YUKON — Becoming a club owner has given Grady Cross a chance to bring live music to his hometown and a way to stay rooted in the vibrant red dirt music scene.
As a bonus, his new role as proprietor of Grady's 66 Pub has provided the former Cross Canadian Ragweed guitarist with an ideal outlet for giving back to his community.
“When you can give back, that's No. 1, that's the key to life to me,” Cross said. “If you can put on a concert, something that's easy to do — and really, it's easy for me to do because they're all my friends and they want to do it and ... all you gotta do is get on the phone — that's the part that's good. That's good about the red dirt scene, you know, people are willing to help as much as they can.”
After organizing two fundraising concerts last year for Piedmont tornado relief, he and his brother Nathan Cross, who manages the pub, are planning a benefit Sunday for the widow of their friend Rudy Inselman, who died in January of cancer.
“Rudy's Benefit” will include an acoustic song swap featuring red dirt stars Mike McClure and Stoney LaRue, live music from Dead Man's Bluff and Taylor Atkinson Band, a fish fry and barbecue, a live auction and a special edition of the pub's usual Sunday Night Revival.
“Grady and I go way back, so if I can help, I will,” McClure said.
Shortly after Cross Canadian Ragweed split up in fall 2010, Cross, 36, bought the former 50 Yard Line Club, the first venue where the influential red dirt band performed in 1991.
“It felt like home to me,” said Cross, who opened his namesake saloon Jan. 1, 2011. “I got up and I played bass with the Red Dirt Rangers the other night at the pub, so I still play quite a bit. ... It's just that now when I jam, I get to come home. I'm not too far away.”
He also wasn't too far away when an EF5 tornado tore through Piedmont on May 24. The Cross brothers soon booked McClure and LaRue for a benefit song swap and planned live and silent auctions that raised thousands of dollars for the local Red Cross.
But they still had more help to give. When Piedmont resident Mary Smith wanted to plan a charity concert for her devastated town, she called Grady's 66 Pub even though she and the Crosses weren't acquainted.
“They didn't know me from anyone, and there was no hesitation,” she said. “It was just amazing. They worked their rear ends off for probably five solid months ... and they weren't just making phone calls. They worked hard getting the field ready.”
The Crosses booked Jack Ingram, Tom Skinner, The Damn Quails and more red dirt/Texas country artists for the Oct. 15 “Concert in the Cornfield,” which netted $31,000 for the Piedmont Service Center.
“That hit close to home. Piedmont's, I don't know, eight miles from us. Not too far. So it's scary. ... When you hear about a baby in a mother's arms that blew out, that's horrible. When you think you've got things bad, look at something like that,” said Grady Cross.
During his time at Oklahoma State University, Cross got to know Jason Bradshaw, who later started a successful spray-on linings business in Oklahoma City, and Bradshaw's pal Rudy Inselman, who became manager of SJB Linings and Xtreme Liners.
After struggling with health problems his whole life, Inselman succumbed to cancer on Jan. 11. Most of the proceeds of “Rudy's Benefit” on Sunday will go to help Inselman's widow, Hope, pay lingering medical expenses. Since Inselman was a NASCAR fan, any remaining funds will go to the Denny Hamlin Foundation, which the driver started to support youths suffering from debilitating childhood illnesses.
“We're gonna have great live music, great items for auctioning and hopefully everybody can lend a hand in some way,” Cross said, adding the auction will include autographed guitars, other signed memorabilia and a giant smoker in the shape of a cow.
For McClure, all Cross has to do is call and he will try to join the lineup of any benefit his red dirt brother has to offer.
“It's kind of a code among musicians in Oklahoma where we try to help each other out,” he added. It's just kind of a brotherhood,” McClure said.
• What: Acoustic song swap with Mike McClure and Stoney LaRue, live music from Dead Man's Bluff and Taylor Atkinson Band, fish fry and barbecue, live auction and special edition of the pub's Sunday Night
• Benefiting: The widow of Rudy
• When: 1 p.m.
• Where: Grady's 66 Pub, 444 W Main St.