Pot haze invites raid on Nelson bus

6 followers cited in Duplin

Staff writerJanuary 30, 2010 

The strong odor of marijuana wafting from the window of a Willie Nelson tour bus led to six members of the country singer's entourage getting busted in Duplin County for possession of marijuana and three-fourths of a quart of moonshine, law enforcement officials said.

But it was a pain in the country music star's hand that forced the last-minute cancellation of Thursday night's concert in Kenansville, not a pain in the neck from having to deal with the drug and alcohol raid an hour before the show.

The grizzled, 76-year-old singer-songwriter, author, poet and activist has a reputation as a musical outlaw and longtime marijuana smoker. But Nelson was not on the bus where ALE officers found marijuana, rolling papers and a Mason jar almost full of "non-tax-paid alcohol," or moonshine, according to Ernie Seneca, an Alcohol Law Enforcement spokesman. Seneca didn't know whether the shine was brewed locally or imported from Texas along with the band.

Bass player Dan Edward "Bee" Spears was on the bus, and the 60-year-old longtime band member from Franklin, Tenn., was one of those cited. The event's planner and one of his assistants also were cited for trying to interfere with the ALE investigation.

Nelson, a native of Abbott, Texas, has a long and colorful maverick history, morphing from a clean-cut Nashville songwriter into an ever-touring troubadour. In his wake, he often leaves more than biodiesel fumes: In 2006, he and four others got misdemeanor citations for possession of narcotic mushrooms and marijuana after a traffic stop on a Louisiana highway. But he's been getting into scrapes for years, and his scrapes end up in his lyrics. In his 1971 song "Me and Paul," he sang:

Almost busted in Laredo,
But for reasons that I'd rather not disclose,
But if you're stayin' in a motel there and leave,
Just don't leave nothin' in your clothes.

In Duplin County, about 80 miles from the Triangle,13 ALE agents were working with sheriff's deputies and Kenansville police to police the concert venue, according to Seneca.

It was about 6:40 p.m., a little less than an hour before the show was to begin, that an officer walking past the tour bus "detected a strong odor of marijuana," Seneca said. The officer got permission to enter the bus, according to Seneca, and then cited the six entourage members.

In addition to the bassist, citations were issued to: Kenneth Koepke, 52, of Burnet, Texas; Robert Allen Lemons, 59, of Spicewood, Texas; Dudley Bishop Prewitt, 59, of Spicewood, Texas; Aaron William Foye, 32, of San Marcos, Texas; and Thomas Ray Hawkins, 54, of Atlantic City, N.J.

"They were released in time for them to go on stage," Seneca said. He added that the band and crew had been respectful of the officers.

Venue workers cited

They say others, though, were not thrilled with the incident.

John Duane Vogt, 58, the general manager of the Duplin County Events Center, and Donald Farrior, 50, an assistant from Kenansville, were cited for trying to interfere with the ALE investigation. A complaint was sent to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission.

Nelson's daughter said on the musician's Web site that Thursday night's show at the Duplin County Events Center was canceled because his hand hurt too badly to play. The right-handed guitar-picker had carpal tunnel surgery on his left hand in 2004.

anne.blythe@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8741

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