Barry Sullivan, the guest relations specialist at Cooke’s Food Store, recently had the chance to appear on stage with the gospel group, Shenandoah, as an integral part of a particular song, “If …
Barry Sullivan, the guest relations specialist at Cooke’s Food Store, recently had the chance to appear on stage with the gospel group, Shenandoah, as an integral part of a particular song, “If Bubba can Dance.” Through his newfound stage presence, he is now known as Bubba Two.
The 56-year-old native of Athens moved to Cleveland 27 years ago. He worked in radio for over 15 years after graduating from McMinn County High School.
A friend of Sullivan’s, Brian Orr, works as the promoter/manager of East Tennessee Concerts, and had various gospel groups come speak on the radio when Sullivan worked in that profession. Remaining friends over the years, Orr eventually came to Sullivanto get into country music in addition to the standard gospel.
Sullivan immediately offered his services as an assistant or as security for country music events. The first “country” group Orr had come to the Tivoli Theater was The Greesons, a gospel group, which Orr says was the initial precursor to modern country. Sullivan was to introduce the Greesons, and another person was supposed to bring Shenandoah on stage; however, shortly before the concert, Orr spoke with Marty Raybon, lead Shenandoah singer, and the two agreed Sullivan should have a larger role in the show.
“They called me and had me watch the music video for ‘If Bubba Can Dance.’ Tthey asked me how I’d feel playing Bubba on stage,” Sullivan chuckled. “I was hesitant at first because I’m a radio personality, not a performer, but I eventually said yes.”
At the concert, Sullivan introduced the Greesons as planned, then went backstage and changed into his Bubba Two costume.
After dancing throughout the song, Sullivan was approached by multiple fans after the show asking for photos and autographs. He used this opportunity to promote good values to the younger fans, by saying things like, “Remember to stay in school, kids!”
“I had a blast being on stage!” He exclaimed.
When he takes the stage, Sullivan acts just like the original Bubba did in the 1994 music video, while also adding his own theatrical flair to the song, including awkward dance moves and the pestering of band members.
Since the crowd has taken to him, Sullivan has been asked to attend several upcoming concerts around the country.
In addition to Shenandoah, Sullivan has also appeared in a music video for the local band No One Special. The song he’s featured in is called, “I’m with the band.” He says this is very fitting, as he was known for forming various bands in high school. He admitted the phrase most people would associate with him is, “You wanna form a band?”
He describes the sensation of being on stage as fun, but the most rewarding aspect of it was giving the audience a laugh and a good time. He enjoyed guests approaching him, and loved the interactions with them.
“People need an escape during the stress of their lives. If I can help them forget about their worries, even for a little bit, I’ve done my job well,” he said.
When not strutting his stuff on stage, Sullivan serves as D.J. on Saturdays at Cooke’s Food Store and promotes Cooke’s daily specials by adding his special flair to the announcements at the grocery store. This is where his radio experience comes in handy. He says one of the best parts about his job is mentioning guests by name and giving them a shout out when they’re shopping.
An upcoming concert featuring both Shenandoah and the group Exile is taking place on May 10 at 3 and 8 p.m. Tickets go on sale March 19 and can be purchased at countrytonitetheater.com.
Next time you’re in Cooke’s, ask if Bubba’s around.
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