Amy Roh | Staff Writer
The Denton Arts Walk of Fame is a place that honors all sorts of Denton artists, one granite square at a time.
Along the stretch of East Hickory Street from Locust to Bell, pedestrians can recognize familiar names etched into the sidewalk.
The project is a collaborative effort between the City of Denton, the Denton EDC and the Downtown Revitalization Program to commemorate Denton’s arts scene. Each two-by-two square is installed into a brick band, engraved with each artist’s name and claim to fame.
“It’s really creates awareness of how many talented people have passed through our portals and have been born here, gone to school here,” said Julie Glover, Denton’s Economic Development Program Administrator.
Honorees must have been born in, attended school or spent their formative years in Denton. Other criteria include their longevity, impact on cultural heritage and contributions to the Denton arts community.
The first inductees in 2015 included UNT alumna Norah Jones, architect O’Neil Ford and polka and worldbeat band Brave Combo. Recently, the city announced their 2017 list of inductees, whose names will be engraved May 7.
“Blue Lou” Marini
Saxophonist Lou Marini boasts a lengthy discography with The Blues Brothers, James Taylor, the SNL house band and Buddy Rich. He attended UNT and quickly joined the One O’Clock Lab Band while also playing alongside professionals in the music industry.
“Besides the joy of playing in the band and the challenge of the music I was also getting an education in professional work,” Marini said. “At the end of my freshman or sophomore year, I remember playing for Smokey Robinson and The Supremes.”
Upon graduating, Marini joined the jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears. Since then, he has worked with countless other artists and composed his own music.
His first recording, “Lou’s Blues,” is a common track played by the One O’Clock Lab Band today.
“A long time ago, the musical department achieved critical mass because they’re all such great players,” Marini said. “They inspire each other and that’s what I feel like the great staff of this school promotes.”
Nowadays, Marini is busy touring overseas with the James Taylor Band and The Blues Brothers. Because he’s in good health, Marini says he’s trying to make the best out of the time he has now.
Now, Marini will forever be engraved in Denton’s history.
“Since I’ve been 19 years old and maybe even before, I’ve been playing with great musicians,” Marini said. “Somehow doing that sharpens personalities in their own unique ways. These people that I’ve been playing with have inspired me also tickle me. I’ve been laughing for all these years.”
If a band could encompass the spirit of Denton, Brave Combo would be one of them.
The band is comprised of members Carl Finch, Danny O’Brien, Alan Emert, Lyle Atkinson, and Robert Hokamp who play a range of polka, salsa, the blues and more.
Finch founded Brave Combo in 1979 in hopes of playing music that went against the status quo.
“I thought it’d be interesting to play in a band that played music that was forgotten or made fun of by the mainstream,” Finch said. “The point of the band was to go to nontraditional sources instead of recycling whatever was popular.”
The band has won two Grammy awards for “Best Polka Album” and was nominated seven times. Finch says polka music was their cornerstone, but they slowly began to expand into more unique styles. They welcomed in every genre of music, from lounge and latin to Japanese pop music.
“All the things that you normally would do, we try to evoke the opposite reaction to that,” Finch said. “Anything you already know, we want to turn that upside down and make you wonder about your core values.”
To put it simply, they’re the kind of band to turn “O Holy Night” into a cha-cha.
Denton has been instrumental in directing Brave Combo’s unique sound. Finch said there was once a time when the city was cool “before anybody realized it.”
“Not everyone was walking around patting themselves on the back for being how cool of a town we are,” Finch said. “But if you were just focused on making good music and look for that community, you would stumble over that in five seconds.”
For their unparalleled sound, Brave Combo was one of the first inductees of the 2015 Denton Arts Walk of Fame.
“The city of Denton has allowed us to be as insane as we are, longer than we thought we’d be doing it,” Finch said with a laugh. “We’re in a town that loves us, respects us and considers us a part of the fabric. You can’t separate Brave Combo from Denton. We are Denton.”
Paula Blincoe Collins
Across I-35 and UNT’s Apogee Stadium, Paula Blincoe Collins sculpts in her makeshift garage and studio she appropriately calls “The Garadio.”
With over 40 years of experience working with clay, Collins is one of the 2017 inductees who is not a musician. Collins did her postgraduate work at TWU, studying ceramics. She has commissioned over 250 works.
“It’s a joy to me to see the smiles of the folks that have hired me with the faith that I can get it done,” Collins said. “This comes out of the earth, I mess with it for a while, it goes through fire and then it’s ready to become a permanent part of someone’s structure or of a bigger picture.”
Collins has also worked with multiple clients, including the city of Denton. Along with her products on her Etsy store, Collins is currently working on a project with the city to create a design for the Denton Municipal Airport.
The Arts Walk of Fame is just another way Collins knows her work, among many other talented musicians and artists’ works, are admired throughout the community.
“The fact that I live in Denton gives me an enrichment and opportunity to listen to music of other artists,” Collins said. “The home that I’ve found here was the key. Even though I’m close to the stadium and I’m close to I-35, I have my serenity here.”
Featured Image: Members of Isis & the Star Dancers perform their finale dance at the festival stage at Denton Arts & Jazz Festival. Jake King