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Sittin' Bull

Bars

I was 18 and new to town.I was a blues fan, but Antones was yet to open.There was not much of a blues scene yet.I heard that the band to see was Storm.I checked the paper and saw they were playing a place called Sittin' Bull.Imagine my surprise as this 18 year old walks into a topless bar for the first time.The guitarist was excellent..some pony-tailed guy named Jimmie Vaughn.Lewis Cowdery played harp and sang.The late,great Freddie Pharoah Walden on drums.Sorry I forget the bassists name,but I believe he later played with Anson Funderburgh for years{so did Freddie].Weeks later,Jimmie Vaughn and Kim Wilson started a new band,and Antones opened.A historic summer for sure.

Almost getting shot by the UT Sniper

UT

I came within four feet of being shot by Charles Whitman on August 1, 1966. The story is below.

On April 1st, 2007 I got to ascend the Tower and shoot a photo from the west side of the observation deck. This was the first time I had visited the University of Texas Tower observation deck since prior to August 1st, 1966, when Charles Whitman rained down a withering fire of bullets from this vantage point. Thanks to some connections I have made, I was allowed to go along with a group of former Austin police officers who were on the tower that fateful day and participated in the elimination of Whitman.

The photo confirmed my suspicions. The white air conditioning unit on the roof of the Union Bldg in middle of that photograph probably saved my life on August 1st, 1966. At 11:55 a.m., along with two of my Longhorn Band friends, I was standing on the sidewalk just under the now-existing black sign with white letters that reads "Wish." In 1966, the entire ground level area where Wish, Austin's Pizza and Sprint now occupy spaces was one large drug store/soda fountain-cafe called Renfro's Rexall Drug Store. This is where I met my Longhorn Band pals every school day that semester.

Whitman may have considered us for targets, since he could have probably seen our heads over the ac unit. But he probably could not have seen our bodies and at that point in the rampage, he was aiming for midsections. Instead, he chose to shoot a 38 year-old military veteran named Harry Walchuk, who was standing in the door of a narrow newsstand that was located just to the south of us.

Hippie Food

Restaurants

In early 1970, I went into the Maverick Steakhouse on South Congress, in Downtown Austin. After waiting about 15 minutes with no service, the manager came to our table and asked us to leave. He kindly explained, "Sorry, we don't serve Hippie food here."

The good old days!

Shiner

Places | Things

Shiner Bock took off in the mid-70's in Austin and thanks to that we have the wonderful story and even better, the beer today. Prior to that, Shiner was the beer of choice for the country folks. As usual, the counter culture has a large part in this story. There were kegs of Shiner and the omnipresent white cups with the Shiner logo at every Cosmic Cowboy bar and event. Happy hour was a bit different back then... one dollar pitchers and two-for-one drinks meant that Shiner and Lone Star greased many an enjoyable conversation.

Another Austin tradition that seems to have fallen off was the pilgrimage to the Shiner brewery. It went something like this:

  1. Wait for a nice day in early summer
  2. Head down to Black's in Lockhart for a barbecue lunch
  3. Continue to Luling, stealing a watermelon from a field and eating it in the car along the way
  4. Blaze through Gonzales
  5. Arrive at Shiner and wonder how the brewery could be so small
  6. Take the 5-minute brewery tour
  7. Spend the next hour or two in the hospitality room
  8. For bonus points... you could swing by Staples on your way back for a quick dip in the falls

Yes, that is certainly the proper summer's day BBQ, Beer, and Swimming checklist.


Ginny's Little Longhorn

Bars

Surely you've been to Ginny's at least once. You remember, it was that time you went to see Dale Watson on a Wednesday night. Maybe it was on one of the chicken shit Sundays. Or perhaps, it was even before that... before it was Ginny's even. That little square building of honky tonk perfection was originally Dick's Little Longhorn. Ginny inherited it through kindness and duty. In any case, it's safe to say "It don't get more Austin than that."

Ginny and Sharon (as far as I know) are still tending bar, the music is still real country music that fosters participation. The type of music that has fused the Austin culture together better than any other force.
Please, for me, go to Ginny's, sit at the bar, order a Lone Star, enjoy the no-cover-required music, and savor the way it used to be. Oh and by the way, the restrooms are the way they used to be also!

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:

Les Amis

Bars | Restaurants | UT

As Joni Mitchell said "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone", and so I feel about Les Amis. I never really hung out there beyond the occasional lunch or afternoon beer. The crowd there was always a little too artsey, too east-coast bohemian, and the menu was expensive! Looking back though, "Les" was a cultural nugget for old Austin and especially for campus culture. It was there during the riots, during the fawning disco days, during the punk scene, and it had a place and purpose in each of those.

The film "Viva Les Amis" should be required viewing for anyone on this site. Good history and snapshots from our time gone by. Here's one for you... look familiar?

The Back Room

Bars

Anyone remember the two guys who ued to do an acoustic set at this place in the mid/late 70's? They were great/funny showman as well as great musicians. They'd pack the joint everytime they played.

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