RT: Don Roby, here in town, controlled
the black clubs. Blacks wouldn't
come and see the blues acts I billed.
B. B. King, they'll go see him, when
Don Roby hires him, but they
wouldn't go see Mississippi Fred
McDowell. The ethnic blacks weren't
popular. Rhythm and blues would be.
I was never in conflict with black
clubs. I never competed with anyone.
JB: A lot of acts that ran at Liberty
Hall, you booked before they were
big box office. How could you tell
they were going to make it?
RT: We just knew. We used to get four or
five record albums a day. It got to be
a real hassle to listen to everybody
and we would book the ones we
liked. The first time I heard Bruce
Springsteen, I said, "He's a star,"
and he only had one album out. We
booked him three times and he cancelled three times before he finally
JB: But was he well known before he got
RT: No. He played Liberty Hall for four
nights and then I saw him in Los Angeles six months later. He said, "Man,
thank you, that was some of the best
shows I've ever done in my life. I
didn't know I could play that good."
He told me he enjoyed the intimacy
of the hall. Then, he sky rocketed.
He made Time and Newsweek.
RT: Yes, we knew some wouldn't fill the
Music Hall because I used to tell the
booking agents, "Hey, man, if you
don't want to play here, there's a
3000 seat Music Hall downtown, but
your act is going to look funny playing to about 200 people."
JB: Who were those artists?
RT: Oh, there was Loggins and Messina,
Little Feet, Bonnie Raitt, B.W.Stevenson, Willis Alan Ramsey, Joy of
Cooking, Mason Profit, Leo Kotke,
Alex Taylor, Dr. John The Night
Tripper, Dan Hicks and the Hot
Licks, Taj Mahal, the Goosecreek
Symphony and Cheech and Chong,
to name a few. You've got to remember we booked over 400 acts in
JB: How many people did Liberty Hall
seat? And how did you decide on
playing two shows a night?
RT: Paul LaGrone, he was one of our
original incorporators, had the idea
to turn the house, to play two shows
a night. That way we could get close
to 1000, rather than 500. By the way,
Paul was from Beaumont, too. Most
of us were from Beaumont-Port
Arthur, except Roberto Gonzalez.
He was from Santiago, Chile.
JB: I know there were hundreds of people
who made Liberty Hall work, but it
seemed to a lot of us that it took the
We used to take care of people who came to
the Hall. We'd invite them into our family.
We'd eat with them, we'd have fun with them
and we'd work with them. That's what I
enjoyed most about Liberty Hall.
JB: Did you get him back?
RT: No. As a matter of fact I discovered
that about most of the artists. It's a
hard business if you don't have them
on contract. They never come back if
they make it. It's because the record
companies, their managers, the booking agencies tell them what to do. All
these people depend on them for a
living, so the artists are under a lot of
pressure. They don't have a choice.
Johnny Winters didn't have these
people on his back. I called him in
New Orleans. He was in the hospital
and when he got out, he came down
to play with Jimmy Reed. He did
three nights. And you know what I
paid Johnny Winters? $30 a night.
He came to the office to collect.
Here I was paying this super star $30
a night. He was one of the few people
who did that for Liberty Hall.
An act that refused to help us was
Z Z Top. They played Liberty Hall
in the beginning, but once they made
it big, they never would, even though
they lived here in town. It got so bad
their manager wouldn't let them
come and participate in the audience.
I thought that was a little too much.
After a while we'd say to a group,
we'll book you, but we want you for
two return options. Doug Weston did
that at the Troubador. The Trouba-
dor was to L.A. what Liberty Hall
was to Houston.
JB: Something else that seems to striking
about Liberty Hall was that you gave
a stage to artists who couldn't fill an
combination of you, Mike and later,
Roberto and Ken Fontenot to really
bring it all together.
RT: I guess you could say so. I was in
charge of the finances, the box office,
and the pr work. Mike was more into
the aesthetics, the bookings, the
stage settings. Later on when Roberto and Ken became partners, Ken
took over the box office and Roberto did the bar and stage. Sometimes
he would introduce the shows—wearing a Lone Ranger mask. We didn't
have a hierarchy, no titles or business
But there were hundreds of others
over seven years. The people in the
sound, stage and lighting departments,
the transportation and maintenance
crews, the restaurant staff and the
waitresses. The waitresses were great.
There was one, in particular, Maggie
Mayer. She was the head waitress for
five years. Now, she'e at Anderson
Fair. Maggie was great. So were Jane
and Wendy Broyles. And I always remember George Banks and Ham, the
two guys that put up the sign at Liberty Hall. George fell and broke his
wrist putting up that sign. George
had a hand-operated printing press
and did a lot of our posters. Ham did,
too. Man, this is hard, I want to mention everybody. We were a close-knit
JB: Most of the people I knew that went
to Liberty Hall picked up on that
feeling of togetherness. I heard you
had weddings there and a lot of