Skip navigation.


The Ledge


One afternoon, I was sitting on a bench outside the Garner & Smith when a violet '48 Mercury pulled up to the curb and delivered two fellows - a cowboy with a lot of sequins, a guitar, and a trumpet, and an Indian in loincloth and sandals with a sparse headdress and a tympani. Their short concert consisted of something like yodeling at the tops of their voices punctuated by occasional shouts and in no particular correlation to various guitar riffs, blasts of the trumpet, and arrhythmic drumming. It would be a stretch to call their motion dance, but there was a great deal of it as well. After about five minutes' performance, the two got back into the Merc and drove away.

I attributed the experience to having smoked something very effective until I recounted it to a friend a day or so later. I was informed that I had seen the Legendary Stardust Cowboy and should consider myself privileged. Some few days after that, I was leaving the Orange Julius and watched the violet Mercury turning in. Conditions prevented my staying to watch what ensued and by the end of the week circumstances conspired to keep me away from Austin for something like 9 months. My return was to visit Eyore's birthday where I asked a number of folks likely to know where I would likely catch up to the Ledge. The consensus was that he and the Indian had taken up peregrinations of unknown route.

I doubt Austin has seen more noteworthily hip folk - and that says a great deal, as the occasions of Austin hip have been recounted to me from quite some time back and with great authority. My folks' initials can be found inscribed in tables at the Tavern from 1947 and their recollections went back to parties with the Tom Miller and Creekmore Fath crowds among others. One would have to consult Pastoskie or Walsh for a score of the more contemporary 'hip', plenty of whom I expect are simply folks convenient to popular media at some moment.

28½ & Pearl rarely failed to register hip seismics. Nor did the strolling cocktail hours on Oakhurst. Less commonly, Nothing Strikes Back fit the bill. As did Deep Eddy Pool. Eyore's birthday, limited as it was to Plan 2 intimates, was a debut for the soon-to-be-hip and reunion for the used-to-be-hip. Today, I think about hip in terms of replacement.

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?

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.

Salvation Sandwiches

Restaurants | Hipsters | UT

When I first moved to Austin, one of my best friends was a vegetarian. Since I was new in town, I followed him around for awhile. That meant eating vegetarian meals, something very new to the Texas carnivore. There were a couple of places that I recall but mostly it was the "avocado and sprouts on whole wheat" that we would get at Salvation Sandwiches. That was the complete experience: the hippie food, the hippie food vendors, the hippie mentality. All in all, a very proper lesson in the culture of my new home.

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.

Fat Ron...


"Fat Ron the Beadman" was a feature of the Drag back in the late 60s and early 70s. Back in those days, the street vendors used to be set up in front of the Co-op - just at the point of the main crossing of the Drag. Only some years later was there any regulation, and the move to the side street nearby.

Fat Ron probably wasn't the greatest of craftsman - his reason for being was stringing beads for goodness sakes, which he did well, and was *always* there.

Nothing special to his work - just little coloured seed beads on a string, with that being a widely accepted means of expression.

But Fat Ron was a character, one of those people that now (nearly 40 years later) I remember as being typical of Austin of those times...

Doug Sahm

Bands | Hipsters

Doug was a San Antonio boy but made it to Austin as quick as he could. I can't recall the name of the album recorded live at Armadillo in the mid-70's but Doug told a story from the stage about being in California and "Everyone told me that Austin was happening. So here we are." Doug and Augie did a lot to foster the Cosmic Cowboy genre and their Armadillo and Soap Creek shows were legendary.

The last time that I saw Doug was not at a music show... it was at Dan's Hamburgers on S. Congress around '81 or so. I pulled into the parking lot and parked next to a huge silver Cadillac that appeared to be full of stuff. Clothes, guitars, equipment, paperwork, basically the life support gear for a working musician. At the driver seat was Doug. We said "Hi", he went in and picked up a to-go order and drove away.

The Gibby And Robbie Show

Bands | Hipsters

Relatively late in the old Austin scheme of things but perhaps the ultimate expression of what it all means to keep it weird- The Gibby Haynes and Robbie Jacks Show on 101X!

Never heard it? Never knew about it? Claim that you have Austin cred? Don't think so.

Here's a bit to get you started:

So Austin. So strong. So early in the morning. How did they do it?

XML feed