King Mackerel & The Blues Are Running is a long-running and beloved theatrical performance of music and stories about fishing and life along the Carolina coastline. Called “a pure salt watered delight” by the late Clive Barnes, New York Post theater critic, King Mackerel is full of tall tales and rollicking songs told by The Coastal Cohorts–a trio of good-ole boys who happen to be staging a benefit concert to save the Corncake Inlet Inn. The lively cast of fishermen-musicians sings up a storm, tells fish stories, ghost stories, and relates accounts of first loves and ones that got away.
Productions and personnel
The musical, written and conceived by Bland Simpson and Jim Wann with help from Don Dixon and Jerry Leath Mills, has had many productions around the Carolinas, up and down the East Coast, and from Atlanta to Indianapolis to Calgary in Canada. The original line-up of Coastal Cohorts has carried the show from Key West to Martha’s Vineyard over King Mackerel’s 35-year run. Those players include Don Dixon, bassist, singer-songwriter and renowned record producer of such musical groups as REM, the Smithereens, Marti Jones, Hootie & the Blowfish and more; Bland Simpson, pianist, of the Red Clay Ramblers and Kenan Distinguished Professor of English & Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina; and Jim Wann, guitarist, principal composer-lyricist of Pump Boys & Dinettes, the Broadway hit that was a Tony and Drama Desk Nominee for Best Broadway Musical and winner of the Olivier Award in the U.K.
King Mackerel opened in 1985 at a westside Chapel Hill club called Rhythm Alley (a club occupying a former location of Cat’s Cradle) and has also had successful runs Off-Off-Broadway at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York (in 1995 and on numerous other occasions), and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (1996). A tour to celebrate the 35th anniversary was postponed due to COVID-19, and the original Cohorts plan to take the show back out on the road when it is safe to do so.