“Welcome Feel Gooders to our 100and Monte Warden Feel Good Hour, from our living room in Austin, Texas. The introduction has always been the same from singer/songwriter Monte Warden to his dedicated group of Feel Gooders who watch his hour-long Facebook streaming show every Friday night, but February 18 was very special. It was the 100and back-to-back streaming event for the Texas native and member of bands The Wagoners and the Dangerous Few.
Monte kicked off the livestream event in March 2020 after Covid caused the pandemic and no one had a clue what was about to happen. “We started when the whole world was going through something so scary that we had never seen before in our lifetime,” Monte explains. “As a live musician I made 200 gigs disappear in two weeks. 2020 was supposed to be our best year since 1991 and all of a sudden all of those gigs disappeared. Brand (his wife) and I just said, “Oh my God, what are we going to do with our income.”
“I noticed a few friends of mine who were much more tech-savvy than me were doing live streams, so I spoke to one of them and asked what was needed to make a show like that. He said just a phone, so we said ‘OK, we’ll do it this Friday at 7 p.m.’. We found the Monte Warden feel good hour because I loved Glen Campbell’s Good Time Hour so much. We had 2500 viewers the first night, and they donated enough that night to help us do what we needed for the month.
On Feel Good Hour, Monte plays songs from his hit band The Waggoners, described by Billboard as “The Greatest Honky-Tonk Band That Ever Was”. It also includes music from his new band, Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few, which Paste Magazine described as “If Buddy Holly sang Harold Arlen…Like Sinatra sang the Lefty Frizzell Songbook.” Also, he might try a new song he just wrote or sing a song someone asked him that he has never sung before.
As the number of shows grew, Monte’s group of Feel Gooders, as he calls those who watch the show, grew. He was also changing what he was doing on the show with what was common at the time. “I remember our fourth show fell on Good Friday and I decided to do all the spiritual songs and people loved it and were drawn to the Christian message,” the singer recalled. “I decided to do one gospel song a week and call it the Gospel Corner, and then because we’re in Texas, I should also do a weekly waltz.”
It took Monte a few weeks to realize that not only were his fans in the United States tuning in, but fans around the world were finding the Feel Good Hour and inviting their friends to listen. The fans he created during his tour of Europe wrote to tell him how much they enjoyed the show and were thrilled to be able to watch all the previous episodes which have been archived on Facebook (https://www .facebook.com/montewarden/videos/4958255250897727).
“After a few months, it’s no longer about the money, but about the community of camaraderie and brotherhood that was forming,” says Monte. “Our show will always be free, but we let fans know that they can donate whatever they want as a cover charge, just like they came to see us at a club, via PayPal or Venmo.”
Several things came out of the live broadcast that Monte had no idea would happen. The singer had to learn 250 songs he had never performed before because he allows viewers to make requests. Another thing Monte has learned is to always prepare for the worst. They cruised through Friday night when Texas was frozen in 2021 and never missed a beat. One night the power went out and they managed to continue. They’ve also been doing the show from different locations now that some gigs have started coming back. Monte and Brandi met many of their new fans and welcomed those who had been with them for some time as they came from out of town to see The Dangerous Few in Austin at Parkers Jazz Club or the Waggoners at The Broken Spoke.
“The comment messages or emails that people send throughout the show, it means so much to me,” Monte says. “At the height of the lockdown, people could watch the show with their families no matter where they lived. Throughout the show, people write messages to their friends and family in another city. People asked for prayers if they are going through a hardship. We were so blessed to have this… It really was an amazing community and they keep thanking us for doing the show. Some people came over from Chicago a few weeks ago, and one of our North Dallas fans said if it wasn’t for the feel good hour he wouldn’t know what day of the week it is!
“At first, financially, it saved us the day. We didn’t know what we were going to do with all the past gigs. So put all your faith in God and see what’s next. He certainly knew what he was doing here,” Monte said. “Once we have known the feel good hour helped us with the basics, and then it was about the Feel Gooders and what it meant to them and to them at a time when people were so isolated. It was a lovely little oasis for these people and we are forever humbled and grateful to be a part of these people’s lives during this time.
In order to do something a little different to celebrate the 100and episode of the Feel Good Hour, Warden decided to post a video for the Dangerous Few’s song “Black Widow” which local newspaper Austin 360 filmed when it featured Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few following the release of their self-titled album.
“When we went into the studio to do the video, I told the crew to be ready to go because we’d probably be doing it in 20 minutes. So videographer Kelly West had her team, the lighting people and the technicians all ready and we put it together and it was done in two takes, no editing. It sounded great, the band was awesome and I’m so happy with how it turned out. It looks and we looks like everyone is having a good time.
Warden is as great a songwriter as he is a singer and artist. He writes for the Waggoners on the one hand and the Dangerous Few on the other, never losing sight of his love for rockabilly, jazz, swing and country and the way they intertwine. “I think it has a lot to do with when I write, it all comes down to what I’m trying to express. I was trained on songwriting by Hank Williams Sr. and Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly, Burt Bacharach and Gene Vincent. I’ve always been able to write songs that people want to hear.
“If you have this gift, you cannot take credit for it, because God gives it to you on the day you are born. What you do with it is up to you. As I got older, my palate became more sophisticated, and as I wrote more traditional pop, I discovered that there were so many richer and different chord structures, but also a vocabulary deeper and richer and a greater possibility of eloquence. That said, no one in the history of the world can express more than Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers. That said, that’s what I try to say, whether it’s with the Waggoners or the Dangerous Few, that draws people in. The great thing about a song is that if I’m doing my job as a songwriter, it just lets the person listening know if they’re happy, sad, angry, or whatever the emotion is.
Monte has had a number of country music cuts, including George Strait’s “Desperately” which was cut first by co-writer Bruce Robison and more recently by Josh Turner. He received a BMI Million-Aire award (for one million radio plays) for Strait’s version. Travis Tritt recorded “I Wish I Was Wrong,” a co-write with Tommy Conners and the first time Monte had a song on an album that sold a few million copies. Patty Loveless recorded “If You Don’t Want Me” after hearing her husband, Emory Gordy, and Monte write it at their home and asked if they were writing it for her. Other cuts for Monte include Carrie Underwood, George Jones, Merle Haggard and Kelly Willis. He also had songs in TV and movie soundtracks, including The circus (Show time), the ranch (Netflix), North exposure (SCS), A life to live (ABC), general hospital (ABC), Quick step (Jungle Jim), Barry show (A&E), and Nashville (ABC), as well as the movies floats of hope (20th Century Fox) and The life of David Gale (Universal Images).
The singer is also known for his knowledge of music history, much of which he shares on wellness time direct. “Journalist Michael Corcoran once said, ‘Before Google, there was Monte Warden,'” Monte reveals. “If I read it, I will never forget it. It made it easier for me to learn the lyrics. So if a Feel Gooder asks about a song, I’ll probably know. One thing I do is I’m going to make sure I get the right years. And Brandi will wave at me that her eyes are glazed over if I dwell too much on the story of the song,” he adds with a laugh.
Monte also has great stories of meeting some of his heroes. It started early, he admits, recounting how he got to go backstage at a Waylon Jennings concert before he was a teenager. “I was so excited, I was 11 and had my Crickets album, my Waylon’s Big hits, and this was only the third show I attended. It was an outdoor concert, and it was so hot. I didn’t think to remove the vinyl from the jackets, so I was trying to protect the vinyl from the heat.
“Finally I got behind the scenes. I was just a kid, so people were taking care of me, giving me cokes and hot dogs. Then I saw Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis (of the Crickets ), so I walked up to them and said, ‘Excuse me sir, can I have an autograph?’ Jerry said, “Waylon’s on his bus and he probably won’t be here until the show. I said, ‘No sir, I want your autograph’ and pulled out the Crickets album. Joe B. Mauldin and the others started laughing. So they all signed the Crickets album and the great thing is I became friends with Jerry and every time he tells the story I get younger and younger And I also have Waylon’s autograph.
Monte is a rare two-time member of the Texas Music Hall of Fame, both as a solo artist and as a member of the Waggoners. He won his first of a dozen Austin Music Awards when he was just 15 for Best New Group, honoring his rockabilly trio Whoa Trigger!. The Waggoners were the first band to sign a major label deal after playing the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. It happened in 1987, the year SXSW launched.