@story MARLA CANTRELL
@image KAT HARDIN
Brian Crowne, owner/operator of George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, talks a lot about respect. He respects the musicians who play at the club, the underage college students who try to pass off fake ID’s, and the older folks who wander in off Dickson Street to tell stories about the glory of the grand old place.
“There are thousands of stories of thousands of nights,” Brian said. “George Pappas opened it in 1927. One time an older gentleman came in to see the place. He went to school [at the University of Arkansas] here in the ‘40s. But he was called into battle in World War II. He carried his George’s tab all through the war. When he came back to pay up, George had cleared all the tabs for all the soldiers,” Brian said, stopping for few seconds, his voice breaking. “Every time I tell that story,” he said, shaking his head, “I tear up.”
The club’s next owner was a mild-mannered woman who believed good behavior shouldn’t stop just because a customer had thrown back a few too many.
“Mary Hinton, and her husband, bought it in 1947 and ran it for forty years,” Brian said. “She was a little, short, soft-spoken Catholic lady, and nobody messed up in front of her. If somebody was cussing, she’d come up to them and say, ‘We don’t use that kind of language in George’s.’”
In 2004, Brian and his business partner bought the club from Dr. Bill and Betty Harrison. He sees his ownership as a kind of miracle. “You don’t get a lot of opportunities in life. I don’t come from money. I moved to Fayetteville and the first three or four months I was sleeping on a friend’s couch, or in my car. But at some point you make a leap of faith.”
The accolades garnered by George’s gather like a college crowd on game day. The historic club was featured in the August issue of “Southern Living,” has been written up in the “New York Times,” and was named one of the top 100 college bars by “Playboy.” And then there’s the nod from the country music industry. “We were actually nominated for an Academy for County Music award as the top nightclub in the country, even though we’re not truly a country bar.” Brian said.
The club’s success is the result of hard work and good management, but it also depends on an elusive element Brian finds hard to describe. “Every musician who comes through here, - whether they’re local or a Grammy-winning artist - they like the vibe; they like the energy. Ryan Bingham just won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for “Crazy Heart” for best original score. He was here before and after. He said it was one of his favorite places to play.”
Brian, who’s played saxophone for the local band, Oreo Blue, has a special affection for touring musicians. “I did that for years. I can tell you this, there’s something that happens during a live performance that you can’t get from listening to music at home. There’s a moment when it’s just about magic, when you’re in a crowd and the band connects to the crowd. It’s transcendent.”
Looking back, he sees his progression, from his early days in Fort Smith, to his success as a performer, to his life now as a club owner and music promoter. He cherishes it all, this man whose last name is Crowne, now reigning over the club dubbed the ‘King of Dickson Street.’ “I don’t have a college degree, but I have a master’s in life,” he said, stopping for a split-second before offering a sage piece of advice. “Respect your relationships, create a good network, stay driven. Do that, and your life should turn out fine.”
For more information on upcoming performances at George’s Majestic Lounge log onto www.georgesmajesticlounge.com.