McLemore twins, Mickey Mantle

(Frank) Today Around Kansas introduces us to the McLemore twins from Colby and their band, Driven. Next learn the “story behind the story” of baseball great Mickey Mantle and enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson, our Poet Lariat. We’ll end with Zak Barnes, an innovative artist from Kansas whose work is very popular at exhibits and galleries throughout the region.Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Frank) Good morning again. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. Good grief you know we keep talking about how the year seems to be going and here we are in November already. (Deb) I’m not even used to writing 2015 yet. You know it? (Frank) Yea. (Deb) You know what I did the other day? I wrote down the date and I put 2005. I mean, I just dropped a whole decade. It’s like, I can’t believe time is just spinning the way it is. (Frank) Yea, the winds of November. Now of course we don’t really worry too much about the winds of November. But up in the Great Lakes they do. Cause the winds of November have sunk many a ship up there. And that has nothing to do with Kansas, but its just some silly thing that popped into my mind. (Deb) Gordon Lightfoot and the “Edmund Fitzgerald,” yea. (Frank) The “Edmund Fitzgerald.” (Deb) I love that song. (Frank) Yea, I’ll play it Saturday. (Deb) I love Gordon Lightfoot. I love Gordon Lightfoot. He’s an interview I would love to do. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) I would love to interview him. We’ve got a lot of music, speaking of Gordon Lightfoot, we’ve got a lot of music on today, so it’s gonna be a great show. In November there’s just, again, so many things going on. Gearing up for the holidays of course. Dillon House where we are is gearing up for a lot of holiday parties and they’ll be decorating soon for the holidays, and it’s going to be absolutely gorgeous, so you’ll want to come by and see it all prettied up for the holidays. (Frank) And if you’re in Topeka, the NOTO Arts District has a Candlelight Christmas, and it’s ahead of course Christmas itself. But it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing because there are luminaries along the street and the decorations are up. And hopefully this year it will be snowing. The first year we did it over there, there was actually snow and there were lighted sleigh rides up and down the street. (Deb) It was beautiful. It was, I have to say, it was beautiful. And another one, you’ve got time to plan. We’re telling you because everybody says, “I never know until it happens!” Well, I’m giving you time to plan, the first weekend in December Fort Scott, the historic site in Fort Scott, Kansas, has an illumination and they have vignettes. It is so well done. So, it’s like you, they have luminaries along the paths there along the old fort and you walk into the buildings and it’s like you walk into another era. And you walk in in the middle of these people’s conversations. It’s so well done. I highly recommend it and you have to get tickets early because I think they do sell out. So, you have to get your tickets early for that one. But I highly recommend it. They do it I believe for two nights, and I know most of the people who are involved in making that happen. And it’s a wonderful event. (Frank) Yea. Of course we do have Thanksgiving before Christmas, so we’ll have to do some Thanksgiving stories too. (Deb) We’ll do some Thanksgiving stuff too. Yea. Send us your ideas, you know, if you’ve got some stuff you want us to cover. Like I got a message the other day from Rick Brainard and he said, “Have you ever done anything on Don Coldsmith, the author?” (Frank) Oh yea. (Deb) And I’m like, we have not. But we certainly will put Don on the list and we will do something about Don. So, if you’ve got ideas, let us hear ’em, whether it’s about the holidays or just people that you think should be mentioned on Around Kansas or just whatever. We’ll be right back.

(Frank) And we’re back again. Happy Wednesday morning to you and we’re in November and it’s a time too when there are family gatherings here as we get into Thanksgiving and Christmas and all that. And then you start thinking about music and maybe family sing alongs and all of that. And that’s kind of a little bit of a cue to you to start talking about what our next story has to do with. (Deb) You might think of family sing alongs, unless you’re like me and you can’t sing, and you’d just rather not sing along with the family. I am the one person, I grew up immersed in music, and I have no music ability whatsoever. I wrote a book on Kansas music and I talk about that. You know, I grew up in an era where, and a place where, everybody can sing, everybody can play, but me. I’m the one that just gets to talk about it, I guess. But talk about family harmonies and as you well know in the music business there’s so many legendary family harmonies, you know the Everly Brothers, I mean it just goes on and on. The McLemore Brothers, add those to your list. Those boys are incredible. And I got to see them down in Winfield earlier this year. And they’re just amazing. So, if you get a chance to hear them play and sing anywhere, whether it’s with their band Driven or anybody else, by golly, you take advantage of it. Let’s take a look at that very talented family. Sibling harmonies enjoy a long history in bluegrass music, and the McLemore twins from Colby carry on that tradition with a driving energy. Their band in fact, is called Driven and watching them perform leaves no doubt. Brandon and Blake were born just after their parents Bob and Susan McLemore had attended the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield and were inspired to take up instruments. Winfield became a family custom and the boys lives had a soundtrack. They often fell asleep with the sounds of their parents and their friends making music. By 10 they had begun playing themselves. For 10 years they joined their parents in band simply called The McLemores. These days Driven is in high demand. The other band members Jimmy Campbell and Jake and Rebekah Workman are a perfect fit for the duos’ high energy performances. When Driven isn’t performing, they play cowboy western swing music with friend Allen Bailey as part of Marshall Allen Bailey and the Silver Bullets. The twins, their parents and brother Ryan all help a committee of close friends put on the Picking on the Plains Bluegrass Festival in Colby, Kansas. Their hope is to spread their love of Bluegrass to others. I first saw Jake perform at the little grill in Manhattan, where he often joined Chris Biggs and Steve Hendricks. Jake was in school at K-State and connected with Chris, who in turn reconnected him with other old music friends, which in turn led to the formation of the band Kansas Heart, with Bob Atchison and Mike and Vickie Theobald. The group opened for Charlie Daniels at Salina’s Stiefel Theatre. It was a real treat sitting with Chris and his brother John, also an accomplished musician and watching Driven on stage at Winfield. Jake Workman had borrowed Chris’ Martin guitar and the sound was amazing. The reaction of the crowd? Well, they were driven into a frenzy. Literally.

(Deb) Welcome back and what a baseball year this has been for Kansas and Frank we have so many legendary baseball players with Kansas connections and you’ve got another phenomenal story today. (Frank) Yes. That’s it, a lot of people think well, what are these major league players come from? Well, believe it or not, they still come from small towns. (Deb) Little bitty places, yea. (Frank) At one time Topeka, Kansas, was really a place where especially the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees came to scout for talent. And they don’t necessarily scout for them out of the colleges, they might come and look at a little league baseball team and say, “Wow, we need to watch this guy here.” In fact, my Grandson’s baseball team, last fall when they were playing, there was a minor league scout there taking a look at a 14-year-old… (Deb) Wow. (Frank) …who could hit the ball 300 feet. So, anyway, who knows, we might see this young man in the major leagues sometime. And that kind of is the lead in to the next story too, about someone that you might think, wow he was such a great star, a big star, where’d he come from? Well he came from Baxter Springs. Let’s take a look. He was an Oklahoma boy, who’s Dad Mutt worked in the lead and zinc mines, but named his son in honor of Baseball Hall of Famer Mickey Cochran. In the town of Commerce, Mickey played most high school sports and rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals. His baseball career began across the line in Baxter Springs, Kansas, where he played for the Whiz Kids. In 1948, a New York Yankee’s scout came to Baxter Springs to watch Mickey’s teammate third baseman Billy Johnson. During that game Mickey hit three home runs. The scout returned the next year after Mickey graduated high school. He signed the young man to a minor league contract. Mickey was assigned to the Yankees Class D independent Yankees of the Kansas/Oklahoma/Missouri league where he played short stop. He struggled and at one time told his Dad he was quitting. When his performance improved, he was sent to the Yankee’s training camp and manager Casey Stengel saw a lot of promise in him. Again, he struggled and he was sent back to the Yankee’s top farm team, the Kansas City Blues. Frustrated, he again told his father he was quitting. Mutt drove up to Kansas City and began packing his son’s bags telling him he could come back and work in the mines with him. His performance improved. Mickey immediately broke out of his slump, going on to hit .361, with 11 homers and 50 RBI’s during his stay in Kansas City. Mickey was called up to the Yankees after 40 games with Kansas City. He played with legends and he became a legend, racking up record after record. (Announcer) First game out of one. Here’s the pay off pitch. It’s a hit. There it goes. It’s outta here! (Frank) His outgoing personality made him a celebrity beyond baseball circles, and there was hardly a kid in the world who didn’t, and still doesn’t, recognize the name Mickey Mantle.

(Ron) When the open range era came to an end the homesteaders and settlers moved into Kansas and started building something that would change the life of the cowboy forever, I’m referring to fences. This poem is based on the true story of the invention of barbed wire. It’s called the Death of Open Range. Let me tell you of a time when open range was in its prime. Cowboys rode their horses forth and drove the huge herds of cattle north. We could ride all over this great land, unfettered by the human hand. Then a farmer over Illinois way invented something that’s used to this day. His name was Mr. Joseph Glidden and he was doing the homesteaders biddin. He took a pair of heavy pliers and wrapped barbs around a long piece of wire. The barb’s sharp points kept stock in or out, could be used for fencing all about. For the open range it was a turn of events that barbed wire made it easy to string a fence. Barbed wire succeeded more than Glidden had planned. Soon fences criss-crossed the open land. The old west changed with Glidden’s invention. And caused the cowboys apprehension. No more could we ride over free open range and the cowboy’s role would be forever changed. Homesteaders and nesters scarred this land and changed the role of the old cowhand. The cowboy’s work continues on but the days of the open range are gone. That open range would have no more hope. That’s why cowboys call barbed wire the Devil’s Rope. Happy Trails.

(Frank) Yea, Mickey Mantle, isn’t that something? (Deb) Oh, it’s a great story. You know and I got to meet, we were in St. Louis, just happened to be in St. Louis, Heather and I were, when Yogi Berra died. So, we were eating in the neighborhood, the Italian Hill in St. Louis and we went by and paid our respects to Yogi’s niece who lives in the house where he grew up and of course, legendary player Joe DiMaggio…not DiMaggio, I’m sorry, Joe Garagiola grew up in the same neighborhood. But DiMaggio and all those guys were all friends and it’s just an incredible, incredible legacy. (Frank) Yea, yea, yea. So, we’ll kind of do away with baseball til next year, and then we’ll do a whole bunch more baseball stories of people who were big stars out of Kansas. There’s several from Topeka. (Deb) Then we’ll get into the basketball. So, we’ll do Wilt Chamberlin and all those guys. (Frank) Basketball legends. But let’s talk though a little bit about art again. (Deb) Art. Oh my goodness. And of course, we’ve got this wonderful arts district where Frank sits in the middle of every day, up in NOTO. But we’ve got art all over the state and just galleries everywhere. They’re just cropping up and we’re producing some amazing artists from Kansas who are getting regional and national recognition. Well due recognition. And one of the those is Zak Barnes and this young man is so impressive. I remember the first time I saw his art, I was blown away and then I met him actually at Beauchamp’s Gallery over in west Topeka. Just an amazing, an amazing young man. So, you’re gonna love getting to know Zak. Videographer Michael Goehring and I had just stopped in Cottonwood Falls to visit the Chamber Office and the Symphony in the Flint Hills Office and Gallery. They were in the midst of a planar exhibit and some of the artists were still in the field. We found Zak Barnes in the front yard at Pioneer Bluffs, the restored territorial homestead at Matfield Green. A more picturesque setting could not be imagined. The farmhouse, imposing barns, large trees, stone walls and the artist at work in the midst of the scene. Zak paused only moments from his work, a painting of a vintage tractor. He would have shaken hands but his hands were splattered with paint, and he had little time to leave the canvas. He worked quickly with bold, thick strokes of color. It was a piece of art in itself, just to watch Zak create. The work of this Kansas native has proven to be popular at exhibits and galleries throughout the region. “I feel a deep connection to the prairie landscape and to the people of this land. These are the face and anchor of my work,” Zak has said. “They set the emotional tone for any narrative that plays itself out in the paintings. My strongest influences are my immediate environment, life experience and the way my mind interprets this information.” Zach lives alternately between remote and cosmopolitan settings, which allows him to explore a wide range of experiences. “The landscape work is challenging, constantly changing.” Zak explained. “I attempt to capture the fleeting moment in paint, texture, and color and mood and measure. The scene changes with each passing moment, demanding a concentration of attention and quickness of hand. I paint with brush and pallet knife often limiting the pallet, using earth tones to accentuate moments of color.” With an artist’s skill and insight those moments are forever captured on canvas. Gary Blitsch, owner of Southwind Gallery said, “Zak Barnes is one of the most innovative artists to come into the Kansas Art Scene in the last ten years. He conveys interesting otherness in a style which almost requires the viewer to spend more time in front of the canvasses than you had planned. You will see beautiful women packing six shooters, 18 wheelers where they don’t belong, and St. Bernards everywhere. If you had any money, I recommend you invest in Zak Barnes. I think it would be a blue chip deal.”

(Frank) We’re out of time again. So, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere… (Both) Around Kansas.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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