The first season of Troubadour, TX is wrapping up, and what began as a promising idea for a TV show about the lives of musicians ended up as a narration-heavy documentary that seemed almost clinical. Fort Worth musician Guthrie Kennard was a commanding presence on the show when he squeezed in a little face time. But Troubadour creator and narrator Stacy Dean Campbell shot himself in the foot by blathering on with endless earnestness about the music biz rather than stepping aside and letting the artists do what they do best: perform, talk, and entertain.
A new show being produced in Fort Worth doesn’t have anything near Troubadour’s budget, but if the recently filmed pilot is any indication, it will give viewers an entertaining chance to get up close and personal with Americana roots artists. Rand Blair of The One Thing Productions (based in Grapevine) shot the pilot episode of The Texas Music Hour with Brad Hines recently at the White Elephant Saloon’s Upstairs and is planning to air the one-hour episode online while shopping it to TV stations as a possible series.
Longtime Stockyards musician Brad Hines hosted, and during the pilot he interviewed Fort Worth singer-songwriters Scott Copeland, Josh Weathers, and Deryl Dodd. The day of the shoot was a random Tuesday morning, and the club was pretty much empty except for Hines, his guests, a small Elephant staff, and Blair’s crew of four camera operators. Hines and his guests sat on benches facing each other, offset by a coffee table adorned with a lone star made of cowhide (loaned by Cross-Eyed Moose owners Jarrell and Brenda McDonald). At one point, Blair encouraged his cameramen to keep their shots tight. “We want it to be like a living room and not a set,” he said.
The premise is as simple as the set. Hines raps with artists about music, family, gigs, touring, wild times, and whatever. Artists are free to grab their guitars and play a song whenever. Hines envisioned it as a honkytonk version of Wayne’s World, the fictional public-access cable TV show with the metal-head hosts. In reality, though, Texas Music Hour comes off as a casual, televised chat reminiscent of the show hosted by Bobby Bare in the 1980s (Bobby Bare and Friends) on the Nashville Network.
The first guest to be taped was Copeland, a natural storyteller on and off stage. But he seemed nervous as the interview began. Sweat dotted his forehead. Hines fidgeted as well, trying to settle into hosting duties. At first, he inadvertently mouthed words as Copeland spoke. (Hines has some odd oral tics –– I was in a band with him years ago, and he would unknowingly slip into a Vietnamese accent whenever he’d talk to our keyboard player, James Tran.)
Before long, though, Hines and Copeland forgot about cameras and became just a couple of musicians shooting the breeze. Hines asked Copeland, father of a young girl, if he wanted his daughter to pursue music. “She can do whatever she wants to do except go into the porn business,” he said.
They talked about Copeland receiving his first big royalty check after Cross Canadian Ragweed recorded his original song “Lighthouse Keeper.” Copeland described receiving a check in the mail for $14,000 and giving his postal carrier a long hug –– and then heading to a Las Vegas casino where he promptly dropped $5,000.
An early cut of the show depicts Hines as an affable and, thankfully, untalkative host who gives his guests plenty of space to shine. “We want it look like the guests are just friends stopping by,” Hines said. “So many interviews out there are so rushed. We want to really dive into some stuff.”
Hines was already friends with his three guests on the pilot, and their personal history, natural camaraderie, and lack of pretense make the show feel like a comfortable pair of boots. Several years ago, Fort Worth Weekly wrote about videophile Steve Borchert’s attempt to create an Americana online show taped at the White Elephant Saloon (“New Blood in the Old Yards,” Dec. 12, 2007). Hines was involved in that project as well. Live shows were taped, but little came of them. “The other guy was all hat and no cattle,” Hines said. “He talked and talked and talked but never moved in any serious direction, whereas [Blair] is really pulling it all together.”
Pulling it together means completing a show, attracting sponsors, and finding a home on TV. Fort Worth-based Integrity Directional Services put up money for the pilot, and Blair is discussing sponsorships with local beer distributors. The filmmaker, Hines said, has to “generate a revenue stream, or [the show] won’t continue.”
Editing on the pilot is nearing completion, and Blair hopes the show will air on TV within the next few months.