That is what the band No Vacancy is about: converting its talent to fun.
The band’s members say they don’t perform entirely for the money; it’s about fun and the love of music.
Tommy Ponce, bass; Jarrod Jessop, guitar; Johnny Ruiz, drums, Barry Watson, lead guitar; and Ruben Casarez, vocals, make up No Vacancy.
Sean Ponce, Tommy’s son, serves the band as its soundman.
“We have many favorites, but two that stand out are “Take Me Out To A Dance Hall” and “Tonight’s Not The Night,” said Ponce.
No Vacancy’s first show was in July 2010. They had organized only a month earlier.
Since that time, the band has played numerous shows at different venues.
One of the biggest audiences the band performed for was at Padilla Hall in Refugio on New Year’s Eve.
“We’ve played some large venues but not as many in attendance (as Padilla Hall). We did a show in Waco for a horse sale and barrel racing competition where the venue was enormous,” Ponce said.
No Vacancy once had a Nashville act, Shea Fisher, open for them.
“That was really strange because she thought we were going to open for her,” Ponce said.
“But she went on first and then we came on after, and she stayed and danced to our music,” he added.
A professional sound and lighting company took care of all the front-of-house and stage, too.
“We felt like kings. We did that show on a Friday night then drove down to San Marcos and played one of the oldest Taverns in Texas – Riley’s Tavern – on Saturday night. It was fun,” Ponce said.
“We’ve made a name for us, playing cover songs,” said rhythm guitar player Jarrod Jessop.
Jessop said the band has played the Hay Barn, Padilla Hall, George West Storyfest, Convention Center in Waco, a couple of bars in San Marcos and Victoria, Raisin L Ranch, Brewster Street Ice House in Corpus Christi, Whataburger Field for a large cookoff, Texas Saloon – a Premont dance hall – The Grand Dancehall in Beeville, the Bee County Expo, the Backwoods Saloon in Ingleside, and many more.
“We’ve played every little dive in Refugio County,” said lead guitarist Barry Watson.
Watson, also known as “Big Bear,” said he has been in and out of No Vacancy. Many of the other players come and go, as well.
“I left No Vacancy for a year and a half. I did some other things, and got in a band up in Houston,” he said.
But now the Big Bear is back.
“We have about 60 songs on our list. We are a little rusty on a few but we can play about 45 of them just fine. Some of the reason is that we have had to re-introduce Barry to the group,” Ponce said.
Watson calls Johnny Ruiz, who plays percussion for the band, “Little Bear.”
Ruiz said he likes the band. Ruiz also works a job in Corpus Christi.
“It’s good. It’s fun,” he said.
“These guys are all great. I love all of them,” Watson said.
Watson said he was inspired and learned his guitar playing from another guitar player from Refugio County – Doug Nesloney.
“He was the best flatpicker to ever come out of this county,” Watson said.
One time, Watson was performing in Ingleside, and Nesloney came to the stage.
“He asked me where I learned how to play,” Watson said. “I told him, ‘From you,’ and that floored him.”
“I used to sit and watch Doug play. He was my greatest influence,” Watson said.
He added that the Watson family was musical.
“Then we found out, hey, you get paid doing country music,” he said.
Ponce’s parents encouraged Tommy to play.
Ponce said at an early age, his mom enrolled him in piano lessons.
“My teacher was Mrs. Betty Skrobarcek. I learned piano for five years,” Ponce said.
“I always enjoyed music, but after a while I got tired of piano,” he said.
Ponce switched to organ, and then he played trumpet in school bands.
“My parents bought me a trumpet through Montgomery Ward,” he said.
Another great influence was radio. Ponce said he listened to KKYX with Jerry King in the mornings.
“When I woke, my parents were up (with the radio on),” he said.
Ponce’s cousin, Manny Segovia, a bass player, also was a big influence on Ponce, who now plays bass guitar.
Ponce’s cousin Manny had yet another friend who was a big influence on Ponce. This was Brian Wooten, whose dad came to Beeville because he was in the military.
“Brian got to be so good, he replaced Stevie Ray Vaughn in a band called Too Smooth,” Ponce said.
“He later played Christian rock in the band Whiteheart. Now, he is one of two lead guitar players with Trace Adkins,” Ponce said.
The main goal for No Vacancy is to have fun and play music.
“It’s the love of the music. The cool thing about being 52 years old, I can go out and play for people half my age,” Watson added.