It could happen anywhere – even in a city that consistently endures 100-degree heat, waves the banner for Texas independence and surrounds itself with oil wells in the way the man on the moon stares agape amid a backdrop of stars: a young man nestled in the management web of Houston-area Walmarts gets promoted via dispatch to the relative (and cozy) obscurity of Gonzales.
It happened to Adan Davila, a 28-year-old native of Houston, who recently found himself assigned with the arduous task of managing the local Walmart, with further plans for later being at the helm for the soon-to-be-completed Super Walmart.
But Adan isn’t just about numbers, profits and customer service. A gifted singer and guitarist, he has managed to weave a web of gigs that would perplex Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars while establishing a network of musical peers that could rival any Austin session musician.
While Adan pays the bills working for Walmart, he satisfies his artistic impulses by diving headfirst into bands – be they of rock, country, blues, jazz or otherworldly ethnicity. Simply put, Adan’s retail success is a perfect example of his stick-to-itiveness; the music is more a barometer of the man’s artistic vision. And it just so happens that this vision is overlooking the South Texas horizon.
“I arrived in Gonzales in May, came in and took over this little store,” he says of his arrival in our cozy community. “I stayed at the St. James Bed and Breakfast for a little over a month, and it was great. They took good care of me. Then I bought a house of my own. So I’m settled in!”
Without a doubt, Adan is “totally jazzed” to be spearheading his own store, and definitely “in tune” with his new co-workers.
“I’m excited about the new store,” he says. “It’s expected to open in October, and we’re making headway to get it done. The staff are all some great, hard-working people, and they’re a lot of fun to be around.”
While he can easily be perceived as an intelligent, articulate and downright funny chap to chat with, Adan is also a connoisseur of fine humility, a trait evidenced by his down-to-earth, easy-going personality. In conversation, he relishes making his opinions a simple matter of fact, often revealing how inspiration can give way to a fledgling pastiche. Take his opinions on the gear he uses and the bands he likes, for instance:
“I currently play an American Fat Strat Texas Special guitar – and that model was made for only two years,” he says. “I love Fender Stratocasters, especially this one. It’s got (ZZ Top guitarist) Billy Gibbons Seymore-Duncan Humbucker pickups in it. I’ve idolized ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughn since I was a kid, and I often enjoyed trying to emulate them. So there you go.”
For amplification, Adan uses a Rocky Top JTM 45 clone that was custom built for him from an amp-builder in Nashville.
“I picked that amp because it has some really clean tone,” he says. “But it has just enough crunch on it. It’s got a pretty beefy sound.”
Among the exciting points in both Adan’s retail and musical careers was an “overlapping” event of sorts in 2010 that led to his sharing a bill with international celebrities as well as iconic country and rock-n-roll music acts.
“Walmart once flew me out to a show in Arkansas, where they have their annual shareholder’s meeting,” he recalls. “I’ll never forget – there were 14,000 people there. Jamie Foxx hosted the show, and Barenaked Ladies was one of the bands performing. I was the only associate flown out, and got to perform at the event.
“When I got there, Tim McGraw had just finished,” he says. “I did a quick sound check, then performed the following day. Sara Evans played before me, and the Barenaked Ladies went on a couple of acts after me.”
“It was pretty scary because it was just me,” he continues. “It was originally supposed to be a full band, but we couldn’t get the logistics to work – too many schedule problems. So they just flew me out. I spent four days in Bentonville, Ark., diggin’ the sights and sounds and experiencing the behind-the-scenes production of it. I got to hang out with Jamie Foxx and Mr. Rollback (Darrell Owens of Walmart commercial fame). That was a big high point because all the Walmart people loved Darrell.”
Adan once again found himself in front of thousands of spectators when he played with Jarrod Birmingham at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
“That was the last year they had it in the Astrodome,” he remembers. “I played guitar for Jarrod, and it was amazing. I was born in Houston and moved to Port Lavaca when I was eight. But my parents still took me with them to the livestock show. Let me tell you, it was a surreal experience, to say the least, to come down the Astrodome loading ramp as a grown man and see thousands and thousands of chairs. To be on the floor of the Astrodome looking up was incredible.
“They had a huge stage, and the guy who ran sound for Shinedown was our sound man,” he says. “That was really cool because we got to meet him. He introduced me to the band a few months later when they came to Houston.
“I love those kinds of shows,” he says of the Houston Livestock Show. “People as far as the eye can see, and when they start getting into it and jumping around, it’s like this sea of people. It was tremendous. I was like, ‘okay, let’s take that one off the bucket list.’”
Adan eventually hooked up with Jeremy Halliburton, a Gonzales native who worked as a DJ on KCTI radio for several years. Halliburton had moved to Victoria and was working for that city’s radio station when the two became friends.
“I met Jeremy when I was promoting a song I did,” he says. “I wanted airplay in Victoria, and wasn’t taking no for an answer. I called him at the radio station every day at 6 p.m. asking to hear the tune. I really hounded him, and eventually he played it on a regular basis. We eventually ended up meeting each other and hanging out and jamming on tunes he and I had both written. Where I’m going with this is I had already been playing in Jeremy’s band, off and on, for several years. Now I’m here in his hometown with two of the other guys in his current band. There’s Gilbert, who plays bass and works at A&S (recycling) and that weird Rob drummer guy. But he’s a whole ’nother story.”
Adan says he worked the Texas country music circuit for a while, meeting and playing with all kinds of people. While he was in college, he was working 40 hours a week at Walmart and playing in bands four nights a week.
“I’d get to bed around two in the morning after getting home from a show, sleep for an hour, then get up and be at Walmart from four in the morning ’till one in the afternoon,” he says, wincing at the memory.
“Then I’d be in class from two to six, get outta there, and back to load up and sound check for the next show. It was tough! I miss playing all the time, but I absolutely do not miss the sleepless nights. But it all worked together, because the gigs were paying for college, and Walmart was paying for gas and books. So I persevered, and got an education.”
Adan relates that his Walmart career, which has proven lucrative, was not a strategically planned-out one, but rather a circumstance borne out of good old common sense.
“I was in college and quickly realized I needed a job,” he says. “I was going to the University of Houston in Victoria, and got a job at Walmart working part time as a cart pusher. See, the music gigs helped, but they weren’t enough for me to survive. So Walmart helped me with the extra money for gas and food, you know? It wasn’t initially intended to be a career – I just kept working for them. I eventually got my degree in communications and psychology.”
After he received his degree, Walmart offered Adan a management position.
“I just wanted more, and I wasn’t afraid to say it,” he says. “I went and banged on my store manager’s door and told him I was tired of being out there, so he brought me inside to work. After I graduated, I uprooted and went to the Lake Conroe/Montgomery area. I did my training in Cedar Park, then worked in Lake Conroe for 18 months.”
From there, Adan’s career moved him to Brenham, where he was promoted to co-manager.
“I was there for about three years,” he says. “Next thing you know, I’m here in Gonzales. And I like it here.”
In terms of giving advice to others who want to make the most out of life, Adan has a simple but time-tested philosophy.
“It’s all about putting your mind to it,” he says. “It’s all about drive and determination – and that’s what I attribute my success with Walmart – and my music – to. Drive and determination will get you anywhere in life you want to be.”