Patrick Lee Beasley has a lofty dream of developing Southern Illinois into a vital link in a powerful country music triangle.
Nashville will always have the prominent ZIP code for those seeking success in the industry, and the genre has developed a second home deep in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, in the tourist haven of Branson, Missouri.
Anchored by bustling activity on the Shawnee Wine Trail, Beasley says this area has an enormous pool of local talent that could provide nonstop entertainment on the trail, and clubs from Murphysboro to Harrisburg.
Organizing and equipping this group of aspiring singers, songwriters and musicians with high-quality original material could turn “the 618” into a honky-tonk breeding ground from Cairo to Mount Vernon.
“There are a lot of us that has individually written a lot of great songs, but have not been able to get the executives on Music Row in Nashville to listen,” Beasley says. “Instead of throwing the dice separately, we need so start throwing them together. There is strength in numbers.”
A similar situation occurred in the 1970s when the Music City suits turned their backs on a pack of long-haired misfits, and the “Outlaw Movement” moved to Texas and turned Austin into a musical hotbed.
“When Nashville wouldn’t listen to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, they broke off and did their own thing,” Beasley says. “After they started drawing large crowds of people craving their original material, Nashville took notice and opened their doors for them.”
The first step toward establishing this new musical force is the creation of the Southern Illinois Songwriters, an association that will create top-tier songs that will be the high-octane fuel that powers the organization.
Beasley says getting songs recorded in local studios and having local artists singing them at local venues is the secret to drawing true country music fans into the area.
“This has been my dream for a long time,” he says. “The country music business in Nashville is very complicated. By going this route, it will simplify the process.”
A core group of local artists — Dave Clark, Eli Tellor, Gordon Holden and Beasley — came up with the concept for the Southern Illinois Songwriters. Over the next two months, this foursome will be accepting input from members of the local music scene, and will file paperwork to officially create the group.
Beasley says a website should be up and running by Jan. 1.
The 51-year-old Beasley is a Paducah native. He studied creative writing at Murray State University and quit college just a few hours short of graduation to join Southern Exposure, a Southern rock band that developed a huge following and opened for many major acts, including .38 Special and the Marshall Tucker Band, during their prime years.
After five years with Southern Exposure, Beasley quit the band to pursue work as a solo artist. Outlaw country music was in his wheelhouse. His vocals mesh Travis Tritt and Bob Seger. He started calling himself The One Man Bandit and learned to win over even the toughest crowd with an endless assortment of material.
“I play more cover tunes than anybody. I can play four-hour sets for four days in a row and never sing the same song twice. It’s a blast entertaining and whipping a crowd into a frenzy, but you are just a glorified liquor salesman if you don’t have some original material,” Beasley says. “You’re not going to earn a record deal singing covers. You start turning heads with original songs.”
Beasley won the 2011 HerrinFesta Italiana Country Showdown and thought he was ready for the big time. He fought in the Nashville trenches from 2012 to 2016 and once lived in the same Russelville, Kentucky, apartment that Aaron Tippin had lived in as he sought and caught country music stardom.
“Things have changed so much in Nashville that I had to get out. The town is full of kids trying to sing Merle Haggard songs to a rap beat,” Beasley says. “It makes you sick. It inspired me to write a song titled ‘What Happened to my Country.’ I miss the old days.”
In 2013, Beasley recorded a CD that received little airplay in the USA, but was very popular in Germany, Sweden and Denmark.
“In Europe, they are still in the ‘Boot Scootin’ Boogie’ days. They don’t play this bro-country stuff much over there,” Beasley says.
Beasley, the voice behind “No Hittin’ Blues” in a video for the Dinger Bat Co. in Ridgway, says he plans to release two six-song CDs of original material in the next year.
The audience for those recordings may increase significantly with another major project Beasley is undertaking.
In the next two weeks, Beasley will jam at The Pub in Jonesboro with Mason Wheaton, Brentley Sims and Jeremy Wheaton. The foursome is strongly considering forming a new Southern rock band, with Beasley as lead singer.