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Country music supporters near November fund raiser

By Ken Stickney

ken.stickney@panews.com

Area country music enthusiasts are getting closer to a November date for a fund raiser to support their quest to promote “traditional country music.”

Don Meehan, a member of the Museum of the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame, said the 15-member board is aiming at Nov. 24 for a country music show involving as many as 10 bands, perhaps five local, and comedians at the Dixie Dance Hall in Beaumont.

He suggested the show might be called the “Noble Global Opry,” or some other appropriate name.

“We want to spread the word globally about country music,” said Meehan, a Beaumont native and Nederland resident who did sound work and mixing for Columbia Records in New York for 32 years.

Meehan said the fledgling organization, the Global Country Music Association, has been meeting in Beaumont and includes area songwriters and performers, many whose success has extended well past Texas.

The group has multiple intentions, he said, that include promoting the traditional sound of country music — that means including steel guitar and fiddles, he said — seeking wider radio play for older artists and for women, promoting Southeastern Texas country music and promoting country music everywhere.

“I’m strongly out to retire the word ‘retire’,” he said. “Let’s put that to rest.”

The country music business, he said, pushes aside veterans talents in favoring of marketing to younger generations of country music fans.

“There’s lots of resistance,” he said, with “ladies being over the hill at 40 and even men with exceptional talents staring at the walls at 65.”

He said he believes the GCMA, which is forging its foundation, can help.

“We’re in business,” Meehan said of his organization, which has applied for 501c3 tax-exempt status. After that is granted, Meehan said, the group will seeking donations to get started.

Meehan said the organization is seeking well-placed “ambassadors” for country music around the globe, people will to use their platforms to tout country music on social media and elsewhere.

Meehan said this area has given numerous country and western music artists and songwriters the opportunity to launch their careers, including Tex Ritter of Nederland; George Jones, who grew up playing music for coins in Beaumont streets; Mark Chesnutt of Beaumont; and Tracy Byrd, born in Vidor. Songwriter Don Rollins, from Vidor, has had considerable success in writing country music songwriting.

Meehan himself, 87, has written about 75 country music songs, he said, which he has used to produce a few self-published CDs. As a teenager in the 1940s, he said, he oftentimes competed and sometimes won in talent competitions that involved George Jones. Jones, he recollected, was not a gracious loser.

But years later, Meehan did sound work for Jones’ version of “Bartender Blues”; James Taylor provided background music for the song, which he wrote.

Meehan said he’d love to help struggling country artists succeed.

“A number of people are struggling to make their own record, or they sign contracts with companies that don’t promote you,” he said, which was the circumstances in which he found himself after seeking success on the performing side. “If a company doesn’t promote you, you are dead in the water.”