HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (5/7/13) – Ask just about any soldier in Fort Campbell's 101st Airborne, or anyone who's attended the annual Owensboro International Barbecue Festival, if they know who August Christopher is and you're likely to get a big smile and a bigger "Oh yes!"
During their long-life from 1998 to 2012, August Christopher performed over 4000 shows and opened for some of rock's biggest names, including Nickelback, Lynyrd Skynyrd, All American Rejects and Train, to name a few.
Along the way the band picked up thousands of loyal fans from Daytona Beach to Kansas City, many ready and willing to drive for hours to see an August Christopher show. Their tight sound, knack for audience participation, and on stage sense of humor, making fun of fellow band members and even good natured ribbing of audience members, had many, including many in the music industry, thinking this group would be the next big breakout artist.
But, sadly, the group never got that one big break...a major label contract and a million selling album.
Now the group has officially called it quits, but not without one last amazing feat, the soon to be released film, “A Decade With An Unsigned Rock Band".
A free, special premiere of the film will be shown this Thursday night, May 9th, at 8 PM at Hogshead, located at 801 Main Street in Hopkinsville
SurfKY News talked with lead singer Criss Cheatam, who is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest concert by a solo artist...singing 24 hours straight, all to raise funds for the families of Fort Campbell soldiers.
"We were playing often one or more shows a week in the Fort Campbell area, so when it was decided I would try for the Guinness Book record for longest solo concert, doing it for the troops was the right thing to do. Many of these men and women are just 18, and willing to lay down their lives for us, back here, enjoying freedom. People really need to be reminded of that... often. Being in the record books is just something extra." Cheatam emphasized.
Cheatam formed the band and remained its lead singer and manager despite many changes in members. He dedicated his life to Christ in the midst of a struggle with drugs and alcohol in 2008, a touching moment caught on tape and included in the documentary. He and other former members of the group now play music every Sunday in the Victory Fellowship Church in Nashville.
"After I found Christ, we would play in a club on Saturday night, and people would say, "Hey, stay and party with us, and we would say, "No, man, we have be in church Sunday. They would think we were kidding, but it was true. No way would we miss church. That was it!" Cheatam said.
The idea of doing a documentary was originally just "a nice way to say goodbye to all the many band members. But in the process of putting it together, the original bass player, Joel Edwards, brought over more than 150 tapes, starting with the band's very first show. The more we looked the hours of footage, the more we realized this was a pretty cool story."
Much of the film features shots from live concerts, hundreds of club shows, and from the group's six concerts at the Owensboro International Barbecue Festival.
"The barbecue festival was one of the best places we ever played. We always loved to play there. The interaction with the crowds in Owensboro was so awesome. Some of our biggest fans and supporters were there. We love Owensboro," Cheatam said.
As for the end of a band, Cheatam has dedicated his life to since 1998, he seems to have no bitterness about not getting that "Big Break" in the tightly controlled music industry.
"I've never felt a whole lot of rejection. We just never were seen by the right people. It would have been easier if someone has just told us "No." Cheatam notes.
So what's next? After becoming a Christian, and as the band began to realize fame was not around the corner, Criss has worked his way into several movies filmed in Tennessee, including "The Identical" with Ashley Judd, Ray liotta and Seth Green, "The Legend of Daltry Calhoun" with Johnny Knoxville, and a Brad Paisley video.
"We're submitting "A Decade With An Unsigned Band" to several festivals, are looking to get national distribution of the film, and I'm moving to Los Angeles to work on other movies." Cheatham said.
As Cheatham packs up for his new life in Los Angeles, sometimes called the City of Angels, it appears the angels may not be done with him.
"No doubt, without the Lord I would not be where I am today. I feel like there's been a protection over me for a really long time." Cheatam said.
He will be working for a Christian entertainment company there, and you never know. The many thousands of fans they still have in Kentucky may not have seen the last of August Christopher.
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