By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
First a little background: The Sons of Hermann is a fraternal organization established in 1871 in Fredericksburg, Texas. Like many of these groups, the Sons serves not only a social function, but an economic one, with benefits primarily in the area of insurance. The hall is the focus of the attention of three entities: the two chapters, both of which built and own the structure at 3414 Elm St., and the Home Association, the body that governs how it's used.
The first signs of change came a few weeks ago, when the Dallas Observer ad for the Sons changed from the one Snider had been building on his home computer--and splitting the cost of running--to one that came wholly from the Sons. Rumors began to crop up that Snider was on his way out.
Nothing could be further from the truth, according to Jo Nicodemus, president of the Home Association and--along with Snider--an instrumental figure in the hall's revival. "We think that the shows bring people in," she says, "and the building and the people in it keep them coming back. We've been having bands play here for 15 or 20 years, but Mike really did turn things around."
As the Sons of Hermann Hall grew in cachet, members began wanting to book their own shows, certainly their right in light of the money they put into the organization. "The main thing that's changing is that Mike won't have all of the dates to choose from," Nicodemus says. "Members will have more choice to bring in the bands that they want. We're a nonprofit, charitable organization--everybody's time is donated--and we want to benefit as many people as possible. We have squabbles like any other big family, but we always end up kissing and hugging." Nicodemus is well aware of the role Snider played in rejuvenating the hall. "It used to be that the members couldn't afford to support the hall or make repairs--it didn't make the money--and now we can," she says.
Snider, for the most part, is reluctant to say anything for fear of further feeding the rumor mill. "Just say that I've got a lot of big plans and big shows coming up," he says. "I still love the Sons, but now I'm looking at other venues, like Trees and the Lakewood Theater [where he's booked larger shows before] and the Longhorn Ballroom."
It is indeed a complicated situation calling for understanding on both parts. On one hand, when someone helps you out, you don't necessarily ransom your entire future to them; for the money they put into their organization, members deserve consideration and a return on their investment. On the other hand, Snider was there for the first--and hardest--years, sometimes making money, often losing. Folks who go to a packed hall to see Junior Brown often aren't there for great--but money-losing--shows like Ray Price or Dan Hicks.
Snider--who has booked most of the shows at the hall through the end of the year--also has a reputation for straight shooting among most musicians. A recent article on Dale Watson in Hustler features a scene in which Snider (with the wrong last name, misidentified as the owner of the Sons, whose name was misspelled--nobody said journalism was all hard work) chases down Watson to pay him the money owed him from his last gig. That's the kind of rep that's easy to screw up and hard to repair, and one would hope that no innocent mistakes interfere with that.
Nicodemus isn't too worried, though. "If Mike weren't around," she says, "I wouldn't like that at all. As far as I'm concerned, everything's going well, but the Sons will never just be about Mike Snider or Jo Nicodemus--it'll always be the members. These walls would fold without music. The Sons of Hermann are about friendship, love, and loyalty, and that's how we try to run things."
Welcome back to the Jazz Connection, the hard-to-classify combination of live music venue, very small record store, and high-end memorabilia shop devoted to jazz and located just across the street from the Inwood Theater. Closed for the last few months to incorporate a bar and attendant facilities into the space, the Connection saw Shelley Carrol play for a shakedown evening Saturday, August 30, and had their grand re-opening last Tuesday, September 2...Congrats to Gene Summers on his headlining the "We Wanna Boogie" rockabilly festival in East Hanover, New Jersey, this last Friday. Four songs from Gene's Crystal Clear album The Ultimate School of Rock 'n' Roll have been released as a vinyl 45 by Norton Records titled A Gene Summers Record Date...Junior Brown and Hank Thompson just got done down in Waxahachie making the video that will accompany "Sell Those Chickens," tagged to be the first single off of Hank's upcoming album of duets, scheduled for release October 14...Congrats to Mustache for snagging the opening slot for the Kelley Deal 6000 this September 5...The Winners is a new band made up of longtime local scenesters that will play its first show Friday, September 5, with the American Fuse at the Orbit Room. Incidentally, the show will be the Fuse's record-release party. Members of the Winners are bassist Rob White (formerly of the Crank), guitarist and vocalist Roger Dean (Agitators), guitarist Marcus Striplin (Static), and Steven Dupree (Super Secret Weapon), and their sound is basically "old-school rock 'n' roll," according to Dupree; the Blue Flames are also on the bill...