Kickin’ it at Goodnight Charlie’s in Montrose
You will never, ever hear “The Fireman” by George Strait being played at Goodnight Charlie’s.
It’s not that the King of Country is verboten in the recently opened Montrose honky-tonk. In fact, he’s something of a deity around these parts. But co-owner David Keck just doesn’t want his new labor of love to burn down.
“On our first night open, Aaron McDonnell and his band were on their second encore playing “The Fireman” with a full dance floor and bar,” Keck says. “By complete fluke, our beautiful, new custom speakers … caught fire.”
The fire was quickly put out, and no one was harmed, thankfully.
But “We’ve decided that as good as that song is, it can’t be played in this space ever again,” Keck laughs. “To add to the legend, the last tab closed out before the fire occurred was for someone with the last name Burns. You just can’t make this stuff up.”
Even without “The Fireman,” Goodnight Charlie’s appears to be the country bar that Montrose never knew it needed but has nonetheless embraced.
It helps that there is no cover charge, but the bands that play here aren’t your standard, good-ol’-boy acts. These are guys such as Jonathan Terrell, an Austin artist covered in tattoos and sporting a Reba McEntire back patch on his jean jacket. He plays swaggery country that would make the ghost of Gary Stewart tap his toe.
Terrell, for one, feels like he’s found a home at the bar.
“It makes you feel real good as a band that’s slugging it out to play a venue that takes the extra steps to make me and my guys comfortable and appreciated,” he says while taking a recording break in Austin. “The folks that come out to Charlie’s expect to see a good band. You step up your game a little more because you want to give back to the folks that are taking care of you.”
He’s back at Goodnight Charlie’s on Feb. 24.
The dance floor on the weekends is a mash-up of clean-cut guys breaking in their new Luccheses while learning how to two-step with gals dressed like Miranda Lambert. Bemused neighborhood regulars in worn denim sit on the sidelines sipping ranch waters, a simple but potent cocktail of tequila and Topo Chico. The drinks pair well with the duros, puffed wheat snacks that come served with Valentina hot sauce and lime by the basketful.
At least one or two guys looking like a Sam Elliott stunt double will usually appear and hold court at the middle of the bar, scoping out the scene.
“I’ve seen people from 25 to 85,” Keck says of the age range.
The Master Sommelier formerly of Camerata, Keck knew that the closing of the historic West Alabama honky-tonk Blanco’s in late 2013 left a hole that needed to be filled in this part of Houston.
“The idea first was sparked by a trip to Hunt and experiencing Crider’s Rodeo and Dancehall, an amazing place with so much history,” Keck says. “When Blanco’s closed right here in the Loop, I got to thinking about how amazing a place in Montrose would be.”
He wasn’t alone.
Word about the bar named for famous Texas cattle rancher Charles Goodnight began leaking out nearly a year ago.
But, as with anything new, there has been mixed feedback. Folks sometimes complain that it looks “too new” or that it smells “too clean.” Authenticity takes time. It also has to be earned.
Keck is excited for what the future holds for his bar with one cowboy boot planted in the past.
“I think we have an opportunity to take one of the most interesting and sincere parts of Texas culture and help it come to life in an area of tremendous diversity,” Keck says. “If we can work toward creating a place where musicians really want to play and where people of all ages and walks of life can dance and mingle, then we’re moving in the right direction.”