We roll into the city that killed Kennedy ahead of schedule for our afternoon appearance at Bill’s Records presented by KHYI 95.3 FM. Bill’s records sits quietly in a dying mall in the suburbs of Dallas. There’s several abandoned store fronts, a strange restaurant called simply “Chicken and Rice” and cavernous Bill’s warehouse. A big orange sign in the doorway announces they are preparing to move the store to a new, upscale downtown location. We’re glad we get to play at this one. When we walk in, it seems imaginable how they will move this store. In the same location for almost 30 years, Bill’s records is a Dallas institution. The place contains miles and miles of LPs, 45s, CDs, posters, bumper stickers and buttons. There is a piece of rock memorabilia from every moment in American pop music history. No of it seems to be organized according to any system we can identify. We linger over a poster of Tiffany and a original Doors sticker. There’s a freezer in the corner with free ice cream. We’ve heard about this freezer. Shawn has found it and unwrapped an ice cream sandwhich before any of us miss him.
Two other bands arrive, a curious mix of cowboy hatted young trailer park beauties and older guitar dudes, and the gear starts to stack up by the rear entrance. This wise and road-hardened band jumps at the chance to play first. We set up as a surprisingly thick crowd gathers. There’s a barefoot bearded guy near the front wearing a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt with flowers in his hair. He’s carrying a basket of more flowers. This is interesting. He’s an original hippie, for sure. We go electric and the room sounds good. Folks are smiling and even singing along to some songs. Everyone in the audience seems to have brought their own case of Natural Light, or Natty Bo’s as we used to call them in college. Do people drink in record stores in the middle of the afternoon other states? We just don’t know. Friendly Dallasonians offer us beer and smokes after our set. Bill himself, a kind white-haired man smoking Marlborogh Light 100s buys a bunch of CDs for the store. Where they’ll end up, no one knows. Bill was an early champion of Ben Harper, gets very emotional as he points out a gold record on the wall. What a guy. We pack up and wish our new friends farewell and head for our $39 Quality Inn rooms arranged by the finest club owner in the Southwest, Mike Snider of the Allgood Café. After a quick check-in in the 100F Dallas heat we head over to the Allgood for dinner. The food at the Allgood is homey and filling. We order Chicken Fried Steak and Beef Short Ribs and mashed potatoes and green beans. Mike has the wisdom and good fortune to hire the kindest and most beautiful waitresses in all of Dallas, and that’s saying something. Devin and Haley take good care of us, filling our wine glasses and getting us whatever we need. Few establishments treat bands this way. We feel like kings at a feast.
Unfortunately, the night takes a bit of a turn. At show time the room is thinly populated. We just don’t get it. The Hawks got a good write up in the Dallas Observer and Tony got the big pick in the Dallas Morning News. Even the radio play has been pretty good. Yet it appears to be the lowest turn out of the tour. Perhaps it’s the stiffling heat and humidity of the Dallas night, the temperature still hovering in the 90s at 10 PM. Perhaps there’s some other big L.A. country rock outfit stealing our thunder. Perhaps we’re purveyors of a dying craft, like jazz musicians grousing about the Beatles. Should we purchase samplers? We’re all a bit baffled but somehow Mike Snider and the staff of the Allgood Café make it all fun. We laugh and rock and drink more wine. The lucky folks who are there hoot appreciately. As usual, Mike takes better care of us than we feel we deserve. We leave the gear on stage and make our way past Dealey Plaza to the hotel. We could’ve had a worse day in Dallas for sure.