It was just before sunset on a weeknight and a crowd gathered on the lawn at the Belmont Hotel, settling onto colorful blankets and low, sloping couches that faced the Dallas skyline. The dress code appeared to be loose fitting, earth-toned clothing. Cigarettes – no vapor, the real kind with tobacco that you buy at gas stations – tattoos and man-buns abounded.
Nobody in the audience knew yet who would be entertaining them throughout the evening. They came to see the Texas Gentlemen "and guests." One of these guests was singer-songwriter Brandy Zdan, who sang her original song, “Cut 'N' Run,” as people wandered in. She was technically opening for the Texas Gentlemen, but her backup ensemble also included a bearded man wearing a Texas Gentlemen T-shirt.
That’s how the Texas Gentlemen work. The Gents, as they call themselves, consist of a rotating cast of talented musicians, all of whom are also involved in other gigs. They set up shows by picking a date and asking a handful of other musicians to jam with them. On the night of the concert, whichever members of the Gentlemen happen to be available are the ones who show up.
It’s confusing to say the least, and that’s only the half of it. “The Texas Gentlemen is a mystery even unto ourselves,” says Beau Patrick Bedford, the producer and nominal leader of the Texas Gentlemen. Or at least the most obvious leader, even though he claims the Texas Gentlemen is “without headship.”
His thoughts echo the sentiments of one of the core members, Daniel Creamer of the Misteries, who considers much about the Texas Gentlemen to be “open to interpretation.”
In other words, if you’re the kind of person who wants everything to fit neatly into simple categories, the Texas Gentlemen is your personal kind of hell. “It might be easier to explain what we’re not,” Bedford offers.
The Texas Gentlemen is one part studio/backing band, one part band in its own right and one part informal fraternity of musicians from Texas to Nashville to New York City who “want to identify with the movement,” Bedford says.
Although Bedford doesn’t claim to be the group’s leader, it came about organically through his work as a producer, so many of the Gents point to Bedford as the head honcho. Bedford grew up in Dallas, where he was influenced by Carter Albrecht, the Dallas musician who was killed in 2007. Bedford played locally for a while, but he really rooted himself in the music industry while playing with Jonathan Tyler before Bedford left to be a full-time producer.
In 2011 he produced a debut EP for singer-songwriter Larry g(EE) and an album for singer-songwriter Kirby Brown, which is when Bedford began to form his ensemble of musicians. The competitiveness of the music industry was wearing on Bedford, so he wanted to create a more collaborative spirit between artists. “I started telling the artists I worked with, ‘We have to start drinking each other’s Kool-Aid,’” he recalls. “We have to believe in each other, in order for this to work for any one of us.”
Artists began to catch onto his vision. Even though the bands Bedford worked with were writing and producing their own songs, several of the musicians also played each other’s songs. They backed whatever acts came their way: Larry g(EE), Dovetail, Wesley Geiger, Kirby Brown and others.
“We were kind of a posse,” Brown remembers. “We were talking about how we would love — in our musician daydream — if one day people would talk about the guys who played behind these singer-songwriters in the same way they talk about the Swampers (also known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section) or the Wrecking Crew.”
They began calling themselves the Texas Gentlemen as a vague nod to their Southern upbringings and the tight bond they felt. Musicians and vocalists alike wanted to be Texas Gentlemen. “There’s a strong brotherhood amongst everyone in the group,” Bedford points out. They made matching T-shirts and got tattoos; the whole nine yards.
In 2014, some of the members hosted their first concert under the banner of the Texas Gentlemen. They only played covers at the time, although they’ve produced original work since then and even picked up discarded songs from others bands when they felt certain songs didn’t fit with their overall vibe.
The Texas Gentlemen don’t have a particular style, which of course makes the group even more enigmatic.
“We’re very Southern and we love country music, but all the members of the band grew up listening to the Beatles. We’re like psychedelic pop nerds,” Bedford says. “We love heavy arrangements and big melodic chords, so it’s a big fusion of styles that we love.”
If there’s any single thread that runs through the whole group, it’s their passion for the music. “This is our hobby. It’s the thing that we just love,” Bedford says. “We’re not trying to sell a record. It’s from the heart. If it moves us, hopefully it moves you. So we get to just enjoy it the whole time because nobody is worried about fitting an image or a certain sound.”
They rarely practice because they rarely need to, so their concerts are basically giant jam sessions.
“Honestly, if we played five nights in a row in the same venue with the same singers, every song would be different,” Bedford says. “I mean, we all know the arrangements, but everyone has great instincts with each other.”
Bedford can’t say exactly how many Texas Gentlemen there are. There are a handful of core members, but as many as 40 or 50 throughout the United States, and not all the members of the Texas Gentlemen are from Texas. Plus some of the Gentlemen are women.
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Although it’s “just a hobby,” it’s a hobby that has continued to grow and evolve. Right now the Texas Gentlemen are on their way to their “proudest moment yet,” according to Bedford: performing at The Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, where they will perform with the likes of Bryan Adams and Patti Smith.
Like everything involving the Texas Gentlemen, Bedford can’t quite pin down what makes it so popular. When artists play with The Gentlemen then they want to be a part of it, and Bedford wants that for them too.
“I want them to claim it,” Bedford says. “It just is what it is. I really believe in organic growth. I like when businesses have a plan and they’re successful because they follow that plan, but I really think this has the potential to be successful because we’re so fluid.”
The future will figure itself out. For now Bedford simply wants to find a blanket and enjoy the show.