Of all the nightclubs I used to frequent, there's one I never made it to: the South 40 on Ben White, long gone now. Anyone go there? Any stories? One friend told me it was just a friendly place with a good-sized dance floor...Another friend said it was a "pressure cooker" easy pickup place. What was it like? Ever have live bands there?
Well, a quick search of this site shows a glaring omission: The Texas Chili Parlor.
One thing I like about TCP is that they still don't seem to have a working website and their Facebook page is more than five years out without a new post. That, my friends, is kickin' it old school in Austin, Texas.
The Chili Parlor has always been there, it seems, but in reality began in '76. At that time, it was next door to the Capitol Oyster Company and right around the corner from the original location of the Cedar Door. That stretch of Lavaca should be included in my High Karma Spots of Austin. There have been many hot spots around there.
For TCP itself, it was a response to the Chilympiad frenzy, which was a response to the Tolbert/Fowler World Chili Championship in Terlingua, which was responded to by Walker's Viva Terlingua as well as the chain Austin love's to hate, Chili's. As you can see, chili was a big deal in Texas in the 70's.
It is still there, menu is still basically the same, still holding that beacon of 70's pop culture.
Well, I went upstairs to what was the domain of "Ray". Ray was the bar tender of the Orange Bull in 1965 when at times it was all right to sorta have long type hair and be a little "different", but the color was "Orange", Pete Lammons and (since I studied the defensive tackle position) Diron Talbert came in. Austin was split on "a whiter shade of pale." In other words, if you had long hair and were a guy,you usually didn't go there when there were Longhorns there. At that time, the "beat generation" was emerging and would soon be morphing into the Hippie thing. The Beatniks were the early guard of the Hippie to come, the Greenwich Village crowd.
It was around Christmas and one individual was incessantly playing Tom Jones's What's new, Pussycat? Janis Joplin had come to Threadgills and said she was a Beatnik, A Beatnik knows the world is going to hell, so you get stoned and have a good time, and get down in your guts on the music scene. This was before folks knew where Haight Ashbury was located and you watched your mouth because you did not know where people stood on the "beat" experience.
I had some friends who jammed all the time over in one of the old 1920s style homes on San Antonio, Blues legend Mance Lipscomb was crashing there and they made music. Some football players would come out of the dark and beat up on these types. Some "beats" came in fresh from California and got pounced. Somebody at the Bull did not see Merle Haggard in their looks and took them to task.
I had all sorts of friends and did see why they got what they got, but those times were extremely difficult because this was the beginning of a social revolution. People were taking sides, and the Orange Bull could swing either way, depending on who was in attendance at any given time. The counter culture was no "gimme". I saw my first mini skirt on main campus and liked that. British Mod with the plastic look was in (Twiggy), but you had to be careful and try to sense the real sweat and not the ambiance of the place. You could blunder into a bad situation when you were going out on the town because not everyone shared your youthful idealism. The new thing back then was LSD-25 (Timothy Leary) and was not accepted by many. It was not uncommon for LSD to be dropped on a unsuspecting person. You could feel the tension. The old term was you played it by ear.
I suppose that it is the power of Austin that certain names are considered to be such institutions that they have not only survived for many years, they even close, change owners and even business models, and then reopen but having the same name. Here are a few:
Poodle Dog Lounge
Deep Eddy Cabaret
I had the opportunity to head down West Fifth the other day and turned on West Lynn passing right by "The Depot". I can't say that I have ever been a regular at the Depot but back in the old days, we would pick a west-side beer joint for after work gatherings... might be Jake's, might be Hut's, might be Donn's. I always liked the crowd at the Depot. It was always a very friendly mix of all kinds of Austinites.
I'm happy to see that the Depot is still there although it really does look like a throwback to the 70's. I'm even happier that Donn and the Station Masters are still holding court every Friday and some days in between.
Of all the places that stand out in Austin, it was the AWHQ I was 17 years old when I came to Austin the first time. I ended up at the Armadillo, I'll never forget that night, Shiva's Head Band was playing and there were stoned people everywhere. All night long there was a young woman dancing with no top on in front of the band. It was quite a scene for a young Freak Musician from Houston to end up in. Later that night I had no where to go so I just wandered around the building exploring, I was so jacked up I was not about to go to sleep. At one point I ended up in a huge room and there was this guy building a massive pyramid from scrap lumber right there in the building. not too far from him was this freak with long red hair drawing, when I walked up to see what he was drawing it was armadillos and strange eyes on the paper with a headline, at the time I didn't know who Jim Franklin was. Over the years the Dillo was a haunt for me and I opened for a few bands there. As the placed changed I sort of drifted off form the scene but it always held a sweet spot for me. The one thing about the Dillo was the eclectic string of bands and musicians that came through there. It was a hard day for a lot of people when they tore it down. Please share your memories of this very amazing place. This is the only piece of physical memory I have left of the Armadillo.
Does anyone remember Toad Hall, it was one of the earliest 6th St music halls. I had a gig there one night opening for Robert Shaw and another musician was sharing the bill that night, her name was Lucinda Williams. I can't remember just exactly when it was it was early 70's may have even been 1970, but after I played Lucinda got up and when she started to sing my mouth dropped open. The one thing I noticed was she wouldn't look up the whole time. After she was done I talked with her and told here she should look up at the people because she was not only an incredible musician but pretty as well. We became good friends after that, of course that was along time ago and time moves people on. I'm happy success found her! When Robert Shaw got up he was the last of the Barrel House pianists. He was unbelievable, he told stories about the barrel speakeasy's the whole night and he played his heart out and told stories about Nacogdoches and other back country Texas towns. If anyone remembers other shows there please share them. There is absolutely noting on the internet about that place. I've searched and searched and found nothing.
I was browsing the Flickr Austin Gone pages... First of all, you slackers need to get over here and record those memories! However, one memory brought me way back to the 6th Street of the 70's: The Green Spot. It was a Tejano walk-up bar with a big dance floor in the back. It actually took some guts to get through that front door the first time. Dark, dingy, dangerous. Not like the Treble Hook JJJ a few doors down. This was a bar where business was done... not fishing stories told.
I think I remember a bar on the same block as Les Ami called The Spiral Staircase. I was taken there by friends in about 1972 and I remember little about it other than its location (for some reason...har) and that I think Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators (?) were playing.
I was driving by there a few days ago, was held up by construction, looked at the building, thought about the bar, drove in the lot and took a picture of the building. It could be the same old two-storey Victorian-looking house, but now plastered. The address is 2405 Nueces, was a Quizno's and is now Fricano's Deli. Anybody remember or know? [wish I could post its pic on here, but not sure how]
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!