Once a month, and every month good music is being played in a small wooden structure building that was created by a desire; a dream and a lifetime of playing music someone loved.
Hell, it’s great music. It happens on Saturday nights and it happens in Tula, Mississippi. It’s been a little secret for a while, but talk and talent have people coming to witness its authenticity. It even has a name. It’s called the Tula Opry.
When you walk up to the Tula Opry a wooden boardwalk that’s twenty foot long leads you onto a front porch that holds swings on both ends and benches as well. There is plenty of sitting room and standing room on this porch. Antique and rustic signs hold on the walls of the front porch that dangle from under the black and white sign of its entrance that reads “Tula Opry.” You can’t really hear the music on the front porch. You can hear the twanging of a guitar or the pounding of a bass and someone’s voice but not until you enter past the screen door and the twist of a doorknob you hear what Rusty calls music. Like I said earlier, it’s damn good music.
Once inside, the floor is open. It’s lined with chairs and most every Saturday night they are occupied. I think early one morning as I was sitting outside smoking a cigarette Mr. Rusty stopped by my house and told me he lines up ten rows with each row holding twelve chairs. I’ve been inside the Opry when all the seats were full and the walls were lined with backs. The small kitchen that sets to the back side was full too as Southern Belles handed out Cokes and cookies and other desires and treats.
The walls are full of pictures and once again antique things. The stage is small but bright with lights. The lights focus you on each member of the band playing bluegrass or gospel music. Songs are shared and voices are too through a microphone standing center stage. The audience is quiet and appreciated during each song and turn and then the viewers applaud after so. Jokes are told and friendships are made. Smiles are glued to faces and eyes dance with a foot. Their music makes a soul shine and your night a better day.
I pull up to my house with my Mom and all her grandkids this Saturday night and cars are parked everywhere; old beat up pick-up trucks, BMWs, SUVs, work trucks and all types of cars with different county names. I didn’t know the Tula Opry was playing tonight across the street from my house and instantly I become happy. My mothers grandchildren’s age range from thirteen to six and I have introduced them to the Opry. They enjoy walking with me across the street and I am amazed at their interest. They are staring at all the cars and talking as I pull over to drop them and my mom off so I can go run to the store to get us some pizza for supper. They scatter out and go their ways and so do I. I get back to my house with the pizzas and no kids are around. I ask my mother who is sitting on my front porch thereabouts and she points across the street to the Tula Opry.
I smile and dash across the road. I walk into the room and I am welcomed by head shakes and smiles from strangers and cousins and people I grew up around. My kids and my nieces and nephew are drinking coffee and loving the music. I smile and hope they wanna stay a little longer. The band plays and everyone smiles. They end the show with the announcement of the next singing September 5th at five o’clock. Rusty ends the show with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” as I watch my son and nephew clap and smile and dance. I look around and everybody else is pretty much doing the same. I think Rusty has a pretty good circle in Tula!
Rusty has built the Opry five years ago. He said, “Me and friends of mine have been playing in a bluegrass band for about 30 years and just playing in festivals here and yonder and just got tired of going and playing all the time. So the opportunity came along to build a building and we just decided to quit playing on the road so much and just play once a month here at home. Quit traveling so much, that’s how it came about.”
He and his friends put on a show once a month on a Saturday night, but not always the same Saturday night. He said, “We just plan it when we can all get together and do it. We usually just announce it on Facebook or we’ll announce at the show. We usually have a guest band evry time too.”
Come join the fun at the Tula Opry soon, y’all!
Shane Brown is a HottyToddy.com contributor and the son of noted author Larry Brown. Shane is an Oxford native with Yocona and Tula roots. Shane is a graduate of Mississippi State University and works as a salesman for Best Chance. He has two children — Maddux, age 9, and Rilee, age 7 — and makes his home at “A Place Called Tula.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright Shane Brown, 2015.