The voice of the Rangers for over 40 years, Nadel is a passionate music fan, stemming from a crucial moment in his childhood with a little help from his sister.
“One of my earliest memories was my sister bringing home an Elvis Presley record,” he says. “It had ‘Hound Dog’ on one side and ‘Don't Be Cruel’ on the other side. She brought home that record, and we couldn't stop listening to it. Then I remember she went out and she bought another one. It was ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and then ‘Love Me Tender.’”
Since that moment, Nadel has been an avid music consumer of all genres and from all eras. His fantasy "desert island" record collection includes selections ranging from Carole King to Barenaked Ladies.
“The most underrated group in the world,” Nadel says of the latter. “I've seen them many times, including making a trip to Red Rocks [in Colorado] specifically to see them there. In addition to being great musicians, they do a lot of spontaneous rapping. They're very, very clever.”
The crux of Nadel’s annual birthday bash is a philanthropic one. He befriended burgeoning singer-songwriter Daphne Willis when he asked her to perform at his 60th birthday party at the Kessler a decade ago, and Willis suggested the bash become an annual event, with the proceeds going to mental health charities.
“[Willis] was working for an organization called To Write Love on Her Arms, which was an organization on college campuses that helped kids deal with mental health issues," Nadel says. "My wife Jeannie was volunteering in Dallas for a crisis line called Contact, which people would call when they were having issues, and Daphne said ‘Why don't we do this again next year and raise money for our two charities?’ And that's kind of how the whole idea for the concert was born.”
While the actual charities have varied throughout the years, the benefactor of this year’s incarnation of the fest is the Grant Halliburton Foundation, which provides suicide prevention programming for young adults.
Willis says she has a personal history with mental health struggles, and she has devoted a significant portion of her life to helping others with their own battles.
“I go to charities and benefits and medical treatment centers to share my story and play my songs,” she says. “It's been a symbiotic relationship doing that just with my own struggles with depression and anxiety and insomnia. Eric and I have always been really close; he's done a lot of things for charity. He's such a generous person with his time. Doing the kinds of things that he does is a beautiful thing.”
"Eric and I have always been really close; he's done a lot of things for charity. He's such a generous person with his time. Doing the kinds of things that he does is a beautiful thing.” –Daphne Willis
Willis has been involved in all but one of Nadel’s birthday concerts, usually as the opening act among a revolving door of headliners, this year’s being reggae-influenced singer-songwriter Cas Haley.
“I actually saw Cas Haley perform many years ago,” Nadel says. “He was the runner up on the second season of America's Got Talent. And then several years ago, he was performing a show with Daphne Willis at Lovett Pavilion in Arlington. I went backstage before the show and met Cas, and we talked, and it turns out he has a tremendously big heart and wanted to be involved in a lot of community causes.”
The bash will also include an auction during which both attendees and non-attendees (via the internet) will be able to bid on dinners with notable local media personalities including Nadel, former Texas Rangers pitcher and current broadcaster Mike Bacsik, and Rangers manager Chris Woodward. Some of the dinners will take place at and help benefit Café Momentum, a nonprofit restaurant that helps rehabilitate juvenile offenders.
“It turns their lives around,” Nadel says. “It gives them a one-year internship in the restaurant business, after which they almost all either get jobs or they go to college.”
Nadel says he hopes to expand the bash in the coming years. Artists by the likes of Lake Street Dive and local favorite Jonathan Tyler are on his radar to participate in future incarnations, but that may be a challenge with the Kessler's intimate space being a limiting factor.
“We'd have to change venues, but I just adore the Kessler,” Nadel says. “I think it's the best venue of that size in the country, at least of all the ones that I know. The acoustics are perfect. The design is so great where every seat is a fantastic seat, and the people there who run that place are unbelievable.”