Well, 2016 keeps on grinding through the good ones: I learned Sunday morning that Leon Russell had just passed. I'm just going to leave this here for now with a brief note:
"How many days has it been since I was born? How many days 'til I die?"
We're all strangers in a strange land.
As the Grim Reaper continues his march through 2016, we lost another Austin influence in Guy Clark. Guy was never truly an Austin picker. Just like his close friend and running-buddy Rodney Crowell, Clark was a Houston fellow. That being said, what he was to Austin was more like the Professor and Muse to the local scene. As you are hearing from these ranks now, Guy was their influence, often their songwriter, and certainly their idol.
I recall back in the 70's that there were two performances that captured the Cosmic Cowboy movement best: Frummox' Texas Trilogy, and Clark's Desperados Waiting for a Train recorded for Walker's epic Viva Terlingua. When either of these came on the radio, I was transported to some wonderland where new things and new ideas were happening.... Austin, Texas.
Lot's have been said recently of Guy's Dublin Blues and the lyric that ties him to the Texas Chili Parlor. No offense to to the late Guy Clark but bear in mind that 1) this song is circa 1995 and 2) it is near thematic clone of Nunn's London Homesick Blues from 1973 (same year as Clark's "Desperado"!)
Gary will be missed because he was the foundation for a movement. Looking back at the lyrics of Desperados, I am struck by how time makes a reversal of everyone's fortune. I can just hear Guy repeating, saying for himself, that last line "Come on Jack, that son-of-a-gun's a-comin'..."
I never met him beyond being in the audience at every stop along the way. It's funny looking back how The Cobras seemed more like a lounge act at the time. You wanted to go to Soap Creek anyway and they were always there.
Paul's passing just shows how hard it is to recognize history in the making.
Even though the modern type of mass shooting was invented by Charles Whitman in Austin (and along with that, modern SWAT and EMT forces), Austin has remained remarkably peaceful and well behaved about gun violence.
Perhaps it is a echo of Austin's roots as a pretty wild frontier town. After my move here in the 70's, I can clearly recall how common it was to see fully stocked gun racks in pickup trucks driving around. There has never been an age or culture limit to gun ownership here and we seem to have escaped the open carry zealotry that has hypnotized many Texans. To quote the master Bill Hicks on his observation of the David Koresh shootout in Waco “Lemme see here: frustrated rock musician with delusions of grandeur, armed to the teeth and ready to fuck anything that moves. I don’t know how to tell you this…but that sounds like all of my friends in Austin.”
All of that being said, I sure would like for Austin to remain the open place that can keep itself off of this map!
Two things that I never thought I would see in my lifetime: Legal weed and legal Gay. At this point, each of those debates are over except for the whining of a rapidly declining minority.
Austin has always been a place where those two, uh..., practices(?) were never an issue. The tolerance of our little town was such that folks may not have approved of these for themselves but it seemed to be OK that they existed and a balance of harmony and tolerance was easy to achieve. After my move here in the 70's, I was amazed at the openness of the homosexual community in Austin. They were true pioneers in coming out of the secret closet. Queers as they called themselves then mixed with hippies, ropers, cosmic cowboys, etc., drawn together by the Austin culture.
We live in different times now. Polarization of ideas in the USA is higher than ever, the media encourages the picking of sides, and we seem to have lost the basic respect for one another as a natural instinct. More often, it takes winning a lawsuit to obtain the respect that was a part of a basic tolerance that we shared.
I applaud the June 26 Supreme Court decision because we are Americans. We should be tolerant and be equal... even if that means that the Supreme Court Justices are required to be our "parents" with disappointing frequency.
Someone needs to step up and fill in the blanks for me. I recently learned about the '60s era crew that had inherited the Texas Ranger magazine. Some names are familiar: Gilbert Shelton, George and Carlyne Majewski but most are not. It does sound like these folks laid the very solid foundation that the 70's Austin stood upon.
I had never heard of The Ghetto where most of them lived and partied but even when I arrived in the mid-70's, Tortilla Flats was still around. I heard at that time, that the Flats was the current home of Willie Nelson and his growing posse of outlaws.
Here is a great narrative from Gerry Storm... read it.
Also, if you recall ANYTHING about the Ghetto, Tortilla Flats, or the Ranger, please submit an entry on this site.
And another thing... these folks clearly invented the Austin Armadillo persona. Here is a Ranger cover from 1967 spoofing Playboy but more importantly showing the Armadillo in a "bunny" persona.
An Austin rebel, for sure. MMO'H was one of the most hated figures in town back in the "peaceful" hippie days. She could be counted on for regularly protesting at political events, and therefore appearing on the news that night. I recall that when she got ill and passed on, her son carried the torch here in town as best he could. This movement was what defined "Austin Anarchy" for many, many years and actually seemed like a local thing. I suppose that it took Phil Tolstead's arrest at Raul's to define the next phase of that.
Austin and South By Southwest (SXSW), talk about your love/hate relationships. As I recall SXSW started as a townie, insider-only deal that took advantage of everyone being out of town instead of the global destination towards Austin that it is today. Back in the Spring Break of those days, local bands played in near-empty bars to dedicated local folks. It was Louis Black and The Austin Chronicle folks that got the good idea of a one-ticket, all access festival.
I think it was the third year of operation that I heard my first "South By is just too crowded now!" complaint... they hadn't seen nothin' yet.
If anyone has images from those early days, post them here!