The history of the Fillin’ Station is quite colorful, if you want to call it that. Having absolutely no idea what I was doing, or why I was doing it – the Fillin’ Station started with a coed bathroom, George Foreman grill and four barstools. Never in my life did I want to own or start or manage a bar, the only thing I did in a bar was play music, all across the country, for 25 years. The nightly grind of playing until 2:00 a.m. took its’ toll and I was done with the ‘bar scene.’
So when an old friend from Texas, who I used to perform with on the road, approached me and asked if I wanted to open a bar with him in the small rural town of which he lived, my first thought was “hell no.” Relentlessly, my buddy forced me to drive out to the backwoods of Middle Tennessee to ‘just look’ at the place. There I stood, in front of a 600 square foot, 1930’s run-down abandoned gas station which now stored loads of glorified junk. Somehow, my longtime friend believed this old gas station/now ‘antique’ storage unit would turn into a memorable and successful sports bar in a town of 2,500.
Standing on the sidewalk scrutinizing this dump of a building, wondering why I was even entertaining the thought of possibly opening a bar, I noticed that the structure had once supported a garage door. A glimmer of hope amongst the wreckage persuaded me to further investigate the building. Pushing the drop-ceiling up to see what was above it – my intuition was correct. There above that moldy, old, drop-ceiling was a sign from the good Lord Himself.
Being from Texas, all beer joints, a.k.a. ‘Ice Houses’ have a garage door that opens up to an open patio. If there is one thing that I know in this world, besides how to blow the harp, it is the components for a good bar; cold beer and a garage door. Thus was born the Fillin’ Station.
My vision was to build an establishment that felt like home. A place where I would want to frequent. Where you meet good friends, your neighbors, have a cold beer, and feel welcomed.
Therefore, after two sleepless months full of jack-hammering, painting, ripping up flooring, removing the old car lift in the bay, installing lighting, plumbing, installing a bar, and attempting to be a carpenter (did I mention I was a musician?), the Fillin’ Station was officially open for business.
The first years were beyond harrowing. After three months of being officially open, my buddy decided this was actually a bad idea and wanted out. The main street in Kingston Springs was under construction for an entire summer and I swear I saw tumble weeds roll through the bar. The winters were gruesome, and the odds were beyond against me. A local pub was not going to make it in Kingston Springs, and it was clear that I did not know how to be a bar manager. Hell, I didn’t even have pretzels to serve my customers! The menu was made up of beer, and beer. It was clear, the only thing I really knew was how to be a musician. Therefore, I decided that if I was actually going to make this work, if I was going to fulfill my dream of the ‘Fillin’ Station’, I was going to have to integrate the one entity that has been the most influential thing in my life; music.
Fast forward 11 years, tumble weeds no longer roll through the Fillin’ Station. The menu has expanded to include the best damn smoked pulled pork in the south, a mean burger (In 2013 Channel 2 News rated the Fillin’ Station as having the second best burger in Middle Tennessee), and even a Caprese salad. To say the least, I’ve learned a couple of things over the years, like how to deliver excellent food paired with excellent service, and how to have music played in the Fillin’ Station that can make you hold your breath and your hair stand at the same time.
Above all, I am most proud of the fact that seasoned and respected musicians now see it as a privilege to play at the Fillin’ Station. Musicians who care about the music first. The Fillin’ Station has no glitter, no fame, it’s just a place to play good music. A place where every genre is welcome; blues, jazz, bluegrass, rock, country, Americana. No prerequisites required except one thing; the music has to come from the soul. Musicians who have graduated from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, founded by Sir Paul McCartney, and have flown over 4,000 miles, play one night, and cannot wait to come back. Musicians from New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Israel, Italy, Canada, Las Angela’s, New York, all come to this little, middle of nowhere Tennessee town to play in a bar that has a max capacity of 50 people.
Often people ask me how I get such phenomenal musicians to come out to the Fillin’ Station, which is so off the beaten path. Honestly, I don’t know why. I think that as a ‘real’ musician, and I hate to use that term, but after playing for over 25 years which included touring with the band ‘War’ for five years, playing with Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Hank Williams III, the Houston Symphony, Clint Black, Alex Harvey, and recording TV commercials for Ford Trucks, Texaco, the Colorado Rockies , and countless others, I believe my dues have been paid and I can comfortably call myself a ‘real’ musician, I understand the sacrifice and commitment it takes to make a living playing an instrument, let alone a side instrument. Therefore, I think musicians feel welcomed here because the owner understands how easy it can be to walk away from an art which is so often given up on. Beyond that, they are loved by the customers who appreciate genuine and authentic music.
The Fillin’ Station is still the place that I envisioned 12 years ago. A place where the vibe is intangible. The musicians, customers, staff, the people are what the Fillin’ Station is – no sparkle, no spotlights, hell we don’t even advertise, it’s just a bar with a garage door and cold beer.