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Hattie Valdez


She was Austin's most famous madam in the 50's to the 70's.
She had many houses around town and most the the ladies were bored married women. Hattie's residence was on the southeast corner of I-35 and Riverside. It now houses Time Insurance Agency. There are two old homes on the property. Almost every room has a bathroom. Go figure. I have worked for Time and here's a short story.

I was in the kitchen getting some coffee one morning and one of the insurance ladies was taking an application from this older gentleman. She left and went to her desk to get something and left me there with this man. He looked up at me sheepshly and said, "I've been here before, but it wasn't to buy insurance." We both had a laugh.

Famous Austin Cartoons!

Hipsters | Things

It dawned on me the other day that we have a deep vein of cultural and artistic contribution that has not yet been explored: the Austin Comics!

Gilbert Shelton

Remember Wonder Warthog? I do for some strange reason... probably from hanging around head shops! Anyway, I never really got into WWH but lot's of Texas hippies did.

Gilbert went on to channel the Austin Hippie culture into his next set of characters. The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Now I did spend many an idle moment following the adventures of this stoned trio.

Gilbert spent time working at the Vulcan Gas Works and probably quite a bit of time with Jim Franklin and other poster artists.

Berke Breathed

Academia Waltz came relatively late in the groovy Austin scene but just as the city was changing with the Yuppie invasion, Berke was there to lampoon/harpoon with wit and style.

Breathed's work at UT got him national recognition and we went on to considerable success with a little thing he calls Bloom County. We cheered in Austin when he made national distribution.

Shannon Wheeler

Too Much Coffee Man took over during the wacky 80's and early 90's. Austin was changing into sort of emo, intellectual, grunge center and TMCM was right there.

What am I missing that you remember?

Rusty Wier


Rusty passed on yesterday. He was such a showman, working until the end. It's funny how you take the familiar for granted... Rusty worked so long in Austin, he seemed to be a part of the landscape. His music was simple and simply delivered but it was his personality that made folks pay attention. The days of "good old Austin beer drinking music" have passed and the haunts of the folks from those days are getting scarcer and scarcer. Unfortunately, the folks themselves are getting scarcer too.

The Day John Lennon Died

Outdoors | People

Who was here that fateful day, Dec. 8, 1980? It was actually the day after that I remember. I was awakened, as always back then, to KLBJ-FM. Note, that was when KLBJ was good; before it changed into their current "Hey man, let's party!" blazing guitars and hair mode. Anyway, the DJ was very somber and announced that Lennon had been killed the night before. They played only Beatles and Lennon that day non-stop, no commercial breaks. I had to go to work but I was completely shocked into an altered sense of being. The Beatles meant so much to us all. Around 5:00pm or so, I was at my girlfriend's apartment and she told me of a gathering at Zilker under the Zilker Christmas tree... we had to go.

What we found there was a very large but quiet crowd of Austin under the tree. Some had brought candles to pass around and soon there was a large circle of folks, all holding candles, around the base of the tree, all facing in. We cried, we sang, we thought of the damage that Mark David Chapman had done. We all knew that things had fundamentally changed that night. Austin certainly never felt the same again. It seemed like from that day forward, the pace of change in Austin has done nothing but get faster, accelerating away from us.

Old Janis Days


Yea, I was lucky enough to move to austin in mid 60's. Threadgills was the only saloon out north, well besides Jade and Dodge City. But me Mom used to take me, as she knew Kenneth, Senor Cisco, and many politicos.
I remember I thought the gal sounded horrid and just screammed. You had to understand it was a small, small joint and she of course sang her heart out. But I never forget her. She sat with KT and mom and I. And indeed she became a legend, and I finally liked most her stuff. The last time I saw her was in Fillmore West with BB & Holding.
God bless me mom for enlightening me to the Austin music scenne before there was one.
The road goes on forever...and the party never ends!

Top Notch Burgers

Restaurants | People

Last week we lost yet another one of those things that you just rely on being there: James Stanish passed on. If your had ever eaten there, "Mr. Top Notch" surely either took your order and/or cooked your meal. Everyone seems to mention the Dazed and Confused connection with Top Notch as if that is the defining attribute. It's not. Top Notch has always been a place where you walked in and felt like family. We don't know yet whether they will re-open and try to keep going without James. I hope so but in either case we will have lost a part of our Austin family.

Update: the family has decided to re-open the restaurant and keep going. Give them your support.

Hippie Flower Sellers

Outdoors | People

Today, there are pan handlers on every street corner. Back in the good old days, there were hippie flower sellers. Remember them? I think they were officially called "The Flower People". They each had a white plastic bucket of long stem carnations and each had their own style of marketing and actually put some effort into it. The main technique I recall was their ability to twirl a long-stem flower on their index finger for hours. Much like watching someone spin a basketball or ride a unicycle, it look effortless and easy.

Effortless and easy... that pretty much describes the culture of the times that allowed not only the omnipresence of these hippies of commerce but also allowed one of them to rise up to run the circus:

The Lotions, The Armadillo


We used to follow the Lotions around wherever they played, mostly. They were a big part of the raggae movement in Austin. I can't believe no one has mentioned the Armadillo World Headquarters yet, gee whiz Wally, I spent way more time there than I did at my high School, the beer garden was always a place to score, eat, drink, socialize. I even saw Rush play there, Turk Pipkin performed, hundreds of bands did, usually admission was only 8 bucks! The only time I ever got to see Zappa was at the 'Dillo. All the way out cool artwork on the walls from Michael Priest and others. I remember being at the last dance at the 'Dillo, their last show, on New Years Eve, During Kenneth Threadgills set, our friend Rusty fell under the stage and passed out, the front of the stage had a curtain across it, so when he fell, the curtain sung back, and rusty disappeared behind the curtain, and we couldn't find him till he woke up at the end of the show when the hall cleared out.. yeah good times!!

Skating down the hill at auditorium shores on a cardboard box, during the free Sunday concerts, I remember taking our bong into those.
We even took our bong into city colosium, (the old army hanger by Palmer auditorium), we saw Styx there and Fleetwood Mac.

Used to have breakfast, or lunch with Clifford Antone at Trudy's pretty often, Cliff was good people, don't believe the horseshit, he gave lots of guys their break, and lots of people a job.

Miss the Stallions slightly green gravy on the CFS, a good meal, I cried when those places were torn down, I still have a t-shirt with an angry armadillo coming over the top of Texas Bank.

I worked on and off, (mostly spent the night on the couch), at Riverside Sound Studios, and worked or hung out with Herschel C, Eddie H, Bill J, Ricky M, Lloyd M, Jim Yanaway, Bob Livingston, I fondly remember very sweet Connie Hancock, and all the Hancock ladies, Tejana Dames, the jazzmanian devil himself, and lots of others, it was the place that made the Austin Christmas Album..... and Austin Records put a lot of bands on the Austin music map.... It closed in 1989... I was the guy that ripped out most of the electronics...I really missed that place.

Joe Gracey DJ at KOKE FM - Greatest Ever Radio


Who remembers the old "Super Roper" station KOKE FM - 95 point something on the radio dial? Coming from Dallas to Austin in the early 70's we had nothing like this station. What a mix of music. You could here a set of Willie, Michael Murphey, Leon Russell, Bob Dylan then from nowhere a Frank Sinatra song?!?! I remember the 10 to 2 DJ "Joe Gracey" he was fantastic and always funny! I remember his sign off was bluegrass "Turkey in the Straw" while he pontificated old time sayings, "Don't take no wooden nickels", "Drink lots of water", and ended with "Stay off your feet and come when you can".
Then about 75, 76 the ominous cloud of "DISCO" rolled into Austin, KOKE's rating numbers went in the toilet and the greatest venue for the Austin Sound, Outlaw Country was gone overnight. I mourned for months. I saw Joe Gracey later about 78 or 79 at the Casita Gorges out on East Riverside across from the Back Door. He had a tube running down his nose and I heard he had been fighting cancer of the throat or tongue. How ironic for a man who made his living with his voice. I don't know what happened to Joe after that but he made great memories for me and others and was an Austin Icon of that era. Another day in paradise as he used to say.

Janis Joplin at Greg Gym

Bands | Scenes | UT

I took pictures that night, but this is one I captured off of the web, from earlier in her career. Kindly and I were just swapping text about that concert on FaceBook last month. She had tickets, and we went together on a friend 'date'. JJ was with her Full Tilt Boogie band, and was cranked that night, on Southern Comfort and whatever she had left from the plane trip. She was best on stage, and was the 'in betweens' that took her from us later that same year... She never found the love she sang about, but left us all with blues in the night. Kindly Kay and I stood on the folding chairs like a couple of teeny boppers. ;-) Farnham