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Salvation From Sundown: Being Seen AND Heard

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By Johnny Griffith

One particular Friday evening last summer, I was at the T-Bone Walker Blues Festival in Longview. My band had played earlier that evening and I was relaxing inside after hearing a couple of the other bands and hanging out with my family. One of the acts I had the chance to listen to brought a young guitarist on stage to jam with them on a song. It is always fun to watch young kids getting their feet wet in front of a crowd, and this kid didn’t seem to be intimidated by the experience.

salvation-from-sundown-2222An hour or so later I noticed my son is hanging out with the young guitar player I had just watched. So I walked over and learned that they knew each other from school. As I interacted with the group that was standing around them, a couple of things became apparent: first, they were all musicians, and secondly, confidence in their abilities wasn’t something they were lacking. As I was introduced to the group by one of the other kids, it was pointed out that one of the boys was “one of the most-best drummers you’ll ever hear.”

The guitarist ended up being Reece Malone, and the drummer was J.D. Beck. Later that weekend I watched in amazement as this 11 year old drummer would get on stage with Texas blues legend Lance Lopez and absolutely nail a cover of Led Zepplin’s “The Ocean,” which is not a song for the faint of heart or those lacking the chops to pull it off. I’ve been around good-to-great musicians most of my life, and as such, I’m not easily impressed, nor do I throw around compliments lightly, but I had to laugh as I remembered the earlier assertion that he truly was “one of the most-best drummers you’ll ever hear.”

Salvation-From-SundownFast forward a year and that group of young musicians has come together to form the sensational blues rock band “Salvation From Sundown.” The line-up is comprised of Kelsi Kee on vocals, Reece Malone and Spencer singer guitars, Cardis Wilkinson on the bass, and the aforementioned JD Beck on drums. While the oldest member of the band is only 13, I can say, after seeing them live a few times now, that their age is not indicative of their maturity and presence on stage, nor the mastery of their respective instruments. There are few bands that would enjoy having to follow these guys on stage, based on the way they not only capture the audience with the novelty of their age, but also hold them with the skill of their performance. Anyone after them would be almost anti-climactic.

The appeal of this band is not qualified by how old they are for what they are doing. This band is good for any group of five musicians, at ANY age. If you were to walk into the room while they are playing, not looking at the stage, what you’d hear is a tight band that could hold their own with most bands you’d hear on any given weekend. Their musical selections are not lightweight either. From Zepplin, to Stevie Wonder, to Bad Company, and everything in between along with a smattering of originals thrown in, Salvation From Sundown (SFS) isn’t afraid of soaring vocals, complex rhythms, or blistering guitar solos.

13095808_1007146872687489_514420959887015125_nAs it turns out, that first performance I caught with JD Beck sitting in with Lance Lopez was no random pairing. A friend of Reese Malone’s parents, Lance has been involved with the kids from SFS as a mentor and an integral part of their success. All the time, sharing the knowledge and experiences gained from his own journey as a young guitar prodigy himself to Texas blues phenom. In fact, Reece and Spencer had both entered and won the T-Bone Walker Jr. Showcase last summer at the festival and Reece got to play in front of a packed out crowd with Lance that Saturday night. It was the first time that JD, Reece, and Spencer would play together, and it was just a prelude of things to come.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing SFS and Lance to get to know these guys a little better.

EGuide: How did you all meet?

SFS: We all met through music, mostly through different open jams hosted by Lance Lopez and through social media.

EGuide: When did the idea of forming a band get broached?

SFS: The Malone’s were having a Christmas party and had gotten all of us together to perform and it grew from there. They knew we were all talented individually on our instruments and thought it would be a cool idea for us to get together. After we had played our first song at our first practice with Lance, we were hooked!

12790911_969222299813280_1680619998414759633_nEGuide: How often do you get to practice as a group?

SFS: Our distance apart makes practice a bit challenging. Spencer, JD, and Kelsi are from the Dallas area, Reece is from Longview, and Cardis is across the border in Louisiana, so we are separated by about 200 miles. We get together a couple times a month usually, but also get in extra rehearsals when we can.

EGuide: How about the name? Don’t I recall that being a Lance Lopez song, and do you ever cover it in a show?

SFS: The name was selected to honor Lance as our mentor and producer. You’re right, it is one of his album and song titles, and we are currently working to add the song to our set list.

EGuide: What has been your biggest challenge early on in trying to get gigs and how have you overcome that?

SFS: Really, our biggest challenge has been the distance between us geographically but our parents have been dedicated to giving us this opportunity so with practice on our part and sacrifice on our family’s parts, we’ve been able to succeed so far. We couldn’t do any of this without their support and the mentorship of Lance.

EGuide: What has been your favorite gig so far?

10268477_969222223146621_839523676647598748_nSFS: We’ve enjoyed every opportunity we’ve had, but our favorite gig so far has been getting to play the Dallas International Guitar Festival (DIGF). We were invited by Jimmy Wallace to kick off the Saturday night All Star Jam.
EGuide: That’s a huge annual event and a great opportunity! Outside of getting to perform on stage at the DIGF, what was your favorite part of the event?

SFS: We enjoyed the entire experience, but one of the biggest highlights had to be getting a band endorsement from Ernie Ball.

EGuide: What’s the next big thing for Salvation From Sundown?

SFS: Our next big event is opening for Eric Gales and the Guitar Sanctuary in McKinney, Texas, on June 5th. We’ll have more summer dates to be announced on our Facebook page.

EGuide: Lance (LL), how did you first hear of these incredibly talented musicians, and what were your initial thoughts?

LL: I had worked with Reece as a guitar student for quite some time and am very close friends with his parents. His dad would bring him to my Blues Jams in Dallas once he was at the point to start performing live. JD’s parents also brought him to one of my jams and introduced me to Spencer as well. Once Cardis and Kelsi came into the picture they called me to help them with a rehearsal at JD’s family’s house. I knew immediately that these children were very special, super talented, and very blessed with the gift of music. They had all the makings of a great band if we could properly hone it.

734646_969222253146618_3556495897231928141_nEGuide: How did that translate into an opportunity to mentor them?

LL: My dear friend David Malone told me he was bringing all of the kids together to form a band and he reached out to me to help put it together and produce them. Jamie Malone asked me if I could help all of the kids prepare for a set of music for them to perform at a Christmas party the Malone’s were throwing, and my band was already going to be there to play. After that event, more shows started happening and things began to get more serious. We began rehearsing regularly, and I began selecting songs for them. I also spent time assessing the strengths of each one of the kids and how each one of their roles impacted the band as a whole. The best thing about working with them is [that] they all understand that hard work pays off. They have put that hard work into learning their instruments and now they are putting it into their band.

EGuide: How has this opportunity impacted you personally, and has it made you an even better musician?

LL: I’m just glad I’m able to be a positive influence and help the kids be the best they can be. I’m grateful to be a part of their lives, because it helps me to help them. Teaching music or an aspect thereof, whether it be lessons or helping each one of the musicians in SFS individually, always keeps you on your toes and makes you stay on top of your game.

10006965_969222113146632_8644841020372165684_nEGuide: As a successful musician yourself who has been in the business for decades, how fulfilling is it knowing that you get to impart those years of experience, learning at the school of trial and error, onto a group of young musicians who seem to be willing to soak up every bit of musical knowledge they can get their hands on?

LL: Absolutely! My path to becoming a world-class musician was not an easy one. If there are things I can protect these kids from as far as this business is concerned, you better believe I will. As I said before, it’s about being a positive influence and saving them from mistakes that so many musicians make. I’m so grateful to also work very closely with their parents. It is great to see them have so much support and encouragement. With proper guidance and positive support from friends and families, these kids have a great future ahead!

I’d have to enthusiastically agree with Lance on that assertion. With the prodigious talent, successful work-ethic, and amazing support system in place with their family, and ace-in-the-hole, Lance Lopez, we’ll be seeing AND hearing Salvation From Sundown for many years to come.

Salvation From Sundown on the web:



July 27th: SFO, A Journey Tribute Band at Bergfeld Park

The City of Tyler will host the annual Bergfeld Summer Showcase at Bergfeld Park, located at 1510 S. College Ave., on Friday, July 27. The event kicks off at 6 p.m. with fun and food trucks and live music beginning at 7 p.m.

This year, SFO – A Journey Tribute, a Nashville native band will take the stage. SFO recreates the experience of a 1980’s concert, playing all the Journey hits that you know and love with a special salute to Kansas and Foreigner. The band is made up of top-notch musicians from Nashville, Florida, and Minnesota who bring the highest level of musicianship to the audience.

Frontman Gabe Jacobs delivers powerful vocals to his audience by closely emulating the vocals and stage presence of legendary Steve Perry.

“This band will transport you back to the 80’s with all the songs you know by heart!” said Adriana Rodriguez, event coordinator.

The local favorite food trucks will be present for quality dining including Say Cheese, Weinerland, Lupita’s, Kona Ice and Pokey O’s.

For more information, contact Adriana Rodriguez at (903) 595-7248 or at


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The Haggertys: Hey Hey We’re The Haggertys

By Johnny Griffith

There are times when things just click with someone and you know it from the start. Then, years later you come back across them and it’s almost as if no time has passed. That’s kind of what is like for local Tyler favorites The Haggertys. Having all been members of different bands, some together and some collaborative, over the years, the lineup of “Patrick James” Freden (guitars, vocals), Brad Thurston (bass, backing vocals), and Clint Hiltz (drums/percussion) have been together as The Haggertys since 2013 and have been exciting audiences ever since with their setlists of 90’s standard rock covers as well as reinterpreting some classic songs along the way.

We sat down with the guys recently to get some more history on the band and a better snapshot of the members.

Johnny: How about we start with a brief bio of yourself and your background in music.

Patrick: I was born in Minnesota, moved to Tyler in 1974 and then left in the summer of 1977. I basically grew up in Ocean Springs, Mississippi playing Dungeons & Dragons, riding BMX bikes, and listening to albums over at a friend’s house. My first band was a punk band called Spastic Fury in high school. After that, I did some college in Mobile, Alabama, and eventually came back to Tyler in 1988. I played in bands all through the 90’s and started a solo acoustic project in 2005. I’m a self-employed graphic artist by day building websites, designing logos, etc., and music is my second business. I’m a full-time dad and husband, a professional tinkerer who likes craft beers, Les Pauls, Orange Amps, and hanging out in my favorite music store, Action Sound in Hawkins.

Brad: I’ve been playing music since I was 15 when I purchased my first guitar. It cost me $50 and was in a brown paper bag in pieces. After getting it put together, I started looking around for a band. No one needs a guitar player, so the next year I went and bought a bass, found a band, and the journey began. The start of my high school music career included rock bands like Conspiracy, Guardian, and Blue Steel. After high school, I branched out and did a did brief stint in a country band.

The call of the Hair Bands drew me to California, Hollywood to be exact. I moved in with a friend from high school, joined a band, and played the Troubadour on Santa Monica Blvd. within the first 3 weeks of being in California. I played in other bands there, like Hammer Lane. I did shows at The Roxy Theater and The Whisky A Go-Go. After wrapping up my California time, I moved back to Tyler, found an alternative band, Center Mass, which was later known as “Did Lee Squat?” (DLS?). That’s where I met “Patrick James.” We played venues in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and even Shreveport, Louisiana.

This too ended and I started my family, got a job, and put the band on the back burner. After some time, I started playing with Livid, a cover band around the Tyler/Longview area. This project just kinda wound down and I took a job out of town. More time passed with both family and job changes. I started playing bass in a praise band for Pollard United Methodist Church and did that for a few years until one day Patrick called. No, it was not the “I’m getting the band back together” kinda call. He wanted to redo his current project. I think he said he wanted to play more electric guitar and just rock out…so here we are.

Clint: I’m the baby of the band, born in Austin in 1974. I lived in Alvin, Texas through my 5th-grade year and moved to East Texas in 1986 where I joined the Union Grove percussion section in junior high and continued throughout high school. I played in the band and every sport Union Grove offered. As I got into high school, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to play football then at halftime, I’d take off my shoulder pads and march in the marching band. In 1992, I moved to Tyler and was offered a scholarship to join the Tyler Junior College drumline, better known as the Apache Punch. My hobbies are hunting, fishing, shooting guns, and working out. Currently, I work at Suddenlink as a Commercial Sales Supervisor.

Johnny: Who would you say was personally responsible, individually, for instilling that love of music you’d take the rest of your lives?

Pat: My mom for sure. She was the one that got me going as a kid…from playing Johnny Cash records to buying me a guitar and taking me to lessons.

Brad: My mom, she had me taking piano at the age of six, and we loved Elvis.

Clint: Hands down, my father. He played drums as well and he got me started gigging at the early age of 13 when I would sit in for him and play Wipeout.

Johnny: When did you three first meet?

The Haggertys: During the 90’s, Pat and Brad were playing in a band called DLS? and Clint was in a band called Affinity. The two bands did several shows together, including one at the Oil Palace in Tyler with DLS? as the headliner and Affinity providing support…the friendship and collaboration grew from there.

Johnny: How did the idea of starting the Haggertys come together?

The Haggertys: Sometime in the summer of 2013, Pat was doing his solo acoustic thing and had done some earlier shows with Clint and Brad as the Patrick James Band but these were still “acoustic” shows. After playing these kinds of shows for so long, Pat just got the itch to play with electrics and amps again, and Clint was on board to “get loud.” A permanent bass player was recruited and the band was formed. Really the Haggertys morphed out of the Patrick James Band and the guys started rehearsing so the song list grew. The band covers lots of material but kinda focuses on 90’s rock. The old “If it’s a good song, it’s a good song….doesn’t matter what genre it’s from” always applies.

Johnny: Okay, so the name. Where did it come from and whose idea was it?

The Haggertys: During one of the early rehearsals the idea of a band name came up and of course lots of stuff was thrown around. Pat noticed that all the band members had some righteous beards going at the time and this got him to thinking about people with beards and the one person that came to mind was a childhood hero from the show Grizzly Adams. Pat said, “the best beard ever, in my opinion, hands down, was Dan Haggerty, let’s call the band that!” So originally he wanted the band to be called the Dan Haggertys which morphed into the Damn Haggertys which quickly changed, for obvious reasons, and the band settled in with The Haggertys.

Johnny: When and where was the first Haggertys show?

The Haggertys: The first show was March 22nd, 2014, at Shoguns (#2) under their black tent outside. It was an alright turnout, and the band had fun. We later learned that many people were turned away or had to wait to get outside under the tent because of limited seating and fire codes.

Johnny: How would you describe your sound to a new listener?

The Haggertys: Straight-up, no-frills, fun-having, 3-piece rock cover band with a few surprises.

Johnny: You guys move in and out of different genres and decades of music pretty easily. Would you say there is one you’re more comfortable with than the others?

The Haggertys: Being a 3-piece with everyone doing something, we kinda gravitate towards 90’s rock songs we can easily play and cover well. More complicated songs with multi instruments tend to be harder (or impossible) to pull off with just three instruments, so we shy away from them. However, the art of taking a song and “making it your own” remake/cover is what we strive to do. Really any song we can cover well and make our own stays on the set list.

Johnny: Are you primarily covers or are you throwing some original stuff in the mix?

The Haggertys: We all played in what we called “Showcase Bands” back in the 90’s…all original songs and we all made albums, struggled to get gigs that paid, rehearsed a lot, tried to get signed, etc. Today we just play covers, play a lot, rehearse way less often, don’t care about getting signed, and get paid to play, which is nice. We won’t rule out that one day we might start writing songs again, but it isn’t on anyone’s radar anytime soon. We have done some reunion shows by combining Did Lee Squat? and Sand Dollar band members into a group called Did Lee Dollar. This allowed us to reconnect with old bandmates and fans and play some of the old originals. Come to think of it, it’s probably time for another one of those shows.

Check out The Haggertys online at:



  • Thursday, July 12th – Razzoo’s, Tyler, 7-10pm
  • Friday, September 14th – Gregg County Fair on Dennis Hiltz Memorial Stage, Longview
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Southern Charm: Small Town Girls With Big Time Sound

By Johnny Griffith

So there’s an old saying that has something to do with ‘dynamite comes in small packages’ and that certainly holds true with the two talented, dynamic artists in the East Texas duo Southern Charm. Both hailing from small East Texas towns, Shelby Ballenger and Billie Jo Sewell have been making a name for themselves both as successful solo artists and the fast rising duet, Southern Charm. Both artists have honed their crafts on many local stages and along the way found they had a knack for harmony and similar musical interests. Borne of a shared passion and great timing, Southern Charm takes advantage of each artist’s unique vocal ability and is greater than the sum of its parts…which is saying something because Shelby and Billie Jo both have burgeoning solo careers in their own right. So much so that Southern Charm as a duet has to book six months in advance and then they have a seven show run in seven east Texas venues.

We caught up with them in the middle of this latest run to get some more background on these ladies and their “Southern Charm.”

Johnny: When did you two first take up an interest in music?

Shelby: From the age of 13 I began singing at The Wylie Opry. From there, I was self-taught to play the guitar. I eventually began going to open mic nights all around north Texas to make a name for myself. About 2 years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to quit my day job and pursue music full time. I haven’t looked back.

Billie Jo: I started singing when I was 4 years old and grew up singing in church. I went from singing at church to Opry’s, restaurants, and festivals, to opening for people such as Ray Price, Gene Watson, Justin Moore, Mike Ryan, and Stoney LaRue. I had the honor to be on “The Voice” where I made top 150 on season 6 and recently I made top 100 on “American Idol.” I just recently signed to TXM Records and am currently in the studio working on my first country single!

Johnny: Who were some of your early influences?

Shelby: I always looked up to dominant female singers growing up. My lead inspirations were Shania Twain, Lee Ann Rimes, and The Dixie Chicks. When I began songwriting, I leaned on lyrics by Chris Stapleton, Miranda Lambert, and local artists such as Meredith Crawford and Matt Grisby for inspiration.

Billie Jo: I was raised by my grandparents so I was inspired by the oldies but goodies, as I like to call them, such as George Jones, Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and many others.

Johnny: When did you decide music was more than just another hobby and was something worth pursuing?

Shelby: Once I began taking the stage with my guitar, people began talking about the talent and potential I had. I tried to make an impression at every new venue and began to see the joy it brought to people listening. I began entering songwriting competitions once my repertoire grew and placed with within the top four each time out of hundreds of hopefuls.

Billie Jo: I knew at a very early age that God didn’t give me this voice to just sing at home. I just knew that He gave me this voice to share with the world and that one day this would be my full time career which, gratefully, I’m very close to being able to say. I’ve always wanted to use my gift that God gave me in hopes that the audience may come to know Him through my music and testimony.

Johnny: How did you two first meet and when did the idea of a duo project come up?

Shelby & Billie Jo: We met at an East Texas singing competition a little over four years ago. From there, we became instant best friends.

Johnny: When and where was your first show as Southern Charm?

Shelby & Billie Jo: Our first official show was at The Foxhole where we won a karaoke competition. We took home $2,500 which made it our first paid gig together. From there Southern Charm played The Forge in Ben Wheeler and then our solo careers started taking off. We now book six months in advance for the Southern Charm East Texas Tour.

Johnny: How about the name? Where did that idea come from?

Shelby: Billie Jo’s son Chandler won most handsome baby boy at the Emory Rains pageant in 2014. I saw Billie Jo make a post on Facebook needing a car to ride in the parade with. I offered her convertible slug bug for the event. While we were in the car, we started trying out songs to sing together. I mentioned that I’d always wanted to put a duo together and name the act Southern Charm. Billie Jo loved the idea so we ran with it!

Johnny: How would you describe your sound?

Shelby: Southern Charm’s sound has a pure tone and the harmonies blend extremely well. I [Shelby] have more of the bluesy tone and Billie Jo brings the powerhouse country twang. Together, our voices mesh to create a unique country sound.

Johnny: What do you feel you bring to the table individually that compliments your partner on stage?

Shelby & Billie Jo: We know the dynamics of music. We never try to overpower each other onstage and that’s something every duo needs in order to be successful.

Johnny: About how many originals do you try to work in during a show?

Shelby & Billie Jo: We try to work in all of our most favorite originals at each and every show. Usually there’s about four to five each.

Johnny: You’ve had a busy summer already, what’s coming up on the radar the rest of the year that you’re excited about?

Shelby: I’m currently working on my full album with Joe Austin as producer. I’ve written 12 brand new songs and my new single “Heartbreaks & Hangovers” will be released late July while the album will drop next summer.

Billie Jo: I have a big secret I’ll be able to announce in a couple months about where I will be on the National Stage. Currently I’m in the studio with Chad Mauldin and Mauldin Productions working on my new single that will be released in early August.

Johnny: What can a first timer expect at a Southern Charm show?

Shelby & Billie Joe: Harmonies that give goosebumps and two best friends shining, as they do what they love onstage.

Keep up with Southern Charm online at

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