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Ball of fun: Former cop, politician and current author strumming along

Mike Ball was born in California in 1954, moved to Hartselle when he was 9 and has called the Tennessee Valley home ever since. Closing in on 70, he’s a somewhat refined but definitely bona fide southerner. His current musical band provides a hint.

“I play in a little band called Bubbanauts,” Ball told 256 Today via phone as he and his wife, Karen, were getting ready to leave Montgomery and head home to Madison on a recent visit to the Alabama capital. “But I do a lot of solo stuff, too. I play the guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo and piano.

“I just play whatever and love to sing and I just love music.”

Area residents might remember Ball as a state representative, one who championed the legalization of medical marijuana while staying true to his Christian beliefs. After a career in law enforcement that included stints as an Alabama State Trooper and then an agent in the Major Crimes Unit of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, he entered politics and served District 10 in the state Capitol from 2002-22.

He was a Republican then, but now identifies as independent. That goes without saying, even though he endorses his former campaign manager Marilyn Lands who is running as a Democrat in a special election next month for his old spot after his successor resigned.

But back to the Bubbanauts, who are appearing Tuesday at the coffeehouse concert at the Old Country Church at Burritt on the Mountain at 7 p.m. The show is sponsored by the Huntsville Traditional Music Association (HTMA), of which Ball serves as president.

The band – Ball on guitar, Mike Shepard on bass, Dewayne Bailey on lead guitar and Buckwheat Turner on drums – combined their heritage and space-drive surroundings to arrive at their sobriquet.

Well, you know, Huntsville,’’ Ball said. “I think (Shepard) actually threw the idea out there. We all embraced it. It’s kind of a take off on the Rocket City, and we’re just ‘bubbas,’ you know.”

For the uninitiated, “Bubba” in the South refers to a good ’ol boy. Most of the time, anyway.

HTMA describes the Bubbanauts as “seasoned musicians who have set out on an extended journey to explore the depths of traditional country and western music and relive the great songs that have opened our hearts and touched our souls.”

From the age of 9, Ball spent most of his life in Hartselle until 2002. There was a stint in the Marines (1973-77), where he rose to the rank of sergeant, and a time in Birmingham when he was a trooper.

When Ball moved from the West Coast to the Heart of Dixie, instead of being culturally shocked he discovered someone who would influence the rest of his life despite the latter’s death a few years later – Leldon Ball, his father.

In a letter to 256 Today that was distributed by sister media outlet Yellowhammer News in March 2022, Ball wrote that after he and his older sister, who had become wards of the state in California where he began traveling a wayward path, arrived in Alabama his father “immediately began instilling a moral standard in me based on honesty, compassion, courage, humility and a strong work ethic. For the next few years, we were almost constant companions as he continued to impart those values to me with countless personal demonstrations and illustrations. He continually imparted his wisdom while we worked, played and worshipped (sic) together.”

Ball left the equally stressful worlds of law enforcement and politics, wrote a book and found out, he said, “I could just be my own man, live my own life. It was like the weight of the world off my shoulders.”

These days, he strums and hums and tells his tales wherever and whenever the opportunity arrives.

“When we get older,” he said, “I think we have an obligation to share the lessons we learned with younger people. There’s a time where you’re done doing as much and it’s time to pass the baton down to younger people. But, we have some lessons that can be helpful to them, for the ones who want to listen.

“And I think that’s what I wanna do for the rest of my life. I wanna sing songs, share stories, talk about my book and some of the stories in it and the lessons I’ve learned and just help other people find their way.”

By Mike Easterling

(Published by 256 Today)


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