Two of Us: Bloody Mary Festival Headliners Dread Clampitt

By Nikki Hedrick


On Saturday, Nov. 2, The Market Shops tickles taste buds with their fifth annual Bloody Mary Festival. With well over a dozen restaurants competing for the awards, it’s bound to be an event to remember while benefiting Habitat for Humanity Walton County.


As with any event around these parts, they didn’t forget the garnish. The part which is there for a little added interest but often ends up stealing the show? Live music. And who better to encourage daytime festivities than Red Bar Sunday brunch kings Dread Clampitt?


Dread Clampitt’s Balder Saunders returned from their performance at the Suwannee Roots Revival to talk about life, the future, and Bloody Marys.


He doesn’t hesitate to put The Red Bar at the top of the Bloody Mary list. “I think it’s the pick of green beans, spicy green beans. They use that Zing Zang mix, which I like.”


As for experiences with the potent cocktail he hopes to avoid recreating, a New Orleans bar takes that mantle. “It had all the vegetables in your Bloody Mary and the guy put Guinness on top and he said, ‘That’s steak in a can, so if you have Guinness floater on top of your Bloody Mary, it’s actually considered ‘a meat and three vegetables’.” Saunders also calls the canned Budweiser Clamato wannabe Bloody Mary “hateful,” ranking as the most horrible attempt at the drink he’s tasted.


Saunders’ dream Bloody Mary would be decked out with a dry-rubbed rib, over-easy quail egg (fried, not boiled) and pickled okra.


For Dread Clampitt, the fire that ravaged the beloved Red Bar isn’t just about the memories within the building, but also the loss of steady gigs. “I initially got over the shock of how terrible it was that it happened and thinking about all these families that worked there that lost jobs and thinking of myself, too, as lost job or income,” says Saunders.


“But the community, the culture, is really what I miss as well, just getting together, playing music on Sundays and seeing all the local faces. I really miss that. Aside from that, it’s been more of a forced vacation because I haven’t had weekends off in 17 years. So it has allowed me to do more yard work. My landscaping looks amazing, and I’ve been doing more fishing than normal…”


In October, an initial groundbreaking marked the progress for the return of the Red Bar. The goal is to reopen by Memorial Day weekend in 2020. It’s something we can all look forward to, because, according to Saunders, there is “a hole in the culture.”


The rebuild progress is slow going, and Saunders brings a logical explanation to the table. “In this time, post-Hurricane Michael, I know the cost of materials is high and labor—the labor pool’s got bigger fish to fry over there trying to fix up all that’s damaged in Panama City. Getting the (subcontractors) out and getting them working and getting it done…it’s going to be a challenge.”


An unexpected side effect is that Dread Clampitt gigs feel like more of an event these days, both for the community and Saunders. “When we do play, it is more exciting. But then, on the other hand, there’s a loss of facility from not playing all the time. Sometimes we’d go like two, three weeks without playing and then get back together and your fingers are sore and your throat hurts and all that stuff.”


The change of routine doesn’t mean that Saunders and Kyle Ogle can’t be found performing regularly. Ogle is part of the TKO Show featuring TK and Duke Bardwell while Saunders had his own special guest at his monthly Grayton Seafood Company gig.


“I used it as an opportunity to rehearse my son,” he says. “He’s 13 and he played drums with me, so that was kind of fun rehearsing all the songs for that. It was to push some bonding, but then to really show him what goes into a three-hour gig. He was really, he was like, ‘Oh my God, dad, I’m worn out. I can’t believe that you do this. Now I know why you were always coming home and your back hurt and all that stuff.’ He gets it.”


One of the biggest crossroads for Dread Clampitt was the passing of Kenny O. “It was like, do we go on, how do we go on? Deciding that we were going to carry on as a two-piece, we basically spent the last year just kind of trying to learn Kenny’s parts in essence. Really learning how to sing and play it in the two-piece that we hadn’t done since we started 17 years ago…that’s taken us some time.”


They went to one of their mentors, Rev. Jeff Mosier, for advice. Saunders and Ogle wondered if a new member should be brought into the fold. Mosier basically told them: “Yeah, the new guy’s going to be ‘not-Kenny.’ That’ll be his name. You’ll look back and say, ‘Hey, there’s not-Kenny.’”


“There’s so much,” says Saunders. “Kyle and I have thousands of songs that we play, and to put somebody else in there, it would be so much rehearsal time to…I mean, Kyle and I are psychic. We know what each other is going to do and when and where. And when he goes up the neck, I know what inversion of the chord he’s going to play, and I can play harmony to it.”


Saunders admitted that a Craiglist ad would end up looking something like: Wanted, psychic multi-instrumentalist that can sing any part.


For now, Saunders heeds the advice of Mosier. “Simon and Garfunkel played to thousands of people. You don’t have to be more than you are—you’re a two-piece, and that’s what you are.”


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