Houston Music

Slide Into The Week With Horni Tonk Tuesday

There was a time in Houston when it wasn’t a challenge to find a good ole’ honky tonk bar and spend the evening holding someone tight for a two step while enjoying a cold Lonestar Beer after a long day of work.

As time has marched on, so have the honky tonks leaving Houstonians who love classic country with few choices for a night out of getting dressed up to dance. Houston musicians, Christopher Seymore, Patrick B. Ray, D.C. Heiser and South Texas Tweak, are working hard to change the lack of options for music fans and create a community where Houston can get back on the map as a honky tonk town.

Together they created the Houston Horni Tonk Society, a group of like minded musicians and artists who aim to create a space for one another and grow the community by supporting one another to find gigs and grow audiences together.

Every week the Houston Horni Tonk Society hosts Horni Tonk Tuesdays at Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge, a free event where the founders along with their stellar backing bands lay down the kind of old country songs that keep people smiling and dancing from 7 to 10.

“We decided to quit bitching and start working on it,” says Tweak of their exhaustion with the frequent complaints about the lack of a country music scene in Houston since the end of Robert Ellis’ Whiskey Wednesdays so many moons ago.

“When this thing is up and moving I would love to have damn near every working musician in Houston on board this thing. The thing is to build camaraderie and fellowship amongst other musicians and artists that know and want to play honky tonk music,” adds Tweak.

The Houston Horni Tonk Society kicked off their Tuesday night vision in June and in less than two months since they began the events have grown in attendance with each passing week as listers slowly fill the cozy room to hear songs ranging from Kitty Wells and Hank Williams to Terry Allen and Doug Sahm.
The artists also throw in their original songs that blend right into the classics nicely.  Tweak just released his newest single "Feelin' Good" singing about a rough and rowdy night turning into day leaving the body drained and mind spinning.

Big Top provides the perfect backdrop for the wayback sounds as the band plays their classic sounds under a sign reading "Take Your Time Machine" and the dim, festive lights allow for dancers to slink on and off the dance floor at arms length from the band.

"They care and do so much to help artists and that's why that place makes sense to do this thing because they are part of that community. That block in general has a sense of community and that is something sorely lacking in a lot of places," says Seymore who performs with his band The Western Cosplay.

Their original goal is coming to fruition with other local artists attending the shows and ultimately jumping on stage for a song or two. “We are hoping it'll be a hub for songwriters and players to meet each other,” explains Serymore who also launched the podcast Getting Loose and Killin’ Time and the Sunday Shootout concerts at Shady Acres Saloon with a similar intention.

“Just to address the elephant in the room with the ‘horni’ instead of ‘honky’ tonk, for us it's a funny way to get everybody involved,” explains Tweak of the lighthearted approach to describing the music and its effect on the listeners.

“It's just a fresh eye on things. Anything can be considered horni tonk music because to break it down, horny is an emotion and any music that makes you feel an emotion, that's what you want.”

“It's just a fresh eye on things. Anything can be considered horni tonk music because to break it down, horny is an emotion and any music that makes you feel an emotion, that's what you want.”

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Tweak describes how he and his band, The Beer Run Bandits, were listening to Johnny Paycheck’s “Slide Off Your Satin Sheets” when he coined the term to describe many of the songs of the genre which revolve around affairs of the heart and flesh and lovers longing for or being left behind to chase the thrill of the nightlife and saw covered dancehalls.
“It’s about the zest in life. The passion,” emphasizes Seymore of the name and philosophy of the Society whose enthusiasm for the genre is contagious.

For a dance that’s only two (and sometimes a half) steps, people these days sure can seem scared to give it whirl out on the dance floor but maybe that's just because there’s been nowhere to practice as the old Blanco's and Firehouse Saloon are gone and the pandemic claimed the last inner loop country dance bar Goodnight Charlies.

“We have a real problem getting people on the dancefloor in Houston,” agrees Seymore. Everybody wants to be too cool for school and fold their arms.” But with each passing week, the small and sparkling dance floor of the Big Top is slowly filling up with two steppers as last call approaches.

By this fall, organizers plan to provide once a month dance lessons to combat the apprehension and encourage the audience to get off their bar stools and get dancing.

The Houston Horni Tonk Society sees the lack of weekly residencies at this stage of the pandemic and reopening's as a double-edged sword. “That's the thing about Houston, you come here and bust your ass. It's an open opportunity to carve out your own little spot and do your own thing. You can do that here, it’s ‘Hustletown’ and we can make our own way here,” says Seymore.

Having the weekly event on a Tuesday and not charging a cover is also by design as the founders of the group recognize that Tuesday nights are often the weekend of industry workers making it a night without much action in town and rare night for those who worked the weekend to get out and cut loose.

“Leave it at the bar or in the jar,” says Seymore of how to contribute to the band and bars monetary gain. “It’s about creating that community and the love of it that's what it's about. It’s not about making a nickel or a dime, those guys are doing it because they love what they're doing.”

Organizers do recognize the need for our city to better compensate its musicians as they reference the many cases of artists who have left Houston in order to make a living wage in their craft elsewhere. They hope that through their society they can also be advocates for one another in securing better paying and more frequent gigs.

Next year, The Houston Horni Tonk Society would like to extend memberships to any musician who has been working and living in the Houston area for at least one year as well as sponsor friends of the society for fans that come our and show their support.

Seymore sums it all up nicely saying, “It’s about the strength of the community and giving people a chance to be a part of something. When people find that genuine, fresh thing it's going to pull them in. They’re going to be drawn to that," he says adding,"And the band has gotta kick ass.”

For more information on The Houston Horni Tonk Society please visit their Instagram page.  Horni Tonk Tuesdays take place every Tuesday at Shoeshine Charley's Big Top Lounge, 3714 S Main, 7 p.m, Free.