Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 


Wick's World


October 24, 2019

I just can’t ever remember calling him Barry. It was either Carp or just Bare. More importantly, I can’t ever remember seeing him without his open mouth casting a mile-wide grin. And that is the memory I take with me from Barry Carpenter, the only drummer The Red Willow Band has ever known.

Back in the early Seventies, a half-dozen young South Dakotans came from Pierre, Rapid City, Milbank, Vermillion, Chamberlain, and Barry Carpenter’s Watertown to play western swing music. Seeking an identity somewhere between cowboys and hippies while blending a South Dakota version of country and rock and roll, the Red Willow Band became the sweethearts of our rodeo.

In the rear, mouth wide open, with a huge smile on his face, sat Carp banging out the Red Willow beat. Barry Carpenter’s radiant glow that said “I’m having fun” made his fans feel special. Like my wife said, “He was always so sweet to me.”

Well, that was Carp. He was always sweet to everyone. Didn’t matter who you were or how long you knew him. I don’t think anyone could have wiped that smile from his face no matter how hard they tried. An inability to see past that smile kept me from saying what I wanted to the last time Carp and I talked. We were backstage waiting for the final set to begin when my moment arrived. He seemed so happy, so up. But then he always did. I said this:

“Carp, how ya’ doing?”

I thought he was fine. I may have been wrong.

Next time I will speak up. I wanted to say how I would rather have stayed in my room that weekend but I desperately needed my Red Willow friends to help me get through a very hard “cleansing”. I got through the weekend feeling great and today life is good. Red Willow Band weekends are the elixir that keeps us aging fans young. Before I go to California with an ache in my heart, I want to thank you Chris and Kenny, Hank, Marley and Wally, and for the final time, thank you, Barry Carpenter. Tell your brother Brad that Wick said hello.

My final time with Carp was something I will never forget. I cherish our conversation of what was said; I refuse to beat myself up over what wasn’t.


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