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Cosmic Cowboys

Bands | Hipsters | Scenes

Austin was the birthplace of a musical genre that really deserves more attention. During the early 70's, the vibrant Texas rock scene had broken down and moved on. Big name (aka Big Business) acts dominated the music scene. As it always does, Austin responded by reinventing many of the rules and established notions and created the Cosmic Cowboys.

The true leaders of this movement never got the public credit they deserve but are usually cited as major influences by those that did make it big. My favorites are:

Willis Alan Ramsey - huge Austin influence. When you hear early Lyle, your hearing Willis

Michael Murphy - prior to his Michael Martin Murphy, horse riding cowboy days, Murphy kicked around Austin and produced what still could be an anthem for the town: "Alleys of Austin" Anyone have the lyrics? Update! I found them... see below.

B.W. "Buckwheat" Stevenson - Everyone has heard his "My Maria"

It's interesting to note that those three performers all came from Dallas from around the same period of time. South Dallas has produced quite a list of musical pioneers, SRV notwithstanding. Update: Here's a good listing of Oak Cliff notables. Anyone here heard of the "Oak Cliff 'Oh'"?

Not on my list are big names like Willie or Jerry Jeff. I think that the Cosmic Cowboy theme was already going when these guys showed up. I'm not saying that they didn't make great contribution... they just owe a debt to Austin and the true pioneers.

Alleys of Austin
(Michael Martin Murphey)

Out in the alleys of Austin,
There's a song on the side of the wall,
The bricks and the bottles and the mongrels
Are trying to make sense out of it all,
and the moon looks all too familiar--
The kids say "There ain't no man in there";
While the laid back baboon
By the light of the Texas moon
Is combing his auburn hair.
He's just combing his auburn hair.

Now out in the alleys of Heaven
There's a funky feeling angel strumming chords.
While the preachers sit and get stoned in their Buicks,
Jesus Christ rolls by in his Ford.
And the clouds are like the feathers of sparrows--
A thousand different colors of grey.
It's the hustle of the paradise bar room,
And the glory of hanging out in space,
It's the glory of hanging out in space.

In the alleys of Austin and Heaven
The song they're playing is the same.
The jam sessions sound like the gutters,
As the muddy licks and sticks roll down the drain.
And the drainpipe she rolls out to the river,
And the Pedernales flows out to the sea,
And the sea waters rise up to Heaven,
And rain down on the alleys of Austin,
And you . . .
And me . . .

Roots of Austin Music

Also in that crowd were Steve Fromholz (in re Frummox), Rusty Wier, Lost Gonzo Band, Bobby Bridger, and poet/writer Charles John Quarto (co-wrote Geronimo's Cadillac). Doing demos on West 6th at Odyssey Sound (Jay Podolnick?), and playing gigs at Castle Creek, et al.
Very special times, circa 1972...

Willis Alan Ramsey

Back in 1970-71 and thereabouts, Willis Alan lived in an apartment around the 2500 block, between Rio Grande and Nueces I think it was - may have been a block closer to the Drag?

He had the reputation of just being a really nice guy in the neighbourhood.

And if ever there was any sort of benefit concert to raise money for any of the socially relevant causes of the day - you could be sure that Willis Alan would be there contributing his talents.

I finally had to digitise his (only?) album - though I've since heard that it may have finally been released on CD?

Willis Alan was a good example of the musos of that era - socially involved as well as innovative musically!


Besides being an extremely talented musician and songwriter back in the day,he had a state of the art recording studio he opened up to many local bands.