David Bazzel may seem to some folks to be the most over-exposed person in Arkansas via TV, radio and as Arkansas Times readers’ annual choice as the state’s sexiest man. But give him some credit for starting some of the best events in the capital city. His idea of the Broyles Award has grown into a major luncheon and awards presentation, national recognition of the award and participation of the top coaches in the country in honoring the best assistant football coach in college football.
In the summer of 2004, Bazzel brought 14 other folks together to start the Little Rock Touchdown Club. Every other major city in the South has some sort of weekly gathering of fans to talk about this autumn religion known as football, but somehow Little Rock never had such a club. These clubs range from a size of 150 or so in Miami to more than a thousand in Birmingham.
When Bazzel’s group formed the club, they hoped that through their best efforts, it might attract 60 or 70 people the first year.
The second Monday meeting, in a tiny, rectangular space at the Little Rock Hilton, drew 45 folks, including this columnist. In another week, the number had doubled, then soon was well past 100. By the season-ending banquet, in which the club gave out its awards to coaches and players around the area, the membership topped 200 and the banquet drew almost 300.
The club already had outgrown the Little Rock Hilton before last season was done. The club shifted this year’s schedule to the Embassy Suites in West Little Rock. Frank Broyles’ appearance two weeks ago drew 330 people. Then, last Monday, the talk by former Miami Hurricane and Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis forced the Embassy Suites to double the space it was allocating to accommodate more than 400 people.
It didn’t hurt that Davis, who would probably be the choice of a significant percentage of Arkansas Razorback fans to replace Houston Nutt, was speaking two days after Nutt’s most embarrassing loss yet as the Hogs’ head coach. Davis said all the right things. The dreamers among the crowd might have sensed that Davis was positioning himself for the UA job, the way he spoke of his admiration for Frank Broyles, Houston Nutt, the area of Northwest Arkansas and the program’s capability to compete with the college football powers. On the other hand, the realists see Davis looking for bigger fish to fry if and when he decides to return to coaching, such as leading Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys when Bill Parcells has had enough.
Either way, Monday’s meeting was full of excitement, questions from the audience and a lot of smiling faces throughout the almost two hours of lunch and talk.
Upcoming guests will include former coaches Johnny Majors and David Cutcliffe.
A buffet lunch is served starting at 11:15 a.m. and the meeting gets off to a funny start at noon via either would-be comics Rex Nelson or Bill Vickery reporting on football matters from the previous weekend. For a $30 annual membership and $15 for a great lunch, it will satiate anyone who calls themselves a football fan.
Jason Molina’s roots sound: If you’re looking for a good Thursday (Sept. 15) show to catch, see Jason Molina and his “new” group, the Magnolia Electric Co., at Sticky Fingerz starting at 9:30 p.m. I put the quotes around “new,” because the Magnolia Electric Co. is Molina’s new name for his touring bandmates after 10 years of calling the group Ohia. His players change out regularly, and other musicians may pop in and out from time to time, both in the studio or on the road.
“Being on an independent label, you rarely have a luxury of a full-time band who isn’t doing full-time jobs,” Molina said, sounding like a lot like some Little Rock musicians we know. “You have to take who is available.”
Molina, now based out of Chicago, said he writes a lot on the road but never gets anything finished there, so a recent tour break was well received. “We’ll be playing lot of the new material, a lot of stuff all off the new record we just recorded.”
Molina is another of those great songwriters we don’t get to hear on Little Rock area radio, but those familiar with roots music would recognize him. Molina’s obvious influences are Neil Young, Roxy Music and Crazy Horse, The Band and John Fogerty. From that, Molina has crafted good, “working class” music.
“My parents had a really great record collection that carried from the mid ’60s to the ’70s,” he said. “I had access to everything from Brian Eno to Hank Williams. I just listened to every kind of music.”