Local musician and concert promoter Chris Albert joined us this morning on “Arts News” to talk about “Music Monday of the Ozarks,” the local group of music creators and fan who meet the first Monday of the each month to share in the heritage of music in the Ozarks. Albert is in charge of booking guest speakers for the monthly events.
Their website, https://www.musicmondayoftheozarks.com, states the group’s purpose is to “educate the general public about the musicians, songwriters, and others that have contributed to the musical heritage of the Ozarks through the years, and to encourage community interest and involvement in various educational activities that will perpetuate the rich musical traditions and sounds of the Ozarks. Chief among those “educational activities” is the sponsorship of a guest speaker at each monthly meeting. For February the guest will be local jazz and gospel entertainer Arthur Duncan, who learned piano and organ from his mother starting at age 5. After developing an interest in jazz in high school, Duncan and his jazz trio have performed around the country. Duncan will talk about his life in music.
Music Monday is about to move to a new location for their monthly get-togethers: the Elks Lodge at 2223 E. Bennett in Springfield (just west of the Kraft plant). Arthur Duncan’s appearance on Monday February 3rd will run from 6:00 to about 9:00pm, and is free and open to the public.
Chris Albert mentioned that the December Music Monday was a departure from their usual format: instead of featuring one guest speaker talking about his or her life in music, was a tribute to one of the area’s most versatile musicians, Benny Mahan (1944-2009).
“We’ve got a couple of those (tributes) coming up. We’ve got one in April, Jim Wunderle… and everybody knows Jim Wonderle,” he said with a chuckle. A longtime local musician, Wunderle was one of the founders of Music Monday along with Bobby Lloyd Hicks and Brian Fogle. “Jim and those guys used to get together at the Dugout for lunch to discuss their album collections, (all) of which were very extensive. It started out with that, and we’ve gradually grown and grown to where, now, we’re a 501C-3. We’ve had various venues. We kind of outgrew the Dugout. And then, luckily, through Becky Overend, who works for KOLR-TV, they kind of joined the group, and then we moved to University Plaza Hotel. We were there at least three years.”
That era of Music Monday came to an end recently as the Music Monday board decided they could not afford the monthly fees the hotel had begun to charge them. “As a non-profit organization, we make no money whatsoever. We get donations at the event itself, “said Chris Albert. “We knew we had to make a decision, because it was costing us around $300-$350 a month; we never had paid that before. So we looked around. And Robin Luke—through Judge Miles Sweeney, who is now a board member—they are regulars over at the Elks Lodge. And the Elks Lodge said, ‘Yes, we would love to have you.’” (Robin Luke, Emeritus Professor and past Head of the Missouri State University Marketing Department, is known for his Top 40 hit “Suzie Darlin’”, released in 1958, which garnered him numerous appearances on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” and other network TV shows in the late 1950s and early ‘60s.)
Albert mentioned some of the history of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks,” an American fraternal order founded in 1868 originally as a social club in New York City that originally catered to people in the entertainment industry. “Great people,” said Albert. “I’ve played music over there (at the Springfield Elks Lodge), oh, four or five years. It’s a great crowd. A lot of bands have played there. They are musically oriented, and support the arts—very much so.”
Getting back to Music Monday’s history, Chris Albert said Lloyd Hicks “reached out to me—I think I was like the third guest or something--to come and talk about the Finley River Rock Festival,” of which Albertson was one of the promoters beginning in 1970. This was in March of 2015. Brian Fogle asked Robin Luke to come talk to the group as well. Since then Music Monday has hosted everyone from KSMU’s Randy Stewart and Mike Smith—we talked about the radio station and our devotion to and promotion of numerous musical genres—to opera singer/professor Dr. Rosemary Jackson, to Springfield Symphony Music Director Kyle Wiley Pickett. Many local pop, rock, jazz, country and blues musicians have come to Music Monday to tell their stories as well. Chris Albert said he personally pushed to “expand” Music Monday’s scope beyond pop and rock, which had been the primary focus.
The March Music Monday gathering will present a panel discussion featuring four local women who specialize in various musical genres: Kristi Merideth (jazz), Molly Healey (folk/Americana), Kris Palmer (pop/rock), and Brenda Meyers (blues singer/drummer). The four will “tell their experiences” in the music business “and kind of roll it all into one,” said Albert. “We’ve also gone to a more ‘interview’-type situation, instead of just having the artist up there talking. We have somebody to ask questions, and make it more like an interview.”
Almost since the beginning, Music Monday has video-recorded their monthly guest speakers; some sixty videos can be viewed at https://www.musicmondayoftheozarks/videos. Local video journalist Ed Fillmer and Brett Piper, a KOLR-TV videographer, were the first camera operators. When TV duties pulled Piper away from shooting Music Monday talks, Chris Albert said the group raised money for a good video camera and now he shoots the videos; Larry Lamono is the video editor. “I took a class last semester in video editing,” explained Albert, “and I met Shannon Cay (Bowers),” Executive Director of local documentary-film production company Carbon Trace Productions, a documentary/educational organization founded by MSU Media, Journalism and Film professor Dr. Andrew Cline. Music Monday has put in a proposal, and is trying to raise money, toward the production of a video documentary utilizing excerpts from their guest-speaker video archives. John Sellars of the History Museum on the Square has offered space in the Museum where the documentary will be available for viewing, for people “to see the history of music in the Ozarks. And this will include people like The Weavers, who go back to the 1930s, all the way up to today, with the (Ozark Mountain) Daredevils and some of the blues and jazz that’s going on. And hopefully, I’ll start bringing in some of the bands from the ‘80s and ‘90s.”
As a music fan as well as a working musician, Chris Albert is continually amazed by what he learns from the Music Monday guest speakers. “What’s great is the stories—you go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that!’ When we were doing (the) Benny (Mahan tribute), there were some things that came out, and everybody was going, ‘I didn’t know he did that.’ You never realized how talented that man was, when people like Mel Tillis would say (to Mahan), ‘You are a star!’ Or he goes to L.A. when Si (Simon, Springfield music executive) was trying to get him hooked up. People think of Benny as a ‘nightclub singer’, but the man was very, very talented. Same with Larry Lee. When we had him, he talked about (being) on 135 albums as an engineer, producer or performer. I mean, all you think is ‘Daredevil.’”
There are no membership requirements for participation in Music Monday of the Ozarks, and no membership fees. “We don’t take any money at the door—we pass the hat” for donations, said Albert. “Anybody can come and enjoy it.” He mentioned reaching out for people to contribute photos, videos, etc. of Jim Wunderle for their April 2020 tribute, and said he was “inundated” with material from a wide range of people—exactly the kind of collaboration Albert enjoys seeing. In fact, he says the lack of that collaborative spirit is one of his “pet peeves.” “I sometimes don’t like this separation and this kind of flak, between musicians and stuff. When I was playing here in the 1960s and ‘70s, we all reached out as much as we could to each other and kept the music scene alive. I sometimes feel like that’s kind of dropped off. And I try to encourage some of these younger people to come and hear some of this stuff (during the Music Monday presentations).” That’s one of the primary reasons they recently changed the start time from the noon hour to 6:00pm, to allow more people the opportunity to come and listen. “You can show up at 5:30 and socialize—there is a bar, there is both (soft drinks) and (alcoholic beverages) for everybody. Bring your kids—listen to these stories. They’re entertaining, and you learn.”
For information visit the Music Monday of the Ozarks Facebook page, their website https://www.musicmondayoftheozarks.com, or call 863-9143.