Annabelle Russell, R.I.P.

Annabelle Russell, 68, who with her husband Harley Russell made up the irreverent Mediocre Music Makers at their Sandhills Curiosity Shop in Erick, Oklahoma, died Tuesday afternoon after a 3 1/2-year bout with cancer.

The Facebook page for Harley and Annabelle posted sad but typical message Tuesday:

Dear friends, my Precious Annabelle just passed away 1:10p.m. this afternoon Sept.30, 2014. Thank all of you for everything you have done.

You Get the Best of Our Love!!! YEE HAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Annabelle was moved into hospice care in Oklahoma City in early September. She began aggressive treatment for the cancer after a four-hour surgery in March 2011. Although the cancer was incurable, she recovered her strength enough to play a number of Mediocre Music Makers shows with Harley.

The Mediocre Music Makers act began more than a decade ago in the Russells’ old City Meat Market building a block south of Route 66 in downtown Erick. They previously tried to make it go as a health-food store. The Mediocre Music Makers act happened spontaneously: The Russells once were going through guitar practices in the store when a tour group stopped by. Afterward, the group threw money down on the tables for tips, and its guide said he’d bring more tours by in the future. And a long and well-known entertainment career on Route 66 was born.

The act was mostly music with a heaping helping of wacky comedy inside a shop brimming with antiques. Annabelle served as rhythm guitarist, singer and “straight man” in the act (where you could “see rednecks work and play in their own environment”). But close observers noted she often was the instigator to Harley’s madcap antics, and Harley told me she had written 300 songs — a few which made into their set list.

Harley, in a Facebook message on Sept. 25, said:

My Precious Annabelle was the key factor behind our success at our “Sandhills Curiosity Shop” in Erick, Oklahoma, where we performed our “Insanity at it`s Finest” program (off-color comedy and mediocre music). In this space I cannot begin to tell you of the many tasks she performed! As a matter of fact I don`t even know myself! And you, all our friends played a big part in it as well!

(Incidentally, Harley ultimately called their act “mediocre” because he was a professional musician for many years.)

But the duo continued to entertain thousands of Route 66 travelers from dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of countries. A significant number said the Harley & Annabelle Experience was the highlight of their Route 66 trip.

As a testament to their popularity, well-wishes came by the dozens from all over the globe on Harley and Annabelle’s Facebook page during her diagnosis and later treatments.

As for the future of the Sandhills Curiosity Shop in Erick, Harley posted this a few days ago:

I have asked my Precious Annabelle what she wanted me to do after this is all over….She says, try to keep doing what we were doing at our shop “The Sandhills Curiosity Shop” so that’s what I will try to do. But it will never be the same! You Get the Best of Our Love!!! YEE HAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This brings up something else. Facebook is cussed and discussed — often for good reasons — for years. But it served as a viable link to Harley and Annabelle and all of their fans and friends from across the globe during the long ordeal. Harley told me himself Annabelle’s health problems were “hell,” but I suspect all the well-wishes from hundreds of people made the last few years a bit more tolerable. The words of sympathy and support that flooded his Facebook page on Tuesday afternoon and evening reiterated that.

(Image of Harley and Annabelle Russell performing in February 2014 by Dusty Track via Flickr)

19 thoughts on “Annabelle Russell, R.I.P.

  1. Ron…thanks for posting this great memorial to Annabelle. I was one of the lucky ones that got see one of their shows on one of my trips on Route 66…If you saw it, you never forgot it, or them. Thanks again.

    1. Thank you Wally for your very kind words and we were just as lucky as you. You Get the Best of Our Love!!! YEE HAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Nice tribute to Annabelle. She and Harley were such wonderful entertainers on the Mother Road. I really enjoyed the performance they gave me alone in their store April 2010. Then they gave me a guided tour of their home and yard! Very special people. I do hope Harley will be able to carry on at Sandhills, but I know it will be very hard for him because of the pain of loss.

    1. Thank you John. Yes, it will be very hard indeed. You Get the Best of Our Love!!! YEE HAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Those we love don’t go away,
    They walk beside us every day,
    Unseen, unheard, but always near,
    Still loved, still missed and very dear. R.I.P. Annabelle❤️ Wenche

  4. She had a magic about her. She had the ability to get in your heart almost the moment you met her. Holly and I are still heartbroken. You keep her alive every time you do a show. God bless you both.

  5. So glad that Harley will continue the shows, honoring Annabelle. I was fortunate to drop by for the first time right after Pixar had been there considering them for CARS. I will never forget the magical bond between these two Mediocre Music Makers who were far from mediocre.

  6. What a nice memory from our R66 trip in 2001, never been “that” welcome any places in the world i think. Big entertaniment delivered from these two good american, Harley and Annabelle. RIP Annabelle.

  7. In 2012 I drove across country with my wife and 2 year old daughter. We stopped by the shop and was told they had closed up shop. Then Harley said one last time and sang us a couple of songs. After the songs he took us to his house to meet Annabelle. We talked for a while then came to the store for some pictures. It was the best part of the trip. It will always be one of my greatest memories from that trip. Great people.

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