11/08/2010 – TG: There’s more to Fouke than Tony Alamo and the Fouke Monster

Texarkana Gazette
November 8, 2010
By: Jim Williamson

Staff photo by Jim Williamson

Staff photo by Jim Williamson

“I Don’t Fiddle”

Joe Davis is painting murals of Fouke to help residents see there is more to the community than a monster and imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo.

Davis, 67, is a retired musician and artist who lives in a hundred-year-old house in Fouke. From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, he was a violinist with symphony orchestras at Harrah’s in Reno, Nev. The orchestras provided music for Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Nancy Sinatra, Liberace, Roger Miller, Pearl Bailey, Glen Campbell, Wayne Newton, comedian Jerry Lewis, Tony Bennett and other celebrities.

Davis is also a fourth-generation artist who has been recruited by the Citizens for a Better Community to paint two murals on a building across the street from City Hall. The completed mural on the east wall is of a bald eagle and the emblems of the U.S. military branches.

The west side mural will depict Fouke’s growth. It will show a doctor riding in a buggy to get to a house and take care of a patient, and also a train hauling wood to sawmills.

Davis said the west wall should be complete in a year.

“A lot of kids don’t know about the history of Fouke. It’s a shame. The only thing some of them know is the Fouke monster and Tony Alamo,” Davis said.

The Fouke monster is a Bigfoot-like creature that supposedly haunts the wilds of Fouke. Alamo is an evangelist with a compound on the north side of town. In 2009, he was convicted and sentenced to 175 years in federal prison for transporting underage females he reportedly wed across state lines for sex.

Davis and his wife moved from California to Fouke in 2004 because one of their daughters lived here with her husband, a Fouke native.

About the time of the move, Alamo followers were asking the City Council for street closures and had security personnel patrolling the compound.

“Some people thought we were part of the Tony Alamo followers,” he said, since Alamo also has a compound in California.

The unwanted attention from suspicious residents had Davis considering leaving the city, but then new gossip about him started to circulate.

“Some guy knocked on my door and said he heard a fiddle player lived here. I told him I play country music, but I don’t fiddle,” Davis said.

Word of mouth about Davis’ musical talent continued to spread, moving him to dust off his bow and join the Edge of Texas band. The band plays at area dances.

“We played so much I guess people got tired of listening to us,” he said.

The attention to Davis’ musicianship eventually was coupled with the community’s interest in his art skills. This led to work at Fouke School District as an assistant in the band and art programs. It’s now become a full-time job.

“They learned I could paint and knew music, so I didn’t stay retired.”

In the band program, he helps with teaching tuba, trombone, guitar and violin. He said the program helps students to “paint emotions with music.”

“You can paint with music. Movies use music to let you feel emotions. Music can create danger, sadness, romance and humor,” he said.

Davis said the classroom is a natural fit for him.

“I prefer teaching. It opens the doors for the students. They get excited and music or art can change attitudes of students.”

He said it’s not just the young who can learn from art. Davis even taught his late father-in-law to paint.

“He liked to duck hunt and would go early in the mornings. After he started painting, he was seeing colors in the sunrises he never saw before. He started looking at the world differently.”

The value of art and music goes beyond colors, Davis said.

“Music creates skills with eye-hand coordination and strict timing. It divides things into equal parts.

“Art gives students perspective and teaches math. That’s why so many of the master artists become architects.”

Music and art also teach self-discipline.

“A student gets excited and wants to learn a song. When they learn the song, it’s something they never forget. They will keep it with them when they’re married with children,” Davis said.

Davis shelved his musical career for about 12 years when another daughter developed cancer. He worked with a computer company to pay bills.

“I didn’t try to play with symphonies. We almost lost our daughter twice. You look at yourself with a different perspective and focus on your family.”

He urges students to visit art museums and look at paintings created by the masters, many of whom used only three colors—black, white and red.

“Those artists were thrilled to create with three colors. Think of what they could do today,” Davis said. “I’ve told students to think what Mozart could do with a music synthesizer.”

Davis’ perspective of Fouke has changed since his move here. Now, he is changing the perspective of music and art students.

And with the historical murals, he is trying to help the town to see there is more to Fouke than a monster and a minister.

In: 2010

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