For three decades, the cozy wooden bar on Willow Street near the streetcar barn has functioned as both a neighborhood watering hole and a live music venue.
Carrollton Station marks that milestone this weekend with a "chicken drop" at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 6; a crawfish boil and acoustic showcase including Jimmy Robinson, Caleb Guillotte, Susan Cowsill and other frequently featured players on Friday, May 7; and Cowsill’s CD release party on Saturday, May 8.
Tom Bennett co-founded the Station in 1980 in the former home of the Willow Inn. He oversaw the evolution of the physical space — walls and a drop ceiling were removed, a stage was built, paint was sandblasted off the ancient tongue-and-groove cypress boards — and the music. That music tended toward local roots rock, blues and acoustic acts. Blues harmonica player Andy J. Forest was an early favorite. Cowboy Mouth played its first gig at the Station
Current owner Eric Orlando bought the business from Bennett in 2002. He has continued to tinker with the operation, adding a permanent P.A. system and opening a back deck.
He and Cowsill forged a fruitful partnership after a rocky start. When Orlando booked her for the first time, she asked whether her then-12-year-old daughter, Miranda, could come along. Orlando said no; Cowsill was not happy. Upon learning that young Miranda sang as part of her mom’s show, Orlando realized the law did allow her to attend.
“The bar side was easy,” Orlando said of running the Station. “But there was a definite learning process in handling the music end of things. I’ve been the beneficiary of a lot of relationships Tom formed with musicians over the years. So in some cases, my job was just not to mess things up.”