Sometime in 1989 (gosh, over 20 years ago now), my mother and I stopped into The String Bean restaurant in Richardson, Texas, to tuck into its brunch menu of good ol’ Southern comfort food. We picked a table right next to some gals who were setting up to be the musical entertainment for the morning. An upright bass, a couple of fiddles, acoustic guitar, and a banjo – not exactly the gear associated with the bands I was listening to back then. I figured that I’d just have to grin and bear it while diving into my chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes and rivers of cream gravy.

As all those strings resonated in harmony, though, I was captivated. I might even say I was entranced. I might. Twangy voices of angels rose from striking forms that played and sang with a strong confidence. No, I certainly wasn’t converted into a Bluegrass or Country music fan – still preferring my daily dose of U2, Rush, and Iron Maiden – but I definitely gained an appreciation of artists who had mastered the strings of multiple instruments. And I was happy to sit through two sets that morning.

Over the years I wondered if the girls at The String Bean were the now-famous group known as the Dixie Chicks. I always thought they might have been, but hadn’t really found or sought confirmation . . . until a couple of weeks ago when meeting Martie Maguire and Emily Robison in Cleveland.

“Uh, I’ve got a question for ya’ll (I haven’t said ya’ll in years.) Are you familiar with a small restaurant in the Dallas area called the String Bean? Did you maybe play there a number of years ago?”

Martie and Emily lit up with wide smiles.

“Yes, it was our first paid gig!” Martie exclaimed.

“I was there. I was sitting at a table with my mom, eating a chicken-fried steak and hanging on every note.”

“You know what?” Emily jumped in. “You know how we got paid? We got brunch. They fed us. We were signing for food!”

Given what I do for a living, and what I’m passionate about, I immediately thought of people the world over who have to sing for their food every day. I thought of kids on sidewalks and subways who were plucking strings in order to avoid untold acts in dingy bedrooms.

The Dixie Chicks (and Martie and Emily’s new band, The Courtyard Hounds) don’t have to sing for food anymore. But they can certainly use their music and celebrity status to helps kids who now have no voice; who have lost their will to sing.

(All Photos © Copyright Paul Myhill)

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