Shabby Road with Signatures

By John Mullen

November 11, 2019 - Orange Beach, AL - (OBA®) - The 25th Annual Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival in 2009 was in full swing as patrons sat in the old Silver Moon Lounge taking in tunes.

While standing outside the Silver Moon, looking towards the Flora-Bama, OBA Community Website founder Ken Cooper noticed three musicians with guitar cases in the crosswalk. “Wow” he said, “that looks like an Abbey Road redo.” 

Shabby Road Times Square 2And an idea was born, an idea that would become the iconic “Shabby Road” photo taken during the 2009 Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival. It has since been shown around the world from marquees in Las Vegas to the Jumbotron in New York City’s Times Square. The 10th anniversary of the photo shoot is Nov. 18th. The photo was captured at 11:34 am.

Shabby Road Las Vegas“It would be a great idea to get a bunch of songwriters walking across the road and take a picture like the Abbey Road picture,” Ken said. “So, I got with Fay Glass who was the director of the festival that year. She loved the idea. I said since you know all of the musicians, would you mind picking the people to be in the shoot?”

For optimum lighting, it was decided it would be a late morning shoot which got a chuckle from songwriter Beverly Jo Scott. She’s third from the left in the photo.

“It takes a hell of a guy to get that many hard-core troubadours out of bed that early,” Beverly Jo said of the 11 a.m. shoot. “I was up early because I’m a fishing girl. I like to get up early anyway. But those boys, I wasn’t sure about them. I can look at that photograph and still hear the laughter, the early morning jokes, the grumbling ‘better make it fast’ or ‘damn, it’s cold!’”

They rounded up some Flora-Bama staffers to stop the traffic for a short time and went to work with the eight songwriters each carrying an instrument.

“I think it was about 11:30 in the morning, we stopped traffic in two states to capture the shot,” Cooper said. “We took a ladder out in the road and set it up in the middle and got on top of the ladder. Then they walked back and forth across the road about three or four times while I shot 97 photos.”

Shabby Road Print 650 pxw

Even 10 years later, Beverly Jo still gets a thrill just talking about the morning and the signing party one night at the Flora-Bama’s famed River House.

“I can feel the strength of a magical moment I knew was happening in that instant and that I was a part of and that I shall remain a part of beyond my own passing,” Beverly Jo said. “I see my dear friends and some respected colleagues immortalized in imagery. I see myself among them and I am thankful.”

Ken had 15 prints made of the keeper photo from the shoot. From left are Jody Payne, Chris Newbury, Beverly Jo Scott, Larry Jon Wilson, Bo Roberts, Cass Hunter, Sonny Throckmorton and Sam Glass. Each person signed all 15 copies under their likeness along with Freddy Powers, who was wheelchair bound at the time. Freddy drew a stick figure to the far left of each of the photos and signed his name as well. Of the nine musicians, three have passed - Powers, Payne and Wilson.

Shabby Road Reveal at the Silver Moon

“We signed them all and we gave them to everybody who was in the photo as well as Joe Gilchrist, Pat McClellan and Fay Glass,” Ken said. “And I’ve got one. There’s only 15 with signatures around.”

It was during the signing party that Beverly Jo came up with the perfect title for the photo.

“I immediately thought of ‘Shabby Road’ because of the reference to our scruffy, Flora-Bama, Redneck Riviera lifestyle,” Beverly Jo said. “We've almost all come from very humble beginnings and we are proud of that heritage. It's built on simple values, roots music, country, gospel, blues, R&B.”

“Shabby Road’ came to me instantly,” Beverly Jo said. “It felt right and I strongly suggested it to Ken Cooper to consider it, although he had another title in mind.

‘Shabby Road,’ an honorable word play on the original from the Beatles, but with our salty, Flora-Bama style.

Ken wasn’t initially sold on the word “Shabby” as a tag hung on his photo. “Eventually Ken came to like the idea and the title stuck. I couldn't be more proud, but it's the content of the photo that is most important. Ken and his team did a wonderful job composing this iconic photo.”

To Beverly Jo it was also a bonding moment with some of her best friends in the music business.

“The one thing we all share outside of music is our sense of humor,” she said. “We love picking on each other. It's a sign of affection.”

The Shabby Road photo is hanging on a support beam in the Main Room at the Flora-Bama Lounge. 

Shabby Road at Flora Bama

Musicians appearing in the Shabby Road photo include...
Click on the name for songs and more info about each artist.
The Songwriter’s Schedule link shows were they are performing during the Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival this year.

Jody played guitar in Willie Nelson’s band from 1973 until he retired in 2008. He had previously played bluegrass with legendary Charlie Monroe. He also played in Merle Haggard’s band prior to joining Nelson and was a popular studio musician and appeared on records by Hank Snow, Tanya Tucker and Leon Russell, among others. Payne passed away in 2013 at age 77.

Chris Newbury Songwriter’s Schedule
Chris is the son of legendary songwriter Mickey Newbury and has been a constant presence on the Alabama-Florida Gulf Coast for years fronting the Newbury Syndicate as well as solo performances. Among the many songs written and arranged by Mickey include Just Dropped In and Trilogy, a smash hit for Elvis Presley.

Beverly Jo Scott Songwriter’s Schedule
Beverly Jo, born and raised right here on the gulf coast, has released six studio CDs and three live CD’s of her own material and is a big star in Europe. She lives full-time in Belgium where she has a radio show, tours extensively and has a major role in the cultural agenda program ‘Plan Cult’. She was a coach on “The Voice Belgique” TV show for 7 consecutive seasons and is currently writing a book. She has several gold and platinum co-writes to her credit including the Eurovision superhit “Rhythm Inside” with Loic Nottet.

Larry started in career in the early 1970s and released four solo albums from 1975 to 1979. In 1980 he left the music business but following encouragement from songwriting friends he attended his first Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival in the late 1980s and took up music again. He became a fixture at the festival before retiring again in 2009. He died in 2010 at the age of 69.

Bo Roberts Songwriter’s Schedule
Bo has shared the stage with some famous musicians during his career including John Fogerty, was lead guitarist and band leader for Hank Jr. for three years and lead guitarist for Gene Watson. Bo also wrote several songs for Watson including the number one hit “You’re Out Doing What I’m Here Doing Without. His song “Ten With a Two” was recorded by Willie Nelson and more recently by Kenny Chesney. Bo co-wrote the title track of Jamey Johnson’s album “Living For a Song” which was nominated for a Grammy.

Cass Hunter’s Songwriter’s Schedule
Creator of songs & Touch of Cass Custom Leatherworks, Cass has shared the stage with Marty Stuart, LeRoy Parnell, George Jones, Ricky Skaggs & many of her songwriting heroes. Songwriting credits include Matt Miller’s “Graveyard Full of Hearts”, Moses Rangel’s “Four Feet”, & “Thinkin’ You Could be Mine”, Whisper Whitlock’s “Breakin’ Hearts & Curfews”, Blue Mariah Band’s “When I Catch My Breath”, & most currently, “Get On With Life”, by Chris Moreau. Nashville-based singer/songwriter, attending the FBISF for her 20th year-in-a-row! 

Sonny Throckmorton’s Songwriter’s Schedule
From 1976 to 1980 there were only three weeks when one of his songs was not on the charts. The Nashville Songwriters Association International named him as songwriter of the year in 1979 and 1980. Sonny’s songs have been recorded by

George Strait, T.G. Shepard, Moe Bandy, Janie Fricke, Dan Seals, Clinton Gregory, John Conlee, Mel McDaniel, Jeanne Pruett, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Judds and several songs for Merle Haggard, among others.

Sam Glass Songwriter’s Schedule
Texan Sam Glass has been a part of the Gulf Coast music scene for decades and since leaving Nashville in 1990 after giving the Music City a try. He has been writing and performing original songs all these years including “She Brought Me Back to Love” and “Weapon of Mass Seduction.” Sam’s Honky Tonk Beach Swamp music style covers several genres at once as he encourages audiences  to “get some sand on it.”

Freddy for years played guitar in Merle Haggard’s band and wrote many legendary hits for Haggard and others, probably the most famous “I Always Get Lucky With You.” Besides Haggard, George Jones also had a big hit with this song as well. He had hundreds of songwriting credits throughout the years and co-wrote songs with Haggard, Willie Nelson and Big & Rich, just to name a few. Besides being an accomplished guitar player he also worked in the studio and was co-producers on Nelson’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Powers died in 2016 at age 84.