Gary P. Nunn at Lantex Theater 90th anniversary tonight

The VIP meet 'n greet reception with Gary P. Nunn will start at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, and doors open to the public at 7 p.m. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets to the gala are $20 and are available through the Llano Main Street Facebook page. All guests will receive a Lantex 90th bandana, provided by Llano native Roger Beasley. VIP meet 'n greet tickets are available for $50 to a limited number of guests.

 

By Savanna Gregg

The Highlander

Here in Central Texas, our roots run deep and we take pride in where we come from. Most of us share common values: we love our mama's cooking, country music, and keeping history alive. Lucky for us, a night of celebrating the preservation of history and country music will be taking place this Friday in Llano.

This Friday, Dec. 1, Texas country music legend Gary P. Nunn will be headlining the Bandanas & Bling fundraiser at the Lantex Theater on the Llano courthouse square. The fundraiser will take the shape of a gala, complete with red carpet and the opportunity to break out the suit and tie. The Lantex Theater is celebrating its 90th birthday with the fundraiser to keep the building in shape for generations to come.

“The theater is so important in a little town like Llano,” Main Street Manager and Historic Preservation Officer Tex Toler said. “It serves as the living room to the town — that's our first impression we make on people.”

The Lantex has been making good first impressions to the citizens of Llano and its many visitors since it was built in 1927, making it the oldest operating theater in the area. It survived the Great Depression of the 1930s, two fires, and has stood up to the evolution of the cinema business for almost a century and is still going strong.

“There are a lot of towns working really hard to raise funds to put a roof on a shell of a theater or completely rebuild,” Toler said. “Llano is so fortunate to have had the Lantex for 90 years.”

The gala will be an opportunity for the public to experience the recent renovations and enjoy a night on the town.

The Lantex began renovations in 2014 and is being updated constantly, as funds become available through fundraisers and donations. The neon Lantex sign in the front of the building was recently refurbished, and the inside has been transformed into a Gatsby-esque venue.

When the time came to purchase new seats, an eBay listing led Toler to a collection of seats in an old auditorium in Ogdensburg, New York, just across from the Canadian border. A 52-foot, 18-wheeler transported the seats to Llano, where they underwent a deep cleaning by volunteers from all over town.

“We got together and had a cleaning party. We had a bucket brigade of people cleaning, touching up paint, matching the seats and backs together,” Toler said. “Some towns will get grants to do restorations for the theaters — we did ours with blood, sweat, and tears. It took thousands of hours of volunteer help to get this done.”

The gala will feature an opening act by Llano native Tony Kamel from the bluegrass band Wood & Wire. Gary P. Nunn, a resident of Burnet County, will close out the night with a performance of his timeless anthems that will evoke pride in any Texan's heart.

“My ties to Central Texas go long and deep,” Nunn said. “We are really looking forward to this event. It is away from metropolitan areas, so there are no long drives home, and people have something fun they can do while supporting their community and keeping the theater alive.”

Nunn, born in Oklahoma, was always interested in music and says he gravitated towards it as a child. He went to school at the University of Texas to major in pharmacy, then began to think that that wasn't for him.

“When I got big enough, I started playing in a band doing folk songs in junior high,” Nunn said. “I honestly never thought about doing it as a career until after I had already been in college for four or five years.”

Then singers like Michael Murphy, Willie Nelson, and Jerry Jeff Walker came to town and Nunn got involved with them and began spreading his music further across the state.

“There was always something to do tomorrow or next week,” Nunn said. “I never became quite free of it. I thought, if this is what you're going to do with your life you better get after it.”

And so began a musical career that has spanned almost half a century and is not stopping yet. Nunn's talent has taken Texas by storm, spread across the nation, and jumped overseas to Europe, where he is seen as Texas music legend just as he is here at home.

He is staying true to his roots, though, and continues to share Texas country music in the small towns that got him started.

Nunn is best known for his traditional country sound, and songs like “London Homesick Blues,” with the famous “I want to go home with the armadillo” chorus; “What I Like About Texas;” and “Taking Texas to the Country.” He was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame in 2004, and was recognized as “The Music Ambassador of Texas” by Governor Rick Perry in 2007.

This weekend, the community of Llano and visitors from all over the region will have the opportunity to witness the preservation of country music and history all in one place. Toler describes the theater as more than just a social gathering place. Its enormous size gives 400 people the chance to go downtown and enjoy what the city has to offer.

“[The Lantex] is a cultural gathering place,” Toler said. “It's a mecca. It brings people downtown, entertains them, and they get to leave with great memories. It is valuable to the community from all those standpoints, and we are blessed to have it.”

The progress made on the Lantex Theater could not have been possible without the donations from the community and the endless hours of hard work from volunteer workers. These accomplishments deserve a lavish celebration and that is what the Bandanas & Bling Fundraiser is all about.

Hors d' oeuvres and refreshments will be provided by Badu 1891, Oasis Brewery, and a local winery. There will be a raffle to win an autographed Gary P. Nunn guitar with handwritten lyrics to his famous song, “London Homesick Blues.”

General admission tickets to the gala are $20 and are available through the Llano Main Street Facebook page. All guests will receive a Lantex 90th bandana, provided by Llano native Roger Beasley. VIP meet 'n greet tickets are available for $50 to a limited number of guests.

The VIP meet 'n greet reception with Gary P. Nunn will start at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, and doors open to the public at 7 p.m. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m.

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