The Arkansas Flyer
May 14, Wildwood Park for the Arts
Garrison Keillor has the market cornered when it comes to radio variety shows (what market there is, anyway). However, as much of a recurrent masterpiece as “A Prairie Home Companion” is, it is far removed from our own familiar Arkansas culture. For that, we have KUARs “The Arkansas Flyer,” recorded for its fourth year on May 14 in front of a live audience in the Lucy Lockett Cabe Theater at Wildwood Park.
The show, in celebration of Arkansas Heritage Month, was previously presented at UALR but this year switched to Wildwood, where the attendance was the largest it’s seen so far. The new location accommodated a delicious barbecue dinner for the guests, catered by Pig ’N Chik BBQ of Sherwood. O Looneys Wine & Liquor provided adult drinks.
And drinks were a good idea — right before the show started, Ben Fry, UALR Public Radio General Manager, announced that although cell phones had to be silenced, the audience was encouraged to be as loud and responsive as they felt like.
This year’s host was Little Rock musician Amy Garland, who has performed in “The Arkansas Flyer” before. Alongside her were local honky tonkers The Salty Dogs, who played songs from their new album “Brand New Reason.” Also on stage was Blues Hall of Famer John “JC” Craig, who is featured on the 11th edition of the Oxford American’s latest Southern Music CD. He told the audience that he had within the last year recovered from a stroke and heart attack, which he believed to have improved his playing. All three acts had the audience rollicking with honky-tonk and blues.
Between songs came skits by The Invisible Radio Theater, led by Bob Hulsey, which offered a hilarious compliment to the music. Watching a radio show being performed live is an amusing experience, what with the surprising expressiveness of the actors and the ingenuity of the sound effects — several of which were accomplished with objects as ordinary as a piece of paper or an alarm clock. Among the jokes were several aimed at Mike Huckabee, always an easy target.