The timing was not planned but it was perfect. I spent the last three days in Bloomington at my son’s home. Wednesday night he surprised me with two tickets to the new musical–“Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.” It was GREAT! I had read about this 15-year-long project and wished I could see it. Now that the premier is over it will be touring, so do look for it in your area. Let me give you the Indiana background and connection.
John Mellencamp didn’t let fame pull him away from his Hoosier roots. He has stayed in the area of his 1951 birth, Seymour, Indiana even though he has sold over 40 million albums. He was forced to use a stage name he hated, Johnny Cougar, until he had enough clout to tell them to shove the “cougar.” Between Seymour and Bloomington there is a huge lake, Lake Monroe, and Mellencamp bought a lake-side home there for his family. It was less than 30 minutes from his Seymour home and he figured it would be a great weekend getaway place. This was in the early ‘90s. When he moved into the place a few locals told him the house had always been haunted. He laughed, but did do some research on why this was believed. His whole family thought the place was creepy and decided they didn’t want to go there. Mellencamp had a caretaker for his Seymour family home and the caretaker decided he would go live in the empty lake house. The first night he stayed there, an old Victrola started playing by itself and the caretaker ran out of the house in his underwear, never to return. They sold the house at a huge loss.
John Mellencamp found newspaper clippings from the ‘30s and ‘40s that told the odd story that took place in his Lake Monroe cabin. Two drunken brothers were arguing over the same woman, and one brother picked up a fireplace poker and hit the other in the head and killed him. The woman and brother tried to pull the dead brother out of the house and into their car. He was bleeding all over everything so they panicked and left him in the front yard. They jumped in the car and started speeding down the old lakeside gravel road. They lost control, flipped and landed in the lake, both drowning. Their bodies were discovered by the local sheriff’s department and when they went looking for the other brother only half of his body was in the yard. Wild animals had eaten his head off.
Fifteen years ago, Mellencamp told this story to Stephen King. They talked about doing a musical play, but both were busy in their respective careers. Finally, now, it is a reality. The great songwriter-singer teamed with the great novelist and they brought in T-Bone Burnett to produce.
BRUCE GREENWOOD with
GHOST BROTHERS Overlooking
It’s done like an old time radio show. All the characters are sitting in a semi-circle on stage, with the live band at the side. They rise and go to the large old-fashioned microphone at center stage and act and sing their scenes. The 21 songs are true John Mellencamp songs, maybe his best, and the libretto is true Stephen King. It’s two and one half hours of great entertainment. Hope you get to see it.