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Detra’s story

Part 7

“Every Sunday after my shift at Starbucks I’d eat at a place called Hill Country BBQ. It was the closest thing to Arkansas that I’d found in New York. They had sweet tea. And moist brisket. And live music every weekend. The band that performed on Sunday was called The Three Gentlemen. It was three guys with low slung guitars, singing cover songs about getting drunk and star-crossed lovers: Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson—that sort of thing. I’d sit at the bar with my glass of sweet tea, and just listen. After a few months I’d gone so much that the bartenders had named a drink after me, and I’d memorized the lyrics to every song The Three Gentlemen sang. During one performance the lead singer noticed me mouthing along, and he decided to have a little fun. He said: ‘Detra, come up here and sing a song with us.’ I said: ‘Don’t I have to audition?’ He shook his head ‘no,’ so I stepped up on stage and took hold of the mic. It was a Sunday afternoon, so there wasn’t much of a crowd. Mostly young mothers and fathers, with babies in strollers. But all the waiters and waitresses had gotten to know me by that time. One of them shouted downstairs: ‘Detra is fixing to sing!’, and everyone came running up. The song was ‘Make You Feel My Love’ by Adele. And I must have done alright. Because when I finished the whole staff was clapping wildly. Even The Three Gentlemen seemed impressed. I think it was probably a small thing for them– letting me sing. But for them to have said: ‘We want to hear your voice. Come just as you are.’ It was a big thing for me. From that day on, it became our little tradition. Every Sunday they’d invite me on stage to sing a song with them. These were saloon songs. Songs about alcohol, like ‘Tennessee Whiskey.’ And ‘Make it Through The Night’– that song is about sex. One time Lucas came along to hear me sing, and I was nervous. Because he’d only ever heard me sing religious songs. After the show he came up to me, and he was shaking his head. He said: ‘I’m disappointed in you, Mama.’ And my heart began to sink. Then he said: ‘You’re holding back. I’ve seen you do much better than that. Let go of all the rules, and own that song.”

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