On Wednesday night, 16 tornadoes devastated much of Cleburne and Granbury, south of Fort Worth, leaving six people dead and millions of dollars worth of damage to the two normally sleepy towns. As Wednesday night rolled into Thursday morning, it took but only a few text messages between a couple of guys that care enough to put their impressive contacts-lists to good use to assist those who were suddenly in-need of extreme assistance.
As he listened to the news of the storms, Tony Avezzano, the owner of Coach Joe's Hat Tricks in Lewisville, where the popular, syndicated and locally-based Texas Country radio show, Texas Red Dirt Roads will be broadcast from over the next few weeks, immediately thought of his friend and Texas Country artist Steve Helms and his family, who live in Cleburne.
After texting Helms to make sure all was well with him, at least, Avezzano reached out to Justin Frazell, the host of Texas Red Dirt Roads and morning DJ on 95.9 The Ranch to come up with a plan to make this past Sunday's broadcast into one that would help the folks of Granbury and Cleburne.
Such altruistic endeavors aren't new concepts to either Avezzanno or Frazell, as both have helped raise immense amounts of money for various charities through events they've hosted in the past, including Avezzano's Coach Joe Memorial Golf Tournament, benefitting the Troy Aikman Foundation and Frazell's March of Dimes-benefitting Putting for Preemies golf and music event.
After the texting, phone calls and schedule-shuffling was complete, Sunday's Texas Red Dirt Roads line-up had gone from an already impressive bill made up of The Rankin Twins, Mike Ryan and Phil Hamilton, into a full-day of over 20 singer-songwriters dedicating their time and talent to raise money for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief fund. Of course, the Red Cross is still in Granbury and Cleburne helping many affected families figure out what to do next.
"When I realized that I had friends being affected by the storm," Avezzano said just before the first acts hit the stage on Sunday. "Helping make all of this happen was just the right thing to do. I texted Justin, and he was totally on-board. By the time I made my first phone call, I think he had ten artists lined-up."
Helms, who's seen regional chart success with songs such as "Nowhere But Texas" is not only a current resident of Cleburne, but he's a proud, born and bred-native of the hometown he shares with Texas Country giant Randy Rogers.
"I'm close with many people that suffered real damage to their property," Helms explained before his acoustic performance. "Several of my friend's houses, and my sister's house, took serious hits. I've been helping my sister out with her house this weekend, and it still isn't done."
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Of course, there was tons of music to be heard, and it was plenty good. Having a line-up that's as large as this one - artists who weren't on the bill were literally showing up, guitar in-hand, ready to join in - will typically flesh-out some talent that isn't as well known as some of the bigger names. Sunday was no exception. Saginaw's Matt Nix and Matt Slovacek, hailing from Ennis, both were impressive and drew the chatty, packed room to a quieter roar as they played a couple of songs each. Kylie Rae Harris, one of the stars of the syndicated show Troubadour, TX, began the live-broadcast with her phenomenally soulful, sultry tones. Local songwriter Bobby Duncan also brought the goods as interrupted a weekend with his future in-laws to lend his voice.
Current Metroplex-dweller Mike Ryan, who's 2012 album Night Comes Falling is one of the best Texas Country albums to come from this area in the past few years, said he would've been there, even if he wasn't scheduled for the radio broadcast before-hand.
While the talent of Hamilton, the Rankin's (Amy and April), Bo Phillips, Chance Anderson, Charla Corn, Erica Perry, Matt Dunn, and many more, had yet to be heard after the first couple of hours of the benefit, the day was already a successful one with hundreds of patrons donating what must've been thousands upon thousands of dollars. When one puts it into that perspective, Texans helping Texans is anything but insignificant.