Recounted Dec 7, 2017 — during Craig Week.
The Bunkhouse Boys were based in a very small town in Central Kansas which limited the number of places we could play locally. So we were always looking for ways to branch out.
The closest larger town was Great Bend — population somewhere around 10 to 12 thousand. There were several places to play there and we booked those steadily including the Hatchery and Smokey’s Dance Ranch. But we were eager to play more and spread out in a wider area.
About an hour and a half away was a large college town, Hays Kansas, — a huge city of at least 20,000! — and we tried to get our foot in the door by playing there. Someone made contact with the Town and Country Club, probably Ron Bailey our drummer. It sounded good — it was out on the edge of town had been in business for quite a while and some of the more established bands had been playing there regularly. We felt like it would be a good opportunity for us.
We started spreading the word around in those days before internet and social media, trying to make sure that the people who knew about us would know where we were playing.
From somewhere through that mysterious Grapevine we heard some gossip that made us have second thoughts.
Word was out that the Town and Country Club was owned by an elderly man who considered himself somewhat of a personality in his own right. We were told that it was customary for this gentleman to join the band on stage and sing the hit song “Tiny Bubbles” popularized by Hawaiian entertainer Don Ho.
The Bunkhouse Boys considered ourselves terminally cool. We groaned when we learned about the inclusion of Tiny Bubbles. Not that it would be difficult to learn because the song is very simple.
We may have had more ego than playing skills, but we considered our song list to be the hippest thing in Post-60’s popular music. We were perched in that niche of being “too country for rock and roll and too rock and roll for country.”
Yes, we had a reputation, at least in our own minds. And against our instincts, we decided to go to the Town and Country Club for the greater good. That is, the greater good of our bands’ future.
During the years we were together the band consistently practiced several times a week — at least two or three times a week — and we easily worked up a version of Tiny Bubbles to play when the dreaded day came.
My usually acute memory is now a little bit foggy on the details, because I’m not sure exactly what year this was. Somewhere along our timeline we purchased a tour bus which we called the Bunkhouse. Prior to that we had a variety of ways of transporting ourselves and our equipment. Dave Collier — our good buddy, driver, and chief roadie — usually drove us because by the end of an evening playing in a bar we probably wouldn’t be alert — or possibly sober — enough to drive home.
At one point Dave made a trailer for us out of the bed of an old pickup truck which would hitch on to our full-sized Ford Aerostar van. So I’m not sure how we traveled that fateful afternoon.
Whatever the transportation situation in this case, we packed our gear, got ourselves mentally prepared and took off on the drive to Hays on the appointed day so we could play Tiny Bubbles that night.
We had never been there before and since the club was on the edge of town we didn’t really know how far away we were or where we were but as we followed the directions we were given, there didn’t seem to be anything around. As we drove farther we found the sign for the Town & Country Club, but not much else. There was a smoking pile of rubble where the club used to stand. It had burned down the night before.
If there were any non-believers in the Bunkhouse boys — and I will take the Fifth Amendment about declaring if there were or were not — this could probably persuade even the most hardcore non-believer that some kind of deity was at work.
True, we did not get paid for playing at the Town and Country Club, but on the bright side we didn’t have to play “Tiny Bubbles.”
Again I will plead a failure of memory. Did we stay in Hays and celebrate, or did we turn around and go back to Hoisington?
In any event, there were worse things that could have happened to the band besides playing a song we didn’t like to accompany a singer of questionable talent. But that day we considered ourselves lucky — even if we didn’t get paid for a long trip to Hays and back.