- Associated Press - Sunday, June 22, 2014

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - On a balmy spring evening a few weeks ago, Kyle Redd stood for two hours at the corner of Crockett and Currie streets, singing and playing his acoustic guitar. Street musicians are a regular feature of that tony section of the West Seventh Street neighborhood and are often ignored. Redd was, too, for a few minutes.

Then couples at the sidewalk tables of Waters restaurant began to pause over their cocktails and appetizers, turning toward the music coming from across the street. Lyle Lovett covers, Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Glen Campbell, Jim Croce, with a few Kyle Redd originals slipped in. With the accomplished level of his singing and playing and the quality of his own songs, it was hard to tell.

Pedestrians strolling amid the restaurants, boutiques, ice cream shops and movie theater began to pause, too, sitting to listen to the guy with the clear tenor, a virtuoso on the guitar. Before long, apartment dwellers came out onto their balconies, listening and applauding with the rest.

Between songs, members of his growing audience came up to Redd, complimenting him on his music, taking one of his business cards. Time after time that night, he heard a variation of the same question, one from an old Billy Joel song, “Man, what are you doing here?” A guy of his obvious talent playing for $150 on a street corner in Fort Worth, with a wife and a young daughter to support, no less?

Truth is, musicians like Kyle Redd are everywhere in the city, uber-talented singer-songwriters playing for the equivalent of beer money in restaurants and barbecue joints, in honky-tonks and on street corners, any place that will have them.

“It’s overrun,” Brett Dillon, an observer of the Fort Worth music scene for more than 30 years and a legendary DJ at KHYI-FM in Dallas, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (http://bit.ly/T5V6lx). “I don’t know why everybody is here, but the music scene is so cool and hip and happening that people all over the country are aware of it. They get to sing their stuff and people are listening.”

There are a dozen or more like Redd, Dillon and others say, singer-songwriters such as Greg Schoeder, Luke Wade, Chris Watson and Jacob Furr, talented enough to be on radio or television, in the finals of American Idol, one break away from a big record deal, major airplay, stardom, a lucrative living at least.

But those breaks came along about as often as a singer-songwriter is struck by lightning, so they soldiered on, hauling around guitars in battered cases, playing to tiny audiences for pocket change, scraping together enough money to survive.

Each one has a story of passion, talent, sacrifice and, too often, disappointment.

Kyle Redd drove the same pickup for 15 years until it finally died a few years ago with an odometer reading of 307,488 miles. He played the same guitar for years until it splintered. He is 35 years old, with a wife and that new baby daughter.

Last winter, a few months after little Sophie was born, he called his dad in a Houston suburb and said he was thinking about chucking it all, becoming an electrician, something more responsible, more grown up, to support his family.

Yet there he was months later, on that balmy night in Fort Worth, his voice and guitar echoing off the walls of apartments and restaurants and boutiques as the sun went down. His story, as it turned out, was a country-Western song, a parable for anyone with talent, the support of family, a dream and the guts to pursue it. On that recent night, after two hours, he packed up his guitar, handed out a few more cards and disappeared into the dusk, home to his family until his next modest gig.

Redd studied theater at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and worked as an actor for four years after graduating, performing in New York City and up and down the East Coast. Much of his work was in musical theater because singing had come easy to him since he was a kid. As a high school student, he won state competitions singing operatic arias.

The guitar and songwriting were just a serious hobby then, first taken up when he was a senior in high school and wanted to play and sound like Garth Brooks. But there were early hints of a deeper calling.

One came in college, on his first visit to a joint in San Marcos called Cheatham Street Warehouse. Fifteen years later, he could remember it down to the smell of stale beer.

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