Riding for the Right: The George Brothers take their 'red-dirt' country on the road

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Two years ago, Randall and DaWayne George were riding their Harleys in a veterans' ride down the Pig Trail, a scenic byway that winds through the Ozarks. As the riders left Eureka Springs, Randall, at the end of the line, looked across the highway at the 100 bikers led by his brother and thought, "We're all brothers, we're all friends and we're all outlaws -- forever."

Turned out to be the more than passing thought.

"I wrote the song when I was on my bike," he said.

"Brothers, Friends and Outlaws Forever" is the title song of the latest CD by DaWayne and Randall George, better known as the 'red-dirt' country duo, the George Brothers. Six nights a week they headline a show at their theater, the Ozark Mountain Hoe-Down, but during the day are more likely to be found on their Harleys, showing bikers the local roads.

"We ride any day," Randall said. "If people want to come here, we give them tours free of charge. We take them to places they normally wouldn't go."

The George Brothers put northwest Arkansas on the map after an article appeared in "Hog Tales" magazine covering a two-day ride they took with the editor. On Labor Day Monday, the brothers led an NRA Second Amendment Freedom Ride, which included a free concert at the destination, the Choctaw Casino in southeast Oklahoma. The ride drew 71 bikers, including Eureka Springs Mayor Morris Pate, and 21 hotrods.

"It was a very, very cool ride," Randall said.

The ride left from the parking lot of the Hoe-Down, which is also a meeting place for bikers staying in town during Blues, Bikes and Barbecue. The brothers lead rides over to Fayetteville every day, Randall said. And every Thursday night from March through December is Biker's Night at the Hoe-Down -- arrive on a motorcycle and get a discounted ticket to the show, which automatically enters your bike in a contest.

"During the first half of the Hoe-Down, judges walk the parking lot," Randall said. "First prize is $100, second prize is $20 and third prize is $20."

The NRA Freedom Ride's lunch stop was Ozark, where the brothers grew up. Music is in their genes: their parents, Velma and Leonard George, had a gospel band that the boys were playing and recording with by the time they were in grade school -- Randall at 6 and DaWayne, 9.

"They were born into it," said Leonard George, of the music business.

By the time they were pre-teens, the brothers were asked to play the Hoe-Down, but their mother wouldn't let them because they were too young to stay up late. After graduating from Ozark High School in the '80s, Randall and DaWayne became been full-time musicians, going on the road and touring with other bands. In 1990, they moved to Eureka Springs, and since 1993, have been regulars at the Hoe-Down. In 2001, the Hoe-Down comic, Mike Nichols, left and the Georges, including their father, bought into the theater. In 2004, they became full owners.

"The Hoe-Down has always been our home," Randall said.

Now, bikers come from all over the area to see the show. The first Friday in September, Brent Scruggs and his brother, Lynn, arrived on their motorcycles, having ridden from Lindsey, Okla., in a thunderstorm.

"We left at 7:30 in the morning and rode 350 miles to come to the show," said Scruggs, who had seen the George Brothers' show half a dozen times. "They are as good at entertainment as anyone --Branson or anywhere."

Along with music, the George Brothers grew up riding motorcycles-- DaWayne was competitive motorcross racing by the time he was 16, and Randall remembers his first motorcycle ride when he was 8. Now they own Harleys -- a '06 Screaming Eagle Fat Boy, and a '08 Screaming Eagle Soft-Tail Springer. Their band is endorsed by Pig Trail Harley-Davidson in Rogers and Eureka Springs, and by Forman Harley-Davidson in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The George Brothers also do a Christmas show at the Hoe-Down that raises several thousand dollars annually for Carroll County's "Shop with A Cop" program. This August they did a benefit for families in Olive, Okla., near Tulsa, where fire destroyed more than 250 homes. The benefit was the result of a call from the school principal, Karen Wood, asking if they would collect school supplies. When Randall told her they'd do a free show, she started crying.

"There was a large biker presence at the benefit," Randall said. "They are notorious for their generosity."

On August. 13, the brothers delivered more than $2,000 plus $600 worth of supplies to the school. Bikers who went on the Labor Day NRA ride were also generous, Randall said, raising several thousand dollars.

"We believe that if you take our guns away, we're in trouble," Randall said. "It's up to us to keep our rights, to keep our freedoms."

It was the "Brothers, Friends and Outlaws" song that led to Greg Stephens walking in the theater one day four months ago and asking the brothers to do the NRA ride. Stephens, a.k.a. 'the One-eyed Hillbilly' (his blog is "The One-eyed Hillbilly Outdoors") is the Arkansas field representative for the NRA. On the day of the ride, the organization provided lunch for the riders in Ozark. Madison County and Franklin County sheriffs' deputies provided traffic control, as did police officers in Ozark and Huntsville.

"They blocked all the intersections so we could ride through without stopping," Randall said.

At the destination, the Choctaw Casino in Pocola, the George Brothers gave a free concert celebrating the official release of their single, "When You Had Mine." With the release of the single on a national label, the George Brothers may be on the road again -- as musicians. They have a lot of people behind them.

"We don't consider these people our fans," Randall said of the bikers who support their music and their causes. "We consider them our friends and family."

Now in its 31st season, Ozark Mountain Hoe-Down is rated number two by Trip Advisor out of 30 Eureka Springs attractions, and is fourth longest-running show in the Ozarks. The main show starts at 8 p.m., and features singer Leslie Wright, keyboard/vocalist Lee Hendrix and drummer Rick Starnes. Sound man Jay Mischel (for whom the brothers' song "Harley," was written) introduces the gospel pre-show at 7:30 p.m., which sometimes features Leonard George. The Hoe-Down is located at 3140 E. Van Buren (Highway 62), Eureka Springs. For tickets, call 1-800-468-2113 or go to www.ozarkmountainhoedown.com.

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