COTTAGE GROVE – What better way to kick off the summer than having The Huckleberrys play their brand of feel-good music.
“We like to feel like we’re sitting on the back porch. We just play good music and give people a good time,” guitar player Larry Barkemeyer said Wednesday after the band opened up the 2023 Concerts in the Park series at Bohemia Park.
“It was a very good start to the season,” said Cameron Reiten, chairman of the Concerts in the Park committee and also the sound man. “We couldn’t have possibly asked for better weather, aside from the fact that the guys got a shower because the wind was coming at just the right angle off that fountain and were getting a little spray back here – which had it been 100 degrees would have felt very refreshing. So we had a few little hiccups here at the beginning; we had a late start, but if there are any gremlins they’re going to show up on opening night, but we’ll get it all worked out and within 2-3 weeks we’ll have this thing down to a science and it will go off like clockwork.
“It’s good to be back doing this. We started planning for this back in January, several months of work happens before the first show, and this is where you see the fruits of your labor. This is where everything comes together, so it’s rewarding to see the town out here having fun and willing to support our nonprofit partners. It’s amazing, it really is.”
Sitting in with the band for the first time Wednesday was Eugene Symphony violinist James Anderson, who is moving to Las Vegas soon to be with his family.
“I was in Huckleberry heaven,” lead singer Colleen Ellis said.
Barkemeyer, a founding member of the Huckleberrys about 15 years ago, has been a fixture in the Cottage Grove music scene for about 40 years. He collaborated with bassist Jeff Boyle for 30 years – with the band Blue Light Special before they formed The Huckleberrys – but Boyle died of cancer six years ago.
Barkemeyer soldiered on. Now 72, he hasn’t slowed down, playing in two other bands – Loose Wheel, a country band, and his own group, LB & Co., which is mostly a rock band.
“I don’t like sitting and watching TV,” he said. “I’d rather stay busy all the time.”
The Huckleberrys’ schedule also includes the opening act for Bohemia Mining Days at Coiner Park on Saturday, July 16 at 12:30 p.m. They also play once a month at the Brewstation and the Saginaw Vineyard, as well as an occasional gig here and there at PublicHouse.
“We really enjoy playing for the community,” Barkemeyer said.
Barkemeyer said the band has no plans of retiring. Drummer Tom Ellis is about to celebrate his 80th birthday.
“Musicians don’t retire, we just play until we can’t do it anymore,” he said. “My dad also played guitar; he played until the day he had a stroke. He was a gypsy, so we moved around a lot. He was a timber faller, and we lived in camp trailers until I was a sophomore in high school. We had one guitar in the house, we never had a TV until I was a senior in high school, then my dad finally moved here and settled down.”