Honky Tonk Owner Dies
Samuel Holland died on Tuesday, January 11 after suffering a heart attack at the age of 71. Sam, as he was best known, was the owner of the Glad Rag Saloon in Porter Corners, New York. This little joint located on Holmes Road, off of Route 9N, was the quintessential American honky tonk right here in Upstate New York.
At one point, years ago, you could find several Country Bars and honky tonks all over the Capital Region of New York. However, over the last few years, Sam's place was one of the last "real" down home Country bars left in the entire Northeast. Now keep in mind, we are not talking about Country Line Dance Clubs, Karaoke Bars or Night Clubs, we're talking about a bar like Tootsie's Orchid Lounge in Nashville! The place where steel guitars, fiddle, sad country lyrics, and smoke filled the air (when it was legal).
Sam didn't realize it, but he was preserving an art in this area, much like I try with Country Classics on Sunday Morning. In addition to keeping legendary regional musicians employed, he kept the regulars smiling. The music might not have been hip and modern, the atmosphere might have become a little dusty and dated, but the character of that place was legendary! This was the kind of bar that Willie Nelson, Faron Young, Ray Price, and Patsy Cline would have enjoyed. It was a simple place with a purpose, giving people who loved to socialize, drink, and dance to traditional Country Music, a place to call their own.
Sam also brought Nashville's older stars to Porter Corners, a place that was not often exposed to celebrities. Although many of the stars loved to play the bar, and many came back twice, I'm sure some of them thought they were in a "Dukes Of Hazzard" TV episode. Especially the ones where the artist has to play a free concert at the Boar's Nest to get out of a traffic ticket. Sam worked hard, fronted his own money, and took the risk of hiring these stars to play for his friends and customers. I get the feeling that he didn't mind not "breaking even" on ticket sales every time, he was just happy to keep the sound of Classic Country Music alive!
Country Music Hall of Famers like Kitty Wells and Hank Thompson brought their historic groundbreaking hits to the little homemade stage. As did the legendary Wanda Jackson, Melba Montgomery, Johnny Paycheck, Gene Watson, Stonewall Jackson, Bobby G. Rice, Jack Greene (pictured above with "Daisy Mae," the Glad Rag Mascot) and so many others. As a matter of fact, Sam asked me to host the Kitty Wells show when I was just 18 years old (at the time I was working for a small radio station in Glens Falls). This was the first national act that I would introduce on stage in my career, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity.
The Glad Rag Saloon also has another connection to my past. This was the first bar that I ever hosted one of my own Country Dance Nights. Prior to the Glad Rag Saloon, I had worked for a few other bars that had hired me to play Country Music. However, when I got the idea to host, produce, and launch my own Country Dance Night, Sam opened up the door and let this 19 year old use his talents to better his own life. Since that first night of hosting my own dances, I have never stopped. Furthermore, I can't begin to list all the great things I've been able to do, and all the wonderful people I've met through these Country Dance Nights.
Country Music Heaven now has one of the best bartenders and promoters of Country Music, ready to go to work. I'm sure he's up there now pouring a beer for my Grandfather, giving Grand Ole Tina change for the jukebox, turning on the microphone for late local legends Sonny Thompson and Lee Moore and lighting up that Neon Moon!