Friday, October 22, 2021

Maine Country Music Hall of Fame inducts local musician Bucky Mitchell

Bucky Mitchell, who is now a booking agent for local venues
such as Lenny's in Westbrook, was inducted into the Maine
Country Music Hall of Fame in April.
By Lorraine Glowczak

Many know and recognize his face at Lenny’s, 1274 Bridgton Road in Westbrook, as he greets and talks with music lovers who arrive early to enjoy their favorite bands. His name is Bucky Mitchell, and he is the gastropub’s booking agent extraordinaire.

But his talent to book best-loved Maine musicians does not stop there – he is also recognized for his highly skilled aptitude as a musician – playing drums in bands that have opened for well-known country artists such as Randy Travis, Emmylou Harris, Porter Waggoner, Freddy Fender, Roy Clark and more, including Maine’s own Dick Curless.

His talent was recognized recently when he was inducted into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame in August. This isn’t his first rodeo of acknowledgment, however. He was also inducted in the Massachusetts Country Music Hall of fame in 2014.

Mitchell’s story begins at an early age. He was born in Portland in 1951 and has been playing country music since he was 19 where he played drums for a house band, Rick Wells & the Wagon Wheels, at the Wagon Wheel Ranch in Steep Falls in the 1970s. It was this small-town bar experience that catapulted him into the realm of well-known musicians.

“It turns out that the house band also backed up Capitol Records star Dick Curless” Mitchell said. “Dick invited me to go with him to Nashville for a Grand Ole Opry appearance and it was from that experience that I knew music would be my life-time career.”

It wasn’t long after that, in 1972 while playing at the Wagon Wheel Ranch, Mitchell was asked to become part of a touring band. He joined and toured the eastern United States for four years while also booking other bands along the eastern seaboard.

Mitchell helped found and played drums for the band, Rick Robinson and the Bayou Boys. The group recorded two albums and 10 singles for Belmont Records, and was named MCMAA Country Music Band of the Year in 1979 and 1980. It was from the Bayou Boys’ experience that Mitchell got to meet the most famous of Country Music.

 “We opened shows for many big-time country acts including Roy Clark, Hank Snow, Eddie Rabbitt, Porter Waggoner, Johnny Paycheck, Emmylou Harris, and Larry Gatlin,” Mitchell said.

Along the way, Mitchell also got to play drums for many big stars, such as The Hager Twins (from the Hee-Haw fame), Dave Dudley, John Anderson, Big Al Downing, Freddie Fender, Barbara Fairchild, and Kenny Price.

Mitchell shares a story when the band ran into a big-name star of that time, Ernest Tubb.

We were at a hotel playing, and Ernest Tubb was staying at the same hotel,” Mitchell said. “He was on a show with Hank Snow down at the local auditorium. Rick Robinson saw Ernest Tubb strolling around the lobby and went to him and asked if something was wrong. Ernest Tubb had missed his bus to the auditorium, as he told the driver to leave at a certain time no matter who was not there. Rick gave Ernest a ride to the auditorium and Ernest had to put five bucks in the band fund jar for being late for his own show. Ernest Tubb always remembered that ride every time we saw him in Nashville after that.”

Although Mitchell’s life on the road was filled with many adventures and he loved every bit of it, he admits the downsides.

“I would miss my son’s baseball games and a lot of family events. Luckily I had a great supportive family but it wasn’t always easy being away from family all the time.”

For those who wish to go into the music business as a professional, Mitchell offers the following advice:

“You have to put a lot of time practicing on your instrument – about five to seven hours a day. If you don’t have the time or passion to do that – then music will be a hobby for you. And – that’s okay! But if you choose music as a career, it will take a lot of commitment on your part.”

Mitchell is now retired and provides promotions for entertainment venues in the area as a booking agent and entertainment consultant, with Lenny’s being among them. <

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