Concerts

Cherished Night For Guy Celebration Returns

The widely popular Night For Guy celebration returns after a three year hiatus.  It will take place on Wednesday, May 11 on the Rice University campus.
The widely popular Night For Guy celebration returns after a three year hiatus. It will take place on Wednesday, May 11 on the Rice University campus. Photo by Van Williams
Texas songwriting legends Guy Clark and Richard Dobson famously wrote about the unquantifiable value of having a true friend in their song “Old Friends.” Six years after his passing, some of his old friends and admirers are getting back together to celebrate his legacy yet again.

The annual and highly anticipated Night For Guy will take place on Wednesday, May 11 at the Rice Duncan Recital Hall. Tickets are $60 with proceeds benefiting KPFT and the Houston Music Foundation. The event is sponsored by No Label Brewing Company who will be providing beverages for the event.

Night For Guy started one year after Clark’s passing in 2017 after founders Shawn Parks, owner of Bojangles School of Music, and local musician Matt Harlan decided to celebrate the artist in the city where his career was really formed at the urging of Parks’ wife Elisabeth who saw that Parks had a real desire to celebrate Clark.

The lineup this year will feature a familiar set of faces along with some newcomers and surprises as always. Parks teases what's in store for the audience and suggests those interested should email about an additional event the following day.

This year's lineup includes Parks, Matt Harlan, Paul Beebe, Katie Rushing, Dick DeGuerin, Libby Koch, Will Van Horn, Mighty Orq, John Egan, Brad Absher, Charlie Harrison, Brant Croucher and Lainey Balagia, Tommy Lewis, George Ensle, Noel McKay and Clark’s right hand man himself Verlon Thompson.

In previous years the event has taken place at the historic Anderson Fair where Clark played regularly but this year, after taking three years off due to the pandemic, they were approached by Rice University which houses the Houston Folk and Blues Collections in the Fondren Library and houses key pieces to Clark’s career.

“People really liked it and it meant something to a lot of people,” says Parks of the sorely missed yearly event. “You take three years off and more than double the size of the venue and it's almost like starting over. We've all been really humbled and flattered by the response.”

“We love Anderson Fair and we love everything Anderson Fair is about; their history and the vibe,” says Parks of the historic and quaint venue citing the size of the tiny listening room for the main reason that hosting the event at Rice is a move in the right direction as previously, the event would sell out so quickly that many never had the chance to even attend.

Hosting this special event in a larger listening room not only makes it more accessible to people who want to take part but also opens up the possibility for increased fundraising, an aspect important to all involved as KPFT has long championed for artists like Clark, the performers he inspired and those who will take the stage to celebrate his songs and large body of work.

Clark’s songs blend right in on the prestigious campus for many reasons. One being that it is the campus which houses an important and expansive collection of archives documenting the phases and stages of the Houston folk scene.

Archivist Norie Guthrie has put the collection together and found immense joy in connecting the time periods and cast of characters with deep friendships to one another. She even found the journal in which the chorus of “Old Friends” was initially written out by Dobson, one of the pieces from the collection that will be on view during the event.

Clark’s lyrics are more poetry than song and his push for the art form and the writing of original material versus performing traditional folk songs helped to motivate and inspire others at the time. “He was part of that shift,” says Guthrie of Clark's ability to move from drunken poet to literary hero of Texas helping him fit right in on the Rice campus.

“I think that without that turn the scene would have just died and it also has to be added that the unique songwriting is coming from other people that they are being introduced to which would be Lightnin Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb. They're who were writing and performing their own materials too and those men also have an important piece in this puzzle,” she adds.

“What I love about Guy’s music is that you can listen to it and almost get educated in a lot of the arts,” says longtime musical partner and guitarist Verlon Thompson. “He sang about Picasso, Hemingway, the Mona Lisa and David. It's just like my god, this Guy he's like a professor,” says Thompson with a level of awe and admiration that no amount of time or experience can wipe away.

“What I love about Guy’s music is that you can listen to it and almost get educated in a lot of the arts.”

tweet this
Clark’s friend and famous Texas attorney Dick DeGuerin echoes the sentiment adding a Texas twist. “The thing about Guy is his songs are poetry and they're just basic truths. If you've lived in Texas it's just a common experience."

He goes further by pointing out that those outside of the Lone Star State can also understand it as Clark sings about the generation specific experiences like tying a pillowcase around your neck to pretend to fly or watching the development of big, fast trains running through cities across the United States.

“It speaks to me and I suppose it speaks to a lot of people and that's why there's so many devoted fans and admirers of Guy Clark,” says DeGuerin.

Clark’s music doesn’t just take listeners into a time and place, it somehow captures the greater human experience wrapping around the soul like a blanket it didn’t know it needed and has become the real blueprint for Texas songwriting.

Clark’s influence stretches far and wide and a huge part of his story and legacy is tied to lives and careers that he touched, despite his gruff exterior and demeanor. The friendships carved out by Clark and his contemporaries clearly maintain their importance.

For evidence of this, look no further than his friendship with Terry Allen who immortalized Clark's ashes in a magnificent sculpture of a large crow housed in the library of Texas State University eerily greeting visitors to the impressive Wittliff Collections.

“Guy left such a trail of benefactors,” explains Thompson who credits Clark for showing him the way to happiness in his career in music, a process well documented in the 2018 film about Thompson’s life Sweet Dreams Do Come True.

“You can connect the dots just from Guy to Rodney Crowell to Steve Earle to Emmy Lou Harris to Lyle Lovett and guys like me and Shawn Camp. The list just goes on and on and now I find that there are people that are coming to me for the same kind of help that Guy passed on to me and I'm just so thankful for what he did that I try to keep connecting the dots and it's a beautiful thing.”

The list of Clark’s friends and fellow songwriters keeping his legacy alive is as long as the Colorado River. Since his passing, Night For Guy has served as a consistent and joyful event to celebrate him and come together keeping his memory and spirit alive for it is only when we do not think of the departed that they are truly gone.

“That’s the beauty of music,” says Thompson. “Songs don't die. They stay alive as long as somebody is singing them and I'm still singing Guy’s so he's still here.”

Night For Guy will take place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 11 at the Rice Duncan Recital Hall, 6100 Main. For tickets email nightforguy@gmail.com $60,
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes