Bar Owner Says Luke Combs Had ‘More Swag Than The Rock’ Playing College Shows

by Matthew Memrick
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Country star Luke Combs got his start in tiny Boone, N.C. and one bar owner helped, saying the star “had more swag than The Rock” back then.

Combs is hot right now, fast off his first CMA Entertainer of The Year award. He’s got some big stadium shows soon in Seattle, Denver, and Atlanta coming up.

But before all that, he was just an Appalachian State University student, playing in the town’s bars. Town Tavern bar owner Justin Davis recently talked about the star ten years ago; you’d think it was destiny for Combs to have a big breakout career.

Combs Got His Start in Boone Bar

Back then, Davis was a 28-year-old bar owner. He said Combs lived upstairs from his bar and the 21-year-old also worked security at the bar.

Luke Combs to perform at the bar, and Davis said he couldn’t because he didn’t want to get into trouble with the landlord and tenants near the bar.

Davis said Combs played music across the street and pulled in 200 people on a Wednesday. The next day, Combs asked the bar owner again, saying in a friendly way that “I can play there again, or I’ll play here for you at The Tavern.”

The bar owner was stuck. He didn’t want to lose his paying customers at another bar and opted to let Combs play at his place.

Davis said, “So we set up Thursday nights, and he would headline with Adam Church on our Red Solo Cup Night (think Toby Keith).”

Luke Combs and Church played at 11 p.m., coming out to a wild WWE entrance. Davis said he’d blast AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock” to usher in his music acts.

Combs Looked Bigger Than The Rock To His Audience

Though he was only 5-foot-9, Davis said Combs looked “10 feet tall with more swag than The Rock” in his college performances. Davis said his bouncer-turned-singer “would kill it every time.”

Davis said people couldn’t get enough of Luke Combs, and he had to close off the tavern because local fire department officials would ticket him for having too many people. Those tickets kept coming for a year while the future star performed.

The website reported that Davis told Combs he was special and had that “it” factor. One day, his performer broke down and told the bar owner that he was moving to Nashville. Davis was ecstatic, even though he was losing his star performer. But he knew it had to happen.

Davis said Combs packed up his 1996 Dodge Neon and rolled out of town. But when Combs’s “Hurricane” hit the airwaves, the bar watched it soar up the charts. Ever since, they’ve been cheerleading their former bouncer from a tiny, old bar in North Carolina.

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