The idea came to Darren Ellis, front man for the Road Kill Kings, during a recent trip with his daughter to Nashville's Grand Ole Opry.
"I thought 'how cool would it be to do our own version of the Grand Ole Opry?'" the Huntington Beach resident recalled, when pressed to tell the story of how the Hula Hayride came about.
His band's website describes the Road Kill Kings as an Americana group. Its five members came together out of their love of country, bluegrass and rockabilly music — all "with a dash of rock 'n' roll thrown in for drinkability," the band's online bio noted. The Road Kill Kings have played gigs at Mother's Tavern in Sunset Beach, the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano and elsewhere in Orange County.
Since his trip to Tennessee in December, Ellis has combined his love of country music with his fondness for the "Prairie Home Companion" broadcasts on National Public Radio and his reverence for the bygone Louisiana Hayride — which launched Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams to musical stardom — in creating a new local musical endeavor, he said.
Ellis and the band's bass player, Randy Cochran, along with Christopher Burkhardt, a Costa Mesa resident who isn't in the band, have now started the so-called "Hula Hayride." This dinner time entertainment program for a good cause blends elements of an old-fashioned radio variety show with Americana or Roots music against the Hawaiian backdrop of a tiki ballroom.
On Thursday night, the three co-producers will present the third installment of the Hula Hayride, sponsored by Atlantico Rum, at Don the Beachcomber's in Huntington Beach. Throughout the evening, bottled and draft domestic beers will sell for $3 and patrons can take advantage of Happy Hour prices on drinks all night, said Burkhardt.
"It will be an uninterrupted and fast-paced show," said Ellis, alluding to how there won't be any breaks between the acts.
At least eight bands and soloist musicians from the area — the Road Kill Kings, Cowboy Jack, Black Tongued Bells, Patty Booker, Kerry Getz, Eric Gorsuch and Alice Wallace — are scheduled to perform acts to raise money for the Life Rolls On Foundation, a Culver City-based nonprofit.
An affiliate since 2010 of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation — which was started after a horse-riding accident left the late star of the "Superman" films a quadriplegic — Life Rolls On has staged "They Will Surf Again" charity events in Huntington Beach for surfers paralyzed by spinal chord injuries.
Thursday's Hula Hayride will raise funds to support the next "They Will Surf" event, set to take place Saturday at the 9th Street Beach. Saturday's event will be the largest one organized by Life Rolls On, which is marking its 10th anniversary in 2012 and operates in California and six other states.
To date, 271 volunteers and 66 adaptive surfers — people who have been paralyzed through spinal chord injuries or suffer other forms of paralysis — have signed up for the surfing event, said Sarah Donaldson, program manager for Life Rolls On.
The first two Hula Hayrides were also staged at Don The Beachcomber's but the organizations that benefit from the shows change ever time, Burkhardt said.
The recipient of proceeds from the first installment of this charity event was the music program at Huntington Beach High School. Proceeds from the February Hula Hayride went to Red Bucket Equine Rescue, the Surf City nonprofit that houses and rehabilitates horses who have been abandoned, neglected or abused.
If You Go
What: "Hula Hayride," concert to raise money for "They Will Surf Again"
Where: Don The Beachcomber, 16278 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach
When: 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday
How much: donations of $10 or more requested
More information: Visit the WRKK Hula Hayride LIVE radio dinner theater page on Facebook
If You Surf
What: "They Will Surf Again," presented by the Life Rolls on Foundation
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: 9th St. Beach, Huntington Beach
More information: http://www.liferollson.orgCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun