Honeycutt managed the renowned entertainment venue from 1965 to 1969 and has organized the last two successful events, which sold out in days.
“I never would have guessed we would be standing here talking about the third reunion,” Honeycutt said during an interview this week. “But people love the event. I have already got people sending me money for tickets,” he said, laughing.
Williams Lake Dance Club, which was located just off of U.S. 13 in the Mingo Township, was opened from 1932 until 1970 and owned by the late Clayton and Lillian Williams, who lived across the highway from the lake.
From 1965 through 1969, Williams Lake was “the” place to be thanks to a Whos’ Who list of entertainers who played there, including Pieces of Eight, Buddy Skipper and The Jetty Jumpers, The O’Kaysions, The Majestics, The Tams, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, Jackie Wilson and many, many others.
For the past two years, some of those band members, and former Williams Lake visitors, have traveled for hundreds of miles to relive those memories.
This year, Honeycutt said, should be no different. The event, he notes, will feature the Legends of the Beach, The Magnificents Band and Clifford Curry. With guest musicians, Carlie Barbour (The Pieces of Eight); Mike Ennis (The Tymes); Brent Fortson (The Pieces of Eight); Ken Helsler (The Tassels and The Pieces of Eight); Irvin Hicks (The Tassels and The Pieces of Eight); Linda “Quigg” James (The Monzas); Durwood Martin (The Jetty Jumpers and the Embers); Billy Scott; Ammond Tharp (voice of Bill Deal and the Rondells); Big John Thompson (Monzas, Embers and the Band of Oz); Donny Trexler (Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five); and Billy Wellons (The Cavaliers and The Men). The master of ceremonies for the event will be John Moore (WNCT 107.9), and Bob Stroud (1170 WCLN and 1440 WBLA) will be doing the DJ duties.
Like the past two years, there will be a pre-show social with a cash bar and free pig-picking (both will begin at 3 p.m.). The actual show will begin at 7:30 p.m.
And like the past two years, local charities will benefit from the proceeds. Last year, the event raised $6,500 that was split between nine charities. There was also an additional $1,200 given to a few individuals in the Williams Lake community that needed assistance.
“It is all very exciting,” said Honeycutt. “I never thought we would be talking about the third one because the first one was supposed to be a one shot deal. But it was so successful that a second one had to happen.”
Honeycutt planned the second one a year to the date after the first, because, he attested, people were asking him about doing another.
“I had so much positive response, it made sense to do another one,” he said. “I wanted to do it the next year, and someone came up to me and suggested I wait two or three years to have another one. My comeback was that you don’t know what is going to happen in two or three years. Some of the people, like me, that enjoyed seeing people that they hadn’t seen in 40-plus years may not be here ... and we have had such a good time with these, and the money is going to great causes, it would seem like a shame not to have another one.”
The second reunion was just as popular as the first.
“The people have just been amazing,” said Honeycutt. “They love coming out and having a great night. I can’t wait to see everyone again this year.”
Honeycutt’s memories of his time at the lake are just as fond as those of the past two reunions, maybe even more.
“I loved it,” he said. “I appreciated Mr. and Mrs. Williams for having so much confidence in me . They started all of this ... to be honest, these reunions are a tribute to what they started and the joy that going to the lake, spending time with friends, brought to people.”
So much so that when Honeycutt visits, you can see the emotion in his eyes. The lake is nothing like it used to be — now it’s nothing but swamp land and overgrown weeds, wasting away.
“It really is a shame,” said Honeycutt, who has, in the past, attempted to get the land back to preserve it.”
Those attempts were unsuccessful. “I would like to see it come back, but it don’t look like it will ever happen.”
However, nothing can take his memories of booking some of the top names in the business.
“It was a great time, and people would come from all over to see what we had to offer. It was just incredible,” he said. “It has given me memories that will last a lifetime.”
In the hundreds of acts that Honeycutt booked, only one left a bad taste in his mouth and, he he still believes it damaged the lakeside concerts for good.
“Percy Sledge,” Honeycutt said. “It was a Saturday in May 1969, and at that time, he was huge. But he had a reputation of being a no-show. I didn’t want to book him, but I did. I had over 1,000 people pay to get in to see him. I had to give all the money back to the audience. He showed up after 11 p.m. , and the next Saturday night I didn’t have 100 people. That is what ruined Williams Lake. The mistake I made was booking this guy. I ran it to the next New Year’s Eve and just could never build the audience back. We went from a 1,000 one Saturday to the next Saturday not having 100 people that is how back it hurt him not showing up. When someone like that doesn’t show up, and people come from Raleigh and places like that see him, it destroys your reputation and I feel that is what that did. It was smack in the face and that night, the damage was done.”
When Sledge was in Clinton for a concert in 2008, Honeycutt was not among the showgoers. “When I hear his songs on the radio, to this day, I turn them off. I love some of his songs, but I won’t listen to them.”
However, it is Honeycutt who seems to have gotten the last laugh some 40 years later. With two sellouts under his belt and over 600 people battling for a ticket to his popular reunion this year, Sledge’s faux pas is just another memory, even if a bad one.
“It is a good feeling because this is for charity,” he said. “And to know that people are coming out and enjoying the memories ... what could be better than that?”
Audience members who purchased tickets/tables last year will have first crack at tickets Tuesday through Friday, June 4. Individual tickets and shared table seating will go on sale on Monday, June 7. The preshow social is included in the ticket price.
“Tickets will go fast,” Honeycutt said, “so, we want everyone to come out and get theirs so they don’t miss out. I would just like to thank Hubert Vester Ford, Billy Hinson Tire Center, Bob Stroud, Matthews Drugs and Gift Shop, Thomas Drug, International Minute Press, Intrstar Communications, Chris Matthews, Mary Lemuel Blalock, Donald Hobson, Dan and Audrey Ray, all of the volunteers and old friends that have come out to support this event.”
Honeycutt grins widely when asked about a possible fourth reunion.
“I already have the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center booked for August 20 next year,” he said. “Why not? We are just going to keep on giving the money away to charity and it is such a wonderful event, how could I not plan ahead?”
This year’s show will take place on Aug. 21 at at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center. The social/pig picking will begin at 3 p.m.; the show will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center box office at 910-592-7200 or through Honeycutt at 910-214-2858.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.