COUNTRY and gospel music legend Rusty Golden was sent packing back to the USA after flying to Bahrain to visit family, perform to his army of multicultural fans and American servicemen and women based with the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
After a frantic two-hour discussion with immigration officials at Bahrain International Airport he was scuppered from entry into the kingdom over ‘visa issues’.
Ministry sources suggested it was ‘collateral damage’ of a government crackdown on the vice trade at border control with victims of human trafficking previously being sneaked into the region under the guise of working in the ‘entertainment industry’.
“I’m so disappointed,” said Rusty, 60, a man who can boast five No 1 records, two of which were named ‘Song Of The Year’, a Grammy Awards nomination as well as a Songwriter of the Year accolade, and who calls Bahrain ‘his second home’.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “I’ve had to come back home but I’m so disappointed this has happened.
“I suppose I looked suspicious. I was told it had something to so with the songwriter line. I was kept outside a glass room for two hours. They told me I was not allowed to enter and to go back home.
“I may not have been looking forward to the heat but it was going to be my fifth anniversary of visiting the kingdom. I paid out a lot of money to be able to leave for six to eight months.
“I’m still packed and ready to come. If I got a call that said: “Ooops, our mistake, please come back and play that country music white boy, I would be on a flight back in 24-hours – from Nashville, via Heathrow and on to Bahrain.”
It takes him almost as long to make the trip. “It’s the lay-overs that add up to a journey of roughly between 18 and 22 hours … but it’s worth it,” he explained.
“I was talking to a guy next to me on the plane and he’s from the US state of Oregon - a Navy kid, saying he hoped there was a place in Bahrain to hear the ‘kind of country music that my daddy listened to’.
“I nearly choked up and cried because not only do I know those songs, my own daddy sang a few of them.”
When he was seven his father, William Lee, moved him and the family, mother, Frogene, and brothers Craig and Chris, from Brewton, Alabama to Nashville, Tennessee so that he could pursue his career in music as a member of the Oak Ridge Boys, a country and gospel vocal quartet.
Within six years they became one of the most popular groups in the land, selling in excess of 42 million records, including the classic Elvira, a song that’s been keeping the family’s bills paid since 1981, according to Rusty.
In 2015 the act was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame as well as being made members of the famous Grand Ole Opry.
The Oak Ridge Boys were flown over to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ at the 41st US president’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. They were old friends of George H.W. Bush, who died last year at the age of 94.
In 1984 Rusty received a gold record for his song-writing contributions on the Oak Ridge Boys album Bobbie Sue.
Rusty decided to concentrate on his songwriting by signing with PolyGram Music and his songs were recorded by various country and pop stars. Also, during this time he continued working as a musician on tour, including backed actress and singer Miley Cyrus, and recording with various artists. Starting in 1994, and for years afterward, Rusty also promoted his own concerts.
During his trips to Bahrain he regularly set the stage alight at Big Texas Barbeque & Waffle House inside Best Western Plus - The Olive Hotel in Juffair, helped local acts with recording and performing guidance, as well as playing and singing at Sunday gospel services at the US base.
The visits are all thanks to extended family connections. Big Texas is owned by restaurateur Milly and logistics businessman Radford Cox, with managing partner Bryan Malone, playing an important role too.
Rusty was on the same British Airways flight last week from Heathrow to Bahrain as Stan Szecowka, editor of GDNonline, and posed for social media photographs as the aircraft circled above the Arabian Gulf, ironically on show alongside one of the performer excitedly brandishing his passport in readiness for his journey.
“Due to a mix up with my visa in Bahrain and the amount of time it takes to get a new one, it was decided the best thing to do was return home to the USA. I took the return flight back to London,” said Rusty.
On arrival in Bahrain, visitors can be issued visas for 24 hours, 72 hours, two weeks or three months, depending on their need and at the discretion of the immigration officer. Arrivals may be asked to provide evidence of onward or return travel. If they enter as a visitor they must not take up employment, highlights the World Travel Guide.
The Ministry of Interior, Nationality, Passports & Residence Affairs declines to comment on individual cases but a spokesman said: “Kindly check eligibility and review all terms and conditions related to the visa before your visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain before submitting your information and purpose of the visit.”
The Coxs are currently in the USA on business matters and to visit friends and family. Milly said: “Now, instead of a special entertainer permit, if he’s going to come back we’ll have to apply for a worker’s visa as an entertainer and, hopefully, he will not be denied entry this time.
“I’m still in America so we will arrange it when we return.”
Stanley Louis Szecowka
Editor/Journalist & Blogger, Restaurant & Motors Reviewer, FinTech Writer, Manager, Trainer.
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