‘Duke & The King’ screening scheduled for 30A Songwriters Festival

Published: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 09:57 AM.

There is much more to this story than Bardwell’s tumultuous relationship with the Elvis organization. At its heart, the film explores the gift of songwriting and the power of music to shape lives. With moving stories and inspiring live performances from Bardwell recorded at the famed WorkPlay Theatre in Birmingham, Ala., the documentary chronicles Bardwell's journey while showcasing his immense talent.

“On one level, Duke’s story is about the futility in pursuing fame, but there’s more to it than that. Through an obscure song, the film makes a compelling argument for using your gifts even when fame and fortune elude you,” says Franklin.

As a child in 1957, Bardwell heard one of Elvis Presley’s early songs — “Old Shep” — and was instantly moved by the raw emotion and unabashed sentimentality of the ballad. From that moment on, his life was changed.

“It was the first time a song had ever reached into my heart and made me cry,” says Bardwell, who spent much of his life in Baton Rouge, La., but has lived in Santa Rosa Beach since 1985. “And that song about that old dog made me cry. It was my first brush with songwriting, and I knew then that someday I’d have to find a way to play music for a living.”

The film follows the journey that led Bardwell to his own failed shot at fame, and ultimately found him standing in the presence of The King. It's the story of two men: one who should’ve been famous, the other more famous than any who came before or since.

“I got the idea for this film back in 2005,” said Wheeler. “It started out being a story about the journey of a song. But, in time, it grew into something bigger — a film that was transformed through various iterations over the years before finally evolving into ‘Duke & The King.’ We’re eager to share Duke’s story and his gifts as a singer-songwriter with music lovers the world over. After 45 years, he’s due.”

The film also features appearances by songwriting greats Kenny Loggins, Tom Rush, New Orleans legend “Big” Luther Kent, along with Walton County songwriters Franko “Washboard” Jackson and Bill Garrett. Following each screening will be a Q&A session with the filmmakers and Bardwell. For more information on Duke & The King, visit www.facebook.com/DukeBardwell or www.dukebardwell.com.

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