2007: Stanhope’s Record Dreams Dashed

College plans put distance between band members

The members of Stanhope — Will Taylor, Bragg Smith, Blake Jennings, and Jackson Morgan — are branching out as adults after performing together for six years.

By Dan Koller | Staff Writer

When Stanhope first appeared in these pages, the teenage rock band seemed destined for stardom.

“Don’t let their baby faces fool you,” began a Park Cities People story published Nov. 9, 2007. “The boys of Stanhope mean business.”

That article said the band comprised of four Highland Park High School freshmen — Blake Jennings, Jackson Morgan, Bragg Smith, and Will Taylor — was talking to Disney and Universal about a commercial record deal.


Less than a year later, Stanhope landed on our front page again after playing a gig at the State Fair.

Alas, big-time success has eluded the band. And with the members having graduated from high school this year, we wondered if they were still plugging away.

“In the first couple of years, we were focused on getting a signed as a high school band,” drummer Jackson Morgan said last week, “but when that fell through, we knew we weren’t going to be a band in college.”

Geography will make that impossible. While his bandmates are bound for Austin this fall, Morgan is about to enroll in the University of Southern California’s popular music program. Founded in 2009, it admits only 20-25 freshmen each year.

“It’s really cool that I really start working the day I step on campus, because I can always pitch songs and write for people even though I’m still in school,” Morgan said. “So I guess the second I go out there I’m going to start developing contacts, and that’ll be fun. It’ll be interesting to see the industry from that side.”

Morgan may have more experience than his peers at USC. Stanhope — which drew its name from the University Park street on which Morgan grew up — first started playing together as sixth-graders.

“Blake and Smith were taking guitar lessons together, then Will got involved, and Will knew me,” Morgan said. “So it was kind of a collaborative effort, but I was actually the last one to join.”

So with his bandmates all bound for the same town, is Morgan worried about them playing music without him?

“There’s a chance of that,” he said. “I think [Blake and Will] will for sure keep playing music, but I’m not sure if it’ll be together.”

The foursome last played together last spring. Stanhope shook off the rust for a farewell show at Highland Park Presbyterian Church that Morgan said was their first gig in a year.

“It was a really good turnout,” he said. “And it was really fun to see all the people who have been to our shows over the past six years. It turned out to be really great.”

Email dan.koller@peoplenewspapers.com


In June, Highland Park High School rising senior Andrew Mueller earned a perfect score on the ACT. That was one of 177 perfect scores nationwide; about 395,000 students took the test.

On Dec. 22, the Highland Park High School football team lost for the first time in 2007, falling to Lake Travis in the Class 4A Division II state championship game by the score of 36-34.

On Jan. 31, Major Wade Bragg retired as Highland Park’s fire marshal after 35 years of service to the town.

On Feb. 22, less than a week after the HPHS girls swimming and diving team won its seventh consecutive state title, head coach Jeff Olsen resigned over differences with parents of athletes. He was replaced by current head coach Jesse Cole.

On Nov. 2, we reported that University Park Fire Chief David Ledbetter would retire Feb. 26, the 35th anniversary of his hiring as a firefighter for the city.

Valedictorian: Elizabeth Sloan
Salutatorian: Kyle Anderson
Blanket Award winners: Sarah Glazer and Tommy Obenchain
Homecoming Queen: Caroline Thompson

Amy Elizabeth Campbell, Lauren Christina Chapman, Olivia Alexandra Liland, Natalie Lisa Metzger, Ann Haggerty Parravano, Christina Campbell Turner, Rebecca Field Wood

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