Tag Archive: Sons of Hermann Hall

DSC06834When you take on the “job” of hosting an open mic, you know it’s going to be an uphill climb. You create an event on Facebook, send out emails, post updates, and hope for the best. Each week you hope enough people show up to satisfy the owner or manager of the venue. You live with the fact that it can be canceled at any moment.

You also know that there will be a night when no one shows up. Hopefully, again, the owner/manager will overlook it for now. Then there is that nightmare open mic. I know, because it happened to me this past month. I am the Showcase Director for the Dallas Songwriters Association. I was at Sons of Hermann Hall for the third Tuesday open mic.

The month before was less than well attended. This past third Tuesday, there was a meeting of the Dallas Historical Society from 6 – 8 p.m. in the bar, and the open mic was to start in the bowling alley ballroom at 7:30. I sat in the ballroom, eating a sandwich, tuning my guitar, and having conversations with myself in my head. The nightmare had begun.

No one showed up. Every so often someone in the DHS meeting would wander into the bowling alley seeking a quiet place to talk on their phone. They would look at me and turn around and go back toward the bar area. I played a few songs for practice. After an hour and a half, I packed up. I talked to the manager of the hall and we agreed to meet and brainstorm new ideas.

I put my stuff in the car. As I was loading my guitar, a guy walked out of the hall and came toward me.

“Do you need any help loading anything? I was coming back to play with you.”

My heart sank. I sat alone for an hour and a half wishing someone would show up and when I hung it up and packed up, someone shows up. We could have gone back in, but the Hall was winding down and would not be open much longer. And I was packed.

“I’m sorry. I sat there for an hour and a half and nobody came.”

“No worries. Are there other open mics around?”

“There are two other open mics in Deep Ellum on Tuesday. I’m not exactly sure where but they should still be going on for a while.”

I handed him my card and apologized again. As I went around to the driver’s side, I watched him turn right out of the gate and head down the street.

We’ll work things out, make some changes, and try again – or something else. But that doesn’t clear the memory of my host’s nightmare open mic.

Peace be with you.

Jeff Hopson

Jeff Hopson

The Poor David’s Pub open mic on Monday (the 8th if you were napping) began the way most of them do – with Mr. Troll in the “dreaded opening spot” (look for an upcoming post on that). Mike Donahue played a mixture of originals and cover songs on the keyboard. I followed Mike with three of my songs, ending with Chocolate Eclairs and Apple Fritters. Since we started late, the featured artist, Jeff Hopson, followed me.

Jeff Hopson has a strong grip, a twinkle in his eye, and his presence commands a second look. He appears to be a cross between Charlie Daniels, David Allan Coe, and Hank Williams Jr. And yet – while there are similiarities – he actually doesn’t really look like any of them. He looks like Jeff Hopson and carries it with character. His songwriting talent is on par with any of the songwriters he appears to resemble.

Hopson doesn’t take himself too seriously. Which is clearly evident in Jeff’s Jeff Hopson 3songs. Particularly a song such as If Jesus was a Texan. When he asked if anyone knew who Jack Kerouac was, and nearly everyone raised their hand, Hopson commented that it was the most people at any one show that had responded positively. Then he played his introspective song, Kerouac On the Run.

Jeff’s set also included Novel Sort of Man. Which is the type of country song with some depth and clever word play. No obligatory mention of trains, trucks, or Texas destinations. The only name he dropped was Clark Gable – and he would have appreciated the reference.

You can hear Jeff Hopson and the Heretics on Tuesday nights at the open mic at Tavern on Main Street in Richardson. The music begins at 8 p.m. He is an attentive and appreciative host. And they have good food and drinks as well.

Charlotta Clutter

Charlotta Clutter

John Mason and Brad Eubanks, respectively, followed Jeff Hopson. You can hear John Mason on February 16 at the Dallas Songwriters Association third Tuesday showcase at Sons of Hermann Hall. After Brad Eubanks played, Troll introduced Charlotta Clutter.

Charlotta Clutter is a young woman from New Hampshire. When I met Charlotta, she made me think of beatniks – not the totality of the reality, but simply the sense of non-conformity. Her eyes revealed an innocence belying the things to come. Combined with self-reliance for what is known and acceptance of – and openness to – what is to come. A readiness to turn any new lessons learned into a song and move on to the next lesson. An introverted extrovert. (I’ll wait for you to either look them up, or, more likely, say “I can relate.”)

Charlotta has a casual stage presence that reminded me of women folk singers in the sixties and seventies. An intentional reliance on the song itself to make the point and the confidence that it would. And she’s also funny as hell.                                                                                   Charlotta Clutter 2

“Do you go to the dump here?” Of course everyone laughed. When we say the dump, we mean the furniture store. “Back home we go to the dump once a week to see what everyone is throwing away and socialize.”

I’m not exactly sure what the name of the song is, other than possibly, The Dump. But it tells about a woman going to the dump and discovering that her ex had thrown away their dirty secrets in a clear plastic bag, for everyone to see. Causing humorous reactions.

Charlotta’s other two songs were Playing Second Fiddle to a Fiddle and Alphabet of Regrets. All three songs have interesting word play and twists. You can hear her yourself at the DSA Tuesday Showcase/Open mic mentioned earlier. Dean Harlem, also from New Hampshire, opened his set with a Townes Van Zandt tune. He will be at the open mic as well.

Flight School Nurses, a DJ, took the evening’s music in a whole new direction, with colorful lights. The inimitable Tin Man Travis followed him. Then David Lavinette took the stage. If I’m not mistaken, the evening ended with a jam that included Carlos Sanchez, Tin Man Travis, who knows who all, and Troll on his new conga drums.

Peace be with you.

Dan Roark 2If you weren’t at the inaugural DSA Third Tuesday Showcase/Open Mic, you really missed out – seriously. You missed out a great show. You missed out on playing the open mic. And you missed out on hearing music in Sons of Hermann Hall, a historic building with a history preceding Elm St./Deep Ellum and even country music (obviously not Elm St. the street, but the Elm St. of the blues). The acoustics in the Old Bowling Alley Ballroom need to be experienced. And, yes, it used to be a bowling alley.

Host Dan Roark played an abbreviated set due to circumstances. He included the Hitchhiking Song which is about an actual occurrence. Dan ended with River That Flows, one of his signature songs that he co-wrote with Tim Duggins.

Cat McGee

Cat McGee

Cat McGee (don’t you love that name) played next and presented an excellent set of songs and stories. The soft-spoken nature of her speaking voice belies the power in her singing voice. She talked of the fellow worker who was pregnant and shared her experiences with Cat. Nine months later, she had a baby, and Cat had a song. You can hear her music and find out more on her website and her Facebook page.

Terry Bloss mentioned how lucky he was to be there. Sunday night he had no voice at all. But thanks to the tag team of God and his doctor, he was ready to sing. He did not play a full set, electing to ere on the side of caution. Terry did, however, perform some of his best songs. Which included a new song

Terry Bloss

Terry Bloss

entitled I’m Being Terrorized.

John Mason was the only singer/songwriter who signed up for the open mic. Which is a shame because there was a small, but enthusiastic crowd who enjoyed the songs and the music. John has a hypnotic voice and writes very good songs. He commented that he was there for the acoustics.

Those who didn’t come out missed the chance to play for that enthusiastic crowd and with the good acoustics. But never fear, you will have another chance on Tuesday, February 16th at the next Third Tuesday Showcase/Open Mic. The showcase performers will be announced later, but put it on your calendar so you can plan to join us for the showcase and play in the open mic.

John Mason

John Mason


Peace be with you.


Dan Roark and Roy Elkins

Dan Roark and Roy Elkins

People began to arrive at Sons of Hermann Hall at 6:30 on Tuesday, December 8 for the Dallas Songwriters Association (DSA) Song Contest Award Ceremony and Christmas party. Board members Barbe McMillen, Bobby Montgomery, Ken Duren, and Dan Roark, with member and SOHH employee, Lisa Byrn, David Lewis (SOHH), and the sound man, Logan Hughes, had arrived early to set up the hall. Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Roy Elkins, CEO of Broadjam.com, pitched in to help Bobby set up the food tables. Board member, James Pappas, owner of Dallas Ice Sculptures, supplied the Christmas tree sculpture for the table.
Christmas Tree Ice Sculpture
The ceremony began promptly at 7 p.m. with a welcome from Barbe McMillen, DSA Founding President Emeritus and an explanation of the song contest process and breakdown of prizes. She then introduced MC Roy Elkins. As mentioned earlier, Roy is founder and ceo of Broadjam.com. He came down from Wisconsin a day early to present a free workshop the night before at Tone Shop Guitars in Addison. The workshop was called Your Music and Your Business. Elkins shared from his experiences in the music business and Broadjam, as well as information from music contacts. More information about the workshop can be found here.

AudienceAfter a few opening comments, Roy introduced Dickey Johnson. Dickey, along with Mary Guthrie and Mary Hestand (Sugar Daddy and the M&Ms), played his winning critique song, Alone with Alone. Then Elkins introduced Dan Roark, Showcase, Workshop, and Lyric Contest Director. Dan gave a short bio of the Americana judge, Kendra Terry, booking manager at Uncle Calvin’s Coffee House. He read the list of semifinalists and announced the winners.

Roark then introduced Katie Riley, with her mother and sister. They played both of Katie’s Dan Roarksemfinal songs, I Believe (Christian), and Dry Bones (Pop/rock). After which, Dan gave a short bio of the Christian/Inspirational judge, Scott Dicken, currently music director at Christ United Methodist Church in Farmers Branch. He then read the semifinalists and announced the winners, before introducing Rio King. Rio played his four winning critique songs, Sweet Rolls and Cream, Boogie Woogie Rhythm, Boomer Boogie, and The Old Wrecked Vet.

Roy Elkins stepped back up and introduced Bobby Montgomery, DSA Executive Vice President, and 2014 Songwriter of the year. Bobby gave a short bio of Larry Beaird, owner of Beaird Music Group, and judge of the country category. After reading the semifinalists and announcing the country winners, Montgomery introduced M’Lynn Musgrove. M’Lynn played her two semifinalist songs, Healed, and Preaching to the Choir, both in the singer-songwriter category.

M'Lynn Musgrove

M’Lynn Musgrove

Elkins then introduced Michael Brandenberger, DSA President. Michael gave a bio of the Instrumental judge, Tony Hakim, owner of jazz venue, Kitchen Café, and a positive force in the Dallas-Ft. Worth jazz scene for over 25 years. After reading the semifinalists and announcing the winners, Brandenberger introduced Dori Weavers, who played her winning critique song, Waiting to Breathe. He then read the Love Songs/Easy Listening semi-finalists and announced the winners.

Barbe McMillen came back to the podium to give a bio of the Children’s/Novelty judge, Monty Harper, who has been on the Oklahoma Arts Council Touring Roster since 1995. Barbe read the semifinalists and announced the winners. She then introduced, Jon Storm. Jon played his semifinalist song in the Pop/Rock category, Love Me Now.

Roy Elkins returned to the podium and introduced Harry Hewlett, co-director of the song

Warren Hanson

Warren Hanson

contest this year and director next year. Harry gave a short bio of Pop/Rock judge Kathy Forste, who has worked in television and radio for the past 30 years in various capacities. He read the semifinalists and announced the winners. Then he introduced Warren Hanson, who performed his semifinalist song in the singer-songwriter category, Just Lucky I Guess.

Roy Elkins returned to introduce Michael Waid. Michael performed his singer-songwriter semifinal song, Lost and Found. Roy then introduced Jennifer Marler, who, joined with her husband, Justin, played her semifinalist song, Memories Don’t Burn. Then Elkins called Barbe McMillen back to the podium.

Harry Hewlett, Dori Weaver, and Michael Brandenberger

Harry Hewlett, Dori Weaver, and Michael Brandenberger

Barbe gave a brief bio of singer-songwriter judge, David Card, owner of Poor David’s Pub, one of Dallas’ best listening rooms. David also founded the BW Stevenson Memorial Singer-Songwriter Competition. Then Barbe read the semifinalists and announced the winners. She then announced the winner of the iPod for which each contest entrant received an entry. The winner was Samuel Miller from Chico, California. Miller’s song, Can’t Get Enough, was a semifinalist song in the singer-songwriter category.

McMillen explained the judging process – which can be found on the DSA website – and introduced grand prize judge, Roy Elkins. Roy talked about the song entries and announced the Grand Prize winner. He then introduced Buck Morgan, who played his winning critique song, Jimmy Loves Jesus. Elkins then introduced Bobby Montgomery, who played his winning critique song, Give ‘Em Time, Lord.

Harry Hewlett, Rio King,Barbe McMillen

Harry Hewlett, Rio King,Barbe McMillen

Roy brought Harry Hewlett back to the podium. Harry explained the process for song of the year. Then he gave a short bio of the song of the year judge, Ian Dickson, a singer-songwriter having performed for a number of years. Then Harry announced the Song of the Year winner. Harry made some closing remarks and then Michael Brandenberger started the open mic. A list of semifinalists can be found here and the a list of winners can be found here.

Although time and space did not allow me to elaborate more, all the performances were wonderful and the evening was a huge success.

Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

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