Missing Bubba: The Star Bar celebrates 20 years of Bubbapalooza
The cocky, guitar slinging, ne’er do well Gregory Dean would be proud to know that his legacy lives on — but he'd never tell you that
- Gregory Smalley
It started out as a hoot, an inspired poke at the trendy Lollapalooza franchise, but instead of featuring college music for the masses, Bubbapalooza had real American roots music. The idea germinated in 1993 following discussions between the late Gregory Dean Smalley, a cocky, guitar slinging, ne’er do well sliver of a man, and former Star Bar booking agent Faylynn Owen. At the time, the aptly named “Redneck Underground” (a term allegedly coined by the late Deacon Lunchbox) was the hot music scene in Atlanta — a consortium of Southern based bands playing twangy country, hopping rockabilly, and grungy but grounded roots rock all wrapped up with a distinct sense of regional pride. It was music that celebrated the good things about Southern culture: music, mama, barbeque, stock cars, and cold beer, but without a chip on the shoulder covered by the dark cloak of prejudice, racism, isolationism, or “the grudge.” If the Redneck Underground was a shared positive sense of identity, Bubbapalooza was the culmination of that pride, and everybody was welcome to participate. Sadly, Smalley only got to see the early bounty of his events, passing away from AIDS-related causes in March 1996.
After a couple of semi-annual events and Smalley’s death, Bubbapalooza became an annual tribute to his memory, held on Memorial Day weekend at the Star Bar. One of Smalley’s caveats was “diversity,” as he did not want the festival to be singular in its focus. Throughout the years, various bookers have added their own perception on what they felt was a good representation of the music of the South, and there have been some hits and misses. Regardless of the quality and debated appropriateness of the performers, the spirit of Smalley’s concept has always been held in high regard, and the party goes on in full force.
To celebrate the 20th Bubbapalooza, Star Bar booker Bryan Malone has focused on a number of local and regional bands that capture the spirit of the event, with a big emphasis on what can best be described as a return to the roots. Featuring a mix of old timers (Blacktop Rockets, Caroline & the Ramblers) and some rookies (Bareknuckle Betties, Rod Hamdallah), the festival also includes a car show, raffles, a photo booth, and other events. Gregory Dean would be proud to know that his crazy idea has flourished for so long, and that his memory lives on. But he would be damned before he would tell you that.
See full weekend schedule below