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6 days ago

How fishing led the Rolling Stones to perform in the Ozarks

Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards of rock band The Rolling Stones kick off their 2024 Hackney Diamonds tour at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, US, April 28, 2024.
Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards of rock band The Rolling Stones kick off their 2024 Hackney Diamonds tour at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, US, April 28, 2024. Photo : REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare/Files

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When the Rolling Stones close out their North American “Hackney Diamonds” tour on July 21, their concert venue will be a far cry from the bustling cities they have visited on the road.

The rockers will perform in Ridgedale, Missouri, with a population of less than a thousand, taking to the stage at the picturesque Thunder Ridge Nature Arena in the middle of the Ozark mountains.

Set amid 1,200 acres of land and overlooking Table Rock Lake, the 20,000-seat amphitheatre opened in May and has hosted American country music stars Morgan Wallen and Chris Stapleton. It was built by fishing and hunting gear supplier Bass Pro Shops founder and chief executive Johnny Morris.

“We just wanted to share this beautiful part of the world with others,” Morris, who grew up in the Ozarks, told Reuters.

“We’ve been having some events out at this place for many years ... little gatherings and concerts. And then ... we got carried away.”

Like Red Rocks in Colorado and The Gorge in Washington state, Morris’ arena immerses visitors in the outdoors. The venue’s proceeds go towards conservation efforts in the Ozark region.

“I went (to the Gorge) and I’m a little biased, but I felt like our beauty rivals that kind of beauty for a natural setting,” said Morris, adding that he just wanted to “see people come and have a good time together outdoors.”

Landing the Stones is a huge get for any venue. For Morris, it all came down to his love of fishing.

Twenty years ago, he met musician Chuck Leavell, who has been performing with the Stones since 1982. The pair went fishing - and Morris helped Leavell net “an enormous fish.”

“He said ‘Johnny, this is the happiest day of my life... If I can ever do anything for you, you let me know,’” Morris said.

The businessman, 76, called in that favour years later.

“I said, ‘Could you get the Rolling Stones to come to Ridgedale, Missouri?’ And he goes, ‘Where? What?’ and ... how that came about is just through fate, through fishing and a friendship.”

He said a group representing the Stones attended a Garth Brooks concert at a related venue and apparently liked what they saw.

The Stones’ tour is named after their critically-praised album released last October. At each stop, frontman Mick Jagger, 80, commands the stage for two hours with guitarists Keith Richards, 80, and Ronnie Wood, 77.

Asked if he would attend the July 21 show, Morris said: “If I’m kicking, I’m gonna be there, yeah.”

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