For the past six weeks, Kris and I have been hard at work preparing our next music documentary, Duke & The King. Like our previous film, Back From the Dread, Duke & The King started life as a part of our long-gestating project, Bayou Country. Here’s a little background on how that happened:
In 2005, Kris Wheeler, then a magazine publisher, decided to pursue his first film project. His plan was to do something about the young Americana band Dread Clampitt and their mentor/bass player, Duke Bardwell. As he dug into Duke’s story, he learned that one of Duke’s songs, “Bayou Country,” had not only helped Duke rediscover his love of music but had indirectly led to the formation of Dread Clampitt. That’s the story he wanted to tell. Simple, right?
When you have a character as interesting as Duke, with as storied a history in the music business as his, you can’t simply sum it up in 90-120 minutes. Even if you do, it doesn’t leave room for the magical story of “Bayou Country’s” own journey. And it especially doesn’t leave time to look at the formation and struggles of an up-and-coming band with an undefinable sound.
Over a two-to-three year period of shooting and editing, we tried to get to the essence of the Bayou Country story. One of the first things to be jettisoned was the profile of Dread Clampitt. Knowing we owed it not only to the band, but also to their fans, we crafted a film solely about Dread’s formation and evolution punctuated with live performances by the band in a half dozen or so venues. Like a cinematic phoenix, Back From the Dread rose from the ashes of the cutting room floor.
Next up was the story of Duke’s time spent as bass player for his childhood hero, Elvis Presley. While the tumultuous tale of Duke’s departure and the dreams shattered by his time with Elvis is crucial to Duke’s overall journey, there was simply no room for all of the colorful anecdotes Duke tells about that time in his life. Plus, we had an entire concert by Duke filmed at the beautiful WorkPlay Theater in Birmingham.
Following the same formula we used for Dread, we plan to weave Duke’s performances together with the story of his time with Elvis. The result will be Duke & The King.
We are planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds necessary to complete the film – and to help spread the word to our potential audience. If you’re not familiar with crowdfunding, essentially it works like this: we ask for your help with making the film in increments anywhere from $5 to $10,000. In return you get some pretty cool rewards including producer credits on the film, digital and hard copies of the completed film, autographed memorabilia … even private concerts by Duke and Dread.
As we get closer to launching that campaign, we’ll be blogging about the process here and on our sister site, Real Southern Men. (And no, it’s not a dating site. It’s a celebration of everything that’s great about the South – and a rebuke of everything that isn’t.)
Check back often for more!