Picture in your mind’s eye the quintessential old western town. Forty miles north of Santa Barbara, the main street of Santa Ynez is lined with vintage storefront facades, and at far the edge of town, there’s the Maverick Saloon.
The Maverick is a big old barn of a place, your classic roadside honky-tonk. Dollar bills signed by patrons line the ceiling above the worn wooden bar. The saloon offers up plenty of longnecks and line dancing, along with the occasional midget wrestling competition. Twice a year, the Maverick hosts the concert series Tales from the Tavern. The series is a coveted stop on the singer-songwriter circuit, a treat for both artist and audience alike.
Music fan Arthur Osha is a Santa Ynez local. “Usually this is a real rowdy place,” he said. “I would never come to the Maverick Saloon 10 years ago. I like my front teeth right where they are.” Osha laughs. “But on a Tales from the Tavern night, this place is transcended into something really special.”
California cowboy Dave Stamey greets the audience. “Is this not the dandiest little concert series on the West Coast?” he says. The crowd hoots appreciatively. “What a venue. This is just wonderful. I look forward to this, I look forward to this all year long.” He strums his guitar. “This song started out as an idea for a book, and I called it 'The Posthumous Autobiography of Billy The Kid.'”
My name is William Bonnie and I have some things to tell.
All about my life and death and the way things are in hell.And the lies they told about me after Garrett shot me down in New Mexico in 1881.
Carole Ann Colone and her brother, Ron, are the minds behind the Tales from the Tavern series. “Tales from the Tavern truly is a discovery of song and story,” said Carole Ann. “Sometimes they’re incredible stories.”
Veterans of the music industry, both Carole Ann and Ron relocated from Los Angeles to sleepy Santa Ynez. “A trust was formed between the community and this project that we put together,” Carole Ann said. “It just kind of all worked. We knew that we wanted to do this, and there were a few community sponsors.”
Steve Reden owns the town drugstore. “It’s so important, especially in a small community like this, to bring people together and have them have common experiences,” he said. “It’s been excellent, and here we are 11 years into it, and I don’t know what will be in year 12, but I’m in.”
Since the beginning, each and every Tales performance has been videotaped and archived. In 2012, a documentary film, aptly titled “Tales From The Tavern,” was released. The film features select performances, along with behind-the-scenes interviews with the artists. Rock 'n' roll photographer Henry Diltz documented the '60s-era Laurel Canyon music scene in Los Angeles. Today, he helps document Tales from the Tavern.
“I don’t think there are many places like this Tales from the Tavern venue where you can see all the greatest Americana musicians,” Diltz said.
Diltz recalls an especially moving performance. “Jack Tempchin came up here and played. He wrote 'Peaceful Easy Feeling' for the Eagles. And he did just a great show of these wonderful songs.” Diltz smiles, thinking back. “He had one song about Jesus and Mohammed sitting beneath the tree. And Jesus says to Mohammed they’re fighting about you and me. It was just heart-stopping. It was wonderful. I wish that song would go around the world.”
The nonprofit Artist Advocacy Foundation is a direct offshoot of the Tales from the Tavern series. The foundation works to support and promote artists, especially those of limited means.
“This is not stuff you hear on the radio. This is not stuff you see on TV,” Ron Colone said of the Tales from the Tavern performances. “The artists have said to us, 'Gosh I wish I could take that audience on tour with me.' And I’ve had people say to me 'You know, I go home, I watch the news, I can’t do anything about the Middle East. But when I come here, I feel like I matter, like I can do my part, and I matter, and I have a bearing on the greatness of tonight.'”
Tales from the Tavern’s fall season runs through mid-November. If you can’t make it to Santa Ynez, select performances are available on the their website.