Over 40 years ago, a group of middle school-aged Bolivar boys brought their musical prowess together, eventually forming Floodwater, a band that would hit southwest Missouri stages for decades.
And now, on Saturday, Aug. 31, Floodwater is set to host a 40th anniversary concert to celebrate their milestone.
Composed of musicians Alan Roberts, Nathan Hoffer, David Barham and Mike Rowan, Floodwater has seen a number of changes through the years: Members moved away from Polk County, instruments were switched out and the setlist migrated from bluegrass to a variety of genres.
But through the decades, Floodwater has still strummed it out.
After all, “Music is a lifetime sport,” said Alan, while sitting with his bandmates at Rocking R Event Center in Bolivar — the venue where the concert will be hosted — on Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Alan said besides music, there’s not a lot of things a person can do in life that gets better with age. Athletes see peak performances at 18, but musicians can only grow with their talent, he said.
The start of their lifetime sport began when the bandmates were in middle school and taking music classes at Childress Music in Bolivar.
Nathan said after meeting the others when he was in eighth grade, he begged his parents to buy him a banjo, which was “a mistake I’ve regretted for 50 years,” he joked.
By the time they reached high school, Mary Childress hired them as music teachers for her store and put them on stage for recitals, which ultimately led to their band’s formation, Alan said.
After high school, Floodwater became locally known for a live Bolivar radio gig they played every week.
The radio studio they played inside had a glass wall, and “people were actually pulling up and parking every Saturday evening and watching us perform while they listened to us on radios in their car,” Nathan said.
“We had 6,000 listeners,” Alan added.
One particular avenue that branched them out of the radio station and local scene was their repertoire among banks, specifically.
“Back in the early ’90s … there was a lady who was in charge of putting events together for her bank,” Alan said.
The next thing they knew, they played all over the state for bank events, company picnics and openings, they said.
For a while during that period, Floodwater traveled to gigs in a hearse — a vehicle someone gifted to Nathan after he became Polk County Coroner, a job he worked for 16 years, he said.
“We traveled to all these bank gigs in a hearse, and then we got so busy there for a while, so I ended up buying an old school bus,” Nathan said, “so we used the school bus to drive around.”
And now, they travel with a cargo trailer, David said.
Notably, Floodwater was initially called “Floodwater Bluegrass Band,” a name that didn’t stick through time.
“We used to basically play some bluegrass and gospel,” Nathan explained, “and now we’re doing everything from bluegrass to jazz to Elton John stuff.”
David said they simply play the music they like now.
Their headlining Bolivar shows include Country Days on the square and Celebration of Freedom at Southwest Baptist University — gigs they played “for about 20 years,” Nathan said.
And with their 40th year anniversary show on the brink, the men agreed they feel “fortunate.”
Mike said there’s very few people in their 60s that find themselves with the same friends they had in junior high school, and “that’s kind of a testament to four guys who have been friends all of their lives and enjoy the same hobby.”
Mike said they all go to church together and sing together, and that’s a pretty rare situation.
It’s a lesson in humility and tolerance, Alan said.
“They kept me from making it to the big times,” David said teasingly of his fellow musicians.
Nathan said the experience for him through the years has been interesting. He noted how the other bandmates have siblings.
“I was an only child,” he said, “so these guys became my family.”
And the reason for the band’s longevity, Alan said, is that all members are politically, religiously and musically like-minded.
“Well, except for that brief time when Dave was a socialist,” Nathan joked.
That sense of dry humor is incorporated in their live shows and among one another, but the bandmates weren’t shy to share their fondness for each other, as well.
“This has been our hobby all these years, and it’s been a good outlet for us, too,” Alan said. “If you look at the brotherhood part of it, we’re all best friends with each other.”
He said they’ve cried on each others’ shoulders, raised each others’ kids and have been there for each other through illnesses and family deaths.
“It’s as much brotherhood and fellowship as it has been playing music together 40 years,” Alan said, while the others nodded along with him.
The band’s anniversary concert is set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31., at the Rocking R Event Center, 5650 S. Scenic Ave., Bolivar. Admission is free with the donation of non-perishable human or pet food.