Small festival honors Jay Melugin
By Basil Gist
Saturday saw the return of the North Texas Songwriter’s Festival after a two-year hiatus under an experimental moniker, Play for Jay.
Originally organized by the rainbow-riding Jay Melugin and continued now by a team effort from Beau Foster and Vince Lujan, a small-scale version of the festival took place in the Pilot Point Coffee House throughout the day Saturday.
“We’re just trying to get it going again; it lost a little spark,” Foster said. “The reason why we titled this Play for Jay is it wasn’t going to be a full-blown festival. It was going to be very stripped down, and it was just going to be to play for him.”
Melugin, town historian and local legend, died before the day of music on his behalf could come.
“It was disheartening at first, but we said the show must go on; we can’t not do this, can’t let it happen a third time in a row, for his sake,” Foster said.
Foster explained the scaled-down version presented a greater challenge than years prior.
“Some folks were dreading seeing him in that condition,” Foster said. “They wanted to remember him as the tall-tale, bigger-than-Texas figure, all five-foot-nothing of him.”
The roster filled out with 20 artists, the first of whom, even after 50 years of making music, had never performed his original songs onstage.
John “J.B.” Brown opened the event with a selection of his own music before dedicating a single cover to Melugin.
“One thing about the festival was having a new person play, that was his favorite thing; I guess we’ve accomplished our goal already then,” Foster said after Brown took the stage. “No matter how big or small, people have always been welcomed here.”
This was the first and only year covers were allowed in artists’ sets.
“Jay was always against cover music; he wanted originals only, but this year we decided we’d let folks donate one cover song they thought he would like to hear,” Foster said.
Moving forward, Foster explained he intends to return the festival to form—not in the height of the summer and not on one stage over the course of just one day.
In 2019, the festival spanned the weekend, saw a street shut down, took place over two stages and incorporated nearly 100 artists.
“We still have all the interest in the world from artists; there’s over 1,000 that have played this event,” Foster said. “Our biggest goal has always been to have a steamboat festival where we could have someone playing at each store at all times. Anywhere you went, you would see someone.”
Even while hoping for exponential growth, Foster intends to ensure the festival maintains its roots.
“When Jay turned over the reins and chose me to head this in the next generation, I said it needs to have a more specific identity,” Foster said. “It needs to be Jay’s; it’s Jay’s Songwriter Festival. It was never about him in the beginning, but I felt like it should be.”