Looking every inch like a slimmed-down Brand New Man, event Co-Chair Steve Stodghill stood onstage in The Statler Hotel’s ballroom, welcoming guests to the first-ever All for the Hall Dallas fundraiser supporting Nashville’s non-profit Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Sept. 22 event at the downtown hotel was the climax of a two-day benefit for the museum’s educational initiatives, like its flagship Words And Music program for school-age kids — including students in 10 classrooms in the Dallas Independent School District (DISD).
All the previous All for the Hall benefits had been held in Nashville, Los Angeles and New York. So, when organizers asked him initially whether the museum would be able to raise money in Texas, Steve told the Statler crowd of nearly 300, he had an answer at the ready: “Oh, you have no idea how much money you can raise in Texas! Dallas’ philanthropical spirit is unsurpassed in the nation.”
The musical fundraiser had kicked off the night before with an acoustic patron-party performance by country star Trisha Yearwood at the home of Steve and his wife Anne Stodghill, who co-chaired the two-day shindig along with Katy and Lawrence Bock, Terri and Kurt Johnson, Jonika and Corky Nix and Sunie and Steve Solomon. The Statler event 24 hours later included a reception, a dinner, silent and live auctions and a performance by Country Music Hall of Fame members Brooks And Dunn, aka Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn. (They donated their time to the benefit, as did Yearwood.)
The iconic Brooks & Dunn duo, touring nationally for the first time in a decade, transported their full-on “REBOOT 2021” show to the hotel’s ballroom, stirring up a crowd that included the likes of Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and his wife Angela, DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa with wife Kitty, Mary and Joe Parker, Amy and Corey Prestidge, Nidia and Adam Olivas, Alison and Harry Hunsicker, Holly and Stubbs Davis with daughter Landry Davis (she’s the reigning Miss Texas Teen USA), Kittie and John Buchanan with their kids Cornelia Buchanan and John Buchanan Jr. and Dallas entrepreneurial types Doug Deason, Edwin Cabaniss and Ron Johnsey (“This is a bucket list item for me,” Ron said enthusiastically).
Among an Austin-based contingent in attendance were Brendon Anthony, director of the Texas Music Office; BMI’s Mitch Ballard; and Joe Ables of the Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association.
Following remarks by the Nashville museum’s Lisa Purcell and then the live auction — businessman Johnsey, for example, ponied up $15K for an autographed Gibson 335 guitar — Brooks & Dunn hit the stage with their 1991 hit, “Brand New Man.” Then they segued into another smash, “Working On My Next Broken Heart.” Noting the crowd’s reaction — or, rather, its lack of one — Kix unleashed a gentle tweak: “How ya’ll doin’? Man, it’s quiet out here! You all scared?” That may have been just the prod they needed, because after that things got more animated.
How could they not have, though, in the face of such rollicking, honk-tonk classics as “We’ll Burn That Bridge,” “Red Dirt Road,” “Lost and Found,” “Hard Workin’ Man,” “Play Something Country,” “My Maria,” and “Rock My World (Little Country Girl)”? “Neon Moon” brought out a few buckle-rubbers, and Kix’s soulful version of “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” was a highlight of the evening. After the night’s final tune, “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” the stars ended the evening on a no-nonsense note — “That’s it! We love you!” — before vanishing backstage.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum must love North Texas now, too. All for the Hall Dallas presented by Winston & Strawn LLP ended up netting more than $415,000 for the museum, making it the venue’s most successful benefit outside of Nashville to date.
* Photos by George Fiala for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum