Darryl Rhoades: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.

The Great Southeast Music Hall reunion party was held at Smith’s Old Bar last Sunday evening. So who would you have picked as the star attraction? The natural choice would be an esteemed artist who had made the Music Hall’s stage even more special. A lot of artists did so. Way too many are no longer with us: Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Odetta, Sandy Denny … the list stretches on way too long. Others who made stops at the Music Hall on the way up are too way-up now for a party of 500. There would be no Billy Joel, Steve Martin or Dolly Parton at Smith’s Old Bar. There would have been, however, sentiment to bring in Jimmy Buffett. He played the Music Hall more than two dozen nights, once when only 15 people paid to get in. The Music Hall gigs helped build his career. Jimmy Buffett was a hot item in the big city of Atlanta. Eventually other big cities would discover him. Yet Buffett is not-so welcome in Atlanta now. In order to construct his Margaritaville resort in downtown Atlanta, a small building at 152 Nassau Street will have to go down. It’s the building where  country music’s first hit record (“Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” and “The Old Hen Cackled”) was recorded. Demolishing such a historic music landmark doesn’t seem right to Music Hall types. So no one was trying to get Jimmy Buffett on the phone. Besides, we got Darryl Rhoades!

When Darryl Rhoades and the Hahavishnu Orchestra played the Music Hall in the mid ’70s, it felt as if his fan base had taken control of Broadview Plaza, the vast L-shaped shopping center in which the Music Hall was located. Through very favorable coverage in the local alternative press and extended exposure on WIIN-97, Rhoades built a large fan base even before his first concert. Big crowds packed the Music Hall. Co-owner Jack Tarver, Jr. loved it when Rhoades and the Hahavishnu set up camp for the week. The people would flock to the venue, buy buckets of beer, absorb some smart, satirical songs played by a crack group of musicians and then come back the next night with friends in tow. Even with all the great performers who had played the Music Hall over the previous three years of its existence, Rhoades and band made the place theirs.

Darryl Rhoades and the Hahavishnu Orchestra would continue to make the Music Hall its home base for the next three years. Then the band broke up. Some of the members got straight jobs, as Jonny Hibbert eventually did, becoming an attorney. Others stayed in music, especially Rhoades, who also ventured into stand-up comedy. We all make adjustments, including those of us when the Music Hall closed in 1979. Serious adjustments were in order, like getting married, having children, reinventing ourselves countless times and always thinking, “those Music Hall nights were great.”

Farrell Roberts put together a plan to create at least one more Music Hall night. Darryl Rhoades and a stellar group of musicians made it a great one. Included were three former members of the Hahavishnu Orchestra, guitarist Marvin Jackson, singer/trombonist Jimmy Royals and saxophonist Jonny Hibbert. Rhoades not only performed a few humorous works from the mid-70s, but even better, presented songs from his albums of this century, Weapons of Mass Deception, Teenagers In Heat and The Last Goodbye. Opening with “They’re Killing Jesus Again,” from The Last Goodbye, Rhoades is in fine voice, rocking hard with discordant theological views, which is no mean feat.

Two rockers from Weapons of Mass Deception, “Lost in America” and “Addiction to Friction” were the evening’s highlights. “Lost in America” is about a young woman with “expensive taste for the cheapest thrills.” Someone with the nerve of Paris Hilton and a sense of entitlement similar to that of the current president. (You know which country.) Daddy writes the checks as she blames everyone else while never having to stand in line.  That’s her way of getting through life. Rhoades and company, especially guitarist Tommy Strain, reached for all the gusto on this one, never letting up. And as for never letting up, Rhoades’ character on “Addiction to Friction ” can’t stop and won’t stop. As long as the lout gets his victims to comply, he’ll never say no. It’s a dark rocker taken full tilt by Jonny Hibbert on saxophone, at one moment measured and then going full steam. The lawyer/musician all at once channels Rahsann Roland Kirk and Clarence Darrow. As with many moments in the show, it left one wishing we could see these guys more than once every ten years.

Darryl Rhoades’ recent compositions have focused on time, what we’ve done with it and how much is left of it. Watching him these days, one can say, yes, he’s pushing 70 but it’s still all ahead for him. That’s not a bad way to sum up an evening built on great memories.

(photos by Jeff Cochran)