Empty Stocking benefit concert

The approach of the Holidays in Harlan also means it is time for one of the area’s largest toy, clothing, and food drives – The Jim “Muggins” Bennett Tri-City Empty Stocking outreach. This decades’-old Christmas tradition here in the mountains may be without its founder this year, but there are plenty of people eager to carry on the legacy of Bennett’s passion, and that was to make sure that every child in Harlan County had a happy Christmas with plenty of gifts and love.

“Losing Muggins was a big blow,” said Trampus King of TK Productions, who is a longtime friend of Bennett. “He started the Tri-City Empty Stocking Fund in the early 1980s. He put his heart and soul into it, because he loved the kids so much — and they loved him! It was hard losing him this past summer, but several of us now associated with the Tri-City Empty Stocking Fund are left with the mission to carry on Muggins’ work. It’s time for us to carry on the torch in his honor — and, most importantly — for the kids!”

King’s part in helping with The Tri-City Empty Stocking Fund Drive this year is to use his musical skills and contacts to organize a benefit concert to raise money for the benevolent cause, which reaches hundreds of children throughout impoverished coalfield communities. King wanted to do something to show his late friend that his many years of dedication to making sure mountain children had a “merry and bright” Christmas would continue. So, King took to the one thing he knows best – Rock and Roll!

On Saturday, a Veterans Day benefit rock concert for the Tri-City Empty Stocking Fund will be held in the Godbey Appalachian Center on the campus of Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College in Cumberland. The benefit concert, which features the region’s top bands, will start at 4 p.m. and will last way into the evening. Admission is $3 per person, or contributions of perishable food items. Bands participating on the main stage are Righteous Revival, Big Daddy And The Heat, The Kudzu Killers, Mandela, and a special reunion concert of King’s old band, Stoned Age. Brooklin Collins will also take the stage in the Appalachian Center’s Black Box Theater as the evening’s only solo performance.

“The place will definitely be rocking!” King said. “It’s just going to be an awesome night of incredible music, good times with friends and family, and a great way to honor our veterans, too. And in the process, we’re going to remember our old buddy Muggins, and raise some serious money in his memory for the children here at Christmas time.”

What makes Saturday’s benefit concert even more fitting is that Bennett was a Veteran, having served in the United States Air Force for four years. King said there will be a certain time set aside Saturday night to honor veterans, and that Bennett’s service to his country will be remembered, as well. The night will also be a reunion for King’s Band, Stoned Age, that hasn’t performed together in several years. This year makes 25 years the band has been together on and off, and Saturday’s reunion performance will be a special time for King, who added that Bennett was always one of his band’s number one fans. King and his Stoned Age band members performed benefit concerts for Bennett and The Tri-City Empty Stocking Fund in the early days, but the concerts came to a stop when Stoned Age took to the roads on their national tours.

Not only can King remember Bennett light-heatedly dancing at the old Empty Stocking Fund concerts, he can remember Bennett having the first CD player that he ever saw as a youth.

“Muggins loved music!” King said. “When he drove a school bus, I remember seeing him having a CD player rigged up in that bus, and just blasting the music!”

Junior Eads, who has long played drums for Stoned Age, said he could remember Bennett’s giving spirit way back during the band’s early days.

“We were broke, hardly had a penny to our name, but we set out on a whirlwind bus tour,” Eads said. “It was our first national tour, and Muggins wanted to make sure we were all right. I remember him giving us a food basket and a hundred pounds of taters, and you know, that’s what we lived on for months on our first tour – taters and chicken noodle soup.”

While bands will be performing at the college’s Black Box Theater, just right across the hall in the Appalachian Center’s Gallery, another stage will be set up for other bands to perform. Some of those bands include Manhattan3, Nuclear Hollercaust, As A Friend, If Not Us, Swamp Rat, Porno Arcade, Full Swing, and Glass Idols.

For more information about Saturday’s Veterans Day Benefit Concert For The Tri-City Empty Stocking Fund, log onto the concert’s Face Book event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/134608253929505/