By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
I've always believed that the humble Winedale Tavern, a shotgun railroad bar on Lower Greenville, attracts the most democratic mix of humanity of any club in Dallas. Both the homeless and the celebrated sit stool by stool, on even keel, protected by embryonic walls--a room that somehow amplifies the warmer overtones of a person's voice, as well as the musician's guitar onstage. The meek are not afraid to make grand exits, bold gestures, marriage proposals. Derelicts proposition models, rich rednecks tip $100 bills. Good and bad musicians are welcome. Some refuse to play there, considering the Winedale beneath them.
Fred Gleber, my Monday-night drummer for over a year, left our Winedale gig directly to play with budding teen-age country singer LeAnn Rimes. I paid him $20 for his services during my second set. After "Blue," which Fred drummed on, hit No. 1 in America, I offered him his gig back at the Winedale with a $5 raise. He fudged quite a few moments in consideration.
A Moscow contingent from the Russian space program actually landed at the Winedale one night. They sat in the back, quietly sipping Lone Stars. I sang "Georgia," the Hoagy Carmichael standard, and dedicated it to our esteemed visitors. A cosmonaut stuffed a $20 bill in my tip jar and tearfully thanked me. He thought the song was about his homeland--Soviet Georgia.
Perhaps the most curious visitation to the Winedale came one summer evening in 1997. It was a Thursday night, and a disheveled bon vivant strode to the stage while I set up my guitar.
"I've heard this rumor," came the fellow. "Is it true that you are indeed the son?" He looked me in the eye with utmost sincerity.
"The son? Yes, what of it?"
"Your father is my hero," he declared, sobering up. "I first read him at Northeastern. Then I went to Vietnam in 1966, where I read his books between raids. I went out and mowed down Viet Cong, high off reading his books and listening to Dylan. Killed a lot of 'em, too. How's he doin'?"
I continued plugging in cords and arranging the PA. "Just fine," I said. "Happy when he's working on novels, not happy when doing screenplays."
"I'm a writer, too," said the gent. "Your father is my hero."
"Mine, too. Him and John Lennon."
"Great choices!" yelled the man.
Neither of us yet mentioned anyone by name.
"You are talking about Bruce Jay?" I asked, to rectify any possibility of mistaken identity.
I nodded and the fellow bellowed, "He is the man!"
I told the ecstatic fellow I came to Texas in 1987, when by sheer coincidence, I happened to play some gigs with Kinky Friedman--who is not related. Folks in Texas kept asking if I was related to Kinky. No disrespect to the great Kinkster, but my lifetime identification as the son of Bruce Jay Friedman took precedence. That prompted me to drop the "Friedman" in favor of my middle name, a (concise) stage identity: Josh Alan, in an ironic way, out of respect for my father.
Keenly sympathetic to my plight, the man hit his fist on the bar, demanding a bottle of champagne, top of the Winedale line, which is an $18 bottle of Corbal. He insisted I drink up on the spot--otherwise he'd polish off the whole bottle himself--which he nearly did anyway.
"You know, I'm a writer, too," he stated again, slightly troubled. He continued to babble like white noise as I finished setting up the small stage.
"Let me introduce myself before you play," he said with finality, extending his hand. "Larry McMurtry."
I'd somehow pictured McMurtry as a quiet, professorial, bookish man. Taken aback, I asked him about his own son, folksinger James McMurtry.
"Fuck that!" he screamed. "You're the son of Bruce Jay Friedman!" He'd picked up some ratty dame at the bar who instantly swooned over Texas' leading literary light and tongue kissed her. Then they sat down before the stage.
"Play him yer best shit first," instructed a crusty old regular in the back, whom McMurtry had been sitting with. I began my set, and McMurtry was up and grooving, executing some weird kangaroo-hop around the bar.
"Hey, you," yelled the bartender, keeping track of strikes McMurtry had been racking up. "Settle down!" Larry "Lonesome Dove" McMurtry was coming within one strike of getting kicked out of the Winedale, whose bartenders distinguish not between the homeless and the famous.
"The girl he's with ain't even good-lookin'," cracked one boozer at the bar. "McMurtry could lay any movie starlet he wants."
Oblivious to my songs as he danced a mad jig with his date, McMurtry hopped out of the Winedale to a limousine waiting at the curb. He announced he'd be bar hopping along the avenue--but don't go away, he'd be back at the Winedale.
Indeed, several more times that evening, we were witnesses to Larry McMurtry on a bender.
I faxed my father the next day. "Had some adventures at the Winedale last night I thought you should know about," and related the events above.
My father dashed back the following fax: