It has been an interesting musical journey for Travis Beasley, a survivor of many seemingly endless journeys across the heartland in a dilapidated charter bus with bands White Trash Rodeo and High Low Drifters.
The route this weekend is much better, taking him only on a brief seven-mile jaunt south down U.S. 45 from his hometown of Eldorado to the a small patio stage at a popular Harrisburg eatery.
Along the way, there was a six-year period in Champaign that transformed him from novice picker to seasoned musical veteran while attending the University of Illinois, and a 2013 educational internship that exposed him to the fertile country music scene in Texas.
The 30-year-old Beasley moved back to Saline County about 18 months ago.
“Morello's was one of the first places to gamble on booking me when I came back home,” he says.
A big fan of Waylon Jennings, Beasley plays a hybrid brand of outlaw country music that has been influenced by artists like Chris Knight, Tyler Childers, Sturgill Simpson and Canadian roots artist Corb Lund.
Beasley will be in concert at 7 p.m. Saturday on the patio at Morello's restaurant in Harrisburg with “Skinny Jim” Rotramel, lead singer of The Number 9 Blacktops.
Clayton Gribble will be the opening act.
Earlier this summer, Beasley was the opening act at Morello's for a sold-out show featuring emerging Nashville star Kendell Marvel, a native of the Thompsonville/Galatia area.
Beasley says he started picking and singing about 15 years ago, while still an underclassman at Eldorado High School. He graduated high school in 2005, then attended Southeastern College for two years.
It was the prestigious College of Veterinary Medicine that led Beasley to Champaign. His father, Dr. Ron Beasley, graduated from the program in 1974 and founded the Beasley Equine Clinic in Eldorado in 1979.
Family tradition led him to Champaign. Music was something that happened spontaneously as an extracurricular activity.
“I played a little music in high school, but I was much more interested in roping or playing golf,” Beasley says. “In college, I got with the right group of guys. We put White Trash Rodeo together in 2007 and had to play for a year and a half to pay off our sound equipment that we foolishly bought.”
Keeping detailed records of the financial escapades of the group, there was a monumental opportunity the members had within their collective grasp in 2009 when they played the historic Rose Bowl Tavern in Urbana.
“The first gig we would have got to pocket money was at the Rose Bowl,” Beasley says with a laugh. “Our bar tab was more than we got paid. So we walked away broke ... again. Looking back, it's funny. We definitely were not laughing at the time, though.”
The break-up of White Trash Rodeo in 2010 gave Beasley the chance to put together High Low Drifters in 2011. The band had a solid two-year run that was interrupted in 2013 when Beasley served an internship at the JEH Equine Reproduction Services and Hospital in Whitesboro, Texas.
It was there Beasley discovered red dirt music and the work of Jason Boland, Turnpike Troubadours, Josh Abbott and Cody Johnson, who continued to influence his musical direction. At a show in Texas, he met Cody Jinks and they had a serious 20-minute conversation about equine reproduction.
Beasley put High Low Drifters on hiatus in 2014 and returned home as Dr. Travis Beasley, immediately going to work at the family clinic.
In July, Beasley tried his hand at concert promotion by teaming with good friend Matt Poss to sponsor the “Red Dirt, White & Blue Fest” in Effingham, featuring headliner Chris Knight and several other bands.
“We lost money, but not enough to keep us from trying it again next year,” Beasley said.
He said his current focus is developing his craft as a songwriter. He wants to spend about a year writing and polishing enough original material for a potential album project late next year.
Beasley says his calendar is filling up with local acoustic shows. He plans to slip in an occasional original tune to a live audience and use its reaction as an editing tool.
Beasley is engaged to Jessica Routh, and they will be married Oct. 21.
Rotramel founded The Number 9 Blacktops in 2005. He is lead singer for the West Frankfort-based group, which has played rockabilly music throughout the U.S. and in 10 foreign countries.
A big fan of traditional country music and the outlaw sound, Gribble is an 18-year-old Marion native just starting his college education. He plans to devote equal time to the classroom and area honky-tonks, and is planning to pursue a musical career in Nashville after graduating college.