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Seymour Tribune: "Homeward Bound - John Mellencamp"
12.09.2008 - By JANUARY WETZEL

He was born in a small town, and on Thursday, he will return to his Seymour roots through the Stage 3 Productions documentary "Homeward Bound: John Mellencamp."

Airing at 9 p.m. on the BIO network, channel 115 on Comcast, channel 226 on DirectTV and channel 222 on Cinergy MetroNet, the 90-minute special features an intimate look at the rock-and-roll star's life and career.

It ranges from his early days playing in local garage bands and getting rejected by every record label to making his first album, "The Chestnut Street Incident," to being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Through archival footage, personal photos and first-hand commentary from Mellencamp, childhood friends, band members and other people influential in his life and career, viewers will learn more about the man behind the music.

As part of the show, viewers also get a front-row seat to Mellencamp's special Sept. 23 concert at the historic Crump Theatre in Columbus, where he first performed 30 years ago. While performing classic hits and new tunes, Mellencamp interacts with more than 700 fans, sharing personal anecdotes about his career and his songs.

"It's a big deal to have someone from Seymour make it to that level," said Larry McDonald, owner of This Old Guitar music store in downtown Seymour.

As an old high school friend and bandmate of Mellencamp, McDonald is interviewed in "Homeward Bound," and This Old Guitar served as one of the onsite filming locations. With its walls covered in pictures, album covers and other Mellencamp memorabilia, the store serves as a fitting backdrop.

"Stage 3 Productions called the store and said they had talked to John and that he wanted me to be a part of the biography," McDonald said. "I was honored."

Also providing commentary in the show are Seymour residents Fred Booker, Mike Jackson and Gary Myers, as well as former Brownstown resident Dave Parman, all old friends and bandmates of Mellencamp.

Jackson, who gave up a career in music to become a doctor, said he still keeps in touch with John.

"It was a lot of fun," he said of being a part of the documentary. "It's cool to flashback to those times."

Like Mellencamp, music was Jackson's life in the early days.

"I played music for 17 years. We started the band The Mason Brothers, and John would come in and out, but when he was with us it was a peak time for the band," Jackson said.

Back then, though, he had no idea what would become of Mellencamp.

"I grossly underestimated the music he had inside him," Jackson said. "I knew what the odds were of being in the music industry, but I had no idea that John would do what he did. I knew he was very single-minded and he had a lot of drive, more so than I've seen in anybody else."

Jackson is glad he has been able to remain friends with his former bandmate.

"I have a lot of respect for him," Jackson said. "John has struck a major chord with so many people. Being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was no accident."

On Sept. 21, McDonald met with producers of the show to get a feel for what they wanted to do.

"They spent two or three hours here in the store talking about my high school days with John," McDonald said. "Then I took them around and showed them Seymour."

The next day, the producers arrived at the store at 9 a.m., along with a film crew.

"They lined the sidewalk with movie equipment and set up their interviews right here in the store," McDonald said. "It was so cool. They spent the entire day here."

For all those who tune in and watch "Homeward Bound," McDonald said there are several things he hopes they take from it.

"For one thing, I think people will see that he didn't make it easy," McDonald said of the struggles Mellencamp endured in the beginning.

"And he has been at this a long time. I wish more people could have participated besides myself, because I know there are so many great stories out there about John."

Jackson agreed.

"People will see how he arrived at this point, that he really did come from Seymour, it's not something that was manufactured," Jackson said.

The one thing McDonald says he remembers the most about Mellencamp is the music.

"The guy had a direction. He wanted to play music," McDonald said. "Because of that strong decision, look where he is now."

Jackson said even when they were kids Mellencamp knew how to control the stage and crowd.

"What I remember is how professional he was, even way back then," he said. "He was a good show and people knew it."

Although their lives took different directions, McDonald says he is glad Mellencamp is where he is now.

"I'm so proud of him and his accomplishments and proud that Seymour is part of his career," he said.
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