Thanks to Eric Johnson, who, after reading the Black Oak Arkansas post the other day, pointed out that another singing group started a commune in the Ozarks in the early 1970s. That the singing group was named for an actor in the TV western “Bonanza” only adds intrigue.
The Dan Blocker Singers — yes, named for the actor shown above with Arkansas musician Johnny Cash — decided they had had enough of the show business life in Los Angeles and high-tailed it to Arkansas after learning of property available in the area. (Their only affiliation with Dan Blocker is that they performed onstage with him once, and the actor allowed them to use his name.)
When they moved to Arkansas, the musicians changed their name from The Dan Blocker Singers to The Group, which eventually attracted dozens of members. This wasn’t your typical long-haired, pot-growing commune. Nor was it some weird, cultish religion. These appeared to be ordinary people who didn’t do drugs, went to mainstream churches, was involved in civic affairs and didn’t practice free love. Because they were entertainers, they also operated a local dinner theater. Still, for rural Arkansas, it was all suspect, especially since the word “commune” invoked visions of counterculture and hippies.
Yet, many of the members reported to the press of feeling persecuted. At one point, they even filed a lawsuit against the local newspaper for what they felt ran articles that was a campaign against them. There were reports of bomb threats, acts of vandalism and gunfire against commune members, which, after a few years, drove them out of Greers Ferry to Little Rock, where they bought houses in the historic Quapaw Quarter. One of its leaders, Dixon Bowles, remained in Little Rock and founded Aristotle, an Internet service provider and web design company. He died in 2010.
Here’s an archived article about The Group that first appeared in The Memphis Commercial Appeal in 1971.