Back in the early 1990s, John Mellencamp purchased a small cabin in the forests of Indiana. However, soon after signing the papers for the home, he learned it had been the scene of a gruesome event. 50 years prior, two brothers had fallen in love with the same girl, and one night on the premises in a jealous fit of rage, one brother killed the other with a fire poker. In a mad dash to leave the scene, the killer and his girlfriend fled in a car and accidentally drove into the nearby lake where they each drowned.
The story wrestled inside Mellencamp’s mind like a corpse trying to crawl out of its grave, until one day when the singer-songwriter decided he wanted to make a musical based on the true story. So who does one call to help collaborate on the creative development of such a production? Mellencamp discussed the project with his agent one morning, who instantly fell in love with the idea, and who also happened to reveal he happened to be the agent of Stephen King as well. In no time at all, Mellencamp was inside Stephen King’s home where they began to flesh out the story. In search of a hook, King had the brilliant idea of bringing these three characters back to life in ghost form and seeing what might happen. The end result is the musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.
Mellencamp has been working on the music for the musical since 2000, and he has written a vast number of songs in that time, 17 of which have made it into the final show. The songs are receiving critical acclaim, and overall the music for the show is being produced by legendary country music producer T-Bone Burnett. In a review of the show, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution hails the production as “a pretty awesome spectacle,” praising Mellencamp’s “rousing score, a fusion of blues, country and rock. Under Burnett’s musical direction, the sensational four-piece band never misses a beat.”
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is hitting the road for a 20-city U.S. tour in the Midwest and Southeast in October-November 2013 with director Susan Booth. You can learn more about the production by visiting its website at GhostBrothersOfDarklandCounty.com, as well as JohnMellencamp.com. Mellencamp, King, and Burnett recently sat down with Charlie Rose for a conversation about the experience of making the musical, and you can watch it in the red link below. You can also read The New York Times’ profile of the musical by visiting NewYorkTimes.com.
TO WATCH CHARLIE ROSE’S INTERVIEW WITH JOHN MELLENCAMP, STEPHEN KING, AND T-BONE BURNETT FAST FORWARD TO THE 17:53 MARK.