Artist's bells help celebrate Kingman's Route 66 Festival

Raffle raises money for economic development

A close-up of the bell from “Stone Sentinel” shows some of the components, all from Arizona, used to create the sculpture crafted by artist Doug Adams. (KIM STEELE/Miner)

A close-up of the bell from “Stone Sentinel” shows some of the components, all from Arizona, used to create the sculpture crafted by artist Doug Adams. (KIM STEELE/Miner)

KINGMAN - The three steel bells displayed in the cafeteria at Kingman Regional Medical Center are vivid reminders of the upcoming International Route 66 Festival.

The bells - entitled "Stone Sentinel," "Lonely Bell" and "Mechanical Motion" - were handcrafted and donated by Southwestern artist Doug Adams and will be awarded to raffle winners during a concert by Reunion. The group consists of Jim and Gary Pike, two of the original members of The Lettermen, and Ric de Azevedo, a member of the singing King Family, four sisters who had their own television show during that time.

"This is a big deal," said Dora Manley, director of the festival. "Doug Adams creates these beautiful bells and sells them in artist studios in the Southwest. To get one of them is really something, and to have three donated to us is just unbelievable.

"This is just another example of the community and those who love it working together to bring something exciting here."

Adams found the inspiration for his art while working for a large steel mill and became entranced by the process of molding scrap metal to make a new, useable and beautiful product. Using many of the same tools and techniques from his time in the mill, Adams combines found objects, reclaimed steel parts, antiques and glass to create one-of-a-kind bells.

The first-place prize, "Stone Sentinel," was commissioned by the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce for the concert and created as a tribute to Route 66. The bell, which is 74 inches tall and 26 inches wide and retails for $5,500, includes a lock ring off a truck tire, a transmission ring gear, railroad spikes, a piece of copper ore, an old horseshoe and wire manufactured by Kingman NUCOR Steel.

"Lonely Bell" is the second-place prize and is a tribute to the Arizona desert, representing the lonely howl of the coyote, the whisper of steady winds and the expansive sand and cactus.

Third-place prize "Mechanical Motion" includes tools from a 1926 Model T Ford repair kit, a spacer from a roller bearing and a gear from a steel mill roll stand. The bell is from a copper mill fire extinguisher.

During its heyday, which began in 1961 with the hit "The Way You Look Tonight," The Lettermen racked up 46 consecutive hit albums on Billboard Magazine's national charts, 20 hit singles, nine gold albums and five Grammy nominations. They have sold more than $100 million worth of records, tapes and CDs worldwide.

But Jim Pike lost his voice in the mid-'70s, and he sold the rights to The Lettermen trademark and retired from the music industry.

When his voice unexpectedly came back 10 years later, the Pike brothers and de Azevedo decided to re-form the group and sing the old songs made famous by The Lettermen. They include "When I Fall in Love," I Only Have Eyes for You," a medley of "Going Out of My Head/Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," and "Put Your Head on My Shoulder."

The three men are looking forward to performing at the festival, which will feature a variety of activities Aug. 14-17 throughout the Kingman area.

"We all have good memories of Route 66 and we all have traveled it," said de Azevedo, who lives in Utah and intends to bring his three grandsons to the festival for their first trip on Route 66 and visit to Kingman.

"I love the desert and the Southwest and I'm very excited about being a part of this event."

Jim and Gary Pike, both of whom live in Southern California, plan to drive to Kingman for the event. Jim Pike said The Lettermen probably performed in all the bigger towns mentioned in the popular "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66" song, including Amarillo, Texas; Gallup, N.M.; Flagstaff and Barstow, Calif.

"Before the interstate was there, we would drive certain areas of the West as performers and would hit all the towns in the song," said Gary Pike. "We even had our favorite restaurants along the highway and we knew Route 66 very well. We are looking forward to this and it's going to be very nostalgic for us."