Kennett Band, The Usual Suspects, Heads Back To Beale Street

Aug 20, 2014

KENNETT, Mo. – Jim Baker of Kennett is proud of making music. He’s even more proud of the friendships forged within The Usual Suspects, a rockin-blues-based outfit that has performed live and in the studio since 2003.

The band performs its annual no-holds-barred shindig at 5 pm Saturday at BB King’s nightclub on Beale Street at Memphis.

As talented as the group might be, Baker said the band evolved from humble beginnings. “We got a call in 2003 from Chris Drokes,” the guitarist told SEMO TIMES Wednesday. “He needed a band for the Little River Festival there in Hornersville.”

The band recruited lead guitarist Dunk Carter, “born and raised in Kennett,” Baker said. “We went down and played the festival and had just a wonderful time doing it.

“Wendell Crow, Sheryl Crow’s father, joined us and we’ve played together ever since.”

The band features Baker’s rhythm and lead licks; Crow’s guitar and horn; Carter, who now resides at Memphis playing lead guitar; Kennett’s Ken Williams on drums and harmonica; bassist Gary Wilcoxson; and Daryl Wilcoxson’s vocals and keyboards.

“We asked [Drokes] if we could get into a little club on Beale Street in Memphis,” Baker said. “He called us back and said, ‘I got you into BB King’s.’ Of course there were a few mixed emotions about that,” he laughed. “We were scared half to death and excited to be going.”

That first show included a surprise, “Sheryl [Crow] came and sat in with us,” Baker explained.

“We’ve made it an annual event and we bring special guests along for the ride,” he continued. “They let us come back every year.”

The Usual Suspects are a polished act, but that’s not the most important aspect, Baker emphasized. “It’s a friendship thing,” he explained. “If one of us is unavailable its not The Usual Suspects.”

This year one of the guests is Jon Conley, a former Kennett boy who now lives in Nashville and has played with powerhouses like Wynnona, Lee Ann Grimes, and Lee Greenwood.

“Jon is our little buddy,” the Baker said. “He’s played guitar since he was 14 and now he’s touring with Kenny Chesney. We’re really excited he’s going to come and sit in with us.”

Live performances aside, The Usual Suspects are studio aces as well. “We got a chance in March to go to Nashville and cut 10 songs at Sheryl’s [Crow] recording studio,” Baker noted.

We did it for family and friends. We hope to have enough on hand to sell at the gig. All the proceeds go to the Delta Childrens Home, which Sheryl supports in a big way.”

Baker said the guys try to jam together weekly. “We use a lot of traditional blues and rock em out,” the guitarist and singer added. “We try to do stuff that sounds familiar. Of course, we put our own twist on whatever we play.”

The Usual Suspects perform from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, August 23, at BB King’s on Beale Street.