Who Are The Bodarks?
Shelly New - fiddle, vocal
Jeff Brooks - banjo, guitar, stomp-box, harmonica, vocal
Robert Carter - upright bass
"Doc" Adrian Cook - washboard, percussion
Daniel Mehalko - mandolin, vocal
The Bodarks' Story
Banjo and mando pickin' wild and free
Two critters grinnin' 'neath a bodark tree
Along comes the Devil, horseapple in hand
Says, "Let's make a deal, play music in a band"
Jeff Brooks and Jason Bell - the "two critters" in the opening lines of "The Bodark Song" - had been pickin' together ever since their college days at Texas Tech. Figuring they'd expand a bit, they put out an ad in 2012, and along comes upright bassist Brian Kelleher and Kansas fiddler Shelly New. (Thank-you, Craigslist!) In contrast to the rock and country cover bands they'd been a part of, the foursome wanted to go old-school and yet keep it progressive. Create a sort of high-powered hootenanny. A few weeks later, they had their first gig.
What's a "hootenanny," you ask? It's music that breaks down barriers - between genres, between people. It's music without borders. So, they set aside their rock-star gear for some down-home bluegrass instruments and they covered tunes in old-time jug-band fashion. The guitar solo in "Crazy Train" was converted to fiddle (sometimes performed on top of the bar). A washboard now carried the rhythm in "Thrift Shop." The banjo rolled through the twanged-up harmonies of "Fat Bottomed Girls." This twist found wide appeal with all ages and musical tastes, as "the old old is a new kind of new."
No sooner had they formed than they were selected as a Shiner Rising Star contestant in 2013, and although they got into some shenanigans along the way with the judges, in the end they caught the attention of some media folks and met some good friends on the North Texas scene. Next thing you know, they were playing Big Folkin' Fest and Wildflower Fest, and venues as diverse as The Rustic, Trees, Lava Cantina, and The House of Blues, all around Deep Ellum, not to mention pubs, restaurants, weddings, even boats! And side-staging for such artists as Kansas, Pat Benatar, The Toadies, Jimmie Vaughan, .38 Special, Leon Russell, Peter Frampton, Gary P. Nunn, Randy Rogers, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The old old is a new kind of new
A little bit Dylan and Mötley Crüe
Got livers of steel and our hearts are true
So drink a drink with us and be a Bodark too
Wo-ho! Won't you come-a come along
Sing with us our Bodark song
Our fruits are rollin' and our roots are long
Always thirsty and we drink 'til dawn
The Bodarks may not have gotten the "W" at the final battle for the Shiner record deal, but thanks to the help of their enthusiastic fans and a kickstarter campaign, they released their first full-length album, The Bodarks, in January of 2015. This caught the fancy of several talent scouts both near and far. One song from the album, "Old Muddy Road," was chosen by Burly Records for a compilation of Dallas-area bands. And in 2014 and 2015, Wakarusa representatives seeking five original bands in each major city around the nation selected The Bodarks to represent Dallas in their Waka Winter Classic.
Then the babies started coming! With family always a priority in the band, some line-up changes were needed. Soon Robert "Spanky" Carter was slapping bass, "Mando" Dan Mehalko was shredding mandolin, and "Doc" Adrian Cook added a whole new flavor of psychedelic washboard and percussion. Throughout 2016 and 2017, The Bodarks hosted guest stars that would include spoon clicker Patti Steel, ragtime pianist Anthony Nagid, Bone Doggie the bouzoukiist, bassist Jacob Dill, guitar virtuoso Jackson Eli, mandolinist Max Robertson, and accordionist Abel Casillas, to name just a few. And The Bodarks even expanded their venues to include bathroom buskering.
The sophomore album, Uprooted, was launched in 2018, which includes "Caroline," "Get It While The Gettin's Good," and "The Ghost of Alma Kelmer," inspired by the true story of a serial-killing priest (a real pick-me-upper that caught the attention of several true crime podcasters who used the tune on their shows.) For their third album, The Bodarks decided to capture the energy of their hootenannies and release a live album, titled Live Americana (2019), which they turned around and gave away to their fans for free. The album features Anthony Nagid on the keys and debuts "The Frisco Line" and "Get Born." A drunk Ozzy Osbourne just maaayyy have crashed the album release party for that one.
More recent adventures. America's Got Talent reached out to The Bodarks in late 2019 for a video shoot. Said they had that Texas look and sound. Nudged by fans who caught wind of this, the band tried out for the show as well. Still ain't heard back from the producers, so they figure Simon and the gang moved on to dancing monkeys and fire swallowers. Around this time The Bodarks started taking the hootenanny on the road, touring Arkansas in 2019, where they would perform on top of a man's grave, and Kansas in 2020, around Shelly's home town, where they had a hoedown in a haunted hotel.
When the pandemic hit, many of their shindigs were cancelled as the world shut down. So, what's a band to do? Well, they took this as an opportunity to write more tunes and finish up the studio work on their fourth full album. On 10-10-2020, The Bodarks released Side Effects, which reached #8 on the Alternative Country Charts and was considered "One of the best releases of the year" (AMProfile). Twangville described the album as "Basically a hootenanny in a cardboard sleeve...Peel back the cellophane wrapper and underneath is a band that's using its talents to have fun while exploring a pretty broad swath of Americana."
Follow the adventure - More hootenanny to come.
It ain't discovered as much as dreamed
There's places over yonder that I ain't yet seen
And maps ain't made by those who stay behind
It ain't got law and it ain't got order
Ain't got a flag and it ain't got a border
Life Americana is just a state of mind