The music for the soundtrack of "Tom Benton's Missouri" was recorded in 1991 in a single recording session with musicians Bob Dyer (vocals and guitar), Cathy Barton (vocals, banjo, hammered dulcimer and piano), Dave Para (vocals and guitar) and Forrest Rose (acoustic bass). Bob Dyer wrote the song "After He Painted These Walls" especially for the film. The educators' guide contains the lyrics, the musical notation and some anecdotes about the songs. You can download the complete set of audio files for the soundtrack. This preview has 30-second samples of three of the songs.
About the musicians
Bob Dyer was known as the “Bard of Boonville.” Born and raised on the banks of the Missouri River in the Boonslick region of central Missouri, his appreciation for the lush history and landscape of this area shaped his career.
Dyer earned a Master’s in English from the University of Missouri, where he taught English and film for 15 years. But Dyer left the university to shift his focus from academia and pursue his passion for storytelling. Dyer published multiple books, including a history of his hometown entitled “Boonville: An Illustrated History” and an award-winning book in the Missouri Heritage Series for the University of Missouri Press entitled “Jesse James and the Civil War in Missouri.” Dyer worked in collaboration with former poet laureate Walter Bargen to publish “Rising Waters,” an anthology of poems and stories about the great Missouri/Mississippi river flood of 1993. Dyer’s final book of poetry, “Oracle of the Turtle,” was inspired by the “I Ching.” With the help of retired teacher Neal Miller, he later turned "Oracle of the Turtle" into a film of drawings animating the verse.
Dyer’s varied projects centered on his passion for the history and folklore of Missouri and “the river of big canoes.” He devoted his life to present this folklore to others and share his passion. He combined his interest in poetry, folk music, history and storytelling in what he called "songtelling." His songs are original folk-style ballads that use simple but deep lyrics for universal meanings that reflect his landscape. Dyer created Big Canoe Records and collaborated with musician friends Cathy Barton, Dave Para, The Grace Family, Forrest Rose and others on multiple projects. His recordings include two song collections, “Songteller” and “River Runs Outside My Door,” two Civil War themed albums, “Johnny Whistletrigger” and “Rebel in the Woods,” as well as songs related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition entitled “Most Perfect Harmony.” Dyer conducted residencies, assemblies and workshops in many of Missouri's public schools as part of the Missouri Artist-in-Education program and Young Audiences, Inc. He also co-organized the annual Big Muddy Folk Festival in Boonville, Mo.
Bob Dyer was devoted to educating both young and old with his unique folk “songtelling” until his death in 2007. His musician friends recorded “The Wandering Fool” as a tribute album in 2008. His passion for Missouri’s rich history and his talents as a folk musician, poet and historian live on in the songs of “Tom Benton’s Missouri” as well.
Cathy Barton and Dave Para
For more than 25 years, Cathy Barton and Dave Para have been celebrating the folk history of Missouri with their innovative music. A versatile duo, Barton and Para play a variety of instruments from hammered and fretted dulcimers, banjo, guitar and Autoharp, to “found” instruments like spoons, bones, mouth bow and leaf. They consider themselves caretakers of Missouri’s long musical heritage and put the song before the singer.
Both Barton and Para were children of the folk revival. Barton worked as an assistant folklorist at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Ark. while earning degrees in humanities and folklore. She toured with Ramona (Mrs. Grandpa) Jones’ dinner theater in Arkansas before returning to her hometown of Columbia, Mo. Para attended college in Columbia and remained in the area with Barton. He managed the Chez Coffeehouse, a favorite hangout for folk musicians, and started playing with numerous folk bands. In 1981, Barton and Para moved to Boonville, where they met Bob Dyer. Dyer offered the duo half of his duplex to rent, and they quickly realized Dyer shared their passion for folk history and music.
The trio went on to collaborate on two Civil War-themed albums and numerous folk music presentations, performances, and programs over a 22-year friendship. Barton credits Dyer’s mentoring for her drive to write her own songs. In April of 2012, Barton and Para received the Governor’s Award from the Missouri Humanities Council (just as Dyer was awarded before his death) for community achievement in honor of their endeavors to educate others and preserve the rich history of folk music. They continue to dedicate their talents to this legacy through the Big Muddy Folk Festival, folk arts programs for schools and communities, Civil War and other historical events, and most recently, through helping with the re-release of “Tom Benton’s Missouri” and recordings of their music with Dyer. Barton and Para are continually inspired by Missouri’s rich history and diversity. This affection is best illustrated through their passion for educating others about our musical heritage, and through their devotion to expand their own knowledge and repertoire.
Forrest Rose was born in Dallas and grew up in Iowa before moving to Columbia, Mo. for college. Rose graduated from MU’s School of Journalism and began as a reporter and later a columnist for the Columbia Daily Tribune. Rose was known for his pointed and witty writing on controversial topics. He was a long-time employee for MU Extension, sharing his knowledge and appreciation of Missouri’s landscape and resources as an agriculture information specialist.
Throughout Rose’s life, music was central. He was a talented stand-up bassist with perfect pitch who performed with numerous bluegrass and folk musicians, including Bill Monroe and singer-songwriter David Olney. He brought the same tenacity and prowess to his musical performances as he did his writing. In addition to his musical skills, Rose’s stage presence was remarkable; his bass fiddle was topped with a custom-carved snake’s head. He played with the Mid-Missouri Hell Band, Boxbeaters, Mudbugs, Monkey Grip, the Rank Sinatras, and the blues quartet New Madrid Earthquake. Rose died in 2005, while on tour with his nationally-known bluegrass band Perfect Strangers.