For Spencer Wharton, a local singer-songwriter and talent buyer, the closing of Crown and Harp, a 20-year-old Lower Greenville bar and music venue, was a story of love lost, emptiness and significant life changes. The end of the Dallas venue led Wharton to write the title track of his upcoming album, Moonlight Devotee.
The song’s folky feel, steady beat, smooth chords and three-part harmonies act as a tribute to the once longstanding venue. Included on the record are local musicians Anthony Coker, Eric Daino and Ryker Hall, who are friends of Wharton. The album art even commemorates the club by including a small crown and harp embedded in the title.
“We didn’t find out it was going to close until last year around May,” says Gio Martinez, a former Crown and Harp bartender. “We were all very sad, but I mean, like, I was there at a time it was fruitful.”
Martinez says she booked all the techno shows upstairs at the club, and Wharton booked all the bands downstairs. She says there was still so much potential for the venue before it closed.
“Crown and Harp was inviting. It was family,” she says.
Wharton was more than familiar with Crown and Harp before getting hired as their in-house talent buyer in January 2017. He says he fell in love with the place after playing his first show there in 2016.
“You walked in and you felt like, oh my God, I’m somewhere special," he says. "Somewhere that really cares about live music. Somewhere that is significant. Someplace that you can make a legitimate memory in a building that can make a lasting impression on you as a human being.”
When the club closed its doors last May, Wharton felt as though a part of his life and his soul had vanished. Although he was still booking shows as a freelancer, he says he felt hollow and empty, similar to how he felt before landing the job as the talent buyer for the venue.
As Wharton remembers it, he was in a rut. Everything was falling apart in his life. Then he began working at Crown and Harp and met a woman he fell in love with.
“People fall in love at different times in different places, but I’ll never forget falling in love with someone sitting on that patio,” Wharton says.
This relationship made him feel as if his life was saved. Three weeks after the Crown and Harp closed, he began writing his single about these feelings. However, just as the venue did, Wharton’s newfound love broke into pieces.
“When the job fell apart, I thought, ‘Well, she’s like the only thing keeping me going,’ and then it all fell apart very shortly after that.”
The lyrics have remained the same, but the meaning behind them has changed drastically. After getting sober, Wharton says, this song made him want to get his life together and improve himself.
“This song is the most important musical piece I’ve ever written, and the Crown and Harp is definitely a huge part of that because I got to watch a lot of really good musicians apply their trade there, and they let me be part of it,” he says.
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Although WHarton's time at Crown and Harp was a small footnote in the life of the venue, he says it has made him a part of Dallas music history.
“I was the last talent buyer at a place that was so famous that people loved and wanted to go,” he says. “I couldn’t help but immortalize it in song.”
Wharton plans to release two more singles in the meantime, but the album release show will be Aug. 17 at Wits End. He says the show will be like a collaborative jam session between him and the people playing on his record, most of whom have a connection with the venue.
“There was something magical about that place,” Wharton says. “It brought the best people DFW had to offer. I’ve always thought that place brought out the best in everyone.”