Jonika Nix comes from a military family, with parents and grandparents who served in the armed services and an uncle who died in Vietnam. So it’s little wonder that she and Katy Bock, Jonika’s Cattle Baron’s Ball co-chair, were the spark plugs behind a first-ever, one-off, pre-CBB benefit concert on Wednesday, September 5, at Canton Hall called Combat Cowboy: A Vet Salute To Give Cancer The Boot.
All proceeds from the fundraiser, which was hosted by Canton Hall and starred country musicians Paul Cauthen and Thom Shepherd, were earmarked specifically for veterans’-related cancer services, programs, and research.
“It’s something I always wanted to do, but a lot of us talked about it,” Jonika said of the special concert as a crowd of around 200 milled about the Deep Ellum venue, waiting for the stars to take the stage. Among the party-goers were Cara French, JB Hayes, Andrea Weber, Lawrence Bock, Sunie Solomon, Lisa Ogle and Wendy and Boyd Messmann.
At different booths set up around the dimly lit hall, they could buy a Combat Cowboy Concert t-shirt ($30), take their chances with the Whiskey Pull ($40), or snap up raffle tickets ($25 apiece, or five for $100) for the big Saturday, October 20, Cattle Baron’s Ball.
Thom Shepherd, the evening’s opening act, is a CMA of Texas Songwriter of the Year who’s written five No. 1 songs for other artists. They include “Riding With Private Malone,” which David Ball recorded, and “Redneck Yacht Club,” by Craig Morgan. Thom spent 18 years living and writing in Nashville, so “I’ve been through the wringer,” he said backstage. But the experience “made me such a better writer,” he went on. “I hear with a different ear.”
Appearing solo and strumming a guitar, Thom showed that his considerable talents may lie more in writing than in performing. The same couldn’t be said of headliner Paul Cauthen, who’s been hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the most fascinating, and eccentric, new voices in country music.” Backed by a five-piece band, the tall (6-feet-4), bearded, deep-voiced Tyler native came off like a swampy, world-class cross between Waylon Jennings and Tony Joe White.
Waylon, in fact, was one of his major musical influences, Paul explained before the show, as were Elvis, Roy Orbison, and Kris Kristofferson. He was also strongly influenced by his grandfather, a Church of Christ preacher, and the music of the church. That sound still affects his work, he admitted: “I couldn’t rub it out with Bab and a wire brush.”
Cauthen really got the Canton Hall crowd revved up with “My Cadillac,” a rollicking cut off his new “Have Mercy” EP. He said his next record, due out in 2019, will be recorded at studios in Dallas and Fort Worth.
Dallas’ Cattle Baron’s Ball, via the American Cancer Society, was slated to oversee all funds raised by the Combat Cowboy concert.
* Photo credit: Tamytha Cameron