Day Trippin’ to Athens, Tx – East Texas Arboretum

Athens Texas, is much like many of the small towns the dot the quilted landscape of Texas. It is underrated and overlooked, despite the fact that beneath its sleepy, Americana facade there are many local treasures waiting to be discovered by passersby who are willing to spend a little time digging.

A stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of urban sprawl that is the Metroplex, the quaint, laid back town of Athens gives city dwellers a chance to reconnect with their roots, spread their wings and breathe deeply. To be honest, I’m a country girl and if I don’t manage to get the occasional breath of fresh country air, I begin to wither. Not only did I feel unwithered by days end after my day trip to Athens, I felt revitalized, connected and inspired.

My friends and I headed east, away from Fort Worth on 1-20, before taking the exit for Highway 175. Before long, as the city skyline faded in the rearview mirror,we noticed that the flat, cement covered byways have given way to rolling green hills, covered with black walnut, hickory and oak trees, that were dotted with clapboard homes with gingerbread trim, and aged barns with an occasional Lone Star flag painted proudly on its roof.

As we drove up the back-road to the gate of the arboretum I could already tell  that this was going to be an afternoon in the kind of natural setting that pleases me most. Against the backdrop of wide open fields with majestic oaks that offered shade from the afternoon sun for a handful of grazing horses, the last of this season’s wildflowers hung on for one last show of color as patches of black-eyed susans, and lavender phlox rested at the feet of spiraling honeysuckle vines and wild plums climbed the rustic fence posts. A closer look revealed the ominous looking Texas bull-nettle plant that promised fruit later this summer, for the most daring scavenger.

If Athens is filled with ‘waiting to be discovered’ treasures, the East Texas Arboretum is undoubtedly its crown jewel. Tucked away on over a hundred acres, the Arboretum’s Executive Director, Teresa Glasgow, tells us this is where the the Piney Woods and Prairie regions of Texas meet. It was also soon obvious that this is also where history, art, nature and wildlife are melded together to make an enjoyable and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

These days hands on experience with such a vast cross-section of nature is sadly a rare experience for some children, but at the Arboretum, the World of Nature is within ready reach. Supported by the generosity of its patrons, benefactors and the public, the non-profit gardens is an experience waiting to happen. Not only will visitors find vibrant, colorful gardens to stroll through, but thanks to the tireless efforts of Glasgow, and a handful of volunteers and board members, the East Texas Arboretum is a living, breathing and growing educational experience, a recreational venue and a history preservation project all rolled up into one.

The back section of land is a combination of wetlands and forest, accessible by easy grade hiking trails, including a portion designed to be accessible for wheelchairs. Keep in mind you’re in a living breathing environment, and as such you may encounter things you may not have experienced if you’re entirely city born and bred. It is always a good idea to plan well and be educated when communing in nature. Fortunately education is a large part of the Arboretum’s mandate and mission. They spend considerable time and effort educating the next generation about the value of preservation and conservation, igniting sparks of passion, while instilling respect for the environment for which they will inherit the responsibility to conserve and protect for their children.

Here you will find the familiar and fragrant beauty of magnolia trees and bushes of gardenias, but there are other native plants and flora to discover, such as the carnivorous pitcher plant that thrives in the wetland’s bog area. A short walk past through the woods, past the Two Doug Bridge, (look for the beaver dam on your left hand side) you’ll find yourself standing a top of the wooden observation deck, where you can spot the yellow clusters of the pitcher plant peering our from the thick overgrowth. A few months from now, as summer fades, this entire area will be painted with the vibrant hues of Autumn, and it will definitely warrant a return visit.

A bit farther down the path you will find yourself crossing over to the other side (of the creek that is) via a 115 foot wooden  suspension bridge that connects the new trail with the older one, taking you full circle back to the Arborteum’s main grounds.  It was 85 degrees the day we went on this short hike, and if we’d been back in Fort Worth we’d have been reaching for the A/C switch, but out underneath the canopy of trees, accompanied by a slight breeze that rustled through the leaves, the temperature was perfect.

History also takes a front row seat at the East Texas Arboretum, offering visitors a first hand look at how Texas’ settlers used to live. The Wofford House, built in 1851, was relocated to the Arboretum in 2001 from its original location, near Fincastle.

A living museum, as well as a tribute to days gone by, the house is decorated with period furnishings and memorabilia down to a backyard kitchen garden complete with a well-dressed scarecrow, the rockers on the front porch, and ready set tables in the kitchen and dining areas. It doesn’t take much imagination to imagine how peaceful it would feel to sit on the porch, with a glass of sweet tea after a hard day’s work in the summer, and watch the sun go down.

Almost next door to the Wofford House, is ‘Granny’s Little Schoolhouse’, a replica of a one room schoolhouse from the 1800’s. It was built in 2007, as a tribute to Genevieve  Monkhouse, a long time area school teacher. Here children that visit the Arboretum relive history first hand, while learning about the area’s botanic environment.

While the venue has something of interest for all ages, children are especially welcome here. Valued as future conservators, they are at the forefront of the educational programs offered by the Arboretum. Each year hundreds of children visit the area with school or club groups to learn about the wonders of nature, first hand. And when the learning is done, children of all abilities will find the play area to be a great way to let off some steam. The playground boasts two playhouses, a butterfly garden, sand play areas, and a unique slide built into the side of a hill.

The venue is dotted with miniature gardens to meander through,  water gardens with  flowering lily pads and trickling streams, and arbors that invite visitors to sit a spell. Most of the gardens, buildings and displays were made possible by generous donations. The governing society also rents out the facility, in order to help raise funds for operating and expansion costs. The large pavilion at the center of the groomed gardens and its picturesque backdrop is the perfect setting for a wedding or any other special occasion. The facility also hosts its own events to help offset costs, including a yearly gala and garden concerts.  On Sunday, May 26th they will host a dedication for the new  Garden in the Forest and the handicapped garden trail at 2 p.m.

In addition, each Tuesday night in August, the Arboretum will host Strolling in the Park, where visitors will enjoy a social evening complete with music and star gazing. There are also plans for an Art in the Park event and in August, keep your eye out for a possible Elvis sighting. More information will be posted on these special events on their website and Facebook page.

Grass does not grow under the feet of those responsible for operating the Arboretum, and expansion plans and fund-raising efforts are always underway. As Executive Director, Teresa Glasgow has a long wish list of things she’d love to see happen, and given the extensive growth and development the venue has seen under her direction over the past few years, it’s a safe bet they will be happening sooner rather than later. On the wish list are a number of projects including new inclusive play ground equipment, an amphitheater, security cameras and a lavender field.  Recent additions to the park include the Maury Ward Windmill, Texas Garden and the Kathy Glass Gazebo.

While You’re In the Area 

Athens’ wonders don’t stop at the Arboretum although it is a great place to start. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day. The entry fee of $2.00 per person over 12 years of age, is a bargain by any standard. When you’ve had your fill of beauty, fresh air and history there are ziplines, museums and the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center to keep you busy. We plan on taking a trip back in the Fall to explore all of these and more, but don’t wait for us to give you the scoop — discover the East Texas Arboretum and Athens, Texas for yourself.

Where to Eat

If you’re looking for a local restaurant that fits into a day of discovery and history, I recommend Ochoas Mexican Restaurant. The family owned eatery has been in the Athens area since 1969 and is now operated by the sons of the original owners. The decor is quaint, the people are friendly and the food is some of the best Tex-Mex cuisine, and the most extensive, and varied menu I’ve encountered, since arriving in Texas.

The restaurant’s emphasis is on customer service, and serving memorable meals is definitely a way to make that happen. I recommend the Grilled Steak Queso Fundido as an appetizer, followed by the Puffy Tacos. If you’re still hungry the sweetness of the sopapillas, drizzled with honey and melted butter are a mouthwatering way to end your meal.

As we left Athens later that day, the last burst of color streaked across the sky, while a longhorn cow fed her new calf, and rain rusted windmills churned gently in the evening breeze. The three of us were headed home to the Metroplex, with our spirits rejuvenated and our minds churning with all of the things we’d learned that day, and on the wind was a promise made by each one of us, that we would indeed  be returning.

How to Get There

You can find the Arboretum at 1601 Patterson Rd. in Athens, Texas.
Entry fees are $2.00 for those over 12 years of age (payable on the honor system)

You can find out more about the East Texas Arboretum by visiting their website at www.  or by locating them on Facebook at

Categories: Culture, Day Trips, Food, History, Places to Visit and Explore, Restaurant Reviews, The Great Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Brings Almost Five Decades of Hits to Arlington Music Hall

Any entertainer will tell you that being in a band is sometimes just as stressful as being married to 3 or 4 people at the same time. Those that remain together after a couple of years are fortunate, and those that make it past ten years have achieved more than most. The award winning Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has weathered many years together, after their first performance in 1966.  Since then they’ve accumulated a string of hit songs and tallied up countless road miles together. Last Friday night, they rode into Arlington, and entertained a willing crowd for a few hours, that seemed to fly by all too quickly.

Individually, the band is comprised of Jeff Hanna, John McEuen, Jimmie Fadden and Bob Carpenter; collectively their  musicianship and songwriting skills are formidable. They’ve spent a lifetime not only being ground-breakers, but also, bridge builders, carrying the tradition of great music of forward in its purest form, for future generations.

On Friday night, their sole purpose was to entertain, and they hit the target spot on while rockin’, pickin’ and twangin’ their way through a handful of newer songs interspersed with a healthy representation of their greatest hits from Fishin’ in the Dark and Mr Bojangles to Dance Little Jean and Face on the Cutting Room Floor, just to name a few.

What makes the NGDB legendary is much more than their accumulated platinum and gold records; it is their stellar musicianship, and how the spotlight at center stage is shared as much as possible, while showcasing the versatility of the band’s talent. Last Friday, Jimmie Fadden stepped out from behind his drums, and into the spotlight with his harp,  and Bob Carpenter left his keyboard to perform The Broken Road, with Jeff Hanna accompanying him on guitar. John McEuen, who originally helped found the band, could, and has been, a one man show, himself. He switched instruments at ease, and his talents, whether they be on mandolin, fiddle or banjo, are an integral component that helped create the band’s signature sound.

No NGDB show would be complete without a performance of their biggest and most recognizable song, Will The Circle Be Unbroken and the band not only didn’t disappoint, but they also kicked things up a notch, by calling up Rudy Gatlin to the stage to help them sing it. It was a fitting end to an evening well spent, with good music and good friends.

Find out more about the band, and their music at:

The Arlington Music Hall’s Country Music series continues with even more of your favorite country music artists. Lined up to appear soon are:

George Jones – April 27th
Leroy Van Dyke, Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius and Rex Allen Jr. –  May 11th
Bryan White – May 26th
Deryl Dodd –  Jun 22nd
Gene Watson –  Aug 3rd

Find out more here.

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Fort Worth’s Water Gardens — An Oasis Amid a Concrete Jungle

Fort Worth has many green spaces, peppered across its landscape of cement and glass, and fortunately. most of them are free for the offering. One of these such places is located in the middle of the downtown core. The contemporary park stands in stark contrast to its history. The area known as Hell’s Half Acre was notorious in Fort Worth’s early years, for its brothels, gambling and gunfights.

The refreshing oasis was a gift to the people of Fort Worth from the Amon Carter Foundation, and designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee. Built in 1974, the futuristic park is best experienced first-hand because pictures just don’t do it justice. Although the expanse appears to be almost completely taken  up by water and cement, the area also touts over 500 species of plants and trees.  In the hot days of summer, the Water Gardens offer heat weary visitors a refreshing place to unwind.

Although swimming is definitely prohibited in the all of the pools located on the site’s 4.3 acre spread, the abundance of shade trees and cool misted air from the pools themselves will definitely help you cool down. It’s a great place to walk, relax and think, with its three very distinct pools set amid an artistically designed urban landscape of tiered cement blocks, against the backdrop of Fort Worth’s towering skyscrapers. The entire park is a vital, moving piece of art.

Quiet Pool

Philip Johnson, the architect for the project, took inspiration from the childhood literary classic, Alice in Wonderland, when designing the park and nowhere is it more evident than when you go down the narrow stairs to the Quiet Pool. As you descend the staircase, you can’t help but feel larger than life, but as you reach the bottom, the space opens up. The pool is large, towered by bald Cyprus trees with the towering skyscrapers of Fort Worth for the backdrop. You feel as if you’ve entered a land of giants. Taking into account all of the ways a body experiences a space, the architects paid particular attention to the element of sound in its design, and its effect is tangible as one embraces the serene calmness of the park’s Quiet Pool, as a sheet of water cascades down the walls, and enters the tranquil stillness of the pool.

The downtown core serves as a backdrop for the sereneness of the Water Gardens' Quiet Pool

Aerated/Dancing Pool

The architects considered the Aerated Pool the most difficult, in terms of moving from vision to reality. The space, built  forty feet under ground, consists of forty evenly spaced fountains that continuously spout droplets of water, that dance across the pool’s surface. The tiered blocks surrounding the pool, offer many places to sit and watch the mesmerizing display.

Forty fountains are used to make the water dance on the surface of the Aerated Pool

Active Pool

The Active Pool will take your breath away the first time, and every time,  it comes into view. Cascading waterfalls drop down 36 feet of the labyrinth’s tiered cement walls into a shallow pool below. The site sadly is also where a tragedy of epic proportions occurred in 2004 that resulted in four deaths. The city closed the park for an extended time, until the adaptions could be made to the design to make it safer. Although the safety measures are significant, as a parent I would caution you to watch your young children carefully around the pool area, particularly as you descend the stairs down into the pool’s center.

The Active Pools live up to their name, and are the Water Park's most photographed pool (photo by Brian Roper)

The Water Gardens are one of the architectural treasures of Fort Worth. The list of reason’s why a visit to the park is a must, is a long one, but topping the list for me is that it’s free of charge, dynamic and a great place in this busy city to relax and cool off on a hot day.

The Water Gardens are located adjacent to the FW Convention Center in the downtown core, between Commerce and Houston Sts. Pack a picnic lunch, a book you’ve been wanting to read, or someone special and experience the serenity for yourself.

Categories: Culture, Places to Visit and Explore, The Great Outdoors | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Texas Regional Radio Music Awards – this Sunday – March 25 at the Arlington Music Hall

We’ll be there!

Press Release:


Fort Worth, TX (March 20, 2012) – The 2ndAnnual Texas Regional Music Awards will be held this Sunday at 4:00 p.m. at the Arlington Music Hall in Arlington, TX. The show has grown from humble beginnings of small acoustic performances last year to full blown production numbers from the top Texas/Red Dirt artists using their full bands for 2012. The show will be hosted by Texas Country Superstar, Deryl Dodd and Ali Dee, star of CMT’s popular reality show, “Texas Women.”

A very special opening number showcasing the songs up for song of the year will be done by Steve Helms, Matt Hillyer of 1100 Springs and Bo Phillips. The Casey Donahew Band, who has five nominations, will show the crowd why they sell out shows across the country with their full band performing, “Double Wide Dream.” Emcee’s, Deryl Dodd and Ali Dee, will take the stage to show us what it’s like to see them live out on the Texas road. Randy Rogers and Brady Black are preparing a special acoustic performance of a song from their album of the year nominated, BURNING THE DAY. Blacktop Gypsy, T. J. Broscoff, Kylie Rae Harris, and Zane Williams, who all found a new way to get their music out to the public by being picked to be on the nationally syndicated show, Troubadour TX, will be performing.

The presenter line-up is pretty impressive which includes: Casey James, Wade Bowen, Larry Joe Taylor, Phil Hamilton, John David Kent, Stephanie Urbana Jones, Sonny Burgess, Matt Kimbrow, Jerrod Medulla, Rachel Stacy, Bri Bagwell, Chance Cody, Jerrod Medulla, Nick Verzoza, Jolie Holiday and Charla Corn.

There are a few tickets remaining for the public. They can be purchased on-line at For more information on the Texas Regional Music Association please go to:

2012 Nominees

Entertainer of the Year
Wade Bowen
Casey Donahew Band
Kevin Fowler
Randy Rogers Band
Eli Young Band

Male Vocalist of the Year
Wade Bowen
Hayes Carll
Kevin Fowler
Stoney LaRue
Aaron Watson

Female Vocalist of the Year
Bri Bagwell
Charla Corn
Kristen Kelly
Rachel Stacy
Sunny Sweeney

Duo/Group/Band of the Year
Josh Abbott Band
Casey Donahew Band
Randy Rogers Band
Turnpike Troubadours
Eli Young Band

Single of the Year
“Crazy Girl” – Eli Young Band
“Double Wide Dream” – Casey Donahew Band
“Kissed You In The Rain” – Matt Kimbrow
“She’s Cold As That Beer She’s Drinking” – Jamie Richards
“Velvet” – Stoney LaRue

Album of the Year
“Burning the Day” – Randy Rogers Band
“Double Wide Dream” – Casey Donahew Band
“Good Luck & True Love” – Reckless Kelly
“This Is Indian Land” Cody Canada & the Departed
“Velvet” – Stoney LaRue

Song of the Year
“Crazy Girl” – Eli Young Band
“Hell Yeah, I Like Beer” – Kevin Fowler
“Lord, I hope This Day Is Good” – Brandon Rhyder
“Texas Kind of Way” – Cody Johnson
“Velvet” – Stoney LaRue

Music Video of the Year
“Ballad of a Southern Man” – Whiskey Myers
“Crazy Girl” – Eli Young Band
“Hell Yeah, I Like Beer” – Kevin Fowler
“Oh, Tonight” – Josh Abbott Band
“Whiskey Days” – JB and the Moonshine Band

New Male Vocalist of the Year
Chance Cody
William Clark Green
Phil Hamilton
Matt Kimbrow
Bo Phillips
Zane Williams

New Female Vocalist of the Year
Ali Dee
Sheila Marshall
Kat Moore
Danielle Reed
Heather Roberts

New Duo/Group/Band of the Year
Blacktop Gypsy
Scotty Thurman & the Perfect Trouble Band
Six Market Blvd
The Damn Quails
The Rankin Twins

Record Label of the Year
Almost Country Records
Average Joe’s
BGM Records
Smith Music Group
Winding Road Music

Event of the Year
Curing Cancer Music Fest – Ballinger, TX
Larry Joe Taylor’s Texas Music Festival
The Music Fest – Steamboat 2011
Ranch Bash 2011 (Fort Worth)
Tommy Alverson’s Family Gathering

Radio Station of the Year – Super Market
KFWR – 95.9 The Ranch – Fort Worth
KHYI – 95.3 The Range – Dallas
KPLX 99.5 The Wolf – Dallas
KVET 98.1 – Austin

Radio Station of the Year – Large Market
KBCY 99.7 – Abilene
KJDL 105.3 The Red Dirt Rebel – Lubbock
KKCN 103.1 Kickin’ Country – San Angelo
KNUE 101.5 – Tyler
WACO 99.9 – Waco

Radio Station of the Year – Medium Market
KBEST 95.7 – Big Spring
KGFY 95.7 Cowboy Country – Stillwater, OK
KKAJ 95.7 – Ardmore, OK
KRVF 106.9 The Ranch – Corsicana
KSTV 93.1 The Mighty 93 – Stephenville

Radio Station of the Year – Small Market
KFLP 106.1 FLIP FM – Floydada
KITX 95.5 FM – Hugo, OK
KNAF 105.7/KEEP 101.3 – Fredericksburg
KSNY 1450/101.5 – Snyder
KXOX 96.7 – Sweetwater

Radio Station of the Year – Out of Region
KKOW – Pittsburg, KS
KOTE – Eureka, KS
KVOM – Morrilton, AR
WDMS – Greenville, MS

Internet Radio Station of the Year
Radio Free Texas
The Texas Drive

Syndicated Radio Station of the Year
Big Texas Countdown
Texas Countdown with Chuck Taylor
Texas Country CD Review
Texas Music Radio Show – Gary & Greybeard (
Texas Red Dirt Radio – Justin Frazell (

On-Air Personality of the Year – Super Market
Charla Corn – KFWR 95.9 The Ranch – Fort Worth
Brett Dillon – KHYI 95.3 The Range – Dallas
Adam Drake – KFWR 95.9 The Ranch – Fort Worth
Justin Frazell – KFWR 95.9 The Ranch – Fort Worth
RJ Scott – KPLX 99.5 The Wolf – Front Porch Show

On-Air Personality of the Year – Large Market
JB Cloud – KBCY 99.7 – Abilene
Buddy Logan – KNUE 101.5 – Tyler
Kelley Peterson – KHKX 99.1 – Midland
Ben Ryan – KKCN 103.1 – San Angelo
Neely Yates – KJDL 105.3 – Lubbock

On-Air Personality of the Year – Medium Market
Mike Crow (The Crowman) – KRVF 106.9 – Corsicana
Brad Heitman – KSTV 93.1 – Stephenville
Zac Grantham – KKAJ 95.7 – Ardmore, OK
Jim Nash & Carey Dean – 106.9 The Ranch – Corsicana
Trailboss Troy & Tumbleweed Toni – KTEX 106 – Brenham
Big Jim Russell – 95.3/1460 KCLE – Cleburne

On-Air Personality of the Year – Small Market
Richard Ferguson – KXOX 96.7 – Sweetwater
Will Payne & Barry Diamond – KITX 95.5 – Hugo, OK
JD Rose – KNAF 105.7/KEEP 101.3 – Fredericksburg
Jeri Smith – KRUN 1400 – Ballinger
Suzi-Q (formerly KSNY AM & FM) – Snyder

On-Air Personality of the Year – Out of Region
Josh Douglas – KKOW 96.9 The KOW – Pittsburg, KS
Steve Neimeyer – KOTE 98.5 – Eureka, KS
DK Pierce – WDMS 100.7 – Greenville, MS
Ashton Taylor – KVOM 101.7 – Morrilton, AR

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Mark Your Calenders – March 31st Ennis Cultural Festival in the Park

What a great way to spend a weekend —

Where? Bluebonnet Park, Ennis, Texas
Date/Time: March 31st from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Cost: Free

Bring lawn chairs, picnic basket (no alcohol) and enjoy a wonderful day of live entertainment! If inclement weather it will be at Knights of Columbus Hall, located on 850 S. IH-45

Event includes: Fort Worth Scottish Pipes, Ennis Lionettes, Trinity River Desperados, Salute to Patsy Cline, Cornell Kinderknecht, Bandan Koro African Dance, Salute to the 1940’s, Grupo Pakal Mayan Dance and Tropikal Production.

Conclude the day with a visit along Ennis’ spectacular Bluebonnet Trails — hurry before their gone until next year!


Categories: Culture, Events, Music, Places to Visit and Explore | Leave a comment

Pictorial #2: Fort Worth — A Melding of History and Progress

As I flew over the expanse known as the Metroplex at nightfall in late January, my first impression of my new home was one laced with intimidation. The massive urban sprawl was a far cry from the tiny seaside village I had left behind in Canada. Thankfully, as I have become acquainted with Fort Worth and its surrounding areas, I was able to unearth, quite easily, the traces of the city’s deep roots and history. I have come to view my new home as a place that takes great pride in both its progress and its legacy.

One of the finest examples of his is in the city’s architecture. This is Part Two of a series. Part One can be found here.

Categories: Culture, History, Places to Visit and Explore | Leave a comment

Pictorial #1: Fort Worth — A Melding of History and Progress

As I flew over the expanse known as the Metroplex at nightfall in late January, my first impression of my new home was one laced with intimidation. The massive urban sprawl was a far cry from the tiny seaside village I had left behind in Canada. Thankfully, as I have become acquainted with Fort Worth and its surrounding areas, I was able to unearth, quite easily, the traces of the city’s deep roots and history. I have come to view my new home as a place that takes great pride in both its progress and its legacy.

One of the finest examples of his is in the city’s architecture. This is Part One of a series.

Categories: Culture, History | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Keeping Up With Tradition – Arlington Music Hall Country Music Revue

A good time is waiting to be had every Saturday night at the Arlington Music Hall.

In order for any art form to survive, there must be generations willing to pass on the traditions, thankfully for country music, in Arlington, Texas in a restored theatre, there is no shortage of people willing to share the roots of country music weekly in their live country music revue show every Saturday night. The Arlington Country Music Revue, has some pretty solid roots of its own, its beginnings being established in the 1970’s a few miles away in Fort Worth, Texas with the legendary Johnnie High Country Music Revue. Johnny purchased the former movie theater in Arlington in 1994, making it the permanent home for his highly successful weekly production.

The show’s alumni includes such notable names as LeAnn Rimes, Steve Holy, Lee Ann Womack, Gary Morris, John Anderson and Box Car Willie.  Most recently Baylie Brown has been short listed on this season’s American Idol.

Seating 1200 patrons, the venue has been painstakingly restored to capture the ambiance of the venue’s heyday. A new addition to the theater, however, is the hospitality room where patrons and performers alike gather before, between and after the show to mingle or grab a bite to eat from the snack bar or Babe’s restaurant next door.

Emceed by the affable Michael Hix, the three hour revue has the feel of a small town Opry show, with the evening kicking off recognition being given to the birthdays of audience members.  It’s as if everyone is family, and the lines between performers and audience are blurred so that everyone feels right at home.

Every performer is backed by the venue’s stage band, The Superpicker Band and its no stretch to guess how they came up with their name. Each and every one of them are fine musicians and artists in their own right from Ron Jones on bass who has backed the great Charley Pride to Dale Morris. Jr who tours with Ray Price when he takes his show on the road. Steel player Maurie Anderson is in the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame and Kevin Bailey is a member of the Light Crust Doughboys. Ron Jones #2 (yes there are two band members with the same name) is a versatile addition to the band, and plays saxaphone, flute and guitar as needed.

I’d be hard pressed to pick only a couple of highlights from the evening, because there was one memorable performance after another taking the stage. John Sharp and Krista Bailey kicked things off respectively with Buck Owens’ Act Naturally and Patsy Cline’s Back in Baby’s Arms. Jon Rutherford performed two new original songs, including  one that contained a timely message titled Love Makes the World Go Round.  The remaining versatile cast, a mix of regulars and special guests, pay homage to some of country music’s most endearing legends. The high spirited, raw talent was obvious as sixteen year old Kaylea Harris took to the mic, making her debut on the show, belting out Loretta Lynn’s You Ain’t Woman Enough and Waylon Jennings’ Good Hearted Woman. I couldn’t help but think while I was listening to her that she’s going to go far in this business and some day she’s going to be singing these same on a much larger stage.

Jon Rutherford

Bill Brooks had audience members on their feet after a powerful and emotional performance of Alan Jackson’s I’d Love You All Over Again and Dave Keys sang standards from the back catalog of such endearing legends as George Strait and Lefty Frizzell.

Manuel, a Nashville based designer, who has been behind such notable stage costumes as Johnny Cash’ the “Man in Black suit, and Elvis’ gold lame jumpsuit, also created the white stage costume of the evening’s next performer, Burk Collins. He paid homage to Hank Williams They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me and Standing in the Shadows, a song penned by Hank Williams Jr. about his infamous father. Burk’s connection and commitment to the revue goes deeper than his on stage performances. He and his wife Jean, own and operate Center Street Station, which includes The Arlington Music Hall and the Country Music Revue and adjoining buildings.

Hailing from Sulpher Springs, Texas, Monty Tipps took the stage next. Monty works full time as a Detective Sergeant for the community’s police department and spends his off time spending time with his family and singing real country music. The Arlington Music Hall is pleased to welcome him when he’s able to fit them into his busy schedule and the reason was clear as soon as he began his song selections. He took command of Whisperin’ Bill’s Walk Out Backwards and followed up with Ronnie Milsap’s The Girl Who Wait on Tables.

Clancy Davis made his revue debut singing a couple of standards from Merle Haggard and George Jones. I am certain of two things. One – if I closed my eyes I could have sworn that the Hag and Possum were on stage themselves and secondly, gauging by the response from the audience and fellow performers, this Oklahoma native will be extended a return invitation.

You’d think that everything I’ve told you so far would have been a great evening of country music – but wait. That’s only half of it — literally. After a brief intermission there was more great music to be heard from the bluegrass twang of Krista Bailey to the polished vocals of Ginny Lynn. Mike Stewart brought many smiles to the faces in the audience with a rousing, spirited rendition of the George Jones hit I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair and captured the house’s full attention with Jack Greene’s Statue of a Fool.  The show’s emcee took his turn center stage proving that his gift for gab is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his talent. He easily made his way through Blake Shelton’s Don’t I Matter Anymore and Vince Gill’s Don’t Let Our Love Slip Away. Ginny Lynn made a second appearance and sang the Harlan Howard classic Pick Me Up on Your Way Down and Burk Collins and Monty Tipps teamed up to tackle the Jones/Haggard hit Born With the Blues.

Dave Keys

The evening ended all too soon with Clancy Davis and Dave Keys returning to the stage. Clancy had the crowd revved up with Louisiana Saturday Night and Tennessee Whiskey while Dave turned the fire down a notch, and left everyone feeling mellow, closing with Conway’s Hello Darlin’ and Josh Turner’s Your Man.

As the crowd filtered out I saw smiles on the faces of everyone from the very young, to the not so ready for the rocking chair yet set. Thanks to the Arlington Music Hall and it’s Country Music Revue, its safe to say that the tradition continues.

Upcoming shows in 2012, in addition to the regular Saturday revues:

April 13th – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
April 27th –  George Jones
May 26th – Bryan White
September – Marty Stuart

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