The neon lights are bright on Broadway

A few days ago I posted on getting an email from Ben Brogdon who used to work in radio down in my neck of the woods (Northeast Arkansa/Southeast Missouri). As I always do, I Googled Ben and got a hit on the Broadway musical, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. It ran from 1978 until 1982 (later made into a movie starring Dolly Parton, Burt Reynolds, Charles Durning et al) and Ben played in the Rio Grand Band, part of the original Broadway cast. I pinged Ben to see if he was “that Ben Brogdon”:

“Yassir, tha’s me. We had a western swing band in Nashville for the fun of it, and a friend of ours who produced Asleep at the Wheel (and some of Bob Wills later stuff, and Willie Nelson’s early stuff, and who also played with Buddy Holly when he was killed) hooked us up to the powers-that-were, and we went to New Yawk on a trial basis and just stayed a while. It was a great experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I honestly didn’t like living there very much. I will have to say, though, there sure was a lot of great music to hear, and some incredible restaurants. The play, by the way, was a lot better than the movie. I still sorta keep in touch with one of the authors of the play, Larry L. King. He lives in D.C., and still writes some. Great guy with a great mind.

In case you’re interested, I’ve worked with some kinda big name acts, but most of them were country. (Stonewall Jackson, Dottie West, Donna Fargo, Barbara Mandrell, and others). I did work a club in Nashville where we backed a lot of different people doing showcases, or even just settin’ in, and got to play with Tony Orlando, Lou Rawls and others. All in all, I’d say I’ve played bass for about 150 name or near name acts. And the number of great instrumentalists I’ve been fortunate to pick with still amazes me. I don’t know if you’ve heard of some of them, but Lenny Breau and Danny Gatton, as well as Roy Clark, Chet Atkins and some others are some who I’ve gotten to pick for. Now, please, I’m not name dropping, but I’ve been in the bidness a long time and have been very lucky.

If you saw The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas in New York at the 46th street theater in ’78 or ’79, I was probably playing bass. I left and went back to Nashville after about two years. You’ll also see me on a blues website, I think, and I’m on a lot of steel guitar things.”

Talk about your brushes with near greatness! Ben has agreed to let me interview him and we’re working on the details but it sounds like he’s got some great stories to tell. Stay tuned.

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