Q&A: Stoney’s Founder Chris Lowden Talks Expanding Presence And Footprint

Chris Lowden, founder of Stoney’s Rockin’ Country in Las Vegas

Stoney’s Rockin’ Country, the go-to country music venue in Las Vegas, has an ever-expanding presence on the west coast and is making a footprint in Nashville with a new office.

On April 13 and 14, Stoney’s hosted the ACM Tailgate as part of ACM Party For a Cause, featuring more than 30 artists including Kip Moore and Jon Pardi. The venue expanded the festival-style outdoor event from one day in 2017, to two days this year, with proceeds benefiting ACM Lifting Lives.

In addition, Stoney’s is celebrating it’s 11th birthday this summer, as well as its first ACM Industry Award nomination for Nightclub of the Year, set to be presented in August 22 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.

MusicRow spoke to founder Chris Lowden about the driving forces behind the venue, which he runs with the help of marketing director Jeff “Toad” Higginbotham.

Stoney’s prides itself on embracing emerging artists. Who has played there and who would you love to see take the stage?

There’s so much great talent that typically Vegas doesn’t see, because they are rising artists who don’t fit the showroom mold or the arena mold. With a 1200 capacity, Stoney’s fills a hole [in the market] that other places don’t, by offering shows by artists like Jimmie Allen, Stephanie Quayle and The Cadillac Three. Russell Dickerson has played here about eight times in the last three years, and the last two times he sold out. I’d love to host Cody Jinks, John D. Hale Band, Brent Cobb and Mitchell Tenpenny. Brett Young, Jon Pardi and Luke Combs have all played here, and now we can’t afford them.

When did you decide to open Stoney’s?

I used to hang out at a place called Gilley’s, inside the Frontier Hotel and Casino. The General Manager was a guy named Stoney. Then in 2005 or ‘06, we found out they were going to tear down The Frontier, and there would be no more Gilley’s. So we decided to build our own place and name it after Stoney, because everybody knew who he was. We opened in 2007.

What was it like growing up in Las Vegas with family in the entertainment and gaming business?

We were in the gaming business and owned six casinos at one point. We just sold our last casino. We are transitioning from gaming to a real estate investment company that happens to have Stoney’s.

We owned the Sahara, where I saw Brooks and Dunn perform before they were famous. We had people like Tina Turner and George Carlin. The Grateful Dead used to stay at the Sahara and eat lunch in the coffee shop. My dad also helped take Siegfried & Roy from a small act inside the Lido, by working with Irvin Feld to create the show we know today.

My dad has a crazy history with Las Vegas entertainment, but also with playing music. He is a musician who left home at about age 15. He is a keyboard player and his forte is the Hammond B3. He still plays today and tours with Jack Jones.

What is the idea behind Stoney’s launch of Country AF radio?

It was born out of frustration that terrestrial radio would not play our emerging artists’ music.

So we program it with 50 percent terresetrial and 50 percent what we want to play, like Blackberry Smoke, Carlton Anderson, Travis Parker and Alex Williams. We also have a lot of content and interviews. It’s an app or you can listen online at CountryAFRadio.com.

Russell Dickerson’s sold-out show at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country on April 12, 2018.

Congratulations on your first ACM nomination. What sets Stoney’s apart from other venues?

The vibe is super cool, and it’s not just a venue. On the dance floor it’s not uncommon for half or three-fourths of the fans to be watching the show while the other half or one-fourth are line dancing or two-stepping.

The nomination is a little surreal. We’re super excited and humbled by it. Our philosoply is to be the venue that artists love to call home, love to play. We really treat them like family…as I say, “the family that you like.” We want them to know they will have a good crowd and great equipment.

Most of all the hospitality is second to none, which is what we strive for, because we really appreciate the hard work that artists put in.

 

 

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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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