A voice for the grassroots: Dugger Mountain Music Hall grows to an audience of more than 90 million with weekly broadcast
by Brett Buckner
brettbuckner@ymail.com
Jan 13, 2012 | 5347 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The bluegrass gospel group Just Passin’ Through performs in concert at the Dugger Mountain Music Hall. Photo: Lloyd Andrews/Special to The Star
The bluegrass gospel group Just Passin’ Through performs in concert at the Dugger Mountain Music Hall. Photo: Lloyd Andrews/Special to The Star
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Take a ride down Highway 9 on a the third Saturday of the month, and about seven miles south of Piedmont the sound of music and fellowship can be heard drifting on the night breeze through the pine trees.

The source of this down-home good time is the Dugger Mountain Music Hall, an unassuming white building where guitar pickers, banjo players, Southern gospel singers and musicians of all stripes show up — either from nearby front porches or as far off as Nashville and beyond — to share their talents with the community. But this local secret has officially stepped into the spotlight.

The Music Hall itself seats 80 people on a good night, but, thanks to the Legacy Network, musicians performing on its stage could potentially reach more than 90 million households. Live at Dugger Mountain Music Hall, a 30-minute show that premiered last weekend, will air locally on Channel 24, Saturdays at 6:30. In addition to the live music, there will also be interviews with featured musicians and songwriters. This week’s episode will feature Huntsville’s Shane Adkins, a singer/songwriter and 2005 International Fingerstyle guitar champion from Huntsville.

“The Dugger Music Hall is an intimate, personal setting where the cameras can pull in really tight and show the fingerwork of the players,” says Tom Potts of Potts Marketing Group, which is producing the show. “It’s not flashy or glitzy. This is very relaxed, down-home Americana, the way it should be … like having these amazing musicians playing right in your living room.”

But there’s more to Dugger Mountain than meets the eyes and ears. The music hall serves as the public face for a low-key ministry founded by local Christian singer/songwriter Bob McLeod.

In 1996, Our Father’s Arms was born in a dilapidated house in northeast Alabama. Today, its facilities include a 30-acre farm with a home for men, a nearby 3-acre farm with adjoining home from women and children as well as a “communications center” that includes the Dugger Mountain Music Hall.

Our Father’s Arms is not a halfway house, nor is it a rehab — though it’s served those purposes in some ways — rather, it offers “homes of healing and hope for families in crisis,” McLeod explains. And it does it all free of charge. Admission to performances at the Music Hall is free — as are the meals served on those third Saturdays of the month — but there are cans strategically placed for love offerings, with all the money going to serve those families in need. Even the musicians play for free.

“I’m not some great visionary,” McLeod says with a laugh. “All this stuff has happened in spite of me. It’s been such a delight because it’s labor without toil.”

From the first chord struck in the music hall to the Legacy Network broadcast, it’s all been “a miracle,” says Potts who is executive producer of the TV show along with McLeod. “It wasn’t something that was pushed or pursued. It just kinda … happened.”

In 2008, McLeod got a call from the Calhoun County Baptist Association about an abandoned church they owned the deed for, asking if he’d like to take over the property. After a bit of prayer, McLeod agreed. A year earlier while touring in England with a group raising awareness about orphans in the Ukraine, McLeod got a call from a friend who was leaving the music industry and wanted to donate all of his recording equipment. The equipment was sitting in a bedroom at the Our Father’s Arms house when the abandoned church was offered by the Calhoun Baptist Association.

It was friend and fellow musician Lloyd Andrews who suggested McLeod turn the old church into a concert hall. And with the help of residents from Our Father’s Arms, the pews were leaned up against the walls, their padded seat cushions used for sound insulation and the Dugger Mountain Music Hall and Recording Studio was born.

While they plan to feature some well-known performers on the TV show, local talent will still get top billing, McLeod says, adding that some of the Saturday night shows will be taped while others will not.

“Of course when your audience grows from 80 to 80 million, there can be a stampede to the stage,” he says. “We’re still finding our way here. The baby’s just being born, so to speak.”

But no matter how much success the show may bring, or how bright the spotlight, the rewards go to the families seeking help through Our Father’s Arms.

“What’s most important is knowing this is going to provide a means to get a lifeline to more hurting people,” McLeod says. “I know it’s all our heavenly Father, and he’s just letting us take part. Our only ambition is to serve him.”

Contact Brett Buckner at brettbuckner@ymail.com.
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