Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
by Jeff McCord
In 1973, everyone was hearing Jerry Jeff Walker’s greeting from “Gettin’ By”, the lead track on his watershed release, ¡Viva Terlingua!, played on the radio. It was his mission statement, set down over a cowboy two-step. “Picking up the pieces wherever they fall/Just livin’ my life easy come, easy go.”
Walker, who passed away on October 23 at age 78, after a long battle with throat cancer, came from a folk tradition. Born Ronald Clyde Crosby in early forties New York, he would play in early bands, travel through the south (including a brief stay in Austin) busking, living in New Orleans, and along with the way, adopting his stage name.
In 1966, Walker relocated to New York City’s Greenwich Village, where his trippy band Circus Maximus would release two albums before he restarted his solo career. His album Mister Bojangles would see release in 1968, and its eponymous song, about a tap dancer Walker met in a New Orleans drunk tank, would become a top ten hit for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1970. The song would go on to be covered by Nina Simone, Bob Dylan and Sammy Davis, Jr., among many others.
With newfound success, Walker set his sights westward, but a detour to Austin derailed all that. Walker decided he was home.
Much of what most people knew of Texas music in 1973 consisted of Bob Wills, Jimmie Rodgers, and those striving to make a living in the slick Nashville establishment – George Jones, Waylon, Willie and the boys. Like most anyone outside of the state, I hadn’t heard of Terlingua, or that matter Luckenbach (Waylon’s hit was many years down the road), the town (basically a saloon and dancehall) where Walker hired a remote truck to record Terlingua. 1973 was the year Willie moved back to Texas, but Red Headed Stranger was still two years away. Meanwhile, Walker had done his homework, absorbing the works of relative Texas unknowns like Michael Martin Murphy, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark.
Walker’s covers of Guy Clark songs (the songwriter’s own debut album wouldn’t surface until 1975) were revelatory. His “LA Freeway” found moderate success. Terlingua included a cover of Clark’s classic, “Desperado Waiting On A Train”, and would aid as much as anything in Clark’s subsequent success.
Walker would have a long career of his own, influencing future stars like Robert Earl Keen. Showing his business smarts, Walker formed his own label back in 1986, when few others were doing so. He would release dozens of albums, and was honored by his peers at his annual birthday shows at Paramount Theater. His autobiography, Gypsy Songman, was published in 1999.
But no one denies Terlingua as Walker’s high water mark. The import of the album is hard to overstate. It didn’t sound like other records, even Walker’s previous releases. Such a free, boozy vibe had, at least at the time, rarely been captured on tape. Walker was in his mid-thirties at the time of recording but his voice sounds like old shoe leather, much more lived in. Hearing him stretch out the “Ohhhhh” in “Sangria Wine” is a marvel. His voice strains and cracks with pure joy.
Already well known, somewhat notoriously, for his riotous and drunken performances, Walker and his Lost Gonzo Band decided to end their Terlingua sessions in the Luckenbach dance hall with a concert. Expecting maybe fifty people to show at the remote location, they instead drew around 900. It’s the two live recordings, both covers, included on Terlingua that cement its place in the pantheon of Texas music.
“Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother” was more of an idea than a finished song by a young songwriter named Ray Wylie Hubbard. “Pretty much all I had at the time”, Hubbard admits; the song was reportedly finished over the phone at the last possible minute.
And “London Homesick Blues”, a song about just that, from Lost Gonzo member Gary P. Nunn wraps up the album. With its longing to be “Home With the Armadillo”, Nunn, in a shaky voice was laying down Texas history. The song would go on to be the theme song of PBS’ Austin City Limits for over thirty years.
On this magical Saturday night in a desolate dancehall, the audience’s reaction was electric, nothing short of rapturous. It’s hard to conceive of the cosmic cowboy movement without this moment, frozen in time. As the world was changing, Walker and his band played on, and the raucous crowd hollered in delight. This was their moment, and there’s not a person who has heard Terlingua since that hasn’t longed to be right there with them.
Become a member today and select one of these fantastic gifts!
KUT-KUTX Tote Bag – $5 per month
Whether you’re going on a picnic, visiting your favorite swimming hole or picking up supplies, our new tote bag is the perfect companion. Featuring our newest grackle design, this black tote is cotton canvas with a gusseted side and bottom. The dimensions of the bag are 14” wide by 15” tall and 4” deep. Carry on!
KUT-KUTX Face Mask – $7.50 per month
Stay safe while showing off your pride for KUT and KUTX! This face mask is made in the USA, 100% cotton and features the KUT and KUTX logos. It will provide comfort and protection while you’re out running your essential errands. The mask is washable and reusable; one size fits most.
KUT-KUTX T-shirt – $10 per month
The grackle is back! Representing both KUT and KUTX, the iconic grackle stands proudly atop a vintage microphone ready to go on the air. This blue t-shirt by Next Level is made with a 60% cotton/40% polyester blend for a softer feel and runs true to size. We hope this one will become a new favorite!
KUT Stainless Bottle – $15 per month
Thirsty? No problem. We’ve got you covered with this stainless bottle featuring our Austin’s NPR Station tagline and KUT logo. Made by H2go Force, this 17 oz. double wall 18/8 stainless steel thermal bottle with copper vacuum insulation comes with a threaded insulated lid and stainless steel base. Hand wash recommended.
KUTX Stainless Bottle – $15 per month
Listen to KUTX…it’d be a lot cooler if you did. Be one of the cool kids while staying hydrated with this black stainless bottle stamped with the KUTX logo. Made by H2go Force, this 17 oz. double wall 18/8 stainless steel thermal bottle with copper vacuum insulation comes with a threaded insulated lid and stainless steel base. Hand wash recommended.
Texas Standard Stainless Bottle – $15 per month
It’s Texas Standard time! Sip your refreshing beverage out of this white stainless bottle while listening to The National Daily News Show of Texas. Made by H2go Force, this 17 oz. double wall 18/8 stainless steel thermal bottle with copper vacuum insulation comes with a threaded insulated lid and stainless steel base. Hand wash recommended.
KUTX Concert Club – $50 per month
Become a member of the KUTX Concert Club and get invitations to shows in Studio 1A before anyone else! Members of the KUTX Concert Club will receive weekly emails notifying them of upcoming performances in Studio 1A – and offer the opportunity to reserve a pair of seats!
*Due to COVID-19, all Concert Club performances are on-hold for the foreseeable future, but you’ll be the first to know when they’re back.
by Matt Munoz
Van Halen was born in the Netherlands in 1955 to a Dutch father and Indonesian mother. The family migrated to the United States in 1962, settling in Pasadena, CA.
An early disciple of Eric Clapton & Jimmy Page, Van Halen’s distinct two-handed finger taping style captivated a generation of guitarists and bands when his band’s debut album was released on Warner Brothers in 1978. The guitarist heralded in a new wave of technical guitar playing infused with drop tunings and a blistering tone known as the “Brown Sound”.
The original version of Van Halen included his brother Alex on drums, Michael Anthony on bass and vocals and the charismatic David Lee Roth as frontman. Sammy Hagar would join as their vocalist when Roth left the band, and preside over one of their most successful periods. Gary Cherone would join fro a brief period when Hagar departed. When the band returned from hiatus in 2003, both Hagar and Roth rejoined the band for world tours.
His Indonesian blood pulsated through his otherworldly combination of rhythm & trance-like riffs. Alex & Eddie were a brotherly Gamelan duo, an incredible flowering of west meets east-infusing an exotic communal sensibility into a stale Corvette & thick carpet FM world. Practice, innovation, perfection – EVH smiled & danced & sang when most ho-hum cooler-than-thou guitarists were content to just “shred” A brave artist; when things got tough with DLR he didn’t quit & go “solo”, he challenged his fans & forged a new path, making new hits that kept the world rocking. I never got to see the mighty VH live – a big regret! EVH 4 ever! ”In an email, former Austinite and current LA resident David Garza sums up what Van Halen meant to him. “EVH a true American immigrant hero.
Austinite & songwriter Matt the Electrician, who grew up in the Bay Area, had a similar love of hard rock. “I was middle school age and loved all these bands. One of my friends had an uncle who was the bass player in Dokken, and we got to see the other side of the business that way. Van Halen was at the top of that world. I was raised religious, and my mother would not let me buy the 1984 record due to an angel smoking on the cover. I did find a used cassette of the debut record and fell in love with it. Eddie was the master of that style of guitar playing. His strength was in his rhythm playing. As a writer he had great songs but also conveyed the playfulness of his spirit with that smile.”
Before I managed the Cactus Café, I was an awestruck kid who was able to see Van Halen at the height of their powers on the1980, 81 & 82 tours. As I got older, I saw the band many other times in the Sammy Hagar and reunion versions, and I worked at their home Warner Bros Records in Burbank for three years. The band, and Eddie, are part of my musical DNA.
Van Halen always had the essence of what a great song needs to move people; melody, hooks, great rhythm. And they had the lyrics of not one but three great vocalists. At the heart of their success was Eddie with that tone, flying jump kicks, and of course, that sly smile. Rest easy King Edward your work here is done.
John Lennon celebrating his birthday with Yoko Ono in 1971
Jody celebrated John Lennon’s birthday with a four-hour special, 10/9 from noon to 4 pm. Listen to the full audio at the bottom of this post.
by Jody Denberg
John Lennon was born on October 9th, 80 years ago. For many this is a day to celebrate, and, a day to reflect on the man, the musician, and his message.
I always look forward to celebrating John’s birthday on the airwaves – for decades on October 9th, I have gotten behind the microphone to play the Beatles, solo John, Lennon covers, demos, tributes and rarities, and have often welcomed Austin musicians to pay homage as well. (Austin musicians regularly attended and performed at the annual John Lennon tribute by Stephen Doster & The #9 Orchestra. Alas, the pandemic has nixed that this year)
In this cyberspace, I would like to share a few JL memories, photos and videos.
I am a New Yorker and was one of the millions whose love for John Lennon’s music was awakened when I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in February 1964. I saw it on TV, of course, but I could feel New York crackling with Fab energy. I was all of 4 ½ years old at the time but convinced my mom to take me to our local record shop – R&D Records in the Bronx’s Pelham Parkway neighborhood to purchase the 45 RPM vinyl single of “ I Want To Hold Your Hand”. It was the same store where I would continue to buy Beatles singles, albums and cassettes, including the tape of “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” at the end of 1970. I was the rare 11-year-old who walked around with the block playing John’s “primal therapy” musical exorcisms in song, while stopping in the local library to read his two-part related interview in Rolling Stone magazine. John Lennon became my hero, and as I grew older and understood more about his human strengths and weaknesses, that fandom only became stronger.
In 1974, at 15, my friends and I had heard that John Lennon was rumored to be guesting at the second of Elton John’s two November concerts coming up at Madison Square Garden. Although you could buy tickets at remote locations when they went on sale, the word was that tickets bought at the venue box office were for better seats. My buddy and I slept out at the Garden’s midtown location. When we got to the window to ask for Friday night tickets, they were sold-out. We reluctantly bought tickets for the Thursday show – and it was on that Thanksgiving night that John Lennon made the last concert appearance of his life, playing three songs mid-set with “Elton and the boys”. The Garden literally shook, and I knew that I was witnessing what would be one of the best moments of my life. I also now believe that being there for that show – the night John & Yoko began reuniting from their separation – somehow karmically fated me to work with Yoko Ono over many decades (beginning in 1984) on a handful of John Lennon projects that promoted his posthumous releases.
I first reached out to Yoko at the Dakota to share a review of 1980’s “Double Fantasy” that was published in the University Of Texas newspaper The Daily Texan – one of few published before John Lennon’s murder shortly after the album’s release. I followed up over the years with other articles I had written about her work, and in 1984 we got on the phone for the first time to chat for a half-hour conversation that aired on KLBJ-FM.
Over time, we became acquainted, and I first visited Yoko at the Dakota in 1992. I have worked with her there on more than a half-dozen occasions. She has always been forthright when we talked about John and his work as we produced four promotional interview disc/radio shows released by Capitol Records (with audio and filmed footage often used for video press kits as well) between 1998 and 2010. Talking about John Lennon with Yoko Ono remains this fan’s dream come true.
In the slideshow below are some other photos and memories related to John. I never met the man, but as he once claimed in song “I’ve shown you everything/I’ve got nothing to hide.” So I feel as if I know John Lennon. And maybe you feel as if you know John Lennon. If you feel that you do, you do.
More John Lennon Birthday Goodies
Sean Lennon – who shares his father’s birthday and is turning 45 – hosted a BBC radio special last weekend with guests including his half-brother Julian Lennon, Paul McCartney & Elton John: L
Sean also produced a new John Lennon compilation out for his father’s 80th – “Gimme Some Truth” – with amazing new remixes from the original master recordings:
And Friday 10/9 will be The 40th Annual John Lennon Tribute – 80th Birthday Celebration including Patti Smith, Bettye Lavette, Taj Mahal and many others – streaming for free at LennonTribute40.org.
In this episode, you’ll hear tell the pandemic stories of two Austin Musicians — Mobley and Teddythelegacy. You’ll find out how their ability to access financial help has impacted their lives, explore what creative projects the artists have been working on, and hear their perspectives on the uprisings for racial justice.
Check out Mobley’s curated reading list for the Austin Public Library — James Crow, a Songwriters Reader
The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians
Mental Health Resources
The SIMS Foundation: Mental Health and Substance Use Recovery for Musicians, Music Industry and their families.
Music featured in Episode Two of Pause/Play