Muletown Melodies | Marcus’s Onion Rings

Sarah Clanton at Muletown Musicfest – photo by Ross Jaynes

Small town that looks something like this.Austin Tyler Jones


There is a magical way to complete a trip to the free space of childhood. Such a break from grown-up land would be immersion into a small town music festival. Particularly one that has cleverly scheduled the inclusion of all genres, even those which are not familiar.

I once heard that Levon Helm said “if you pour some music on whatever’s wrong, it’ll sure help out.”

Listening to music on your own has its place, but in community, we can watch each other’s faces and feel the emotional sway in double time. We can drink in  humanity and appreciate the variety of musical expression straight from God’s mouth to our ears. Quite the unifier.

I cannot read music. Such education has not been part of my story though Mrs. Ikard tried. I am certain though that to the world, just as important as the musician would be the appreciator. I wholeheartedly embrace that job description.

Scientific studies have confirmed that the circle must be unbroken; if the instrument’s magician is playing a tune, an appreciator must show up.The pay back for all is inspiration.

And really there is nothing as inspirationally reassuring as showing up around a small-town courthouse square where symphonic melodies, bluesy notes, and gospel rhythms drift out the doors and around your head.

Cherish is the word for my take on such a scene.

The Muletown Musicfest https://www.muletownmusicfest.comin Columbia, Tennessee is just three years old; still getting its sea legs and formatting the details, yet the youthfulness of such an event allows ease in the coming and going of venues. So relaxed – so sophisticated.

Food can be prized in the experience, but only if it remains simple and quirky like the fried dill pickles served stage side to Nashville Symphony Brass Quintet or the ice cold Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale downed front stage to cello-jazzy Sarah Clanton

To break it down with a friend over Marcus’s onion rings at 822 South is always in order. Delight. And only then to turn it back up the street to review the exquisite lineup of Riders in the Sky, Mary Gauthier, Doyle and Debbie and Jim Lauderdale at Puckett’s.

Our little town has been sanctified by the heart of many volunteers who want Columbia to grow in beauty with all that might result from musical devotion. And the key to the city via Muletown Musicfest is the constant endeavor of music supervisor and producer Rick Clark. Having camped his work in California and Nashville, he makes his home in Columbia and brings his musical contacts with him.

There are so many ways to experience this “one wild and precious life” as described by poet Mary Oliver. Be sure to place a small town music festival (i.e. Muletown Musicfest) on your agenda for next October. And while you are at it, check out those onion rings that Marcus so artfully tends.

Marcus Malone’s Famous Rings and Sauce

Onion Rings
Vidalia or Yellow Onions, medium sliced
Secret Seasoning ( you are on your own; play around with your favorites )
Panko Bread Crumbs
Peanut Oil


Soak the onion rings in buttermilk overnight. Heat the peanut oil to 350 degrees. Dip the rings into the cornstarch, one ring at a time and then dip back into the buttermilk. Next, dip into the panko bread crumbs.
A tray of these can be prepared and placed in the freezer OR just whip them up on the spot.
Fry until golden brown. After frying, be sure to shake the oil off before salting.

Sriracha Sauce
Mix smaller parts of honey and sriracha into mayonnaise, tasting along the way. Marcus says, “The sauce should be the color of a orange creamsicle.”

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