Saturday, October 17, 2009
The West Texas town of Wink in the Permian oil patch produced one of the greatest voices in music, Roy Orbison. Although Roy's been gone awhile, it took even longer for Wink to recognize their hometown boy. There is a museum dedicated to Roy in Wink and now, finally, formal recognition has come in the form of an historic marker, according to this article from my friend and colleague Jimmy Patterson of mywesttexas.com, the website of the Midland Reporter-Telegram:
(click on the headline to link to his site):
Wink finally receives historic marker commemorating favorite son Roy Orbison
Walt Quigley with Wink's new Roy Orbison historical marker.
By Jimmy Patterson
Published: Saturday, October 17, 2009 1:35 AM CDT
WINK -- Walt Quigley finally met his marker. After two years of lobbying the Texas Historical Commission, convincing them that Roy Orbison was indeed worthy of his own marker, history arrived his week, perpetuating the legendary rock and roll performer on an iron sign that reads simply “ROY ORBISON” at the top. (Related story: Quigley turns attention to refurbishing historic theater in Wink.)
With over 60 financial supporters also recognized for their efforts at the site of the marker, Quigley said the dedication of the sign was the culmination of months and months of hard work.
“This is the location of one of the homes Roy lived in as a boy,” Quigley noted. “His mom lived here until 1961, when urban renewal took many of the homes and some of the businesses away in Wink during that time.”
Not only did Quigley have to prove to the Texas Historical Commission Orbison's significance and contribution to Texas history and music history, he also had to prove that where the sign would be planted would in fact be where his boyhood home once stood. Such an effort, Quigley said, required much documentation.
All that is left on the site now is a vacant field where the house once stood, but Quigley hopes to one day find a proxy house that can be moved onto the property to, he said, give Orbison fans something to visualize about where Orbison’s home once stood.
Quigley, a transplanted Arizonan who now splits time between a home in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., and Wink, performing in both regions as an Orbison karaoke tribute artist, began working on the marker over two years ago out of his fondness for a singer he said was forever “a true gentleman.” As the marker arrived in Wink last week, Quigley’s efforts to immortalize the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who influenced everyone from the Beatles to Elvis to Bruce Springsteen, have more to do now with perpetuating on the singer’s legacy for future generations.
“When you think how quickly time is passing, you realize these things have to be done in a timely manner,” said Quigley, who never met Orbison. “I think had we waited any longer, some of the interest may have been lost. The people living now appreciate Roy more and should leave his memory to future generations, where the interest might not lie as much, so it’s important we do these things in our time.”
TEXT OF ROY ORBISON MARKER
Text taken from "ROY ORBISON" historical marker, issued by the Texas Historical Commission and designated last week in Wink:
Roy Kelton Orbison was one of America's most famed rock and roll musicians. Born in Vernon (Wilbarger Co.), Orbison and family moved often and by 1946 they had settled in Wink. The Orbisons lived at 102 Langley Way (now 105 N. Roy Orbison Drive). As a high school student in Wink, Orbison formed his first band, the Wink Westerners (later The Teen Kings). He attended North Texas State University at which time the Teen Kings recorded "Ooby Dooby," a song which led to their signing by Sun Records in 1956.
By the early 1960s, Orbison had signed with Monument Records, where he had his greatest commercial success, recording songs like "Only the Lonely (Know The Way I Feel)," "Crying," "In Dreams," "Running Scared" and "Oh! Pretty Woman." By this time Orbison had perfected his unique, powerful singing voice, while focusing on complex melodies in his music. He also began to wear his familiar dark sunglasses during performances.
By the mid-1960s, though, Orbison's career languished. In addition, he suffered a number of personal tragedies. In 1966, Orbison's wife Claudette (Frady) died in a motorccle accident; two years later, two of their three sons died in a fire; in 1969, Orbison remarried. He would have two more sons. In the late 1970s, other artists began covering Orbison's music and by the late 1980s, his career was revived. Orbison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 1988, he recorded the album "Mystery Girl," which included the hit, "You Got It." Before it was finalized Orbison died unexpectedly of a heart attack. The album was released posthumously and was a success. Today, Orbison continues to be remembered for his legacy of music, which has inspired generations of successful musicians.
Copyright © 2009 - Midland Reporter-Telegram
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
One of the most fascinating characters I found in researching my book Willie Nelson: An Epic Life was his second wife, Shirley Collie, who was married to disc jockey and record promoter Biff Collie when she and Willie met in Los Angeles where they were label mates on Liberty Records. I wrote that Willie fell in love with her voice on their meeting, their voices blended together so well. As much as Willie's known for his duets, Shirley was his first singing partner and helped him get his first top ten country hit with "Willingly" back in 1961.
Shirley and Willie were so in love, they left their respective mates, married in Vegas, and performed together on the road, where Shirley played bass in the band. Willie eventually talked her into staying home in Ridgetop outside of Nashville, where she helped raised his three children he had with first wife Martha - Lana, Susie, Billy.
When Shirley found out about Willie's affair with Connie Koepke from Houston, their marriage fell apart in the late sixties and Shirley retired to her native Missouri, cutting short a promising career.
But don't take my word for it. Let Shirley tell her story as she knows it best. Click on the headline how to order her recently published book, Scrapbooks In My Mind. She's got some good stories to tell.
Monday, October 12, 2009
The Public Broadcasting System series Latin Music USA attempts the impossible this week and next week with six hours devoted to the various styles of Latin music in the United States (click on the headline for the details). That's a tough task between Puerto Rican and Cuban salsa have little to do with the polkitas of Tejano and conjunto and the brassy banda sound that's welled up from the western Mexico states of Sonora and Sinaloa.
Last year, I got to preview the California-Texas segment that airs next week. I went in wondering how director John Valadez would wed the two disparate sounds together and came away impressed. The parallel stories are told through the rock and roll sounds that Richie Valens tapped into with "La Bamba" while Freddy Fender nee Balemar Huerta was doing the same out of Texas with "Wasted Days, Wasted Nights," through the Latin rock sounds of Cannibal & the Headhunters, Little Willie G, Thee Midnighters, Lalo Guerrero, and Chuco Valdes,and the Chicanismo movement of the 1960s and 1970s when Little Joe Hernandez and Steve Jordan from Texas began plugging into the Cali sound blowing up around Santana, Malo, and War.
Texas gets its props by showcasing Little Joe, Flaco Jimenez, the leading exporter of the Nowhere But Texas conjunto accordion sound, and Selena, the great standard bearer of modern Tejano.
I was prepared to pick nits, and yeah, Sunny & the Sunliners, Tortilla Factory (featuring El Charro Negro, Bobby Butler),Lydia Mendoza, Narciso Maritinez, Los Alegres de Teran, Esteban Jordan, Mingo Saldivar, Fito Olivares, Sir Doug and loads of others could have been showcased. But to squeeze two very different regional sounds together as one and make sense of them both demonstrates Valadez' understanding and appreciation of Texas-style Latino music. PBS.org has a pretty decent chart that explains Latin Music in Texas and California here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/latinmusicusa/#/en/exp/tejano/universe.
Main thing is, Texas and Tejanos get their due. Next time, the state should get all six hours to tell the rich story like it deserves to be told.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Back in the 1970s when I was working at the Austin American-Statesman, I wrote a feature on Joseph Henderson, a street artist who painted commercial signs for beauty shops, bars, cafes, and other small businesses in East Austin, which was largely African-American and Mexican-American.
Henderson had a distinctive style that featured floating heads - renditions of people's heads minus their bodies - along with fanciful, elaborate lettering. It turned out he was a trained artist from Kansas City who'd lived in Austin for years and painted whenever he needed money. A few examples of Henderson's work remain if you look real hard around East Sixth, Seventh, Eleventh and Twelfth streets or out on Webberville Road.
Joseph Henderson opened up the world of juke joint art to me, as did Freddie Cisneros who collected hard cardboard Chitlin' Circuit posters affixed to telephone poles. An extended residency at the New Blue Bird Nite Club in the Como section of Fort Worth, TV's Lounge just east of downtown FW, and the strip of clubs along East Fourth Street east of downtown in a section known as the Bottoms enriched my appreciation for the various styles employed by Joseph Henderson's peers. Then I found Birney Imes' wonderful book of Mississippi juke joints which elevated the art to something serious and formal.
Although juke joints have pretty much vanished from the southern American landscape, I tend to take notice when I discover even remnants, as I did on my drive between Marshall and Karnack near Caddo Lake in Far East Texas.
I don't know who painted the side of the cinder block building that was identified as the Bwana Club, how long it operated, or when it was abandoned for a larger dance club on the same property. But the exterior walls told some kind of story, which I attempted to photograph.
I imagine there are still some jukes hiding back in the pines somewhere in Far East Texas even today. But in lieu of that discovery, this artifact of another time will have to do.