Dallas' David Card feels a deep and constant connection to the singer-songwriters of the world. That's been the case since Card opened the doors of the original Poor David's Pub on McKinney Avenue in 1977. The club moved twice - to Greenville Avenue in 1983 and to its current location on South Lamar in 2004 - but it's always served as a home field for troubadours.
"All seats here are good, most are great," Card says. "The attention is on the show on stage, which is of paramount importance to the artist and to us."
Card offers no shortage of memories of greats spending time on his stage: Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Lyle Lovett and the Dixie Chicks are but a few.
"Emily of the Dixie Chicks once commented, 'We'd better get it right, because you've got people in here looking right up our noses!'"
Card has countless stories like that from the club's history. A lot of them have to do with booking artists before they broke into the national consciousness,but Card isn't always concerned with the boldface names.
There's a particular facet of Card's service to the scene that has quietly changed local lives for the better - the B.W. Stevenson Memorial Singer-Songwriter Competition.
It was established by Card to honor the creative spirit of Dallas country-folk artist Stevenson, who earned national acclaim and performed for nearly two decades before his death during heart surgery in 1988.
Stevenson stood out not only for his lyrical compositions ("My Maria" and "On My Own" are well-known) but for his passion and intensity while performing them.
"That's the beauty of this competition in particular," Card says. "You have to be both a great writer and a great performer."
The annual competition in Stevenson's name rewards the total package - skilled songwriters who perform their material with verve. Past winners include Mark David Manders, Owen Temple, Colin Boyd and Emily Elbert.
Card himself whittles down the initial recorded entries for the contest, then there are live semifinal and final rounds in front of judges. Entries for this year's 27th edition are due to Card by April 15. The victor this year will receive $1,000 and an opening slot at one of the club's upcoming shows.
Card will get down to sorting through this year's entries only after properly celebrating Poor David's 38th anniversary. He's announced several anniversary shows for March. Some highlights: Texas folk singers Shake Russell and Michael Hearne on Saturday; rock band Sister 7 featuring Patrice Pike on March 14; country troubadours Max Stalling (March 21) and Walt Wilkins (March 28); and funk supergroup New Orleans Suspects on April 3.
"The Suspects have members of Dr. John's band, members of the Radiators and the Neville Brothers," says Card. "It's a who's who of New Orleans funk."
Find out more about the March anniversary shows and the B.W. Stevenson Memorial Singer-Songwriter Competition at poordavidspub.com. Or you can always just pop in one evening and tell Card hello. Maybe he'll have a story for you.