hopewell Baptist Church in Harrison. The first song he ever sang in public, other than in church, was "Kansas City," which he performed on the Fourth of July in the Harrison gazebo, accompanying himself on the drums, with his father on guitar and his sister, Diana, singing back-up.
Acuff graduated from Harrison High School in 1989, the same year he started working at Dogpatch USA. He also played at the Country Time Jamboree, the Harrison theater run by Mike Bishop, now at the Pine Mountain Theater. Acuff and spouse Nina Acuff live outside of Harrison in Everton, population 150, and have three boys, Donnie -- Donald Carl Acuff III, age 9; Joseph, 6, and Brendon Michael, 9 months, who is named after Mike Bishop.
Acuff also worked with the Blackwood Brothers, and briefly at Warren Stokes' Country Review, a Eureka Springs theater that was torn down. In 1992, he started touring with his band. He's performed in Nashville, which Roy Acuff, who was a distant cousin, helped make the country music capital of the world.
"I've sung on the Opry stage in the Ryman Theater, at Ernest Tubbs' Midnight Jamboree and the Nashville Palace," Carl Acuff said.
Acuff also performs in the country music version of the Brat Pack with other relatives of country legends -- Georgette Jones, Michael Twitty, Marty Haggard, George Hamilton IV and David Frizell. Although he never met cousin Roy, who died in 1992, Carl said his grandfather did, and the family has the lineage. Considered the King of Country Music, Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys made "The Great Speckled Bird" and "Wabash Cannonball" country music standards. Roy Acuff also co-founded the first major Nashville country-music publishing house. His cousin could balance his fiddle on his chin and performed yo-yo tricks on stage, Carl said, talents which he did not inherit.
"I can run the cats up on the roof," Carl said.
Actually, Carl Acuff, Jr. has five records that made the charts, starting in 1992 with "Make the World Go Away." He wrote his second hit, "Two-Dollar Coke," which was number one in Europe, where his band is popular. Another song, "I'm Going to Be Bad Today" was a big hit in Texas. Acuff is lining up special shows to play when his band plays out of town, he said, and will post the schedule when completed. He also plans to develop a Sunday gospel matinee, an idea that the George Brothers had set in motion.
"Joe Gordon from Texas will be here on May 18," Randall said.
The George Brothers' new single, "Make Sure You Get Name Right," will be released the first of April. Dawayne will continue to live in Eureka Springs, and the brothers are planning to perform in Eureka and in Branson as well as tour. Comedy will still be a part of the show, Dawayne said, so their skit characters, Pony Tail and P.Nutt, will live on. While they are looking forward to the new phase of their careers, the brothers said they are grateful for the time the years they spent in Eureka, where their children grew up.
"I can't tell you how good Eureka has been to the Hoe-Down and our family," Randall said. "Millions of people came through our doors."
The Ozark Mountain Hoe-Down featuring Carl Acuff, Jr. opens Saturday, April 4, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday through April 29, Tuesday through Saturday in May and August, and seven days a week in June, July and October. The theater is located at 3140 E. Van Buren (Highway 62), Eureka Springs.