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But not completely different. Card has no qualms about tipping a few in his own club and has been known--when an act so compels him--to groove till closing time. Perennial faves of his include Shake Russell, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Robert Earl Keen, and he counts as "magic" certain shows by Gary P. Nunn, Janis Ian, and the Bluesbusters, a Little Feat spin-off.
Another side of Card's work involves dealing with--or choosing not to deal with--the dreaded "artistic temperament." Staging singer Jane Olivor is like "walking on eggshells," but worth it because of the quality of her shows, Card says. Hard-drinking songwriter Townes Van Zandt was a bigger pain.
"Several times I said I'd never rehire him because of his alcoholism," Card says. "Several times, I recanted. I had him here in late '96, and he was virtually incoherent. I left; couldn't stand to watch it. I called his agent, who said what he always said--that it was always a gamble with Townes, but if he didn't go on the road, he'd just sit home and drink. He was right, of course, so I booked him for January 25."
Unfortunately, Townes didn't make it, dying on New Year's Day.
Van Zandt's artistic merit made him worth some trouble. No such merit was present to influence his dealing with Miss Molly and the Whips. "Miss Molly acted like an ass," Card says. "Her behavior was arrogant and outrageous. I don't think she regarded Poor David's as a big thing in her career, whereas I see Poor David's as very different. It's my place, my artistic expression. She was condescending and disrespectful to the audience, and she won't be back."
Card's describing the bar as his "artistic expression" is revealing: He knows that image is illusory, but art is real. Dallas music clubs have made a science of peddling image and then going belly-up when the image goes stale or shrill; Card paints on tighter canvas. He and his Pub don't rush out to dazzle you as you enter their orbit; rather, they allow you entrance and a place to sit unencumbered, waiting for the music. On a good night, it'll arrive with such immediacy that you'll remember it forever.
Poor David's Pub will be celebrating its 20th anniversary throughout the month of March, but the two principal celebrations will be on Friday, March 15, with Tab Benoit, and Monday, March 17, with Rusty Wier.