Houstons Country Roadhouse is celebrating 20 years in business this week. Country artists Doc Walker and Curtis Grambo were among the performers to grace the Houstons stage this week.
During a whirlwind of activities and events, we caught up with Houstons manager Darcy Paton for a quick Q & A session. This fun chat session is filled with many memorable musical moments, changes in the bar biz over the years and even a few surprises.
Be sure to check out the 20th anniversary bash at Houstons Friday night where you could win trip(s) to Vega$ and so much more!
Frank McGwire: First off, congratulations to you and the rest of the Houstons team — 20 years is quite a milestone to reach. There’ve been many changes in the hospitality-nightclub biz during that time span. Drinking and driving laws and smoking bylaws are obviously at the forefront of how things have changed.Long gone are the days when bars were filled during weeknights.Throughout your years in the biz, what is the biggest change you’ve noticed?
Darcy Paton: There is nothing that stands out in particular that has changed over the years at Houstons. Some of the things that have changed would be the days of operation, the time that customers like to come to the club at, the smoking bylaws and the much broader range of music and promotion interests of the customers than years ago.
The music format of the bar was originally country (hence the original name) but in recent years you’ve been home to many different styled shows in the rock, pop and dance music genres.There’s been a gradual transition, to say the least. This week to celebrate your 20th, there are some notable country artists stopping by to help you celebrate. Is this a sign of things to come or will you maintain more of a mixed format in terms of musical entertainment?
We will continue to book a variety of acts from many genres of music but decided to go with country as that is the original roots of the bar.Country is still an important part of the club but customer demands have led to a significant increase in Top 40, pop, rock and more.
Let’s talk about some of the bigger bands you’ve booked over the years. Papa Roach, Buckcherry and Nick Gilder come to mind. I’m sure there are many others I’m missing — can you fill in the blanks?
Those are some of the more notable rock acts that we have had at Houstons. Other acts would include State Of Shock, Doc Walker, Emerson Drive, Tracy Bryd, Julian Austinand LMFAO.
Out of all those acts who was the best to work with?
Of all the name acts that have come through, none really stands out as being better to work with. They have all been first rate and professional.
Any weird contract (rider) demands from any past concerts that come to mind?
Nothing too crazy on any of the riders that we have had, compared to someof the contracts agents have sent us to show how ridiculous they can be.Maybe more-than-weird demands would be how, all of a sudden, certain items show up on all riders that have never been there before.
I remember seeing Emerson Drive at Houstons years before they were known as Emerson Drive and became famous. You booked them in after they hit it big on the country scene. When you saw them back in their early years, did you ever imagine they’d become as big as they did?
They were originally known as 12 Guage, and were one of the most talented, so it shouldn’t be a surprise they made it big.
Are there any other bands you worked with that went on to considerable amounts of fame?
The most notable bands that played the circuit back in the day and made it big are Doc Walker and Emerson Drive.When LMFAO played the stage, they were on the brink of becoming mega-stars.It’s hard to believe only a few years ago they played the stage at Houstons.
Any bands you thought might hit it big but didn’t?
Groove Kitchen ... just kidding. Not going to touch this one!
Let’s talk fun promotions and or contests held within the bar, starting with the OFC club. There’ve been thousands of dollars up for grabs on many a Friday night. What is the grand total of cash giveaways through that promotion?
The OFC club, now called the Platinum Club, has been running for at least 12 years. $500 cash payout per week for that amount of time ads up to a significant number, for sure. These club members have been with us for years and have been a huge part in the success of Houstons getting to 20 years.
What’s the strangest or most fun contest you’ve run at Houstons?
I would say it would be hard to find someone that would argue that the Bungee Bullisn’t the most popular and fun contest that we have run at Houstons over the years.
What is the fullest you’ve ever seen the bar or what band had the best draw?
Virtually all of the name acts we have booked have been sellouts.That shows the support we have received over the years from our strong customer base.
Houstons has hosted many charitable functions over the years that have resulted in huge dollars in donations to worthwhile causes. How many such events would you guesstimate have taken place there?
I wouldn’t be able to put an accurate number on how many we have hosted over two decades. We do continue to have numerous annual promotions, including the United Way Christmas Tree Auction which this year is Dec. 7, Alzeimers Chili Cookoff, Kidsport Mothers Are Special, and new this year, the "Big Mustache in Brandon" gala for prostate cancer Nov. 30.
One of the neatest things I can recall from my Houstons memory bank is the time Nickelback were there at the bar but everything had to be kept hush hush. From what I remember, they just wanted to blend in without making a huge commotion. That was just over 10 years ago, around the time they sold the Keystone Centre out two nights in a row. I’m sure you can now share how that all transpired.
Honestly not much to tell about this. They wanted a place to unwind following the show without it being promoted in advance.We promoted the after-party to the concert but couldn’t announce they would be in attendance.We have had this happen numerous times over the years — the main difference is now, with social media, keeping anything a secret like this is extremely difficult.
Since I returned to the local music scene and subsequently became busier doing so, I’ve noticed first hand how Houstons has opened its doors to several local acts on a regular basis. On behalf of all the local acts that performed on Houstons stage, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support. Hopefully that support will continue, if not increase?
We always look forward to and are happy to book "local" acts as often as possible.We have always found a strong talent base with local bands which have a stong following as a result.
Thanks again for sharing your memories with our readers, Darcy — your time and effort with this is greatly appreciated. Conrgrats once again on Houstons 20th anniversary. May the next 20 years be even better!
Thanks for doing this, Frank — appreciate your interest in Houstons and the 20th anniversary.
Frank McGwire is a radio personality and booster of the music scene in Brandon and Westman.