Guitar pulls have been around country music for as long as anyone can remember. The concept is simple — a group of musicians gets on stage, or gathers in a living room, or around a fire and takes turns singing songs. However, one Charlotte radio station is putting its own spin on the concept.
For eight years, 103.7 WSOC has been holding a "Stout Pull" at Coyote Joe's. Sure, the idea is the same, with a handful of artists gathering on stage to take turns playing music, but, from the start, DJ Stout, the station's operations manager/program director, wanted to make his version a bit more fun.
"A lot of times, at a guitar pull, the artist doesn't like sitting up on stage the whole time — sometimes it's just to get a drink or go to the bathroom," Stout says. "So, what we did was put a port-a-john in the middle of the stage. I put couches and love seats up on stage. Each artist gets his/her own bartender the whole night. So, there's no reason for them to leave the stage."
The artists and radio staff loved the idea so much, they called it the "Stout Pull." Each year, the event has also been tied to the charity Loaves and Fishes. The eighth version, happening on Jan. 12, will feature the Eli Young Band, Parmalee and A Thousand Horses — putting a new spin on it, once again.
"WSOC had never done a guitar pull like this, and I knew if we did it we wanted to put our spin on it and make it fun," Stout says. "This year, I just thought it would be cool to have bands. It's a power-acoustic show. It's not a full band, and it's not acoustic. Response has been great to the lineup. We've done it the same way for seven years, so why not change it up?"
Instead of all the artists being on stage at the same time, this year will feature a rotation of bands, each playing about six songs. He also recently found out that the full band setup won't allow space for the couches, but you can expect the port-a-john to be there, as always.
Stout adds that it's safe to assume that the Stout Pull will return to the other format next year.
Stout is the one behind the booking and says the challenge is having to book artists months in advance. That's part of the reason it usually takes place on a Tuesday night — that's typically an off night for touring musicians.
"I try to get artists that I think will be hot at this point in time, or maybe have a single on the radio that's working well," he says. "Sometimes, it's just a band that does well in Charlotte and who people would love to come out and see. I think the one thing that sets it apart is the relationship we have with these artists from the first day they come to the station to play a song for us."
This year's lineup is no different. A Thousand Horses had a hit single last year, as did Parmalee. While the Eli Young Band doesn't have a new album out, the band has traditionally drawn a solid crowd in the local market.
So, which artists are on his "dream list" for future Stout Pulls? Stout says he's spoken with Jason Aldean about it and thinks it could happen if schedules line up. Lee Brice has done it before, but Stout would love to have him back. He'd also love to see Miranda Lambert be a part of the event.
Stout says he has a few stand-out memories from Stout Pulls in the past. The first person to ever actually use the port-a-john during the show was Jake Owen. Stout laughs that it wasn't actually supposed to be used and there was no blue liquid inside.
In 2010, Big Kenny and Justin Moore were on stage and both wanted to be the last one to sing a song, so the two artists continued their back and forth until nearly 1 a.m.
"The coolest moment? I put Chris Stapleton on it," Stout says of the 2014 edition of the Stout Pull. "He's one of my favorite artists. From a selfish standpoint, I just wanted to get him here. When we promoted the show, we would say, 'You may not know him now, but you're going to be talking about him the next day.' He blew it away. The artists all joked about hating to sing after him. To see him have success last year with the Grammys and CMA stuff — our listeners think it's pretty cool."
Overall, it's the laid-back atmosphere that makes for a memorable night of music when fans can see some of country music's finest put on shows that fans don't typically get to see. There's usually a bit of storytelling and joking around along with stripped down versions of songs by the participating performers.
"We just want the artists to go up there and have a good time," Stout says. "It's hard not to when there's a port-a-john up there."
Stout Pull past lineups
Jake Owen, Lee Brice, Keith Anderson and Trent Tomlinson
Billy Currington, Rodney Atkins, Trent Tomlinson and John Rich
Gretchen Wilson, Joe Nichols, Justin Moore and Big Kenny
Christian Kane, Jerrod Niemann, Jake Owen and Josh Thompson
Chris Cagle, Uncle Kracker, Josh Thompson and Kip Moore
Aaron Lewis, Colt Ford and Gary Allan
Josh Thompson, Tyler Farr and Chris Stapleton
Sam Hunt, The Swon Brothers and Jerrod Niemann