World’s oldest living roadie tells his story in documentary “King of the Roadies”

Cat Cardenas

At age 15, Ben Dorcy became an Ice Capades dancer. A few years later he became a Navy seaman, and now, at 90 years old, he is the world’s oldest living roadie.

In the upcoming biographical documentary “King of the Roadies” Dorcy will take a step from the backstage and into the spotlight.

Set to release in 2016, the film has been the project of Trevor Nelson and Amy Nelson — grandnephew and daughter of musician Willie Nelson, respectively — for over 10 years. The “King of the Roadies” team plans to fund the film through a Kickstarter campaign that ends June 21.

A longtime friend of the roadie, country music star Willie Nelson will narrate Dorcy’s tale. The film follows Dorcy on tour and features interviews from musicians such as Kinky Friedman and Jamey Johnson who have known him for years. 

“[Dorcy] is a legend among the stars,” Amy said. “No one outside of them knows who he is and we wanted to make that right with this film.”

Throughout Dorcy’s lengthy career as a roadie, Amy said he has relied on two things: his strong work ethic and his unwavering loyalty. Whether it meant finding fried chicken for Ray Price in the middle of the night or taking an ashtray to the head in defense of Willie Nelson, they could always count on Dorcy.

“They say if you say Ben Dorcy three times, he’ll appear,” Amy said. “He’s a friend and a confidant. There are several stories we want him to tell, but he won’t because it would be a breach of confidence."

The road crews and musicians show their gratitude for Dorcy, who no longer has living relatives, by continually stepping in as his makeshift family. They celebrate Dorcy’s dedication with a "Dorcy Day" in which the proceeds of their performances go to him.

“They’re my family,” Dorcy said. “They take care of me. I’ve been on the road for so long and everybody just wants respect. We just all want respect and friendship."

In the 64 years he’s been on the road, Dorcy has left his mark on the musicians he's worked with. Memorialized in the Waylon Jennings song “Ode to Ben,” many musicians liken him to the Godfather or even God himself. In his circle of musicians, almost everyone has a Ben Dorcy story to tell, such as country artist Johnny Bush.

“Anything you say about [Dorcy], as wild as it was, you don’t have to make up anything because it actually happened,” Bush said in the film’s trailer.

Although appearances from famous artists, such as Bush, Kinky Friedman and Willie Nelson may draw people in, Trevor said people will stay for Dorcy.

“When I first started this movie, I thought it would just be about [Dorcy’s] history,” Trevor said. “The more time I spent with him, the more I became interested in who he is now. At 90 years old, what kept him going?”

After spending these years with Dorcy, Trevor said his perspective on life has changed and hopes the audience’s do too.

“Life is what you make it and [Dorcy] has made himself an incredible life,” Trevor said. “Ben is 90 and full of limitations but doesn't let them get in his way. If just one person walks away inspired to live their life differently, we’ll have done our job."