Many locations are synonymous in regard to the music they produced. Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, is the cathedral of country, and Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, placed its stamp on rock n roll. Oklahoma Red Dirt's hallowed ground is The Farm near Stillwater.
The Great Divide whose original members include singer and guitarist Mike McClure, drummer J.J. Lester, rhythm guitarist Scott Lester and bassist Kelley Green is one of the bands associated with The Farm. For J.J. Lester, it was where people came to hear good music and get in a few croquet and volleyball games. McClure spent more time there than the other members, honing his songwriting skills.
Lester recalled a time that McClure came to his house and an important question came up: What happened to country music? We can do better than that, Lester said.
That question prompted The Great Divide's formation. The band was active with all four original members from 1992 to 2003 but hit an obstacle when McClure left the group. Two years later, The Great Divide split until reforming on a limited-venue basis in 2011. While one of the reasons for the split was contractual issues with Atlantic Records, Lester and the other members have had time to reflect on the bands dissolution.
I think that one of the biggest issues for us is just lack of maturity, Lester said. If you go back through the beginning of The Great Divide up until where we split, for about four or five years, we were playing 280-300 shows a year. We lived on the road. During that time period, our families were going through changes and having kids.
We started very young. I dont think [McClure] was 21. I know he wasnt. You get to the point where ... youre sick and tired of the road and the struggle and living on the road with three other guys that you cant get away from.
At some point during the band's touring, Lester said, the term Red Dirt popped up to describe the distinctive sound of Oklahoma-based country bands and singer-songwriters. Yet for Lester, his definition of Red Dirt music is music that is written with integrity and real life understanding.
Since 2011, The Great Divide has played roughly 20 regional shows a year, with an average of two hours 26-28 songs per concert. The reduction of shows, Lester said, gives the band a greater chance to appreciate fans, and each other as friends and family.
It honestly feels great, Lester said. Getting to take time away from each other almost 10 years and then coming back, we now have time to really understand and appreciate what we couldnt see and were probably too immature to understand.
Lester alluded to new material, re-releases and additional concerts slated for this summer, but he wasnt officially allowed to talk about them.
Catch The Great Divide 8:30 p.m. Friday at Junk Hippy Fest at Denny Crump Arena, 215 N. Country Club Drive, in El Reno. Visit junkhippy.com.