Pictured above is
South Bound, the popular house band of the Sopchoppy Opry. Current members, Herman "Macâ€ McWaters, Judy
& Joel Harrison, Buck Jones, Reggie Bradley, Bob Sims, David Langston and
Lamar Brock, talented musicians all, attract droves of music lovers monthly to
historic Sopchoppy School Auditorium for a
live concert of classic country, bluegrass and gospel music. The above
photo credit goes to Karla Nelson - Karla Nelson Photography of Sopchoppy.
It has been called the â€œThe Little Opry that Canâ€ by the Tallahassee Democrat, "a re-creation of the original Grand Ole Opry 'experience'" by country music historians and "the Big Bendâ€™s showcase of country" (music) by those who seek to play the Opry. But to the hundreds of fans who have enjoyed the Opry since its inaugural performance in July 2000, the Sopchoppy Opry is "just the best place to be the last Saturday night of each month" for great country, bluegrass and gospel music!
To no one's surprise, the reason for the Opryâ€™s enduring success is the music of South Bound, the Opryâ€™s popular house band! Under the capable leadership of Herman â€œMacâ€™ McWaters, South Bound maintains a classic country sound. â€œWeâ€™re a country band,â€ says Mac. â€œItâ€™s been our goal from the start to be the best band and produce the best country (music) possible. Even the several changes the band has experienced during the last 4Â½ years have not influenced our direction. The â€˜woodsâ€™ around here are full of pickers with a like passion. They just fall right in when someone moves on and South Bound doesnâ€™t miss a beat. I feel privileged to be a part of this band.â€
For the first 16 shows, South Boundâ€™s members included Mac McWaters, Judy & Joel Harrison, Bobby & Becky Oaks, Rody Strickland and frequent guest appearances by singer/songwriter Trafton Harvey. Mac was the bass man; Bobby Oaks played fiddle, mandolin and guitar; Harrison, Strickland and Harvey played guitar and contributed vocally; and Soloist Becky Oaks and Judy Harrison joined in with others for duets and group numbers. Lead guitarist Ray Rogers joined the band on the 14th show for a short stint.
When Bobby Oaksâ€™ company moved him to Lakeland and Trafton & Rody sought other venues, Leon & Arlene Roberts came on board. Leon added steel guitar to the band and since Arleneâ€™s favorite instrument was the electric bass, Mac moved to the rhythm guitar section and contributed fiddle and mandolin solos on occasion. It was during this time that David Langston, one of the areaâ€™s most accomplished fiddle players, made a guest appearance on the Opry and soon Mac made him a full time member of the gang. Ray left to form his own band and Bob Sims joined in with his superb lead guitar styling.
A year and half later, with 30 shows on the books, Leon and Arlene needed a change in routine. Loss of the steel guitar sound, much appreciated by the fans, was not about to happen! So Mac called on his old friend and steel guitarist extraordinaire, Buck Jones, to fill the gap. Arleneâ€™s departure meant a vacancy in the bass spot as well, one that Reggie Bradley has very ably filled since.
South Bound has had several drummers over the years. In order of service, they are - Maurice Donnell, Dave Bussey, Don White and Lamar Brock. Lamar has the longest tenure and continues to accentuate every performance with his percussion prowess. Mac, Joel & Judy Harrison have participated in all of the bandâ€™s 47 shows.
Like its Nashville model, humor plays an important role in every performance of the Sopchoppy Opry. Mac makes sure a healthy helping of country humor is programmed into the show, much to the delight of every fan! A master at storytelling and joke delivery, Mac has a vast arsenal of one-liners and jokes, some with double-barreled punch lines that are legend among Opry regulars. Penny Merleâ€™s (Katie Miller) news from her hometown of Sink Creek is a special feature of the Opryâ€™s comedy and Willie Donâ€™s (Don Pace) rendition of the â€˜chicken reelâ€™ always gets howls from the audience.
Even with the Opryâ€™s success, Mac says he still canâ€™t get used to it. â€œWhen I look into the faces of the Opry fans and see how focused they are on everything we do, how much they enjoy it, Iâ€™m amazed. It does my heart good and it makes me proud to be a part of it all.â€ Joel Harrison says it this way, â€œWhen I peep through the curtain before the show starts and see all those people coming to hear me play and sing, I feel very humble.â€
The demand for Opry tickets has made it necessary to sell all seats in advance. For the first time ever, season tickets were sold for 2005. 11 regular shows (January - November) cost $55 and guarantees the purchaser the same seat for the year. Season tickets purchased after January 29 will be pro-rated. Call (850) 962-3400 for season ticket information and leave a message. An Opry Staff member will respond. Those without season tickets should call (850) 962-2151 prior to each show, Monday - Friday between the hours of 2 - 4, for reservations.
by Jesse Quigg, Sopchoppy Opry Volunteer Publicist