Both the Texas Club and singer-songwriter CJ Solar have something to celebrate.
The Baton Rouge club will mark its 40th anniversary Saturday with a performance by Solar and his band. The evening is also a No. 1 song party for “Some Girls,” the second country chart-topper co-written by Baton Rouge native Solar. A hit for Jameson Rodgers last fall, “Some Girls” went platinum this week.
Following a March 13 show by Parish County Line, Solar’s Texas Club show is only the second performance at the venue since June 2020. Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, attendance is limited to 75% capacity. Abby Leigh opens with a solo acoustic set.
Parish County Line and Solar are examples of acts the Texas Club helped launch. Before his first headlining show at the club in 2017, Solar was the opening act for Chris Cagle, David Allan Coe, Joe Nichols, Dustin Lynch and Old Dominion.
“They were so cool about letting me open shows,” the Nashville, Tennessee-based Solar said.
“You never know who’s going to make it or who isn’t,” Texas Club co-owner Mark Rogers said. “A lot of it has to do with good songs. CJ Solar, a local boy, has written No. 1 songs. People like him need a place like us to promote them in a market.”
The Texas Club, founded in 1981 by Rogers, his brother, Mike, and their late father, Ray, presented many future stars, including George Strait, Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Chris Stapleton, and movie star Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West. Louisiana actress/singer Jamie Lynn Spears appeared there in 2014.
“We were here when a lot of these guys got started,” Rogers said. “George Strait played for us four times. Garth Brooks played here in the ’80s.”
Add established stars and legends Willie Nelson, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis and Kenny Chesney to that list. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, a political star who was a country music fan, was often in the audience.
The Texas Club opened as the Texas Dance Hall on April 22, 1981. Following 1980’s “Urban Cowboy,” the hit movie starring John Travolta that shot scenes at Gilley’s Club in Pasadena, Texas, country music and dance and boots and cowboy hats were in vogue. The biggest inspiration for opening the Texas Club, however, was the Hank Williams Jr. show Rogers booked at Pharoah’s, the disco the Rogers family opened in 1978. The great response to Williams’ Pharoah’s appearance convinced Rogers that country music had a following in the Baton Rouge area.
“We built a venue around the idea of country entertainers in a country club.” Rogers said. “It wouldn’t be a concert venue, it would be a club. The country entertainers helped brand us, because people identified us with them.”
Ronnie McDowell and Charly McClain played the first Texas Dance Hall show on May 13, 1981. John Anderson followed in June, but it was Williams’ return on July 23 that put the venue on the map.
“That show was huge,” Rogers said. “And then we did two shows with Ronnie Milsap in one night. Filled the club up for the first show and then packed it up again.”
Following remodeling in 1983, the Texas Dance Hall reopened as the Texas Club and moved away from the dance hall concept. The venue also expanded from country acts, booking rock and other genres. Performers in the succeeding years included George Thorogood, the Allman Brothers Band, ’80s dance acts Taylor Dane and Information Society, classic rock bands Foreigner, Styx and Kansas, singer-songwriter John Prine and bluesy roots music star Bonnie Raitt.
Despite the crushing loss of customers and income caused by COVID-19 restrictions, the Rogers brothers’ ownership of the Texas Club helped them stay afloat for the past 14 months. In the construction business before they opened nightclubs, they built and own their 17,000-square-foot building on North Donmoor Avenue.
“We lose money every month, but it’s not like we’re paying $12,000 or $15,000 a month in rent,” Rogers said.
And events are finally returning to the club's calendar. Following Solar’s Saturday show, comedian John Morgan is booked for June 26 and Joe Nichols for Oct. 15.
“I’m still in touch with my booking agents,” Rogers said. “I’ll say, ‘It’s been so long. Have y’all forgotten about us?’ They say, ‘No! People ask about you in every meeting. They're asking when can we get people down to the Texas Club.'"
Texas Club 40th anniversary/CJ Solar/Abby Leigh
10 p.m. Saturday (doors 7:45 p.m.)
Texas Club, 456 N. Donmoor Ave.