April 20, 2014 was the last Sunday Social in the third season at The Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm. If the season had to end, Cathe Steele closed it out the right way with The Mulligan Brothers and Willie Sugarcapps playing together for the first time. It was a show that proved right now is the time to get to know both bands as they break out beyond the coast. It also showed the importance of the Frog Pond as a creative listening venue and Steele’s gift of bringing musicians and music lovers together to create music that is spontaneous and from the heart in one-time collaborations such as Willie Sugarcapps and The Mulligan Brothers jamming with fiddles, suitcase bass, and slide guitar together on a song by Prince (“I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”).
For four hours, the sold-out crowd of over 300 sat quietly and listened to every line and melody, as well as the one-liners of Anthony Crawford. Most reserved their spot months ago and were rewarded with the perfect breezy, blue-sky day. They camped out with chairs, coolers, painted wine glasses, and plates filled with fried chicken, Easter ham, devilled eggs, and strawberry cake. They danced, hula-hooped, and photographer Beth Childs won the Kawai Moonsault guitar raffle. There were big Easter hats and Suzanne Trice’s bonnet decorated with the bounty of Baldwin county—tulips, potatoes, magnolias, apples, corn, cucumbers, and wisteria. Evaughan Crawford, Anthony Crawford’s sister, handed out white carnations to each person. “The audience can hold these up like lighters,” said Evaughan. “The musicians have given us so much love, this is a way for the audience to show the love back.”
The Mulligan Brothers and Willie Sugarcapps have played at the Frog Pond before but never together. Most of the musicians met for the first time that day and there was an instant connection and attempts at a new name like the Willie Sugarcapps Brothers.
“We have to agree on the CD we play in the van and it is usually Willie Sugarcapps,” said Ross Newell, lead singer of The Mulligan Brothers. “We sing the ‘Willie Sugarcapps’ song in elevators. Gregg starts it off with Willie and we all stack on top of it until we get to Savana’s part and we give up.”
Anthony Crawford asked for The Mulligan Brothers set list and said “I love their melodies and I love where they are going. We are going to beat them there.”
The two bands filled the stage with 13 guitars, 12 mics, and nine people. Mandolins and ukuleles hung from the stage walls and a fiddle hung from a mic stand. There was time for instrument envy as Newell played on Will Kimbrough’s 1935 Gibson L50 and Anthony Crawford played on Greg DeLuca’s new 1966 Ludwig drum set.
Steele added additional amps and mixer to accommodate a show that was twice her usual size. “We usually don’t have nine people and our sound man Andy Canon has been herding cats,” laughed Steele. “Andy makes this happen and we are so blessed to have him.”
The Mulligan Brothers played the first set with most of the songs from their debut album “The Mulligan Brothers” but also added three new songs, “Let Them Ring,” “So Are You,” and “Calamine” that they are working on for their second album that they are recording in the fall. The dark and deadly story of “Calamine” was told by Newell and his guitar.
A bell that hung on the door announced our entrance past the closed for business sign
Hobbs was covered up with holes and bleeding out when that bell rang a second time
Willie Sugarcapps was born at The Frog Pond when Steele booked Corky Hughes, Grayson Capps, Will Kimbrough, and Sugarcane Jane together because she knew they would make good music and have fun playing together. A Sunday Social grew into a band with a debut album that was on the Americana charts and the band just released Magnolia Springs EP.
The crowd raised their glasses to sing along with Capps and drink a little poison before they die and waived their carnations in memory of Mancil Travis, a homeless man in Capps’ hometown of Brewton, Alabama who always wore a white carnation in his lapel.
What carnation was her favorite flower but they didn’t come from around here. They came from a far off land where the rivers run clean and clear…. Everytime you see a white carnation please remember me.
Steele promised the afternoon would have a cat on a hot tin roof and at intermission Catt Sirten climbed on the roof of the stage to take a family picture of the audience.
The night ended with The Mulligan Brothers joining Willie Sugarcapps on stage. There was no plan or predetermined set list, just a huddle on stage to figure out a song, the key and what instruments to pick up and play. They took off with “Atlantic City,” “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” and “The Weight.” Too soon, Steele stepped on stage for the benediction and a reminder to do a kindness then the Willie Sugarcapps Brothers jumped in with “Find the Good,” the new Willie Sugarcapps song about celebrating the life we’re living and finding the good in everything.
And with the final note the third season was over, but in the magic of the Frog Pond, an ending inspires a beginning and next season could could bring new music collaborations from two of the best bands in Alabama. Five months will be a long time to wait.