Only 30 bikers showed up for the Remembrance Ride bike parade Sunday morning in Austin. It was the first year for it to be in the city, but it was billed as the 23rd year for the event.
“It’s beyond terrible,” said Theresa “T” Barksdale, the event's new president. “I can’t pay the bands or production, and [headliner Rick] Derringer won’t play. It’s truly over. They won.”
Barksdale is referring to former SRV Remembrance Ride President Ric Choate and Vice President Shon Beall. She’s been battling her predecessors since Jimmie Vaughan’s attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter in June that claimed the ride did not have permission to use Stevie Ray Vaughan’s likeness, image or initials.
Barksdale initially had Choate and Beall’s support to move the ride from Dallas to Austin. She says she planned to alternate between the cities each year and figured the music city would come out in full force to support a good cause. The letter changed that, but she pressed on as Choate and Beall put out word that the event is over.
The first year of the ride took place in the early '90s at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Oak Cliff. Jeff Castro founded the ride as way to honor Vaughan, who died in a helicopter crash. Proceeds supported a college scholarship in the guitarist's name.
After Castro stepped down as the SRV Remembrance Ride president in the early 2000s, volunteers Choate and Beall took over. The event became more popular but struggled to make donations. They blamed the weather, low attendance and increased costs.
Vaughan’s attorney, Ronald Habitzreiter, claimed the event never had permission from the Vaughan estate.
“This letter is notice that you immediately cease and desist utilizing the name, initials, likeness and all other Stevie Ray Vaughan intellectual property,” Habitzreiter wrote. “Further demand is made that you cease and desist the sale of all products, T-shirts, memorabilia, etc. relating to Stevie Ray Vaughan and that you immediately account to the estate for all sales in the last 12 months.”
Jeff Horton, former treasurer of the SRV Remembrance Ride, said he wasn’t worried about the demand to pay money back because the letter wasn’t a court order.
Choate and Beall decided to step down and appointed Barksdale as president of the 2016 SRV Remembrance Ride. Barksdale hit the ground running to promote the 2017 event. She lined up sponsors, hired bands and enlisted two venues' help. She says she wanted to turn the event around and make a donation after her predecessors failed to do so in 2015 and 2016.
At the Remembrance Ride presale party Saturday night, Barksdale began to realize that her dream may be over.
“I’m starting to feel like an idiot with a pipe dream,” she said. “I’m beyond sad.”
Barksdale says she did her best to abide by Vaughan’s cease-and-desist letter. She removed SRV from the Remembrance Ride name and ordered merchandise that showcased Derringer instead of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
But she was unable to overcome the moves of Beall and Choate, who denounced her ride publicly and privately to the extended Vaughan and Remembrance Ride family. They claimed she was to blame for the ride’s end because she approached Jimmie Vaughan and his agent, asking the artist to play the event.
Vaughan’s attorney never blamed Barksdale but said her predecessors violated copyright and failed to donate as they were claiming.
“They sell sponsorships, T-shirts [and other merchandise] and are using it for their own personal profit,” Habitzreiter told the Dallas Observer in August. “It makes my stomach turn.”
Beall and Choate deny mismanaging the charity and claim their financial records prove it, but they never produced them for the Observer.
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Choate and Beall point out they had a right to shut down the ride in August because they were part of the board of directors. They say because Barksdale was never officially put on the board, she was unable to stop it.
It’s unclear why Horton sent Barksdale most of the financial records for the SRV Remembrance Ride and a letter of resignation in August if she was removed as president shortly after Vaughan’s letter arrived in June. Horton told the Observer he wasn’t sure why he did so either.
Regardless of who is at fault, Barksdale's credibility was damaged, bands began to drop out of the 2017 event and fans began to cancel hotel rooms. And while Choate and Bell were able to recuperate their money before they handed her the ride, Barksdale says she is now facing financial ruin.
“I’m devastated,” she says. “I’ve now lost everything.”