A daring shortcut home long ago shaped Dickinson musician’s life
It was a hot summer day in the late 1960s in the small town of Jasper, Texas, when 7-year-old Robert “Buddy” Manchac was riding his bike home from his dad’s roller rink. He took a shortcut into forbidden territory that would forever change his life.
Color lines, segregating African-Americans and Caucasians, literally defined or merely suggested, were still prevalent at the time in many rural Southern towns like Jasper. It was while crossing one such line that Manchac learned firsthand about racism and the power of blues music to bring people together.
Part Native-American, Manchac as a child wasn’t always certain what fountain he was allowed to drink from or what bathroom he could use and often found it confusing, he said. He never understood why he wasn’t allowed to play with the kids he could see from his bedroom window.
“The only time you really knew the rules was when you got in trouble for breaking them,” Manchac, 52, said with a laugh.
It was the sound of blues master B.B. King’s music coming from a small record player on the front porch of a home that doubled as a record store along the path of his shortcut that kept the young Manchac frequenting his new and daring route home.
Eventually, Manchac went into the shop and bought the King 45 rpm record for 49 cents from the woman who owned the place. Taking it to his dad’s still-segregated roller rink, Manchac sneaked it into rotation on the venue’s sound system. When his father first heard the music he was irate, but quickly realized his teenage patrons were quite fond of it, Manchac said. It wasn’t long before the senior Manchac opened the rink to people of all colors. The B.B. King record was just the beginning of a lifetime of appreciation for the uniquely American art form known as blues music and the catalyst that pushed Manchac to learn to play the guitar.
Today, Manchac, “Buddy” to anyone who knows him, plays guitar, or otherwise, with whomever he wants, usually with a blues or Southern rock band or his own group, Blue Attitude. Moving to the Dickinson area during his first year of junior high school, Manchac soon formed friendships around his love of music that continue to this day.
In 2002, Manchac opened his first bar, Ronnie’s Hog Heaven Ice House on FM 517 in Dickinson. Known for its quality live music and motorcycle friendly atmosphere, the bar was named after Manchac’s wife at the time, Veronica.
On most Sunday afternoons, he can be found there jamming some blues numbers with longtime pals, A.J. Fee, Benny Brasket and Matt Westmoreland. Manchac also jams with his son, Andrew, 26, who plays drums. Ronnie’s has since become a favorite stop on many officially sponsored motorcycle “runs” and a few events associated with Galveston’s yearly Lone Star Rally, which attracts thousands of bikers.
Deeply entrenched in the Galveston/Houston music scene, Manchac has performed and recorded with many of the area’s finest talent, including Mark May, Tony Hill, “Big Cynthia” Walker, Bert Wills, and the late, great Mean Gene Kelton. Along with B.B. King, Manchac also is heavily influenced by Duane Allman (Allman Brothers), Joe Perry (Aerosmith) and legendary Houston guitarist Albert Collins.
Manchac married again in 2010 and shares the passions in his life — family, music, motorcycles and cars — with his wife, Cheryl. Last year, the couple opened a second bar, a hot rod-themed hangout on FM 517 in Dickinson called The Pit Stop.