Beloved Outlaw Roadie and Music Elder “Mr. Bandana” Cloninger Has Died

Photo: Dave Flewwelling,

There was nobody else like Mr. Bandana. And now that he’s gone, there will never be anyone like him again. He was a true last of the breed, and one of the few remaining authentic Outlaws who lived his own way, spoke his mind no matter the outcome or insult taken, and you will never find a more dedicated and loyal supporter of the music he championed over his many years of service to artists and the underground country and roots scene.

Born January 31st, 1953, “Mr. Bandana” Cloninger had been a roadie for David Allan Coe during the performer’s most notorious era. Later he became a roadie and right hand man for many years for Hank Williams Jr. Most recently, Mr. Bandana was a confidant, counselor, and elder for a litany of underground country, roots, and heavy metal artists, including Hank Williams III (Hank3), Jeff Clayton and ANTISeen, Shooter Jennings, and many more.

Mr. Bandana was not hard to pick out of a concert crowd. His favorite salute was a middle finger, and he regularly wore bandanas that proudly displayed the offensive digit prominently while touting himself as a “professional asshole.” But those who knew him, those who spent time with him, and especially his friends and family understood that under his rough exterior was and extreme amount of heart and loyalty to others, and a special passion and dedication to music.

Mr. Bandana in 1987 (from Cathy Pippin)
Mr. Bandana in 1987 (from Cathy Pippin)

Over the last half decade, diabetes began to claim portions of Mr. Bandana’s feet, and he would regularly have to endure medical procedures, and wear special boots, or need assistance walking to make it to shows. Doctors told Mr. Bandana that the best thing was for him to stay off of his feet, but he would not trade his fierce loyalty to the music for anything, and would regularly defy doctor’s orders to take in shows. “I would rather die doing what I love doing. I won’t let anyone take this away from me,” he once told Saving Country Music at the Muddy Roots Festival.

Mr. Banadana could be regularly seen sitting at the sides of stages at the concerts of his favorite bands, and most everybody in the underground country and roots movement looked to him as an elder statesman, and founding father. That’s not to say Mr. Bandana didn’t have his differences with people, especially if he felt you crossed one of his artists. And his outspoken Southern pride sometimes lent to getting sideways with individuals. But like his previous boss David Allan Coe, Cloninger was such a singular human being, it was hard to not admire him for his ability to hold onto himself, and his by-gone rebellious spirit in a world that had moved on without him.

Bandana Cloninger was also an avid dog lover, and raised and trained dogs at his home in Iron Station, North Carolina. He was a motorcycle enthusiast as well. His diabetes and health issues had scaled back his public appearances recently, but he always maintained a public profile online, and had many friends and followers.

According to the sister-in-law of Bandana Cloninger, he recently came down with an infection, and was dealing with low blood pressure, as well as kidney failure. Mr. Bandana passed away Sunday evening (6-6-2016) at the hospital.

“I’m sorry to say that my brother in law Mr Bandana just passed away,” said the sister-in-law. “They did everything they could. We will greatly miss him. Our hearts are broken because he left us too soon. I know that you all will miss him too.”

R.I.P. Mr. Bandana

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