Ramon Mallow is a self-proclaimed hippie who says he’s been living like a 19-year-old for the last 50 years. People know him as Mr. Troll in the Dallas-Fort Worth music scene, a moniker from his biker days. Faye Price, his sister, says that family calls him Danny, after his middle name Daniel.
Most people know Mr. Troll from Poor David’s Pub, a music venue in The Cedars. However, he could sit down with just about anyone and find some friend they had in common. Steve Jackson, a local singer-songwriter, says he’s seen Mallow do this on numerous occasions.
For years, Mallow hosted the open mic nights at Poor David’s. He had hoped the venue would eventually become a hub for singer-songwriters from all over North Texas. More recently, people could find him working the door at Poor David’s, with his signature long, white beard and thick mustache.
Mallow was doing 200 pushups and 250 situps a day up until about a year ago. He says he had gained weight over the years and was looking to get rid of some of it.
“I was getting my heart rate up way too high and getting too out-of-breath doing the workout, but I was getting to where I felt pretty good for the most part,” Mallow says.
He was living in a hotel at the time, waiting on a small inheritance his dad left him when he died in 2017. Mallow had plans to buy a motor home with the money and go wherever life took him. His only retirement plan was to make a living from playing his music. But "God laughs at men who make plans," he says.
On June 1 of last year, Mallow woke up on the floor of his hotel room. He thought he had fallen out of bed in the middle of the night, but he couldn’t get back to his feet. He crawled to his bathroom and tried to lift himself up using the edge of his bathtub.
He tried to stand but tumbled over and landed in the bathtub on his back. With the fall, he broke three ribs and punctured his left lung.
“I laid there in the tub hollering for help until people in the next room heard me and called an ambulance,” Mallow says. “I think I probably laid there for about an hour or two before they finally heard me.”
A blood vessel supplying blood to his brain had been obstructed. Another had ruptured. He’d had an ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.
Price says she’s been the family caretaker for five years between her mom, dad and one of her aunts. Now she's also caring for her brother. She has been helping him get around since that day and helps him financially when she can. The strokes affected some of Mallow's cognitive abilities, so he is not allowed to drive.
After a little over a month, Mallow was released from the rehabilitation facility where he had been recovering. Price picked him up and took him back to the same hotel. The next day, he had another stroke, prompting another two months of rehab.
Now a year after his first stroke, Mallow still has trouble gripping and lifting things with his left hand, leaving him unable to work or play guitar.
“I had hoped to make an impression on the world as a singer-songwriter,” Mallow says. “I had a few songs that got some really good response from the public. But I can’t play ’em now.”
When he got out of rehab, he had to spend his inheritance on a six-month apartment lease. The six months are up at the end of July, so Price started a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise money for another six months, which she hopes will be enough time to organize assisted living for Mallow.
Price says she’s always called her brother a bohemian, a suitable description for Mallow. When he was younger, Mallow says he was the kid who nobody wanted on their team. When he turned 19, he started having a lot of luck with the ladies, as he put it, and let it go to his head.
“I lost my shot at true love thinking I needed to keep on spreading it around instead of committing to somebody,” Mallow says. “I broke a couple girls’ hearts that way. I feel like I’m sort of paying my karmic dues on that.”
He says he was in constant rebellion of his fundamentalist Christian upbringing.
“I was raised in an environment where I was scared of everything,” Mallow says. “When I got older, I had no fear and did some pretty wild stuff.”
He prided himself on being a footloose and fancy adventurer, dedicated to the concept of being the ultimate hippie. Back in the ’70s, Mallow says he hitchhiked from Dallas to New York and back three times. Once, he hitchhiked 300 miles north of Montreal to the copper mining mountains in Quebec.
“I still have to resist the urge to get a bag, go out on the highway and stick my thumb out,” he says. “It’s not safe to do that anymore. The world has changed in a lot of ways.”
While he’s always loved the idea of far-away adventures, the North Texas open mic scene is close to his heart. Before Jackson took over, Mallow was the host of Opening Bell Coffee’s open mic night for a couple of years starting in 2006.
“(Open mics) are a great starting point for performers who want to get a reputation as a singer-songwriter or as a performer of any kind,” he says.
Mallow eventually moved to Garland, started working in construction and had trouble getting to Opening Bell in time to start the open mic. He says he handpicked Jackson to take over the hosting. There were nights when Mallow would have enough empty time slots to play for three hours at Opening Bell. Now, people have to show up early to ensure they get to play two songs.
The two got to know each other well. Jackson owns a construction company and employed Mallow for a while. Mallow was a brilliant carpenter, Jackson says, and an even more brilliant songwriter.
“His lyrics are as down home and heartfelt as they get,” Jackson says.
One regular performer at Opening Bell around this time was local musician Glitter Rose. She hosted the open mic at Poor David’s across the street for five years before asking Mallow to take over.
“I tried to make it the center of the DFW open mic scene,” Mallow says. “I started a group on Facebook called Dallas Area Open Mics in an effort to create a sense of community amongst the open mic’ers.”
In the group, he kept an updated list of all the open mics in the area. In 2014, Mallow went on his Mr. Troll’s Epic Open Mic Tour, in which he set out to play every open mic on his list. By the end of the year, he had played 105 different open mics in North Texas.
“It’s difficult,” Price says of her brother's situation. “It’s hard to see him like he is because he’s always been so independent and self-sufficient.”
Price says her brother has always been the one helping other people, and he feels embarrassed by having to ask for help. David Card, owner of Poor David’s Pub, is organizing a benefit show for Mallow. The show will be on June 30, featuring some of Mallow’s old musician friends.
One of those friends is Dan Roark, who met Mallow at one of his open mic nights at Poor David’s. Roark’s first impression of Mallow was that he was a fellow hippie, which turned out to be true. The two were part of a group of friends who would go out together to play open mics in the area. Although Mallow cannot play and sing yet, his friends still take him out to watch them perform.
Maintaining a social life has helped Mallow since his life was turned upside down a year ago. On top of going out with his open mic friends, he goes to Poor David’s at least once a week and meets with a group called The Original Fry Street Hippies in Denton on the last Tuesday of each month. It's a group of people who hung out together through the ’60s and ’70s, Mallow says.
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“The last one he went to, he actually sounded better when he called me that evening to let me know he made it back home,” Price says of Mallow's visit with his fellow flower children. “He had more inflection in his voice, he was clear-speaking. It just sounded like the old Danny.”
Mallow doesn’t have many plans for the future. He says it would be foolish to be making plans at this point. Instead, he has hopes and dreams of one day being able to perform in public again.
“I got a lot of enjoyment out of that,” he says.
Price says doctors told her that whatever progress Mallow would make in the year after his stroke is likely where he would be for the rest of his life. But still, Mallow continues working toward regaining full mobility in his left hand, hoping his inability to play music is just a passing phase in his bohemian rhapsody of a life.