The Music Issue: A new gigness

Out singer Jackie Hall is the best Dallas diva you don’t know about … yet

music-gigness

QUEER HOMECOMING | In recent years, Jackie Hall has performed in venues from biker bars to blues clubs, but the lesbian singer is now turning her attention back toward her fellows in the gay community. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

To label your band an “experience” is gutsy, but if it’s true, why not? When the frontlady for The Jackie Hall Experience belts out a tune, people shut up and listen. Always.

So why are you just now hearing about her?

“The career is slower than I like, but I just see it as part of paying my dues,” Hall sighs. “I welcome it all in God’s time, but I know change is gonna come.”

Making it in the music biz comes with frustration, and Hall has had her share. But breaking onto the Sue Ellen’s stage has reinvigorated her two-fold: She’s got a gig that pays and she’s getting her name back out in the LGBT community, even though the response “Jackie Who?” remains a hurdle.

“I left the community because I couldn’t get paid or pay my musicians,” she says. “I had to branch out in different areas. If I could perform for free, I would, but my boys won’t.”

Hall reminisces about sweet gigs at Illusions and Joe’s. With a 13-piece band (yes, really), she prided herself on big shows and an audience that embraced what she was throwing down. But as clubs closed or moved on, Hall was left to figure out a new plan. So she ventured away.

“I was able to book myself at the old Hollywood Casino in Shreveport and I sang at Tucker’s Blues in Deep Ellum,” she says. “I even performed at a biker bar in Fort Worth. I’m still figuring it all out. I’m working on expanding my gigness.”

An old friend has helped her on just that.  Some years back, Hall would sing karaoke at the Circle Spur in Irving, where she met a shy singer named Anton Shaw. The two became friends and nurtured each other’s talents.

“Back then, we were the shit,” Hall laughs, “singing En Vogue songs in the ‘hottest place in Irving.’ But we really were there for each other and we both wanted to be stars. We lost connection for about 10 years, but she’s the reason I’m in the scene now.”

After taking in a performance of Shaw at Alexandre’s, the two reconnected; a run-in at an audition then led to Sue Ellen’s. Shaw books talent for the club’s live-music Vixin Lounge. Last November, Hall made her debut to a healthy crowd on Thanksgiving weekend.

“She hadn’t seen me perform live since back in the karaoke days,” Hall says. “That means she booked me on faith.”

Along with her band bookings, Hall has released original music teaming up with local musician Taylor Hall. In a strange way, his indie grunge and her soulful lungs were a match made in heaven. Coming together through former Edge DJ Alan Ayo, the two created Robinson Hall, a dirty blues outfit that released three singles online last year.

In addition to original works, Hall isn’t short on delivering her strong renditions of classic rock and soul covers.  She kinda loves it.

“I discovered my purpose in life early on and it’s music. It is the only thing that brings the world closer, brings out emotions, memories. Music has landed me homeless before, but it’s important, man,” she says. “So every time I walk onstage I expect to kill ‘em. When I sing I want people to take that ride with me. I want them to hold hands during love songs, bang their heads during the rockers and cry at the sad songs. That’s why I named it an experience.”

And it is. When Hall takes on any song, she embodies it. Her body is fully engaged on a classic like Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and she turns delicate while singing Etta James, or her big hero, Gladys Knight. As she reflects on the highs and lows and the songs she embraces, Hall has an epiphany.

“Sitting here, this has been a revelation for me. I need to be more out in my own community,” she says. ”The gay community has a lot to offer and I have a gift that I’d like to share. I wish I knew more showtunes, though. The gays love those.”

Good for her. Half the battle is knowing your audience already.

The Jackie Hall Experience performs every second Saturday at Sue Ellen’s.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

TCU LGBT alumni group forms

Organizer says school has been helpful, supportive in forming group for gay graduates

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

There are some schools that are — or have been — affiliated with religious institutions that  not only wouldn’t welcome an LGBT alumni group, they would block such a group outright.

But when Doug Thompson, a graduate of Fort Worth’s Texas Christian University, associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), approached his alma mater’s alumni association about forming an LGBT affiliate, he said, the response was, “Absolutely. No problem.”

TCU’s new LGBT alumni group will hold its first large meeting on Saturday, Oct. 22, after the TCU homecoming game. Thompson acknowledged that sports isn’t the main concern of many LGBT alumni, but homecoming is still a time when many alumni return to visit the campus.

Thompson said when he asked the alumni association whether the LGBT group would need approval by the school’s administration, he was told the administration would back it. The group was approved in April.

Unlike Baylor University, which sued to keep its LGBT alumni from using the school name to organize a group, Thompson said there has been no objection from the TCU campus.

“We just want to get people involved however they want to be involved,” Kristi Hoban, associate vice chancellor alumni of relations, said. “We just reach out, whether it’s a class or the business school or a special interest group.”

She said that black alumni were not participating until the Black Alumni Alliance formed about 11 years ago. Now, she said, they’re active leaders in class reunions, homecoming and department alumni events, adding that she hopes to see the same thing happen with the LGBT network.

Finding LGBT alumni hasn’t been easy, Thompson said, as students aren’t asked about their sexual orientation before they graduate.

But Thompson said about 120 alumni have already responded, mostly to calls on social media sites. And now that the school has a Gay Straight Alliance, he said, finding future alumni will be easier.

“Our goal will be to support gay and lesbian students and start a scholarship,” Thompson said. “And we’ll form activities around things gay alumni have an interest in.”

He mentioned support for the Trinity Shakespeare Festival on campus as a direction for the group.

Thompson said that having an LGBT alumni group will help the school provide a better environment for its LGBT students.

Two years ago, TCU proposed setting aside dorm space for LGBT students. A week after the announcement, when only eight students had signed up for the housing, the school scrapped those plans.

“That got totally blown out of proportion,” Hoban said.

She said the intention was never segregated housing but really just an LGBT campus group.
Thompson said the school would have avoided the bad publicity if it had the alumni group to guide them.

The LGBT alumni group will get together after the homecoming game against New Mexico on Saturday, Oct. 22. They will meet at Tommy’s Hamburgers’ Camp Bowie Boulevard location from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

…………………

OUT, PROUD ATHLETE

Pryor.Victor

Victor Pryor

Perhaps one of the best known Texas Christian University grads that will be attending the new LGBT alumni group’s meeting this weekend is Vincent Pryor, a TCU Horned Frogs football star from 1994.

That year, before the final game of the season against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Pryor came out to his teammates. Rather than shunning him, Pryor’s coach told him he was proud of his honesty

“My teammates and my coaches overwhelmingly supported and accepted me,” Pryor writes on his website, VincentPryor.com. “All of the fears and concerns I had about being kicked off the team, or losing my scholarship, or embarrassing my school — none of that happened.  And the best part of it was that I became a better athlete after I came out.”

That day, Pryor had the biggest game of his college career, tallying a record 4.5 sacks — a record that still stands today. His performance helped TCU win the conference title and a berth in a post-season bowl game.

Today, Pryor works in sales and lives in Chicago with his partner of 12 years, who was a classmate at TCU. To watch his just-
released an “It Gets Better” video, below.

—  Kevin Thomas

Quiet Legend

Iconic crooner Johnny Mathis still has insecurities about music

 

2007-Pose-1
MATHIS EASY | For years, Mathis refrained from talking about his being gay, calling it a ‘generational thing.’ Now he laughs that, as a septuagenarian, there isn’t much to talk about anymore.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

 

In a career tenure exceeding 50 years, Johnny Mathis has touched many with his singing — witness his three Grammy Awards and a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for having sold 350 million albums worldwide. It’s enough to make a man an icon.

You wouldn’t know it to talk to him. Without much ego, Mathis doesn’t deny or disparage his accomplishments, but neither does he relish them. It’s only when someone brings up his achievements that he thinks about what he’s done in the world.

“Once in a while, I’ll get an inkling of it,” he says. “The only time I get euphoric about my career is when people with extraordinary circumstances in their lives — illness, deaths, stuff like that — say how my music has helped along the way. You try to live up to some of this stuff and so you take care of these God-given talents. It can be a little humbling.”

When Mathis steps on the stage of the Meyerson this week for two concerts with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, it marks a homecoming of sorts. He was born in Gilmer and his memories of Texas include the same heat that Dallas has been beaten with this summer.; some things never change. Surprisingly, what has also remained the same are doubts about his own talents. The voice stuff, he’s got down; the rest — he’s working on those.

“I’ve always been insecure about not being a better musician,” the silk-voiced crooner admits. “I’m always a bit hesitant about my talents mostly because I wasn’t playing piano lessons or how to read music. I didn’t learn about harmony and theory and I was never good at that. That did tend to make me reticent in everyday life.”

That reticence extends to other areas. After famously coming out in the early 1980s in a interview with Us magazine, he soon after retracted it, due, he later explained, to death threats. When he later discussed his views on homosexuality, he said that some of his reluctance was generational.

Now, though, he has good humor about it, and with a quiet air of class, he stands for that community that felt they had to hide to get by.

“It was hard enough for my [gay] fans while growing in the business,” he recalls. “They treaded pretty lightly but they knew about me. I had their blessings and everybody pretty much knew what was going on. I never had any issues really with it but everybody then took it as their own business.”

He doesn’t go into any specifics about the current state of his private life, joking, “I’m 75 — what’s there to talk about?”

Last year, Mathis released Let it Be Me: Mathis in Nashville. Known for his jazz and pop standards like “Chances Are” and “Misty,” this collection of country classics may sound like a departure for Mathis, but he has made those tunes his own working in his sophisticated signature style without stripping away the heart of each track. The collection was a sort of tribute to his father.

“I was jazzed to be able to do those songs,” he points out. “My dad was born and raised in Texas and he was a singer and piano player. He would sing these songs and those were the first songs I remember hearing. Plus, I’ve always been a fan. I play golf with Larry Gatlin and Vince Gill and we’re all sort of on the same page musically.” (The album earned him another Grammy nomination for best traditional pop vocal album earlier this year.)

With all his superstar friends, awards and concerts, Mathis doesn’t forget he’s a Texan. At one time, he might have, but a different sort of pride has surfaced within him.

“ I love that I was born in Gilmer,” he declares. “Because we were poor, we just had each other. I always thought I wouldn’t tell anybody I was from Texas because I thought it sounded ragtag. As I grew, I discovered a certain sophistication about it. Then I became proud of the fact — of who I am, what I am and where I’m from.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 19, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Rally for trans girl barred from running for homecoming queen

Dallas Voice:

Hundreds of students at North Dallas High School chanting “Whose queen? Our queen!” and carrying “Team Andy” signs surround Queer LiberAction member Elizabeth Pax, holding megaphone, and transgender student Andy Moreno, standing behind Pax, during a rally in support of Moreno, who was denied the opportunity to run for homecoming queen even though students had nominated her. NDHS Principal Dinah Escanilla said Moreno couldn’t be homecoming queen because she is “a boy” and refused to allow votes for Moreno to be counted.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright