Story by Jen Bookhout
As customers arrive at The Artichoke Sandwich Bar, many glance around the parking lot in search of Patrick Audley’s red and white 1958 Chevrolet Impala. Audley is in high demand; his customers want to visit with him and enjoy his company.
“He’s very charismatic,” wife Molly Audley said. “He’s humble, and he’s just genuinely a nice person.”
Audley was recently inducted into the Kansas Bluegrass Association Hall of Fame for his support of bluegrass and acoustic music. He opened The Artichoke in February of 1984, and wanted to bring musicians in for weekend performances.
“I didn’t want to be identified as a north end bar, or I didn’t want to be identified as a biker bar, or country bar,” Audley said. “I was just looking for an identity.”
Audley was familiar with bluegrass music from his time at Southwestern College in Winfield between 1973 and 1977, and a friend suggested he bring him some acoustic acts.
“The Walnut Valley Festival was just beginning to develop at that time, so I knew about acoustic music and I liked the idea of it, and I’d been exposed to it,” he said. “So we tried it, and it was very successful.”
Audley scheduled any bluegrass bands that were interested, promoting the weekend shows with posters around town. News of the venue’s endeavors spread through word of mouth, and the audiences grew.
“He just wants everybody to have an outlet, so he was able to provide that,” Molly said.
In the beginning, acoustic acts were hard to come by, but as time went on more and more of them began to pop up on the music scene in Wichita.
“When I first started doing the acoustic music, I was the only one doing acoustic music,” he said. “Very, very few venues would even touch it. I don’t know why; I guess they all liked either country or rock ‘n’ roll.”
Time proved that bluegrass music was the right choice for The Artichoke, and a consistent audience grew. For many years, Audley pulled double duty as bar owner and teacher, teaching for USD 259.
“He’s just naturally a teacher,” Molly said.
Molly’s first experience with Audley was seeing him teaching young children. The pair met in 1999 when they were both working at Judge Riddel’s boys’ ranch. The couple married in 2007, and has seven children between the two of them.
Now, the two share the responsibilities of running The Artichoke. Audley’s battle with cancer has slowed him down somewhat, but it isn’t keeping him away from his “home away from home.”
“He’s very dedicated,” Molly said.
He makes a trip in every day to answer phones, complete bookwork and just catch up with day-to-day events.
Audley was inducted into the Kansas Bluegrass Association Hall of Fame on Saturday, Feb. 22, an award that was unexpected for him. He knew that his friend Brad Bennett had nominated him, but he never expected anything to come of it.
“I am humbled to be up there on that stage with the other inductees,” Audley said.
Also inducted that day was Orin Friesen from the band Prairie Rose. Friesen has hosted a syndicated bluegrass show for nearly 40 years, and Audley was surprised to find himself in the same company.
“He got inducted, and I was on the same stage as Orin, and I was just very proud to be up there,” Audley said.
Molly is proud of Audley for his work, and his induction to the Hall of Fame, but Audley is a bit reluctant to take credit for doing anything special.
“I just had a small part in establishing—I mean, I’m sure acoustic music was already established long before I came around, but I just gave it a face, or a venue to play at,” he said.
For more information on The Artichoke Sandwich Bar, visit www.artichokesandwichbar.com.