William Clark Green plays Mama Tried tonight.EXPAND
William Clark Green plays Mama Tried tonight.
courtesy William Clark Green

Deep Ellum’s Mama Tried Seeks to Revive Honky Tonks of Old

Spend 60 seconds with longtime Dallas impresario Brooke Humphries and you’ll conclude she isn’t the type to do anything half-assed. So when Humphries decided to open a honky tonk in the heart of Deep Ellum, she took a scene straight out of the Urban Cowboy playbook. In fact, that scene literally anchors the back wall of her newest establishment, Mama Tried. Hanging just behind a pair of pool tables is a giant painting of Bud and Sissy, the film’s lead characters played by John Travolta and Debra Winger.

Although inspirational, it wasn’t the classic '80s hick-flick that drove her to create Mama Tried. Two years ago, country music wasn’t even on Humphries' radar, but when a friend took her to a Cody Jinks concert at Gruene Hall, it changed her life. Numerous trips to Nashville immediately followed and before she knew it, Humphries had converted to the church of country music.

“The music and the camaraderie of being in the middle of a group of people singing the same songs and holding their beers up in the air — I just absolutely loved it," she says.

She seems to be a quick study; framed pictures of country music disciples adorn the back wall of the honky tonk. Folks even the casual country fan knows by first name — Dolly (Parton), Reba (McEntire), Merle (Haggard) and “King George” (Strait) are all there.

In addition to neon-lit decor, there are a few other boxes that need checking to be a bona fide honky tonk. Obviously one starts at the bar, and Mama Tried’s 80-foot-long rustic wooden beauty serves enough beer and booze to challenge any cowboy. There also has to be live music and dancing. Scattered in front of the indoor stage are the classic square tables and chairs that can be reconfigured at a moment’s notice should somebody get the itch to two-step. There’s also an outdoor patio with picnic tables, a second stage and additional capacity to host bigger acts. Finally, there’s the grub. Chef Roe DiLeo’s menu gives a heavy nod to Southern comfort food (chicken-fried steak, y'all?) and state fair staples like turkey legs and giant pretzels. We doubt anyone will leave hungry. About the only thing missing at Mama Tried is a mechanical bull, but we wouldn’t put it past Humphries to add one down the road.

Although still new to the block, Mama Tried is already poised to bring in notable country music talent, especially from the Texas and outlaw country genres. Tonight the venue will host William Clark Green on the outdoor stage. Green, considered one of the current torchbearers in the Texas music scene, started packing dance halls and festivals a few years ago with his catchy choruses and festival party anthems. Folks attending tonight's show will likely get a sampling of tunes off Green’s latest record, Hebert Island, set to release Aug. 10. Johnny Chops and The Razors, a blues and soul-soaked rock ’n’ roll outfit out of Austin, led by Johnny “Chops” Richardson, will open for Green. When not playing bass for the Randy Rogers Band, Johnny Chops is hitting the road on their “Ten Cent Talkers” tour.

Mama Tried is located at 215 Henry St., directly across from the Bomb Factory.

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