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February 2005

Brad’s Corner is a monthly commentary written by Brad about whatever he feels like. It’s supposed to be funny, interesting and thought provoking, but most geniuses are misunderstood. Check out the February 2005 edition of Brad’s Corner and see what’s on his mind. What makes a good bar? You know, the kind of place where everybody knows your name and all that other good stuff. It can be any number of things I do believe. Location, patrons, prices, percentage of the opposite sex (or if in San Francisco percentage of the same sex), songs on the jukebox, whether the barmaid is hot, whether you are in fear for your life, how many stalls the bathroom has and the general décor.

I’ve been going into bars since I was just a tot. My father owned and operated a gas station right off the Interstate and right across the street from the 1st Baptist Church and a small bar called Booger’s. My dad used to take me in there and I’d watch the old men that usually sat around shooting the breeze at our service station in a new environment. It was as if the guys from King of the Hill just moved down the alley to a new beer guzzling spot. I’d listen to their jokes, choke on their smokes and watch their pool cues push the billiard balls around the table. I’m still not a good pool player and I think my early introduction to the game, which consisted of using my hands to bash the colorful orbs into one another, may not have helped. Booger’s was the kind of place that had those shiny red plastic bar stools, a fuzzy tv in the corner and a really short bar. Mostly, the guys, just stood around in semi-circles telling lies and jokes they’d repeated so often they changed the punch line with each telling. The most infamous story I can recall about ol Booger’s was the day a wedding was taking place across the street at the church and the bride came into the bar in her dress to retrieve her drunken groom. From Booger’s, I graduated to the local Elk’s Lodge where my dad was a member. Every Saturday night my parents drug me up there and I’d play with other children whose parents were sorry for partying. My dad even did the bingo calling sometimes and to me he was a mini-celebrity. By now, I was able to actually use a stick to hit the balls on a pool table but I still sucked.

Over the next few years as I grew and became more involved in school and athletic activities my occasional accompaniment of my parents to bars ceased. It wasn’t until I turned 16 and had my license to drive that I’d venture back into one and that was only because I was deemed designated driver by my 21-year-old cousin. I was nervous as I crept through the door of George’s even though at the time it wasn’t crowded or popular and was mainly only known for its food. There was no Big O Deck, no “George’s Bar” song, and one terrified 16 year old kid without a fake i.d. Now that I’d been drinking myself, being around older drunk people didn’t hold the allure it did as a child. I wanted in on the action, I had stories and jokes to tell. I wanted to hit on the waitress and play my favorite songs on the jukebox. Alas, I settled for just hanging out and soaking it in. I met some guy named Pat in there when I was about 18 who told me he was an aspiring “Texas singer/songwriter”…I wonder whatever happened to him?

As the years of pasture parties, backroads and living room all nighters flew by I raced towards 21. When I finally hit the magic mark of legal liquor consumption I tore down as many bars as I could get to. Hole in the walls, upscale places, and even historical monuments. My actual 21st birthday was spent floating the Guadalupe before heading to Gruene Hall for a Pat Green show. I was so hammered I don’t remember much of it, I know it wasn’t that crowded and that I had a good time. And I quickly learned one lesson about being 21 or over in a bar…. it’s expensive. Then it occurred to me that no other birthday would ever be cool and that the only thing being 21 meant was that I’d be spending a lot more money. While in college I discovered places like all the bars down on the square in San Marcos, the dancehalls and music venues of New Braunfels and of course 6th Street in Austin. My favorite bar during this period was Riley’s Tavern. An out of the way place in Hunter, TX where we knew the bartenders and they’d serve my underage friends. They had no liquor license so you could bring your own booze in. I was usually downing so many $1 Lone Stars I didn’t care about the BYOB. Riley’s has quite the story to tell. It was the first bar to get it’s liquor license after prohibition, it’s supposedly haunted, the bathrooms are actually outhouses, it hasn’t changed since the 1960’s and you never know who’ll pop in. I played my songs in public for the first time at Riley’s. In the corner, no P.A. and accompanied by Brady Black, now of the Randy Rogers Band and Josh Hamilton, currently playing with Peter Dawson. At the time they were both with Dub Miller’s Highway 6 band and I had no idea who they were. As Dub tended bar we wowed the crowd of thousands, well maybe it was 10’s, with our tunes. After about 20 minutes someone was screaming to put the jukebox back on and I knew I’d made it.

I’ve grown up in bars, literally. I’ve seen some good and some bad. I’ve only been in one really big bar brawl and that was within the last 12 months…with a Christian rock band. It seems Faith Plus One didn’t think we should be in their “backstage vibe area”. As my friends band, Echo’s Orbit Room, jammed onstage at Gordo’s in San Marcos we fought as hard as mainstream country music sucks. We won, exited stage left. I’ve seen hundreds of shows in dives and dancehalls all over Texas. I’ve seen lovers in love and lovers in quarrel. I’ve seen dancers, actors, pretenders, posers, and realists. Hell, I even used to bounce at River Road Icehouse in the summer of 2001. You see humanity at it’s finest at night in New Braunfels during the summer. People who get tanked on the water all day and then stumble in for live music can be very entertaining. And now, as I enter barrooms I find myself part of the semi-circle of guys sharing stories, jokes, lies, songs, and tales of the past and future. It’s a great part of growing up in America, in Texas especially. It’s a rite of passage to have your favorite bar, favorite friends and favorite stories. So here’s to bars!

Minor chords -The Eagles are in the Super Bowl this month. I think if they win I’d go into some sort of shock-induced state unable to speak until the Cowboys win the Super Bowl again. As was pointed out in another column, don’t count the Patriots out in the postseason until Belicick and Brady lose…hasn’t happened yet.

-In no way shape or form was the above column inspired by Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar” song. And if I hear that on a jukebox next time I’m in a pub I’m going to rip the jukebox out of the wall, take the wires and cables and go find Toby and personally choke him with them.

-The Lawnmower Dance is sweeping the nation. Maybe you’ll see it at GreenFest. Speaking of GreenFest we’ve lined up a helluva group of performers. Get over to the Texas Singer/Songwriter forum and check out these guy’s websites for sound clips.

-Mini Me naked combined with a post op tranny named Chyna Doll living with Peter Brady scares the hell out of me.

-So CMT is airing a thing called MuzikMafia TV. Big Kenny is one of the 4 Horsemen I tell you. He’s a sign that Jesus is coming. Supposedly, MuzikMafia means Musically Artistic Friends In Alliance. I think it means Musically Awful Friends In Alliance.

-Randy Rogers recorded his Live at Billy Bob’s album last month. It was one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen with Wade Bowen opening the show. The only thing that would’ve made it cooler is if Britney Spears had come out dancing half naked with a snake.

-Went gambling in Shreveport last month, didn’t win big, got really hammered and had the best $7 buffet imaginable. I was really hoping I’d hit it big so I didn’t have to come back to work.

-What’s up with all the TV shows based out of Las Vegas? There are about 10 of them, make that 11 another one just started production as I was typing this. I’m waiting Vegas Trash 24/7 as they follow the guys on the trash truck around in a reality series.

-I got a pound puppy last month. I named him Jack. He likes happy happy country country. He’s a smart dog.

This month’s recommended movie is: Donnie Darko. A dark, cult hit that’s comedy/sci-fi/drama/psycho thriller all at once. It stars a then unknown Jake Gyllenhal and Drew Barrymore who produced it. I think if you watched it stoned you’d be afraid of Easter for the rest of your life.

This month’s recommended album is: Jackson Parten’s “The Sum of All Parts”. Some of the best songwriting I’ve heard in years backed by some amazing musicianship. Pick this one up and get ready to see Jackson at GreenFest!

-As always, I welcome comments, questions and suggestions for next month’s corner.

-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”-Mark Twain

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