The band’s co-founder Charlie Bowen says in the 1937 Flood’s 40 plus years on the planet, West Virginia’s most eclectic string band has gone through many formats to present its music to whomever will listen. And now, after a progression of vinyl albums, cassette tapes, CD’s and podcasts, the Flood is going full circle with “Route 60 Saturday Night.” This live musical and storytelling variety show brings yesterday’s old-time radio or hootenanny style presentation – to today’s Facebook Live and You Tube audience.
Bowen and the latest version of the Huntington based band love to play at Store Owner/Musician Paul Callicoat’s Route 60 Music Company in neighboring Barboursville. When the shop closes, Paul can fire up the light and sound system for the stage, and clear away the merchandise to set up seats for about 75 or so. Bowen says “It’s been a treasured venue for supporting local musicians, So I thought, let’s do a regular show. Callicoat had a hundred reasons it’s wouldn’t work but when I said let’s do it for charity, the lights came on.” Callicoat, also an accomplished songwriter and guitarist, did not hesitate “I love Huntington, Barboursville and West Virginia. I know it sounds corny, but I deeply feel giving back to the community is really, important so I’m in.
Charlie, Paul and Flood vocalist Michelle Lewis – along with running Facebook messenger input from band members and a few others – hashed out a show style and format. On the third Saturday of every month from 7 to 8:30 PM a tightly timed and semi-scripted show features co-hosts Michelle Lewis and yours truly with the 1937 Flood as the “house band.” Two different local guest acts are invited in each month. The Flood plays a counterpoint of folk, blues or old-time style to the musical leanings of guests like Ron McNurlin, Ron Sowell and Sasha Collette. Michelle and I do interviews with the guest artists, and long-time Mountain State columnist Dave Peyton tells a story in the middle of it all.
We shoot the whole show on Facebook Live (and get hundreds of likes), then post the show to a dedicated website. Bowen opines on the technology that “Audio akin to radio is the heart and soul of the internet. This feels like those old-time radio showcases or the 1960’s TV hootenanny folk music shows where you come and don’t know exactly what you’re going to hear, but you have a good time.” On using social media, the strongly Facebook opinionated Callicoat says “The way you reach people these days is with new technology, you embrace it, or you die.”
The Route 60 Saturday Night rewards are many fold. The Flood gets to have fun and entertain, local musicians get to showcase the songs and the audiences becomes engaged – both live with packed houses every show so far – and on social media. The greatest reward though, is the donation requests that add up to hundreds of dollars each show for worthy organizations like Huntington Food Bank, Little Victories Animal Shelter and the Contact Rape Crisis Center. Callicoat says “People have been good to me and the right thing to do is to be good to people.”
What’s the future for Route 60 Saturday Night? As Callicoat optimistically puts it, “hopefully it will grow to where’s we are busting at the seams of this building and we must take it somewhere else, that would be cool.” While this hometown happening grows, you should catch a live show, just check out our Facebook page and website, Route60saturdaynight.com.
We’re also proudly posting this story in West Virginia’s Golden Seal Magazine. For years, Vickie and I have traveled on “volunteer vacations”, participating in compelling events that give back to their communities. With both of us volunteering on “Route 60 Saturday Night”, we get to give a little back to many of our local charitable organizations, getting a lot of pleasure out of joining this heartfelt group of musicians.