The Pops Carter All-Star Band will honor the music of late Denton blues icon Tom “Pops” Carter with a free show Thursday at Dan’s Silverleaf. Show starts at 9 p.m.
Before the show, the Denton Public Art Committee, Greater Denton Art Council and Denton community members will unveil a restored Carter sculpture as part of a rededication ceremony from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center, where the statue will stay on display.
After the ceremony, the band will celebrate the musical legacy of Carter, who in 1969 moved to Denton and intoxicated the city with his funky take on 12-bar blues. Carter, known for his fiery voice, slick velvet suits, black shades and energetic stage moves, became a legend and staple in Denton’s music scene.
Over his decades-long career, the gut-hummin’ singer played with blues greats, among them B.B. King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Freddie King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. In the ’80s, he joined The Funkmonsters and planted his vocals in the group.
“His voice was incredibly unique and pretty powerful,” says Christopher Tracey, a guitarist who played with Carter in The Funkmonsters and member of the Pops Carter All-Star Band. “He could bend it and use it in a lot of different ways. Everybody kind of looked up to him for that.”
For more than 40 years, Carter spent his nights in Denton singing songs inspired by his delta blues heroes. In his later years, he became a big act at the Denton Blues Festival. While feeding Denton’s blues belly, he mentored aspiring musicians, catching up-and-comer’s shows almost every night.
“[Pops] went out to see music every night where music was being played,” says Robert Sullivan, better known as Texas Slim, a guitarist in the Pops Carter All-Star Band and friend of Carter. “He usually would get to sit in with the band, whether they were jazz, blues, punk rock, it didn’t matter. They always would see Pops out there and bring him up on stage.”
Tracey says, “That was the thing about [Pops] sitting in with people. He would sit in with your band, and that would be the biggest song of the freakin’ night.”
In April 2012, Carter died at age 92, though his music lives through the blues musicians he befriended and influenced, and other creatives who still cherish him as a community figure.
A few years ago, Denton-based artist Christie Wood fashioned a glass sculpture of the late musician. In honor of Carter, her piece was placed at Quakertown Park. Wood spent months creating the sculpture, but in 2017, an unidentified vandal smashed her stained-glass image of Carter.
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Wood recently repaired her artwork. She and GDAC reps installed the piece Monday morning in its new home at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center.
“The Pops Carter sculptor is all repaired and ready to go,” Wood says. “I’m looking at it right now, got the lights going on him, and he’s ready for his big unveiling on Thursday.”
Although the sculpture is restored, Wood says she used a high-tech silicon product to stabilize the glass cracks, leaving the shattered streaks intact. She says she wanted to leave the broken marks to teach the community that vandalism cannot destroy art.
After the rededication, the Pops Carter All-Star Band will host the after-party and blues jam at Dan’s. Donations will be accepted for the GDAC artist grant program.