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California native musician returned to play The Tipsy Cow

by Garrett Fuller | August 31, 2022 at 4:01 a.m.
Pat Kay, a California native, plays a banjo while singing during his first solo event Aug. 26, 2022, at The Tipsy Cow in California, Missouri. (Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller)

As a child, Pat Kay would eat at Willy's Pizza with his family.

The California native and half of music duo The Kay Brothers returned to the former pizzeria, which now houses The Tipsy Cow steakhouse, to play his signature "stompgrass" tunes in a free show Friday.

On the Facebook event page, stompgrass was described as a type of bluegrass music where "... percussion is not only encouraged, but required ..."

Jordan Allen, owner of The Tipsy Cow and a childhood friend of Pat Kay, said he performed as a drummer for Bryan Kay, the other half of The Kay Brothers, in his childhood band.

"We actually all played in the same band room under John Kay's (the brothers' father) office," Allen said.

In addition to getting to perform in a special location, Pat Kay said the Friday show was a part of "new territory."

"What I'm doing tonight is, in a lot of ways, some newer territory," Pat Kay said Friday. "I've had a band for forever, and in the past several years and largely it was a function of what performance opportunities were available during COVID, I started doing solo shows. I think this is the first time I've ever played a show in town without a band and it's just me."

It was also his first performance at The Tipsy Cow. As an unusual venue, Pat Kay said there was a lot of experimentation to get the show right.

"It's always interesting playing a place, more or less, (for the) first time," Pat Kay said. "It isn't a traditional music venue. There's always a certain level of experimentation that goes into what time you play, where you play, how loud your volume is, and things like that. ... But ultimately, when you're in a space like that -- where there's a dining side, a bar side, it has pool tables in it, and a deck, in a town of that size -- you have a very wide demographic of people who attend and there's always a certain level of experimentation in how to best serve the listening needs of everyone there. And I think (The Tipsy Cow) has a lot of potential for that."

The musician was also able to connect with people he had not seen in decades.

"It was really fantastic to get to see so many familiar faces again after so long," Pat Kay said.

He also said some of the audience members were likely surprised to see his transformation from one genre to another.

"One of the things that was interesting to me about that also, about the experience of playing there, was that when I lived in California I had a rock band," Pat Kay said. "And a lot of people who were there, many of them, hadn't seen me since that time. And I have to imagine some of them were a little surprised to see me play a banjo."

Pat Kay said he has traveled as far as the northern border of Washington in the past month, but most of his upcoming shows are in the Midwest. He will play Thursday at The Mission in Jefferson City and will be heading to Kansas City for shows Friday and Saturday.

Pat Kay's music career began when he started a band when he was "probably 13 or 14 years old." Since then, his goal was to turn his love for music into a career. He continued to play music while working as a talent buyer for Frank Productions Concerts Live, which books talent for venues such as The Blue Note in Columbia, as well as for events like the annual Roots and Blues Festival in Columbia.

"We had a band in high school here, and when I went to college, I decided that if I were able to play music as an occupation -- as a job instead of working in the library or something like that -- I would be content with what I had accomplished in my music endeavors," Pat Kay said.

After 15 years, he resigned from his job at FPC Live in October 2021, allowing him to return to playing music full-time. He said the experience had changed drastically in those 15 years.

"It's an entirely different experience now, as a 40-year-old man with a family and kids, (than) it was when I was in my early 20s," Pat Kay said. "Some things are harder; some things are easier. By and large, it seems to be quite a bit easier because at this point in my life it's my job. And I take it much more seriously than I did when I was in my early 20s. There's a lot of working out and things like that to stay in shape and just to have the stamina to do that sort of show three, four, five nights in a row."

Allen, owner of The Tipsy Cow, said three upcoming shows are planned. Andrea Laray will be there Friday, with Joker's Wild scheduled for Sept. 9 and Concannon on Oct. 21.

Pat Kay said he plans to return to California later this year for a yet-to-be-announced show at Finke Theater -- and possibly another show at The Tipsy Cow. In the meantime, he is thankful for receiving the opportunity to play at the venue he frequented as a child -- by a childhood friend.

"And, to that end, I'm grateful Jordan gave me the opportunity to perform there so I had an excuse to come home and check it out," Pat Kay said. "I'm not sure how long he's been open, but I'm real proud of what he's done there."

  photo  Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — California native Pat Kay plays a guitar Aug. 26, 2022, while preparing for an event at The Tipsy Cow in California.
  photo  Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — A drum for The Kay Brothers is setup Aug. 26, 2022, for Pat Kay to play solo at The Tipsy Cow in California. Pat is half of The Kay Brothers, with brother Bryan Kay being the other half. Pat Kay recalls visiting Willy's Pizza, a pizzeria that formerly occupied the same location as The Tipsy Cow, as a child. The drum features a modified version of the Missouri State Seal, including the motto "United We Stand, Divided We Fall."
  photo  Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — A poster for Pat Kay's solo show is seen Aug. 26, 2022, on a window outside The Tipsy Cow in California.

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