HOUSTON, Texas — The American entertainment industry isn’t usually a place that’s ripe with conservative and liberty oriented thinking. From music to film, from production companies to performance venues, generally the world of entertainment here in the United States is chock full of liberal propaganda.
That is, unless you live near Houston and have a membership at conservative talk show host Michael Berry’s Redneck Country Club, a music venue and social club with a substantially large number of members.
The typically-liberal Houston Press recently named it “Best Honky Tonk” in the fourth-largest city; that, too, in a region known for honky tonks (the Houston metro includes Pasadena, once home to Hollywood’s most celebrated honky tonk of all time — Gilley’s). In fact, Mickey Gilley himself has played at the venue, as have fellow Urban Cowboy singers Johnny Lee and Charlie Daniels. The diverse line up doesn’t stop there. In the past year they’ve had Collective Soul, Marshall Tucker Band, the Spazmatics, and even former Little Richard and Sam Cooke band leader Grady Gaines.
The Redneck Country Club appears to show that people’s politics, or maybe their values, are affecting where they spend their dollars, and their time. The talk show host-turned-entrepreneur Michael Berry says, “Married couples get so busy running their business, raising their kids, taking care of their daily chores, that they forget to nurture that romantic lifeline so critical to their marriage. We wanted to give married people a place to go enjoy live music, drink a beer or a bourbon, smoke a cigar, and not worry whether a fight would break out.” It appears this is a recipe for success, with over 5,000 members in just a year, and growing.
It’s not just married couples that are the focus of Berry’s club. Every night, before the headliner appears on stage, Berry takes the stage and asks every veteran to raise their hands. Many nights, those veterans have their membership fee waived and become automatic members, to the rousing applause of the crowd. He encourages the members to buy the veterans around them a drink, and they dutifully oblige. The pro-veteran sentiment drives much of the club’s activities, including raising $240,000 for Camp Hope (a treatment center for PTSD Foundation of America) and over $100,000 for the Danny Dietz foundation benefitting Navy SEALs. On the Marine Corps’ birthday, the RCC hosted over 1,000 Marines, for whom they provided barbeque and free booze. “Our business model is awful. We do too much free stuff. But it’s the right thing to do, and we just figure if we do what is right, people will keep bailing us out to keep the place running. People support what we’re doing, and they want to help.”
Another quirk in this bar-cum-club-cum-philanthropic live music venue is that almost the entire leadership team is made up of women. “No war on women here. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Great employees are the lifeblood of great organizations, regardless their chromosomal makeup.” Berry has turned down five different offers from producers for a reality show based at the Redneck Country Club, because he believes the producers never really understood what makes the RCC special. “One of them wanted to do a show about women in a men’s world, like we were Hooters. That’s not us. Another wanted to do a show where the employees backbite off camera, with all that silly drama. Again, that’s not us. Our place is not special because of me, the facility, the ladies and men who lead and work here. Our place is special because random strangers come together, sharing only their culture and values. People who want a place where veterans are honored, wives are respected, and good music and drinks can be enjoyed together.” The feel of the place is as much a small-town community center as a major city bar. The special “family day” or veteran events take on the tone of a country church’s spring picnic.
Has the ironic name brought any criticism? “Absolutely. Some people have no sense of humor. We are self-described Rednecks (Berry insists the term has to be capitalized to show respect for the culture). Some minorities were hesitant to come the first time, but found that they had a blast. We just explain, ‘Hey, Redneck is a state of mind, not a skin color. If you help your neighbor when they are in need, if you stop to change a tire for a lady in the dark when it’s raining, if you would stop a thug from beating his woman, they you, too, are a Redneck.'”