When most Oxford locals hear the words “Rafters” or “The Annex,” they may only think of bars on the Square. Few know about the venues’ music influence.
Each business owned by the Chadwick family has its own unique music style, and much work is involved in distinguishing them from other Square businesses.
It takes a village when it comes to booking the music acts for Rafters, The Annex, and Rafters on The Water. One man with vital role is Manager Walker Dickens. While Rafters gets most of their acts from booking agencies, such as Nashville’s Crescent Moon Entertainment, Dickens is often contacted by local bands.
“I ask for video promos, and then check them out and show them to Sage,” Dickens said. “We also check out other bands playing live around town.”
Dickens said they look for a little bit of everything, but also “stick to what they know.” During the semester, they try to present live music Wednesday through Sunday. During football season, they try to book more Motown and funk bands to keep the party atmosphere. He often books socials and philanthropy events.
“Sometimes, we will book a show for a discount because they will play at our sister bar, The Bluff, in Memphis,” Dickens said. “Then they play at Rafters the next day. Two-for-one, if you will.”
Rafters Music and Food opened in April of 2015. It took three years for the Chadwick family to execute their vision. The building was built in 1904 and was one of Oxford’s oldest hotels, the Henry Hotel.
During the renovation, they opened the attic, which housed a lot of original wood. Opening up the attic and revealing the rafters is what inspired the name. Since then, they have opened two other locations.
The family later bought the old Corner Bar and opened The Annex, one of the Square’s few 18 and up bars, in spring 2018. Later that year, they opened their seasonal restaurant and bar, Rafters on the Water, on Sardis Lake in the summer. They are closed for the season, but will reopen in spring 2019.
Music makes each establishment different. Rafters on the Square has more of a bluegrass/rock sound. The restaurant’s regular act, Grass Fire, has been playing almost every Sunday at Rafters’ brunch since May 2015. The crowd favorite helps tie the atmosphere together. Rafters focuses on new country, bluegrass, Motown, funk, and rock band acts.
The Annex has a rotation of DJs who perform. They also play at Rafters most weeknights. Since The Annex attracts a younger audience, they focus on pop, hip hop, and rap music.
Rafters on the Water on Sardis Lake has more locals during dinnertime. They focus on solo, folksy artists, who often perform classic covers. You can often spot Oxford local musician Haggard Collins singing and strumming his guitar on the weekends.
To the family, Rafters is not only just a restaurant that sells Cajun-style food; it is a place where they can present musical acts from all over the country to Lafayette County.
The Chadwick family is passionate about music. Owner Hudson Chadwick excels at guitar. He grew up surrounded by music.
His father, Barney Chadwick, who also plays guitar, and twin brother, Billy Chadwick, have deep Mississippi roots. They were once tennis stars at Belhaven University. Billy coached the Ole Miss tennis team for 20 years and was inducted in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Hudson’s mom, Jeanne Chadwick, said the twins played regularly at bars in Jackson during their glory days with their band, The Dust Band, along with Traw Davidson and Bill Simmons, Brad Paisley’s manager. The twins are in a band with Billy Chadwick’s wife, Julie.
The Chadwick Family Band recently played at the Annex with Barney on guitar, Billy on bass, and Julie on vocals. They even grabbed spoons from the kitchen and incorporated it into their set.
Their music inspirations come from early 60s, late 70s bands. They often cover artists, such as The Band, Collin James, and Fleetwood Mac to name a few. They also write songs.
Jeanne Chadwick said Billy’s sons are also musically talented. One son is at Julliard studying percussion, and the other is good at violin. When the whole family is together, they play music together.
Another person who plays a crucial role in Rafters’ production is David Sage, who has been working with Rafters since it opened. His production company, Rebel Sound, is involved in a lot of Oxford businesses all across the country.
The company has a 20-year relationship with Batesville’s WBLE 100.5. Rafters has partnered with them for a show featuring country legend Joe Diffie. Sage deals with bookings, and his equipment enhances Rafters’ atmosphere.
“When I got to Oxford, I had all this equipment,” he said. “Good equipment. So, I started lending them out and helping produce the shows. We have our own in-house sound engineer, very sophisticated equipment like speakers, lasers and bass. If you talk to any band we’ve worked with, they will tell you our system is the best and easiest to plug into and play. It’s just clean.”
Sage has worked with many notable acts, such as the late Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Boz Scaggs, and much more. “I’ll never miss an opportunity to work with Vince Gill,” Sage said. “Him or Willie Nelson. They’re my favorites to work with.”
Sage has been in the music business all of his life. He started off touring when he was 16. His strong connections to the music industry benefit Rafters. Their connections extend all over the country in places like Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Montgomery and Birmingham.