Grand Ole Opry gets Lockhart flair


By Kyle Mooty

LPR Editor

A self-professed lover of old country music, Jenn Hodges reached the pinnacle of many musicians’ careers when she played last month at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hodges, who owns Fiddler’s Green in Lockhart along with her husband, Ben, was one of just two musicians that friend Melissa Carper could bring with her to play two songs along with the Opry house band.

Hodges donned a nudie suit jacket designed by another Lockhart resident, Sara Thompson. That was also dream come true for Hodges.

Hodges joined Carper and Carper’s life partner, Rebecca Patek, on stage July 12.

“When Melissa invited me to come, of course I said ‘yes,’ because I was so honored,” said Hodges, who played acoustic guitar on the two songs.

“A bunch of friends from Lockhart bought tickets and we all went up there together. There were six from Lockhart. It was really special. It was a packed house. I heard there were only seven open seats in the 4,000-seat auditorium. That was surprising to me for a Wednesday.”

Among others performing that evening at the Opry included Scotty McCreery, Wade Hayes, and Parmalee.

“What I just got back from was such a cool experience,” Hodges said.

Hodges has been extremely busy lately as her and her husband’s business, Fiddler’s Green, has moved across Main Street and will have its Grand Re-Opening during Lockhart’s First Friday this week. The business will be open at 10 a.m., with a ribbon cutting at noon, and a shop party from 5-8 p.m. Jenn Hodges gives guitar and voice lessons. Ben’s specialty is instrument repair.

This was the debut performance for Carper at the Opry. She has released two albums.

Hodges has her own band, the Corn Ponies, which has been around for about 15 years. To be asked by Carper to play at the Grand Ole Opry was a thrill.

Carper plays the upright bass, is lead vocalist, and leads the band. Patek plays the fiddle.

Rolling Stone Country said, “Singer-bassist Melissa Carper sounds like a voice from a bygone era. Evoking the cool, smoky croon of a lounge singer, Carper gives some winking commentary about having a good time.”

Saving Country Music also praised Carper: “Melissa Carper is one of the greatest classic golden era country singers and composers of this generation. A new batch of songs from Melissa Carper is something to smile and rub your hands together about like waiting for permission to cut into an apple pie.”

The first song played at the Opry was the title track from Carper’s album ‘Ramblin’ Soul,’ her second album.

“It’s a song about how she loves to travel around the country playing music,” Hodges said. “It was a great song for the Opry because she references different parts of the country and there were people there from all over. It’s kind of upbeat and swingy. And then we went into one of my favorite songs called ‘I Don ‘t Need to Cry.’ It’s just a beautiful, sad country song that she wrote. We ended on that one and next thing we knew everybody was standing up. She got a standing ovation. It was such a cool day and such a cool experience.”

There was a large after-party at the Airbnb where Carper and friends were staying.

“We probably had 50 people come from all over the country, friends and family who have supported her through her journey,” Hodges said. “It was really fun to celebrate afterwards with all of the friends in town.

“Her last two albums are so good and they’re doing so well. She’s charting on Americana Radio, which is the genre that she is considered to be in. Anyone that sees Melissa play just falls in love with her. She’s so soulful and genuine and talented.”

Ben had worked at Fiddler’s Green in Austin since it opened in 2008. Often, he was the only employee, and the Hodges purchased the business in 2020, moving it to Lockhart, where they have called home since 2015.

Hodges first met Carper around the time she had formed the Corn Ponies, about 15 years ago. She and Carper met and began trading songs. They realized they had mutual interests. Although they played together often, Hodges eventually settled down to raise her family. Carper had returned to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, as well as moved to Nashville, before returning to Austin.

The Corn Ponies play classic country music.

“We love to play dance halls and honky-tonks, pretty much anywhere there’s a dance floor,” Hodges said. “It’s all kind of two-steppin’ and friendly music.”

Originally from Houston, Hodges attended the University of Texas in Austin. She stuck around the city after graduating for about 20 years.

“I got really into country music when I was in college,” she said. “There were a couple of places in Austin that played like 50’s and 60’s country music, and I got really into it. My favorite place was Ginny’s Little Longhorn. I’ve just really always kind of been obsessed with classic country history. I started my own band as kind of a tribute to that.”

Hodges plays acoustic guitar and sings.

The Corn Ponies include Austin residents Willie Pipkin on guitar, Lindsay Greene on bass, Andrew Nafziger on guitar and pedal steel, and drummer Jason Corviere (he tours with Jimmy Vaughn).

“I met all of the guys playing at Joe’s on South Commerce on Sundays,” Hodges said. “They are the Joe’s house band. It’s a great group of guys.”

Corn Ponies was a phrase Hodges came up with, believing it harkened back to a rural America and country music setting.

“It doesn’t really mean anything, just something I came up with in my early 20’s for that first band and it just kind of stuck,” she said.

The Corn Ponies will record their first album this fall at Bastrop’s Fort Horton Studio.

The Hodges have two sons, ages 6 and 8.

Thompson uses ancient machinery to design Hodges’ outfit

Hodges said as soon as she was invited to appear at the Opry with Carper, she reached out to Sara Thompson, another Austin transplant who she’d met at downtown gatherings such as First Friday events.

“I always wanted to wear a denim jacket or an article of clothing that was cane-stitched,” Hodges said. “I loved the designs in the style of nudie suits from the golden era of country music. Sara’s a friend of mine. I just asked her if she had the time and availability.

“I really didn’t give her that much instruction except that I wanted corn stalks to kind of reference my band name, and ponies and flowers. I didn’t tell her colors. I didn’t tell her where to put them or what design I wanted. I just kind of gave her those motifs. She is an artist, so I wanted her to have freedom. What she came up with blew me away.”

When Thompson invited Hodges to see what she had come up with, Hodges walked into Thompson’s house and saw the jacket on a manikin.

“I was blown away,” Hodges said. “I about died. She’s a woman of many talents. She really has a great eye for design.”

Thompson said she used a 1932 Singer Chain-Stitch machine that is hand-cranked. She draws a template for the design, then places it over the fabric and onto the machine, where she then hand-cranks the thread into the fabric.

The suit jacket had a full design on the back, a guitar on each sleeve, wildflowers on the front, a corn on the cob, and a profile of a horse.

Thompson has only been at her craft for five years, having moved to Lockhart in 2017.

“This was very exciting,” Thompson said. “I was thrilled that Jenn asked me. I call her the national treasure of Lockhart, Texas. She is the nicest, kindest person. She is a true gem.”

Thompson does a lot of custom designs for people that give her an idea, then she takes it from there.

Her website is, and it is also linked to her Instagram and email.

“(Hodges’ attire) is by far the best thing I’ve done so far,” Thompson said. “It’s the first time I’ve worked with rhinestones and there are 270 on it.”


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