If you have never been to a North Texas Troubadour show, it’s difficult to explain. It could be best described as musical sketch comedy with a little bit of Texas style tenderness mixed in. Creator Richie Bates has been putting together these spectacles since January of 2018, having orchestrated seven shows that have been held at The Backdoor Theatre, The Museum of North Texas History, and most recently the Iron Horse Pub.
So, what exactly is a troubadour? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, troubadour is a French word meaning a singer, especially of folk songs.
When I asked Richie Bates this question he had two words, “singing poet”. Richie revealed that local artist Ross Gohlke called him “The North Texas Troubadour” one day after Richie had been playing shows all around North Texas. Richie said he “took the name and ran with it”. The first show in January of 2018 was held at the Backdoor Theatre, with featured performer Ben Atkins. Other featured performers include Ray Hillner and Ward Roberts of Raymundo, Eb Steward, Allie Holder, Kelly Lee and Richie Bates himself.
I asked Richie why he wanted to start putting together shows here in Wichita Falls, and his responses were interesting. “I’ve played in bars here, I’ve played venues here, I’ve played events here, and it wasn’t doing it for me,” Richie responded. “No one knew who I was, no one knows who I am anyway, it wasn’t about the attention I was going to be getting, it was about, how little can I matter? … It’s about, how invisible can I be as just a guy with a guitar? Because that’s all it really is.” Richie revealed. “I realized that that idea, the north Texas troubadour not only applies to me as an individual, but I’m not the only north Texas troubadour, there’s a ton of north Texas troubadours, it’s been going on a long time, and getting more people involved in it and finding songwriters in town is important because there’s a lot of really good writers.”
And Richie does have a way of getting people together. Performances have included (some more than once) sing-alongs, advertisements for fake local businesses, appearances by puppets and people in costume, educational lectures about music history, artist lectures, and even a tarot card reading. All of this sprinkled with local songwriters displaying their soul for anyone who is listening. Richie reflected, “I think original music is where it’s at, and just because its maybe not mainstream right now, it doesn’t mean it’s not growing. It’s like a boiling pot of water. People are writing songs like crazy, and writing really, really good songs. New songs are being written here by people that are awesome. I think some of the coolest stuff I’ve ever heard is being written right now.”
North Texas Troubadours can be seen the first Tuesday of every month at the Iron Horse Pub at 7pm. Future featured performers will include Clint Vines (March 5th) and Steven Jacob (April 2nd).