Lone Star Attitude®: Texans intrinsically understand what that means. But perhaps McKinney singer-songwriter Jon Christopher Davis understands the meaning of that phrase more than most. He not only exudes Lone Star Attitude in everything he does – he owns the trademark!
Many McKinney residents, and certainly fans of Texas music, are familiar with Jon Christopher Davis, known by fans and friends as JCD. He’s a frequent entertainer at favorite local hangouts such as Cadillac Pizza Pub and Rick’s Lounge at the Grand Hotel, and he headlines at least one Music Under the Stars concert each year at Wales Manor Vineyard & Winery. He also performs throughout the state and has been a regular at the legendary Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas’ oldest dance hall, for more than a decade.
There’s definitely more to Davis than meets the eye, or rather, the ear. In addition to songwriter, recording artist and performer, he also includes “entrepreneur” and “restaurateur” on his list of ventures. Davis’s creativity seems boundless.
“Being creative, no matter how you look at it and in what arena you’re involved, involves the same muscles,” Davis said.
Music in the Genes
Dallas-born, Bonham-raised Davis comes by musical creativity naturally. Both of his parents were professional musicians.
“I had an interesting childhood to say the least,” he said. “My dad played in honky-tonks and later became a church music director. And my mom was a lounge singer out in Las Vegas and performed with people like Larry Gatlin, the Pointer Sisters and Anne Murray. I practically grew up in a guitar case.”
After his parents split up, he moved to the quiet West Texas town of Memphis, where he first picked up his dad’s guitar and started songwriting.
“I wanted to be like the Texas legends I was listening to on my vinyl records – Roy Orbison, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and Don Henley,” he explained.
Davis’ next move as a pre-teen, to Bonham, brought about the biggest shift in the course of his life – meeting the love of his life, Kelli, when they were both high school students. The pair eventually married and settled in Dallas, where bars served as Davis’s musical training ground until the day he received a phone call from one of his idols, Texas music icon and recording artist Rodney Crowell.
A mutual friend had given Crowell some of Davis’ demo Cds, and it was Crowell who convinced him and Kelli to move to Nashville. Once there, Davis stayed busy networking, working in recording studios and writing songs for himself, as well as Hal Ketchum, Dolly Parton, Billy Ray Cyrus and many others.
Over the next 10 years, Davis inked publishing and recording deals of his own with Warner Brothers, Sony, MCA and BMG, but he had trouble making the kind of music he wanted. “I guess I just wasn’t cut out for mainstream country,” he said. “I was too rock-androll for Nashville.”
Despite completing recording projects for the labels, none were ever released, which was fine with Davis. “None of these projects was really me,” he said. “I was lucky enough to get signed and even had Vince Gill singing backup, but it was like wearing someone else’s shoes.”
A New Family
By 2004, the couple had daughter Claire and decided to make a change.
“We decided we wanted to raise her in Texas,” Davis said, adding that another music mentor, Radney Foster, nudged him in that direction as well. “Nashville was very good to me, but it was time to come home.”
Davis and Kelli knew they didn’t want to go back to too-small Bonham or too-big Dallas.
“We settled on McKinney,” he said. “This town fits us perfectly.”
Back in Texas, Davis didn’t let grass grow under his feet. His career blossomed into areas even he couldn’t have predicted. His first gig after getting back home was his debut performance at Gruene Hall, a night that brought about big things for Davis, and not just musically. That night, Davis’s “Lone Star Attitude” was born.
“People go to Gruene Hall to dance, and I didn’t have a lot of dance songs on my set list, so I decided to write one,” he said. “I wrote a little three-chord song for that night called ‘Lone Star Attitude.’ I played it, the floor packed, and they asked me to play it again, so I did. People really reacted to it. When the song started climbing the Texas music chart, I printed up a bunch of T-shirts with those words on it and they sold like crazy.”
He decided to trademark the phrase “Lone Star Attitude” which has become his brand. Then on a whim, he and his then-manager pitched an idea to sell his T-shirts at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
“Three months later, we got a phone call saying, ‘A space has just become available at DFW Terminal C and not only do we want to sell the T-shirts, we want to call the store Lone Star Attitude and sell shot glasses and belt buckles ... you name it,’ ” Davis said. “And that’s how I backed into having the largest store in Terminal C. It was a true Forrest Gump moment.”
Davis’s brand graces most projects he touches, including his band which, in 2011, was named the “Official Band of Texas” by the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Department in Austin. Davis’ work also includes writing the official theme songs for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, the American Fallen Soldiers Project and the National PTA through a branding shop he created, JustCoolMusic.com. Through this venture, the organizations raise money selling the songs on iTunes.
Then in 2012, Davis, fellow McKinney musician Zane Williams and others were featured on the first season of the nationally syndicated TV show, “Troubadour TX,” which follows Texas singersongwriters as they hone their craft across the state.
Davis added restaurateur to his resume in 2013 when he and business partner John “Sparky” Pearson opened a burger joint on Denton’s downtown square. What else would they name it but LSA Burger Company? Tributes to Texas’ legendary musicians fill every corner and wall (including the restrooms), while a rooftop stage overlooking the old Denton County Courthouse features both proven and new talent. (McKinney will be getting its own LSA Burger Company in a location not yet announced.)
Working with Young Musicians
Taking a cue from the established musicians who helped him, Davis now works with up-and-coming talent, helping them navigate the changing music scene while he continues to work on his own music.
“You have to pick up your shovel every day to build your foundation and fan base,” he said.
Crystal Yates, the McKinney singer-songwriter who won the 2014 Texaco Country Showdown in Nashville, and her husband, Will, are among the up-and- coming musicians working closely with Davis these days. He took them to Gruene Hall to perform with him last summer, and the couple will join him on stage April 25 for the opening show of this year’s Music Under the Stars series at Wales Manor Vineyard & Winery, just 10 minutes from downtown McKinney.
“Jon is amazing to work with,” Yates said. “He has so much energy and is so encouraging and supportive. He has such a good heart.”
Davis’ latest CD, “Last Night’s Dinner Party” (available on iTunes), came out of the relationships he continues to nurture with established artists in the area, including his band, guitarist Anson Funderburgh and his singer wife Renee, and another mainstay in the McKinney music scene, Maylee Thomas and her guitarist husband George Fuller.
“One thing about my time in Nashville was the real sense of community. We have that now here, too – a great group of creative people making great music,” Davis said. “I thought it would make a great record with a lot of variety to bring them together.”
A blurb on the website for LSA Burger Company defines Lone Star Attitude as “an unwritten code handed down from generation to generation. It’s sticking to your word and standing your ground. It’s the pride that comes from a hard day’s work, doing the right thing and helping those in need.”
No definition better fits Davis, and McKinney is a better place for having him and his brand of creativity.
For links to these organizations and venues, or to read more about Davis, visit McKinneyOnline.com.