Once a week, community members gather in the Blue Jackalope grocery store and coffee shop for blues-and-barbecue Sundays. The event offers a little spiritual awakening in the form of live music to go along with your caffeine buzz. In this segment, we bring you the story of how the Sunday morning band members got–and stayed–together. Plus the haunting, raspy vocals of singer Gwendolyn Ransom and the original stylings of melodica player David Horne.
Basically, it’s what we call church. A lot of the folks call it church, which is kind of curious because it’s in a local grocery store setting.
Abby Wendle: Every Sunday morning, people from the neighborhood gather for a sing-along inside the Blue Jackalope Grocery Store.
Everyone from every walk of life comes in this store and sits together and drinks coffee and sings.
Abby Wendle: The store is small and seating is limited. Grandmothers and young adults sit shoulder to shoulder at a long table in the center of the store.
It’s kind of a unique Okie experience. Like, I’m Apollonia Pina.
I’m Katie Plowhaky (ph). I usually work on Sundays, Blues and Barbeque Sundays,
In the Blue Jackalope Grocery Store…
Abby Wendle: Where for a few hours drums and guitars blend into the shelves of cereal and fresh pineapples.
Ken: The gospel that I preach every Sunday morning is “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” and that’s what this song is all about. What good is melody, what good is music, if it ain’t possessing something sweet. I’m Ken. I play the guitar and I sing.
He’s also the person who’s got this whole thing put together and started. And without him, we fall apart. So, that’s who he is.
Gwen: My name is Gwen and I play vocals.
My name is Dee Dub. I play the melodica.
I’m Dave. I play drums with these guys sometimes.
My name is Nancy. I’m a groupie and I play the tambourine.
Ken: I had this vision of having a Sunday morning musical group at church, which was swing, to be focused on swing. I wanted to get the thing going there and Gwen and I started working together. And every Sunday morning, we would go over there and we try to encourage people to come. We did this for I’d say, three years. And we, at the most, had four or five people in the group. And Scott, the owner of this grocery store, invited us to come over here on Sunday morning. So we just took him up on it and when we got over here, people seemed to be receptive to it. [sings]
Gwen: I don’t ever remember not singing. Okay. I always – when I was in high school, I wanted to be a nightclub entertainer, but I wanted to have a small setting where I could be intimate with my audience and sing with them. I never wanted to be famous and I didn’t care whether I was rich or not, I still don’t. But it was what the music would do for me. But I’d stopped singing until I started going to the little Unitarian Church and didn’t do it much there. Until one morning, I sang and Kenny heard me. And then when he came and asked me would I work with him and, “Hey, yeah” and ultimately wound up saving my life. You know, because I had a life-threatening illness coming up, it could’ve wiped me out; but they were so kind and so patient and Kenny let me sit at home recovering for about a month to six weeks and he called me up and he said, “Hey, don’t you think it’s about time to do some music?”
Ken: My goal has always been to get a lively bunch of people who could share in this music and be open to people coming into the group, and to promote this spirit. My idea with the church was that people would walk in the door of that church and see people singing, and having a good time and they would say, “This is a place I want to be.” But it didn’t happen there. It happened here.
AW: Although it has been a strong community for the past four years, the Blue Jackalope is facing economic trouble. Residents and supporters are taking matters into their own hands, turning the privately-owned grocery store into a community operated food co-op.
Gwen: I’m hoping that we can work something out and that it will stay open. You know, because I wouldn’t know what to do with myself on Sunday morning if I didn’t come here.
…so I’ll be home to tuck the babies in
You can chain my body, but not my mind
so I’ll break out of here tonight
Do you want to take a break?
so I’ll break out of here tonight…