Stephen King and John Mellencamp’s all-star ‘Ghost Brothers’ appears

T Bone Burnett, John Mellencamp and Stephen King
T Bone Burnett, left, John Mellencamp and Stephen King have collaborated on an original musical theater work, “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.”
(Kevin Mazur / WireImage)

It’s been 13 years in the making, but Tuesday the recorded version of “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” the musical-theater collaboration between rocker John Mellencamp, horror writer Stephen King and producer T Bone Burnett finally sees the light of day.

The album is a complement to the staged version that surfaced last year at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta and which will go on the road to 10 cities in the Midwest and south this fall. The CD features Elvis Costello, Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Rosanne Cash, Neko Case, Ryan Bingham, Will Dailey and Blasters founding members Dave and Phil Alvin as the titular ghost brothers.

The project grew out of a story Mellencamp was told about a cabin he bought in the ’90s in rural Indiana as a place to go with his family when they had time off.

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“Right after we buy it,” Mellencamp said during an interview Monday for a story on the project that will appear in Wednesday’s Calendar, “the wife of the guy I bought it from said, ‘Oh, by the way -- it’s haunted, but the ghosts won’t bother you, you’ll get used to it. I went, ‘OK, great.’ I don’t believe in that stuff.

“Then she sends me these magazines from the 1930s, like Private Detective--that’s how people got information then,” he said. “She sends me a couple of these crime magazines with accounts of what happened that created these ghosts.”

The story is exceedingly dark: two teenage brothers, both in love with the same girl, get into an argument, and one strikes the other with a fireplace poker, accidentally killing him. Not knowing immediately whether the injured brother is alive or dead, the other brother and the girl hop in a car, speed off down the dirt road to town to get help, but on the way get into an accident, their car goes off the road, into a lake and both drown.

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“I’m in L.A. talking to somebody, telling the story and joking about it, and the guy goes, ‘Man, that would make a great movie, or something or other. I said maybe. At that time, ‘Mamma Mia’ had just come out, and people had been bothering me to use my songs in some kind of kind of hokey Broadway show. I wasn’t interested.

“Then I thought, maybe this is a musical,” he said. “My songs won’t fit, but I could write new songs. I thought, that’d be OK if we could get someone like Stephen King to write the book. I told the guy, ‘If we can get Stephen King, I’m in.’ And the guy says, ‘I’m also Stephen King’s agent’.”

Mellencamp flew to Florida and met with King, who expressed interest. But the singer and songwriter remembered King cautioning him, “I’m writing a book, I’ve got a movie in the works and all this stuff going on. It might be a while before I can get around to it….Two weeks later I received an 80-page synopsis of what he would do. That’s how the whole thing started.”


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Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2 


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