So many got to know former Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Joe Avezzano as a hard-nosed, foul-mouthed, award-winning special-teams coach during his days roaming football sidelines, which began in 1968 and ended yesterday, after Avezzano died of an apparent heart attack while in Italy coaching the Seamen Milano of the Italian Football League. From 2005 to the fall of 2011, however, Coach Joe enjoyed a title many of those in his field don't: live music venue owner.
As owner of Hat Tricks in Lewisville, Coach Joe and his son,Tony, found a place for musical acts of all kinds, after the duo turned the former dart-league spot into a top-notch music venue. He added a new stage, an excellent sound system and first-rate service. Fuel, Coolio, Jonathan Tyler, Johnny Cooper, Brandon Jenkins and Stoney LaRue have recently played there; Filter, Shock G and Chamillionaire are on the upcoming docket.
He was a great father figure, quick to credit his hard-working, soft-spoken son with Hat Tricks' success. Coach regularly introduced the artists who played Hat Tricks with a lengthy explanation as to why that artist was so great, and held his own in at least one rap battle with Coolio. For Coach to book an artist based upon being blown away by a couple of YouTube clips wasn't exactly common. His likes were our likes.
Over the past three years, I had the pleasure of getting to know the always approachable Coach Joe. I interviewed him and Tony for a feature we ran in 2011, and before that, we often served on the same judging panel for KHYI-FM 95.3 The Range's Shiner Rising Star contest. The brisk slaps on the back or emotionally charged exclamations when a band would blow him away during a performance is something that made me laugh then, and now will make me smile in remembrance for years and years.
One night, during a performance of Heart's "Barracuda" by North Texas country-rock act Shutdown Town, lead singer Amanda Graves hit a high note so perfect it led Coach Joe to turn to me, slap my arm and say, "Kelly, I can't believe I just heard that, really, it's just amazing." The occasional Facebook post Coach would personally leave on my page, informing me of a band that would soon be playing at Hat Tricks, always gave me a chuckle. I knew that was his way of saying, "Hey, people need to know about this artist, so come see them and then go tell people about them." There's a reason we all still call him Coach.
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The coach-turned-bar-owner-turned-radio-host (he had a weekly old-school country show on KHYI for a while) indeed loved music, but he loved the people who made music even more. Whether it was befriending many of the country greats of the '70s, '80s and '90s, such as Charlie Pride or Colin Raye, or chumming up his son's more modern red dirt friends such as Stoney LaRue and Cody Canada, Coach Joe found a thrill in the friendship more than the notes coming off guitars.
When I interviewed former Cross Canadian Ragweed lead singer Cody Canada recently, he and I realized we had a mutual friend in both Coach Joe and his son. Unaware of what was to occur a month later, Canada couldn't have been more loving as he spoke about his connection:
"I love both Coach and Tony and I'll never be able to repay them for what they have done for me. And I can only try to do that by showing up whenever they call and rocking their stage."
Before Coach left for his coaching gig in Italy last fall, a bon voyage party was held for him, and many of his closest friends came to say, well, bon voyage. For those who enjoyed Coach as a member of our beloved Cowboys, and those who came to know him as a supporter of live music, there really isn't a reason to say goodbye, as long as we make a point to constantly seek out new music that moves and inspires us. That's what he did as much as anyone else around, and that unbreakable enthusiasm is what I loved best about him.