All Hail Bubba! Why You Should Swing Down to the Star Bar for the Best Rockabilly/Roots Family Reunion on the Planet Every Memorial Day Weekend

Posted on: May 22nd, 2013 By:

Spike Fullerton plays an early Bubbapalooza. Clipping courtesy of Spike Fullerton.

By Eve Wynne-Warren
Contributing Writer

Bubbapolooza is a celebration of American roots music held every Memorial Day weekend at the Star Community Bar in Little 5 Points. This year marks the 22nd year that friends, fans and family have gathered together to hear some of the best rockabilly, country and rock music around, and the line-up is mighty exciting. On Friday May 24 starting at 8 p.m., hear The Belmont Playboys, Hi-Test, Ghost Riders Car Club, Blacktop Rockets, AM Gold and Slim Chance & the Convicts. Then on Saturday May 25 with doors at 4 p.m. (music at 5), the roster includes an even bigger herd of ATLRetro Kool Kats such as Caroline & the Ramblers, Cletis & His City Cousins, and Grim Rooster, plus Nashville’s The Billygoats, with Jason Ringenberg (of Jason and the Scorchers), Ohio’s The Twistin’ Tarantulas, Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition up from Missississippi, El Capitan & The Band With No Name (surf meets Ennio Morricone!) and McPherson Struts. And that’s not to mention a triad of surf bands – Kill, Baby, Kill, The Intoxicators and The Mystery Men? – downstairs in the Little Vinyl Lounge.

There used to be a bumper sticker adorning the rear of many an Atlanta vehicle that read, “The Star Bar, where things go Twang in the night.” The gracious booking agents who have worked the offices there over the years have, as any live venue does, varied the types of bands and shows offered since the doors opened on Halloween, 1991. However, few other Atlanta venues have been so inclined to offer as much Roots Americana as the Star. It’s not what you’d think of a swank place to “be seen”; it’s a Honky Tonk. People come there for the music. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that you didn’t have to be a certain age, race or one of the “beautiful people” to feel at home there…just love the music. That is the essence of Bubbapolooza, which was founded by Cabbagetown songwriter/guitarist Gregory Dean Smalley. Since Greg passed away from AIDS in the mid-1990s, every Bubba has been dedicated to him and the Boones Farm toast to his legacy is always an emotional moment. This year’s event also pays tribute to the memory of Earl Maddox, another Bubba godfather who passed away from cancer last year. Earl drummed for a slew of bands such as the Diggers, the Convicts and Gregory Dean and the Bubbamatics, and lately had been a character actor in movies. [Ed. note: read a companion story about Earl here and check out our 20th anniversary retrospective for some more history.].

This year ATLRetro decided to catch up with some Star Bar regular suspects, musicians and fans to give those “Bubba virgins” an idea of what it’s all about.

“My goal for this year’s booking of Bubbapalooza was to have a few more regional and national acts to go along with our great regulars and keep the spirit of the event alive,” says Bryan Malone, who does the booking for the Star Bar. “We have more touring acts this year than in the past few years. With Twistin’ Tarantulas, Jason Ringenberg and Jimbo Mathus, I feel we’ve done that.

One of the things that makes this event special is that it is a chance for some of the older fans to come out,” he adds. “Bubbapalooza is almost like a Star Bar family reunion. It’s the one time of year that we see faces and groups from the days of the club’s inception having a great time and enjoying great music.  It is not uncommon to hear the phrase “Happy Bubba” throughout the course of the weekend. This year as always, we donate a portion of the proceeds to the family of Gregory Dean Smalley who created Bubbapalooza. But this past year we lost an old friend when Earl Maddox passed, so we will also be doing something special in honor of him and his family. The whole thing is a family reunion with great friends and great music. There ain’t much else like it anywhere. Happy Bubba!”

Richard “Spike” Fullerton currently plays with Ghost Riders Car Club, on the Friday Bubba playlist, and in the first few Bubbas, with the HotPoint Rangers and later Kingsized, or so he thinks. “My memories are pretty dim,” Spike admits. “The first one, as I barely recall, was very much about humor and the feeling that Atlanta had a pretty good crop of young players in a genre that was on the way back. In the few years I’d been here the rockabilly/country scene had been evolving out of second rate clubs and into better venues. It felt like a sort of coming-out party that our music was vibrant enough to have a club to call our own. The Star Bar really became something vaguely akin to The Ace or Dingwalls in London, where our group just would naturally go there first and check who’s on the marquee later. I really feel fortunate to have had that moment in my musical career. One of my very first gigs back after work had kept me away was with the Ghost Riders Car Club at Bubbapalooza. It’s a very gratifying experience to come back to old friends in a familiar place, and find you’ve still got something to say to each other, musically and spiritually. I thoroughly enjoy the festival and what it has come to mean, to me anyway. I hope to play many more.”

I then asked drummer Mike Hammer to relate what might be his favorite year of playing the event. He said he had not been to every Bubba, but to most of them. “I became good friends with Greg Smalley back in those days,” Mike recalls. “My memory of a great gig was ‘94 or ’95, I think. [Ed. note: Mike was playing with Caroline and the Ramblers then]. The Lost Continentals were the next to last band, and the headliner was to be Scott Miller and his band, the Viceroys. At the last minute, we were told they could not make it for some reason, so we had the stage for the rest of the night. I think we even had Ben Friedman from Cigar Store [Indians] up with Amy Pike singing something. It turned into a wild show and the place was packed. I think it really pushed the Lost Continentals’ rep over the top here in town.”

The Billygoats play Bubbapalooza 20. Photo credit: Al Laipple.

I remember that. Those Bubba pickin’ party/encore sets are definitely some of my favorite memories. Mike will be at the drums with Cletis and the City Cousins on this year’s line-up. I asked Clete, who just may have been at every Bubbapolooza (even some only known to fans in an alternate universe), the same question. Alas there was a Braves game on and I got no reply. I will be sure to ask him in the middle of his set at the show.

Faylynn Owen, bartender at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, booked the bands for the Star Bar in the early years, and damned, if she didn’t do great job of it, too. I asked her what year stood out in her mind. Drive by Truckers is probably the most now famous band to play Bubba,” Faye Lynn says. “I don’t really have a favorite memory of Bubba. I loved them all.”

This year’s Bubbapolooza is headlined by the one and only Jason of Americana Roots Rock royalty Jason and the Scorchers, backed by The Billygoats, one of my all-time favorite Star Bar bands, also from Nashville. I asked them how many Bubbapoloozas they’d played. “I can only say that, even though I know that we played Bubba may more times than this, we only remember the last three – ’cause we were sober.”

There you have it. Come early; there’s real good Bar-B-Q on the patio courtesy of Slope’s BBQ. And try to plan on coming both nights; choosing which night to be there is too hard. Bryan Malone booked the line-up this year and I gotta give him extra credit for doing a fine job and setting the ticket price so it’s easy to come both nights ($10 Friday/ $15 Saturday). Wear something comfortable and think about cabbing there and home if you like to have a drink with your “Twang.” If you’ve been before, find me and give me a hug. If it’s new to you, come join the friends and family, and we’ll raise a toast together to Greg Smalley, Earl Maddox and George Jones. I bet you’ll come back next year.

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Weekend Update, June 3-5, 2011

Posted on: Jun 3rd, 2011 By:

Be sure to check out this Weekend Update even if you read This Week in Retro Atlanta for even more great vintage-inspired things to do on a very busy Retro weekend.

Friday, June 3

The 4th Annual Psychobilly Freakout Revival swings into action at the Star Bar as Rev. Andy Hawley gathers up some of Atlanta’s best bands in the genre, including  Rocket 350, McPherson Struts, and Hard Luck and TroubleLoysville Atlanta will also be there selling her delightful Dia De Los Muertos-inspired wares.

Hey, hey, it’s The Monkees 45th Anniversary Tour starting up this summer’s Delta Classic Chastain Series. Reggae legends Toots and the Maytals plays Variety PlayhouseJoe Gransden and his 16-piece big band team up with blues chanteuse Francine Reed at Eddie’s AtticAtlanta Botanical Garden launches its Concerts in the Garden summer series with blues guitarist extraordinaire Jonny LangCallanwolde’s Jazz on the Lawn 2011 summer outdoor series begins with high-powered jazz by Nick Longo. Electromatics merge Chicago/West Coast Blues, Blue Eyed Soul and an essence of Standard Jazz and Sinatra at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX.

Plus the 15th Annual Atlanta Tattoo Festival gets rolling at Crowne Plaza Hotel Atlanta-Perimeter Northeast. The three-day event presented by Sacred Heart Tattoo attracts thousands to see world-class artists, live tattooing, seminars, contest, unique vendors, and live music.

Saturday June 4

During the day, browse and buy art, eat and listen to live music at Virginia-Highland Summerfest, a street festival in one of Atlanta’s historic neighborhoods. The whole family will enjoy a vintage Locomotive Celebration at the Southeastern Railway Museum. The 15th Annual Atlanta Tattoo Festival continues with a bikini contest at 6 PM and live music by Six Shot Revival, Killer and the Savage with Cool Breeze from the Dungeon Family, and Kadense.

At night, The Official Monster Bash Pre-Party rocks the Star Bar. Get revved up for a horror-ific Sunday at the Starlight Six Drive-In with bands MC45’s (The Forty-Fives all MC5 set)BitersBoozeThe CluttersThe Brimstones from New Jersey and Dusty Booze & the Baby Haters.

Andrew & the Disapyramids, featuring recent Kool Kat Joshua Longino, will be surfing it up with Fishhawk and Modern Paranoia at the Drunken Unicorn. Bluegrass meets rockabilly with a punk attitude at Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge tonight in a triple-header show featuring Hymn for HerI Want Whisky and Barebones BettiesBareknuckle Betties playing as a duo with pal Johnny McGowan. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

Andrew & the Disapyramids

Sunday June 5

Gates open at 10 am at Starlight Six Drive-In for the 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll Monster Bash. The all-day party is a Retro horror fan’s righteous nightmare with live music, vendors and movies. Bands this year are Super X-13Brimstones, LUSTRadio Cult and Spooky Partridge. At dusk, the reels roll with GODZILLA 2000, RINGU and crazed J-horror classic HOUSE. Check out a scary sneak preview from Kool Kat of the Week and “Horror Host with the Most” Professor Morte himself Shane Morton here.

Legendary blues performers BB King and Buddy Guy begin the Georgia Natural Gas series at Chastain Park AmphitheatreNathan Nelson & His Entertainment Crackers headline blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl. Also continuing today is Virginia-Highland Summerfest and the vintage Locomotive Celebration at the Southeastern Railway Museum.

Opening this weekend:

MODERN BY DESIGN, the High‘s newest special exhibition opening on Sat. June 4, celebrates three key moments in modern design and also the Museum of Modern Art, New York‘s (MOMA) collection history. The works on loan from MODA cover “Machine Art” (1934), “Good Design” (1950-55) and “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” (1972), with the latter addressing modernism in the context of 1960s and ’70s counterculture.

The ever irreverent Dad’s Garage Theatre takes a stab at the ’80s horror genre of camp slasher films in SLAUGHTER CAMP about a homicidal maniac terrorizing a theatre camp. June 2-25 on the main stage.

Get a rare chance to view original manuscript pages from the last four chapters of ATLANTA’S BOOK: THE LOST GONE WITH THE WIND MANUSCRIPT at the Atlanta History Center. The new exhibit, which opens today and runs through Sept. 5, is part of a series of activities celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication of the international bestseller and also includes foreign and first edition copies, the desk Margaret Mitchell used while writing it and select images.

Ongoing:

See the original images which inspired Ray Harryhausen‘s amazing stop-motion cyclops, centaurs and other mythological beasts in the special exhibition, MONSTERS, DEMONS AND WINGED BEASTS: COMPOSITE CREATURES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. The exhibition of monstrous art, drawn from the museum’s permanent collections, shows how the ancient Greeks were inspired by other Middle Eastern cultures in developing a vast repertoire of richly imagined creatures.

Tune back in on Monday for This Week in Retro Atlanta. If you know of a cool happening next week, send suggestions to ATLRetro@gmail.com.


 

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, May 30-June 5, 2011

Posted on: May 31st, 2011 By:

Lots going on this week & still catching up after a Bubba-licious holiday weekend, so expect a few updates as the week goes along…

Monday May 30

Every Monday, find out if Kingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier will croon a tune or two for tips during his second week as Monday night’s celebrity bartender at newly opened Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Parlor. Northside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday May 31

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday June 1

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernFrankie’s Blues Mission and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday June 2

Spanky & The Love Handles brings the blues to Clarkston-based Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill‘s Thursday free concert series.  Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologneat Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe presents Country Fried Karaoke Night with Red Light All Stars Band.

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