Singer stirs up Grand Ole Opry memories in Victoria
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As Mannon Mints stepped up to the microphone in the sanctuary of Victoria's John Wesley United Methodist Church on Wednesday, the audience of mostly gray-haired women sat quietly on the edge of their seats ready to be serenaded.
Wearing a fitted hunter green suit jacket sprinkled with sparkling red and silver appliqué, Mints, 66, began belting out fellow country music singer George Jones' melancholy hit song "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
For the next three minutes and 17 seconds, audience members tapped their feet, nodded their heads, and some even closed their eyes as Mints' smooth, tenor voice took them all on an audible stroll down memory lane.
For Mints, moments like this are what make doing his one-man show, "Tribute to the Grand Ole Opry of the 1950s," worthwhile.
"It's just a blessing to be able to make other people happy," said Mints, who started his tribute show in 2008. "It's just awful rewarding."
Wednesday's show marked Mints' 31st performance.
"Everywhere we go, we get invited back," said Mints, who has performed at nursing homes, family reunions and senior citizen conventions throughout Victoria and surrounding counties.
Mints' affinity toward country music began when he was about 6 years old.
Every Saturday night at 9, Mints recalled sitting in his bedroom listening to WSM-Nashville's radio broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry.
"I had a love for country music, and since I couldn't turn on the TV and see the stars, I'd listen to the radio and just dream of what they looked like," said Mints.
Although he enjoyed listening to performers such as Cousin Minnie Pearl, Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb, George Jones topped Mints' list of favorites.
"I wore out all his records," said Mints. "He sings tear-jerking music, and his voice is unlike anyone else I ever heard."
Despite his love of music, the uncertainties of pursuing a professional singing career pushed Mints toward attending college to pursue a degree in animal husbandry and later a career in law enforcement.
Mints started his law enforcement career as a deputy sheriff in Harris County before moving on to a career as a lieutenant with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, 26 years of which he spent working in the Victoria bureau.
After retiring from the TABC, Mints worked as both a consultant for Thomas Petroleum and for a short while, as the constable for Victoria County, Precinct 3.
Even though he retired from the working world altogether in 2005, it was not until two years ago that the crooner decided to put together his own show after seeing an artist do a Patsy Cline cover performance in the Welder Center.
"It's hard to make a living doing music. Now that I'm retired, it's something I decided to do," said Mints.
Mints decided to do a show geared solely toward senior citizens.
"They have to be old because they are the only ones who know the music because I only do music from the 1950s," said Mints. "It was the music they were raised on. It brings back memories, and many of them can tell me where they were the first time they heard the song."
Mints' hour-long act consists of performing various songs prefaced by spoken bios of the artists, wardrobe changes, clever radio advertisement jingles, mixed with a little bit of comedy and an invitation to attend Sunday morning worship service at First Baptist Church in person or via their television broadcast.
"I don't know if they come watch because I'm just that good or if it is because I'm free," Mints said jokingly. "If you come and watch the faces on those people, you'd understand why I don't charge. We just try to go in and put a little happiness in their day."
"Sometimes you think no one's listening because they are sitting their expressionless, but just as soon as they hear a song that means something to them, their expressions light up. They start clapping their hands, tapping their feet and singing the words," said Dottie Mints, 68. "It's something we can do that doesn't cost us anything but time and gasoline."
Mints has begun to attract a fan club.
"He's a very gifted and talented man. It brings back lots of memories from the 50s and 40s. It gets back to lots of music we had in school and we danced to when we were growing up," said Joy Hoad, 74. "I go to as many performances I can of him."
First-timer Diane Edwards, 58, said she was sold on Mints' show after his Wednesday performance.
"I loved to hear him sing "So Lonesome I Could Cry," said Edwards. "It's just one of those songs that sticks with you forever."