In March, 1951, Barney Morris ran ads in the Fort Worth Press seeking men to form a new barbershop chapter. By July, the Fort Worth Chapter—48 men strong—was issued a provisional charter by the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America (known by the acronym SPEBSQSA and later renamed the Barbershop Harmony Society). The permanent charter arrived one year later.
Taking the name Cowtown Chorus, the new chapter met at the central YMCA for a year, then moved to a room in a Fort Worth radio station. During its over 60 year existence the chapter has met in 19 different locations, and currently meets every Monday at St. Christopher Episcopal Church located at 3550 SW Loop 820 in Fort Worth.
The chapter’s highest membership year to date came in 1960, when there were 104 men on the roster (there are currently about 22). The Cowtown Chorus was honored in 1962 by being featured on the cover of Harmonizer, the official magazine of the Barbershop Harmony Society, for participating in the Casa Manana production of the “Music Man”.
In 1997, the chapter hired Phil McShan as musical director and the chorus changed their name to the Texas Millionaires. Mark Holdemn assumed the duties of singing coach and assistant musical director. In 2004 Mark accepted the position of musical director of the Plano Men Of Note chorus. Tom Jackson and Meredith Phillips took over as assistant directors.
The chorus won an invitation to compete in the International Chorus Competition of the Barbershop Harmony Society, held in the LDS Salt Lake City convention theater. They placed a very respectable 17th out of the 30 choruses that had competed and that ranked them in the top 3% of over 800 Society choruses worldwide.
In 2006 Tom Jackson became musical director when Phil McShan left to concentrate his efforts in choreography coaching with the Vocal Majority Chorus of Dallas. Tom led the Millionaires to International Contests in Denver in 2007 and in Nashville the following year.
In 2012 we changed our chorus name from Texas Millionaires to Southwest Sound following a merger with the Tarrant County Metro Chapter of BHS (Panther City Troubadours chorus). And in another twist, Mark Holdeman, who had left the Plano chapter, became the new musical director.
In 2015, Mark stepped down as director because of increasing duties within the national society. The chorus opted to ask his wife, Lindsay Chartier-Holdeman to take over. She is a well-trained, Harmony, Inc. director. She’s been a wonderful inspiration to the chorus. We are making very good progress under her leadership.