The sounds of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo are hard to miss.
Horses neighing. Hooves clicking off the concrete streets. Country music emanating from the grounds at the Will Rogers Memorial Center.
With a guitar in hand, 13-year-old Mel Garsek set up his makeshift stage in front of a Chevrolet Silverado on display, and started playing. Mel’s goal? To be the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo’s premier sound.
“I’ve always loved music… I’ve always loved the guitar,” Mel said after playing the final chord on John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses,” finishing his first set.
While he performed popular, well-known country and acoustic songs during a Jan. 28 performance, Mel holds his own catalog of originals — almost 150 — that he’s been writing since he could hold a pencil.
“He’s been writing and playing since he learned how to walk,” said Kevin Garsek, Mel’s father, who serves as Mel’s transportation to and from gigs.
His experience and composure shows. Mel looks and sings as if an ounce of nervousness doesn’t affect him. When complete strangers stop what they’re doing to listen, he doesn’t bat an eye, or miss a chord. He just smiles.
“It’s great! Audience is great, everything’s great, it’s fun!” Mel said, his voice quivering with excitement. “Everybody gets to watch me!”
On weekdays, when the final bell rings at McLean Middle School in Fort Worth, Mel begins an evening of song-writing and practicing, and he wouldn’t rather do anything else, he said.
When asked about other hobbies he has, Mel was blunt.
“I don’t really have that many,” Mel said. “This is kind of my main thing.”
His practice has paid off. Besides the Stock Show, Mel has played at bars and honky tonks, busking and farmers markets around Fort Worth to warm receptions, Garsek said.
Mel generally plays country and acoustic music, considering his gigs are country-oriented. But Mel has his most fun and feels most confident with an electric guitar in his hands and an amplifier by his feet.
“He’d tell you that electric is really all he wants to be playing,” Garsek said.
“I really like electric… I like playing classic rock,” Mel said.
His favorite song to play is Carlos Santana’s “Smooth.”
“The backing tracks on that (‘Smooth’), I play all day,” Mel said.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to belt it out over the weekend at the Stock Show and Rodeo.
Instead, Mel stood tall with his acoustic guitar and played well-known country songs.“Pickup Man” by Joe Diffie and “Soul Shop” from Prophets and Outlaws were among crowd favorites. These were songs he knew his audience would enjoy; songs that are familiar to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.
His audience of a few-hundred passersby seemed appreciative of the music choice. In the bucket placed out in front of him and his microphone, cash tips piled high.
Yet, he wasn’t performing for the money, or the audience’s admiration. Mel performed to train himself for the moments that lay ahead.
“I’m not getting on the big stage yet,” Mel said. “I hope to be ready in the next year or so.”
Where to follow Mel?
- Instagram: @mgarsek
- Website: melgarsek.com
Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.