On the morning of December 17, 2012, as I was in my truck listening to KHYI-FM 95.3 The Range, a rocking, sparkling song I hadn't heard before came on. I continued to listen, drop-jawed, to the lyric: "Party till the break of dawn, Daddy's got it goin' on" commingled with mentions of girls in cowboy hats, pockets with disposable wads of cash and "Kicking it in a Cowtown." I couldn't imagine how that kind of country-disco fodder ended up on the metroplex's best independent country station. I anxiously awaited the name of the artist from KHYI morning host Chuck Taylor.
When he announced the previous song was "Cowtown" by George Ducas, I was floored. What do modern music lovers do when their passions are stirred? They take to Twitter and, maybe, get the attention of the artist who has riled those emotions.
Houston native and Nashville resident George Ducas is a talented songwriter who held the mainstream spotlight in the mid-'90s, when it was safe to listen to Modern Country radio. He hit high on the charts with the 1995 Top 10 hit "Lipstick Promises," a cosmic, California-style country rock tune of heartbreak. He's also written big hits for other artists such as Radney Foster, Garth Brooks, Sara Evans and more recently, Randy Rogers Band ("Kiss Me in the Dark") and the breakout hit for Denton's own Eli Young Band ("Always the Love Songs"). While Ducas released the EP in 2010 on which "Cowtown" can be found, it was the fine "Breaking Stuff" that garnered some attention from regional radio and helped reintroduce Ducas as a current performer, and not merely as a fellow who's done some great things in the past.
At 9:20 a.m., I tweeted, "Love George Ducas, but his 'Kicking it in Cowtown' song displays all that's wrong with modern country music #pandering #cliche #corny."
And then at 10:17 a.m.: "To fans of 'Texas country' or 'Red Dirt' music: Demand quality, regardless of where the artist is from. Don't allow an artist to patronize u."
Later in the day, at 4:36 p.m., I tweeted "If u listened 2 'Cowtown' by @George_Ducas & almost any Aldean tune side by side, would u b able 2 identify which one is on the TX chart?" I had decided to direct the post directly at Ducas by including his Twitter handle. I felt that only fair. "Hey, he's a veteran artist, he can handle it," I rationalized.
On December 21, I realized that not everyone found my preaching to be so constructive. With a hot cup of coffee, I opened up my Twitter feed to see that Ducas himself had become a follower. I quickly realized that he had returned my serve, and he was as subtle as I'd been after hearing "Cowtown" for the first time: "Lol I think I just got my first random 'hater' tweet from a complete unknown! Now THAT's the holiday spirit, dude! twitter.com/kellydearmore"
Ducas and I exchanged sarcastic and argumentative posts for a bit at that point in the morning. I maintained that I recognized his talent, but "I cringed" when hearing the song. He shot back with a sarcastic, congratulatory tweet regarding my (mythical) appointment as "CEO of Texas Music." Ducas then made it clear that he appreciated the way my tweets displayed my "opinionated" nature, and that he sensed "passion" in my communication. In the span of a few minutes, sparring tweets morphed into an exchange between a couple of guys who were genuinely interested in how music is discussed. I expressed my fondness for his talent and work. With the tweets becoming more conversational than confrontational, we found ourselves agreeing more than disagreeing about the nature of music criticism. The Twitter "feud" ended with Ducas inviting me to his next Dallas-Fort Worth show so we might chat over a couple of beers. I was happy to accept the invitation.
The fact that Ducas not only was interested in what I had to say but had displayed an authentic reflex to fight back via Twitter is one of the wonderful and still somewhat new realities of music in the age where 140 characters can speak volumes and reach a great distance in an instant.
On January 11 in Mansfield, Ducas performed his first show of 2013 at Fat Daddy's, a modern combination of sports bar, music venue and all-around party spot. I arrived just as he and his band, comprising exclusively Texas-based players, completed sound check. I was still a bit tentative, wondering if this meeting would progress smoothly or be awkward. We greeted each other with a hearty bro-hug and for the next hour and a half, as a couple of icy lids were twisted, we engaged in an honest and encouraging conversation about why I tweeted what I did about his song and how he actually understands where I was coming from on that grumpy morning of mine.
"A lot of people like a loud, catchy party anthem," Ducas said to me before his set. "I know that 'Cowtown' isn't my personal favorite song and it isn't the best song I've ever written, but I also understand the business side of things. I know that a song like this will hopefully make people take a look at the other songs I have. I'm glad that people like it and that it will hopefully lead to more people liking my music."
After I confessed to him that I hadn't ever engaged an artist in a Twitter battle before, he confessed to the same.
"At first, when I saw your tweet and some of things that other people were replying with, I was taken aback a bit," he said. "But even though 'Cowtown' may not be the best song I have, I know that we can pull it off live and that the song isn't a product of studio tricks, which is often the case in mainstream country these days. I decided it would be cool to invite a writer out to a show and have him see that we can pull that song off, put on a great live show and maybe win him over."
With 20 years in the music industry under his belt, it's not surprising Ducas has a level head when it comes to critics and the unpredictable nature of the music industry. The manner in which music can bring people together — even if they don't share the same taste — is no mystery.
It seems everything related to music is now streaming and sharable, and yet the live show and the ability to connect with individuals through a love of music is something that remains unassailable. Ducas embraces that notion with class. When on stage at Fat Daddy's, the band had no trouble backing up Ducas' big tweets. Filling his tightly performed set with tunes that he's either known for writing (Radney Foster's "Just Call Me Lonesome,") or the song that started this whole thing, "Cowtown," he and his band were a well-oiled country rock machine
"It was a first-time thing for me to go through this with a writer," Ducas said. "But I like passion, which is what I felt in those tweets of yours. I feel like this isn't the last time we'll have a beer at a show."