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Dallas' Poor David's Pub Bids Farewell to Lower Greenville

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX – Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter: From its two-bladed ceiling fans to its duct-taped chairs, Poor David's Pub on lowest Greenville Avenue has lived up to its name. The atmosphere is frill-free - no jukebox for patrons, no dressing room for performers. And prices for parking and drinks are hardly a bargain. But for more than two decades, the venue has launched the careers of nationally-known Dallas acts like the Dixie Chicks, Nanci Griffith, and Jack Ingram. Booking agent Troy Johnson, who works with some of Poor David's up-and-coming talent like Houston Marchman and Phil Pritchett, describes the thrill of landing a gig there.

Troy Johnson, Mustang Entertainment: It's huge. People like Townes Van Zandt, Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett have been on this stage. It's a songwriter's venue. If you're a big loud rock band you can come in and play down the street, but you play Poor David's, people are going to sit down and listen to your lyrics.

Cuellar: That was the case for musician Max Stalling, who recalls one of his early gigs there during an electrical storm blackout.

Max Stalling, Musician: People got their lighters out and my band, since we swap between acoustic and electric, we sang with people lighting the room with their lighters, completely acoustically, truly about the music, no amplification. You couldn't do this in any venue besides Poor David's I don't think.

"Poor" David Card, Owner: There's just too many things that have happened in 21 years that were significant, not only for me but for the development of the music scene, not only in Dallas but around Texas.

Cuellar: David Card is "Poor David."

Card: We're not taking credit for any of that, but we've nurtured bands, we've tried to be Texas music friendly. We brought in some acts you just can't forget.

Cuellar: Card stands in the full parking lot behind his club - beside musicians changing clothes and waiting to take the stage. After 21 years watching his side of the street change from a no man's land on weeknights to a traffic headache with overpriced parking, Card jumped at the chance to stop paying rent on his worn-down club and buy a new building. The new Poor David's Pub will be on the south side of I-30, between the former Sears Building and the new Gilley's nightclub.

Card: This departure is sort of bittersweet because my children were born while I was here. They would come down and I would baby-sit them while my wife was going to school or working, and they'd go in the bathrooms and stick their hands in the toilet. Thank God it was flushed. I'd be doing the books from the night before and I'd call out, "Everything all right?" "Yeah, Daddy!"

Cuellar: But Stalling says the old club, while memorable, won't be entirely missed.

Stalling: It's good that they keep the lights down, because there are so many elements there, that some of the chairs can be bad for your clothing. If you drop something on the floor, just leave it there. Don't reach down there and try and pick it up (laughs).

Cuellar: True to his nickname, Card is asking patrons to donate their own time and money to help him move and finish out the new space. He'll even use his sticky old chairs to make a dime.

Card: We're going to remove all the respectable furniture which is, ahem, maybe 15, 20 percent of it, and then we're going to auction off - for five bucks a piece you can have one of those chairs, and I'll sign it! And what doesn't sell, we may just have a bonfire back here (laughs).

Cuellar: The final show at Poor David's Pub on Greenville Avenue will be Sunday from noon to midnight, featuring dozens of past performers. Poor David's Pub reopens at its new location on August 18th. For KERA 90.1, I'm Catherine Cuellar.


Email Catherine Cuellar about this story.