As the initial buzz of its grand opening weekend and first handful of concerts subsides, the Longhorn Ballroom now turns its attention to something arguably as potentially challenging and rewarding as the restoration itself: Finding its footing as a venue.
But unlike other spaces that can settle into themselves once the new wears off, the Longhorn Ballroom is in a unique position of honoring its heritage even as it carves out a space all its own in the here and now.
How to balance past, present, and future? Look no further than the introduction of the Longhorn Ballroom Players, a rotating cast of musicians performing songs drawing from one of Dallas’s two most enduring sonic inspirations: R&B and country music. (Everything old is new again: Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys were once a Longhorn Ballroom house band, as were Dewey Groom and the Texas Longhorns.)
It’s a gambit — a high-profile house band made up, according to press materials, of “North Texas’s top touring and studio musicians” — no other venue of its size in North Texas has attempted in recent memory, and one which will be fascinating to watch play out.
Chad Stockslager (lately of Bastards of Soul) has been tasked with leading R&B “revue nights,” while Thomas Csorba will lead the country “revue nights.” Stockslager is up first on May 19, and Csorba follows on June 16.
“It’s an honor to dive deep into the Longhorn archives, lead the band through these songs, and tip my hat to the artists who have made this place the historic institution that it is,” Csorba said in a statement.
Both events will be free to attend with advance RSVP, or by paying $10 at the door. RSVPs can be made through the Longhorn Ballroom tickets page.
“I see the Longhorn Ballroom Players as a collective featuring a rotating group of local musicians showcasing their extraordinary talent,” said Edwin Cabaniss, the Longhorn Ballroom’s owner, in a statement. “We are already discussing a variety of gigs and the possibility of creating a compilation album highlighting past artists that have played the Longhorn. I am excited to see where it goes.”
Stockslager’s upcoming R&B revue will feature an appearance from Dallas legend Bobby Patterson, as well as vocalists Gregg A. Smith, Miss Marcy, Sisi Jones and Rachella Searight. The R&B band line-up, featuring Stockslager on keys, includes guitarist Michael Lee, drummer Matt Trimble, bassist James Driscoll, trumpeters Big Jack Williams and Pete Clagett, tenor saxophonist Jason Davis and baritone saxophonist Lee Charles.
“I’m proud to be a part of the legacy of the Longhorn stage with our R&B revue,” Stockslager said in a statement. “We’ll pay homage to the giants in the genre, and add our mark, as well.”
The Longhorn Ballroom Players R&B revue at Longhorn Ballroom, Dallas. 8 p.m. May 19. Free with advance RSVP.
The Longhorn Ballroom Players country revue at Longhorn Ballroom, Dallas. 8 p.m. June 16. Free with advance RSVP.
Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.