Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Time It Never Rained Again

How dry is it?
So dry that it was the driest year in Austin in 52 years. Not since the infamous Drought of the 50s has it been so dry. It's the fourth driest year on record in Austin and the swath between Austin and New Braunfels is in the most extreme category (exceptional) that the National Weather Service has for dry spells. (Click on the headline to see the national map that shows Central Texas to be drier than anywhere else.

It's so dry, it's time for those of us living in the Hill Country to embrace the Chihuahuan Desert. Five climate zones converge in the Hill Country including the desert, the woodlands, the plains, the coast, and the brush country. Right now, we're more desert than tropics for sure.

It's so dry that wells around us are no longer producing water - southern Hays County, where I live, and northern Comal County will be some of the first areas of the state to exhaust their groundwater supplies in light of increased use and diminishing rains, according to groundwater computer models for the future. We have rainwater harvesting, but the tank is dry since we've had no appreciable rain since late August, and really, no long term relief since September 2007. At least I can truck in water to fill up the rainwater tank if the well goes dry, and as we all know, you don't miss your water, til your well goes dry.

Predictions for the next six months are for the drought to persist, so I've been thinking alot about what will happen if it doesn't rain in the winter or spring. There's still a little bit of the Blanco River flowing near where I live, but downstream in Wimberley, it is almost gone. It dried up completely in 1956, oldtimers tell me. No rain for six months assures its disappearance altogether, meaning no garden, no crops, no lawn, no watering, less showers, and more tinder for fires, meaning more Red Flag Warning days when dry, hot winds are blowing. Also, no kayaking, no swimming in the river, no nuthin.'

Elmer Kelton's book The Time It Never Rained is in the pile of books next to the bed. I see Mr. Kelton at book events all across state and enjoy visiting with him. But it's time to crack open his best book again, and relive what happened fifty years ago to prepare for what's to come. Happy New Year. I hope it rains on the parade.

One half inch of rain this morning at the house. Hard to tell it rained, other than the gauge and the soil feeling kind of spongy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Year of Magical Books About Drinking

Sweet words from Peter Joseph, but nuthin' about the great Little Joe Carson classic, "I Gotta Get Drunk," much less "Whiskey River" or Old Whiskey River.

Click on the headline to read the rest of the story.

Best Drinking as Destiny
“Willie Hugh passed a milestone when he got drunk on beer for the first time, at the age of nine. He’d accompanied his father, Ira, to Albert’s Place, a beer joint across the county line toward West. Both sat in with Charlie Brown’s band, and little Willie sang a couple numbers. When nobody was looking, he was also knocking back beer.” We think you can guess what Willie we’re talking about here. Joe Nick Patoski’s biography Willie Nelson: An Epic Life also chronicles an epic degree of beer-swilling. Considering some of the other trouble the Red-Headed Stranger has gotten into, perhaps he should have stuck with the beer, or at least Arkansas’ local moonshine, “White Mule.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

Philly Inky Music Crit Digs WN: Epic Life

What the staff has been reading this year......

Music. Dan DeLuca, music critic, mentions Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, by Joe Nick Patoski (Little, Brown, 576 pp., $27.99), and The Clash, by the Clash (Grand Central, 384 pp., $35). Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death and Country Music, by Dana Jennings (Faber & Faber, 272 pp., $24), is a clever survey of country lyrics.

Thanks, Dan! Keep writing and reading.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Disorder Lives (sorta)

Meg writes on the Satellite radio discussion thread:

"Thanks to all of you who dug Disorder. Yes, i am on The Loft now and as is Johansen including his Sunday noon to 3 airing ET, Scelsa, Lou Reed, Dave Marsh. It is a big job to add in alot of our Disorder music to the Loft library, but every day we are getting more and more of it in with the help of Mike Marrone, who took in all of us disorder orphans. It will only get better and free form will prevail. Have faith. We wouldn't be there if we didn't. xo meg"

We love you and we're hoping for the best. More intelligent craziness, s.v.p.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Calling all accordionists

Hey Kids!
Time to dust off your parents' old squeezeboxes and start practicing. You've got three months to enter, three months after that to prepare for the finals in Big Houston. Winner gets studio time, a trip to Germany, pats on the back, and lots of Polka Love.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sirius-XM programming mashup

I didn’t immediately jump in and react to the programming mashup the two recently merged satellite radio subscription services, Sirius and XM, engaged in back in early November, combining some channels and eliminating others altogether. Three weeks after the fact, I’m ready to weigh in. The new Sirius XM is a dud.

Satellite, meet terrestrial. New Boss, shake hands with Old Boss. It’s freeform rock becoming AOR all over again. I’m pretty well convinced the ruination of a once viable medium is complete with the implementation of the same old tried-and-trues that have effectively sunk terrestrial radio as a source for music and entertainment: when in doubt (and there profit to be squeezed), just tighten up the format, play less music more frequently, play it safe, don’t offend the mean demographic or risk tune-outs, fire the old pros, and hire new blood for less, then expect increased income and a bigger audience.


Well, if you’ve just tuned in, maybe the new Sirius-XM sounds great to you. But you’re like me and have been subscribing to both services to get the full breadth of programming, the new Sirius-XM merger marks satellite’s devolution into the same ol’ same ol,’ just like old radio.

I subscribed to Sirius first and foremost for the two channels of National Public Radio programs on Sirius (minus Morning Edition and All Things Considered) and a number of music channels. My interest in XM was prompted by XM Public Radio including Bob Edwards, C-SPAN, and the POTUS politics channel, as well as X Country, Willie’s Place classic fiddles-and-steel country, Folktown, the 50s and 60s rock channels, Deep Tracks classic rock, Bluesville, the offbeat Fine Tuning and Audio Visions atmospheric soundscapes, occasionally the rap channels when Mike “5000” Watts and his Screwed Up Clique from H-Town were doing their thing, and XMX 2, home of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Hour on Wednesdays, in which Dylan plays Mr. Disc Jockey, spinning obscure gems dug up by his hep producer, Eddie Godoretsky, and Tom Petty’s show on Thursday (real cool record collector songs, dull announcer)..

Every blue moon, I’d tune a baseball game and check if there was a Dodgers home game and Vin Scully was calling the inning, just to hear the Master. Similarly, I’ve occasionally found myself in the car on Sunday afternoons and checked out the NFL games.

My Sirius music choices were the 50s, 60s channels, Classic Vinyl album rock, the Underground Gararge for trash rock (especially when Kim Fowley and Andrew Loog Oldham were on), Left of Center for new college rock, Outlaw Country when Cowboy Jack Clement was telling stories, Real Jazz, and most of all Sirius Disorder because it was in the spirit of freeform radio of yore – a semi-random, all-over-the-wall Jack Radio with brains - particularly on Friday afternoons and evenings when David Johansen’s totally goofy, wholly riveting Mansion of Fun show aired.

That was before the switch.

After a few weeks of tuning in, here’s what’s transpired since, as far as I can tell.

The 50s and 60s channels merged (as did the 70s, 80s, and 90s outlets) with Sirius’ programming largely taking over, meaning Cousin Brucie, Norm N. Nite, and broadcasts from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That comes at the expense of XM’s wonderful Flashback Fridays on the 60s channel that featured transcriptions of great stations from the sixties such as WLS, KLIF, and KHJ.

There are a few upsides with the merged programming. XM’s Jonathan Schwarz, the World’s Leading Sinatra authority, has been reunited with his hero Frank again every afternoon after Standard Time was merged into Siriusly Sinatra, the channel Nancy Sinatra authorized a year ago, effectively ending the run of Frank’s Place on XM. Sirius rightfully owns the Real Jazz channel with jocks who have deep ties to the New York scene including shows hosted by Gary Burton and Blue Note’s Bruce Lundvall, along with the addition of Wynton Marsalis’ program from XM’s now-defunct jazz channel. Unfortunately, the contemporary jazz channel on XM has gone away altogether and I’ve noticed some semblances of Smooth Jazz creeping into the Real Jazz music mix. Sirius listeners can now hear Bob Dylan’s eclectic once-a-week Theme Time Radio Hour on Deep Tracks, which is now one of Sirius’ album rock channels as well as Tom Petty’s program. Note: rock channels on both Sirius and XM played more variety of classic rock than their over-the-air free radio rivals.

Two changes, though, have me pondering cancellation.

XM’s X Country was eliminated altogether and replaced with Sirius’ Outlaw Country despite the two channels not having much in common. X Country was pure Americana with a folk bent and featured three particularly entertaining weekly programs – Texas Fred’s Zydeco Show, the most honest, best sounding zydeco program anywhere, Robert Earl Keen’s Texas Uprising, and Dave Alvin’s smart Nine Volt Radio folknrootsathon. Outlaw Country, which has its own charm, is less about Texas Country than it is contemporary Southern Rock aimed at the NASCAR crowd, as served up by growly, yahoo jocks such as Mojo Nixon and some ex-rassler dude. X Country and Outlaw Country are oil n’ water.

On the other side of the aisle, the disappearance of my favorite Sirius music channel Disorder, replaced by XM’s The Loft, a folk rock singer-songwriter channel (think Dan Fogelberg), is a total pisser. Disorder mixed it up like free form radio from the late 1960s used to. You never knew what you were going to hear, just that whatever it was would be interesting music. David Johansen and his Mansion of Fun captured that essence bouncing from the Carpenters’ “Close to You,” to the Ronettes to Maria Callas to brokedown blues and the Stooges with lots of Latin son and African high life, interspersed with David Jo’s nuggets of Buddhist wisdom (he never announced what he was playing). Once a Friday afternoon ritual, Johansen is evidently still on, but only at midnight on Wednesdays on the Loft. Unacceptable.

Spanish listeners are similarly ticked. What were once five Latin music channels on each service has dwindled down to one, although there’s Spanish CNN and ESPN.
Truckers, satellite radio’s first adapters, are unhappy with programming changes to the Open Road Channel on XM, once the showcases of the unique power of satellite to cater to a niche audience like terrestrial radio could not. On the other hand, to get licensed to do business in Canada, both services have several French music channels, which is fine for Francophones in North America but effectively shuts out the largest minority in the United States, who happen to be avid radio listeners; Spanish radio stations generate huge ratings in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and other major markets across the country.

Jazz listeners on XM have lost their contemporary jazz channel and the Fine Tuning and Audio Visions channels that mixed New Age, classical, album rock, and jazz..

And I hear they’re jacking with Willie’s Place and Open Road, the truckers channel on XM catering to satellite radio’s earliest adapters. Note to Sirius-XM Dudes, mess with Bill Mack at your own expense.

The watering-down of the programming began as soon as both services were on the air six years ago. Three years ago, Folk and World Music were dropped from Sirius and World Music disappeared from XM Radio. In their place, channels were dedicated to playing one artist exclusively, such as Elvis, Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and the Grateful Dead, or branded with personalities such as Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Eminem’s Shade 45, BB King’s Bluesville, and Little Steven’s Undergound Garage.

The emphasis has apparently shifted to Howard Stern, the 800 lb Gorilla of Sat Rad, sports (NFL, MLB) and talk – not so much because it is unique content (often as not, it isn’t), but because talk uses less bandwidth, which is why entertainment channels that have mixed music with the talk are being leaned by management to drop the music and focus on talk exclusively (which means no song royalties to pay). No wonder most entertainment channels no longer broadcast in stereo.

As in the case of terrestrial radio, satellite has evidently concluded showcasing music is not the way to rope in an audience. It was bad enough once I figured out most of the music programs were taped in advance or voice-streamed, even though the announcer sounded live in studio. Still, paying to hear music with no commercials, theoretically programmed by humans hip to good sounds (I know now that’s not always the case), was worth the price, despite the steady decline of eclectic music that beyond mainstream.

Increasingly, music announcers have been forced to double-up, doing shows on two and even three channels (is it me or is Pat St. John on five channels now?) in order to save money. Sure, that makes the bean-counters happy. But it will come at the expense of dissatisfied listeners like me.

As mobile WiFi and WiMax Internet get closer to reality and affordability, the one edge Sirius and XM could claim was content you couldn’t find anywhere else. Now that’s not so much the case.

But perhaps the most glaring shortcoming has been lousy customer service. Sirius and XM never made it easier for listeners, requiring them to either buy a new car or rig up their existing vehicle with a radio that was clunky, not easy to use, and rarely meshed with the existing car radio. The way the November programming changes were done overnight, without any warning to customers nor any solicitation what listeners might want to hear indicates management at the top doesn’t care what their customers think. No matter what business one happens to be in, that kind of attitude poisons the business model, no matter how worthy it might seem.

So speaking as one of 20 million subscribers, all I can say to the powers that be is, you screwed the pooch when you screwed up my radio. You deserve what's coming.

Churn, baby, churn.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Best pool on South Padre

I’m not a cement pond kind of guy. My preference leans towards natural swimming locales such as springs or rivers. But no matter how much you might or might not enjoy swimming, bodysurfing or playing in the Gulf, pool time on the island is critical for the full-on beach resort experience.

Pools have become a year round centerpiece on SPI as the island has been developed and matured, mainly through the combined miracles of heating elements in pools, windbreaks, and outdoor heaters around the cabanas whenever necessary, with a little help from global warming. No matter how blustery the weather might be, or how rough the surf and the riptide can get, or how significant the jellyfish and seaweed beachings, the water’s always warm and comfy in the pool. And given the semi-tropical nature of the climate (only 200 miles north of the Tropic of Cancer), if the weather’s bad one day, meaning highs under the 60s, it’s just as likely to hit the 80s on the next day, even in January.

The better news is, the snowbirds that do congregate on South Padre in winter almost never swim; at best, they’re trying really hard to cop some faint rays. If they do get into the water, it’s usually straight to the hot tub. Meaning the pool’s most often empty enough to swim laps.

For that reason, the search for the ultimate pool on the island has been a driving force determining where I stay in recent years, an allure that somehow justifies shelling out big bucks for vacations at Texas’ premier resort destination.

Understand, the pool has pretty much defined my stays on the island historically dating back to the mid sixties (honest). In the early years, the Sandy Retreat had the bigger, better pool than the Sea Island, the other big pool on the island. Both were much bigger than the diminutive though functional pool at the Miramar where my family often stayed.

Over time, though, the Sandy Retreat funked out and the Miramar declined into a junky cheap motel. The Sea Island, however, became the Radisson, and added a second pool, which made it a preferred destination when we didn’t book at the Sheraton, which claimed the best pool on the island.

After this summer’s Hurricane Dolly wreaked enough havoc and blew around enough debris to prompt closings and reconstructions, the Sheraton included, it was a good time to stumble into the Peninusula Island, a new smaller resort property next door (and in the shadow of) the Bridgepoint Condominiums, the smoked glass tower that for years was the tallest on the island (for all that luxury, the Bridgepoint had a rather small pool). The Peninsula consists of three six story buildings smartly designed around the property’s centerpieces – an infinity edge pool, a lower kids pool, two hot tubs, and a swim up bar.

The pool features low wave drains to keep the surface calm, a soft bottom, and water that isn’t overly chlorinated. Lots of deck chairs, cool wicker furniture by the bar, beachy design elements in the building complement the setting and the rooms are spacious, spare in the Euro Med tradition with lots of tile.

Normally, the studio rooms go for $225 in the off season, which is now through the end of February, but we lucked into a rate half that price. It’s worth calling to see what kind of rate you can bargain for or check an aggregator like The low price evidently reflects creeping signs of the Second Great Depression worming its way into the resort bidness. Whatever the reason, the Peninsula and its pool made for a great off-season quick getaway. I can’t speak for the Gulf, but as far as the Peninsula’s pool goes, come on down, the water’s fine. (click on the headline for a direct link)

The sunset views of the Laguna Madre were pretty cool too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Joe Nick On Cedar

Well, at least a little bit of talking about cedar (Ashe juniper) on KVUE Channel 24 in Austin. Jessica Vess did a pretty good video feature on the subject that tears up Central Texans like me every winter. Plus some action shots of working the shears on little would-be cedars.

Click on the headline to watch the vid. Then get ready for your eyes to water, your nose to get runny, and your throat to get all scratchy and grungy. Welcome to the dirty little secret of living in the Hill Country.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Doug TInker

News travels slow sometimes. I just caught wind of Doug Tinker's passing. I knew the clock was ticking down and talked to him about a month ago. I'm just sorry I missed his Bon Voyage last week.

I met Tinker when he was defending Yolanda Saldivar, Selena's killer. His white beard, white hair and love of sailing all recalled Ernest Hemingway, but Tinker was one of a kind. A former prosecutor, would be judge and defender of the indefensible, he practiced law in the Nueces strip that historically lawless zone south of the Nueces River and north of the Rio Grande, based in Corpus. Among his clients were Branch Davidians and homosexual lovers. He was equally at home with lowlifes and characters as with the nautical hoi polloi at the yacht club. He knew Havana and Veracruz both.

Even though Yolanda was found guilty (no question she did it) Tinker put up a good defense and a better show, especially each day after trial in Houston when we retired across the street to Buster's Drinkery, a very anonymous bar owned by a cabal of defense attorneys, where Tinker regaled the working press and fellow barristers with colorful tales of cases past.

We kept in touch and my wife and kids and I once sailed with him across Corpus Christi Bay in a race. Last year, he contacted me to talk about putting together a book. He'd written a column in a North Padre weekly paper about his exploits, and indeed, his career involved many larger than life characters, not the least of which was the Duke of Duval County, George Parr and his son Archer, who really did run their own kingdom in South Texas. I related to Doug how the book I'd just written on Willie Nelson came indirectly out of a busted Candy Barr book proposal. He stopped me in mid-sentence and asked, "Why didn't you tell me? I grew up with her in Edna. I was friends with her until she died and with all the other Slushers. She was good people."

A week later, an envelope arrived in the mail. Inside was a Xerox of an Edna High School yearbook. On one page at the bottom row of photographs of freshmen was Douglas Tinker, beardless but clearly him. On the row above was Juanita Slusher, the ripe makings of the future Candy Barr.

I should've known. Now it's all Wished I would've, and Wished I could've, mostly I wish Doug Tinker would've written that book about his exploits and storied career in a most unusual place and why he painted his painted toenails.

This obit is about as good as obituaries get, followed by a link to a site that's all about the coolest defense attorney you never heard of.

from (

Douglas Tinker

Douglas Tinker died on November 10, 2008. He wore out, he bit the dust, he dropped off the twig, he lost his last appeal. He was frustrated that he could not stay longer as he thought there might be just a bit more marrow in the bone of life, but in the end he was okay with it. He said that when you get right down to it and realize that nothing in, or about life, really ultimately matters, why then things get easier. Kinda takes the pressure off. And he had one hell of a run!

He loved boats and water and people and folks who loved boats and water and people. He was kind to strangers, children, waiters, and bartenders and always tipped well. He was a champion of the working man, and a thorn in the side of the corrupt, the powerful, and the self-righteous. He was proudest when he helped for free or next to free just because it was right. He would listen to bums tell their tales of woe and then give them a twenty and say “It’s alright if you buy booze with that.” He understood people, and did not judge them. He was a teacher and an ass-chewer who knew that it takes ten “attaboys” to make up for one “aw-shit.” He taught a lot of us everything we know as lawyers, but he was quick to point out that he had not taught us everything he knows.

He would knock an opponent down, but always helped them back up. There is not a Judge or a lawyer or prosecutor in South Texas who doesn’t have a favorite Tinker story. And when they tell it, they always smile. He called himself a one-trick-pony. There are sure a lot of just plain folks who are glad that he was on their side. That he was their one-trick-pony.

Doug loved dogs, women, booze, boats, friends, and defending people accused of committing crimes. When the whole world was down on somebody, he figured there ought to be at least one person to stand up for them, regardless of what they were accused of. So he took the cases others would not take. Because it was right. If it paid a little bit, or got some attention, well, that was okay too.

He is preceded in death by his son, Anderson Tinker, whom he loved with his whole heart and missed terribly. He is survived by his sister, Lee Loe and her husband Hardy, of Houston; his sister, Barbara Tinker-Hill of Dallas; and his brother, Tommy Tinker and wife Cindy of Hawaii.

So now the one-trick-pony has gone to the barn. Remember him well.

A Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 p.m. Thursday, November 13, 2008, at the Galvan Ballroom, 1632 Agnes St., Corpus Christi. In lieu of flowers, cash donations may be made at the service for the girls at Knuckleheads.

Here's the link to Tinker stories. Larger than life indeed. Godspeed, sailor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Music for Regime Change, Part Two

Chuck Nevitt of the Dallas Blues Society Records rounded up a stellar studio group including Gregg A. Smith. Lucky Peterson, Big Jack, and Andrea Dawson to record the new hit "Do The Soul President" that recalls more than a little Johnnie Taylor and Bobby Patterson in the soul category.

Click for more info

A tip of the Hatlo Hat to Angus Wynne for sending it along.

Music for Regime Change, Part One

In a single day, I've received two pieces of music inspired by the changing of the guard here in the United States.

The first came from Matt Farmer, Chi-town musicmaker and blogger, , who sent me his new composition "Crawl Back to Crawford," about the outgoing Prez returning to his "ranch" (note: the locals still call it the old Englebrecht Hog Farm). I don't think he's gonna spend as much time there as up in Dallis, which is prolly a good thing from the standpoint of Crawford locals. All's I know is that Puff Dieterich, operator of Great Shapes hair salon, will once again be the Queen Bee of Crawford now that the speeding black car motorcades are going away.

Here's the lyrics:

(© 2008 Matt Farmer)

Well, for eight long years we've been payin' your rent
But now your lease done run
And all our money's been spent
So pack up your bags
And take a last look around
At how you drove a great nation straight into the ground

<<01 Crawl Back To Crawford 1.mp3>>
And don't let the door
Hit you in the ass on the way out
Don't bother with the goodbyes
Just make sure that you stay out
There ain't no need to call
No need to write
We don't even need you to turn out the light
Just crawl back to Crawford, brother
Promise that you'll leave us alone

Every step of the way, your story's been the same
Just cruisin' through the world
On your daddy's name
You had the oilmen friends
You had the Skull and Bones
But it never would have happened if your name was Jones


Slam dunk, privatize, deregulate
Tax cuts, trickle down
The politics of hate
Flag pin, waterboard
Intelligent design
You were handed your throne by just five of the nine


Monday, November 17, 2008

Fort Worth Teen A Go Go

Click on the link above to watch the You Tube promo of the forthcoming film documentary.

Someone likes what they've seen. From Gunther "Ooo-ooo" Toody on

"On Nov. 16th at the Lone Star Film Festival in Fort Worth, TX there will be a first public screening of a new doctumentary called "TEEN A-GO-GO". Initially inspired by the FW Teen Scene comps, this documentary looks at bands formed during the classic garageband period in the mid sixties using interviews, found footage and photos. There are interviews with a lot of really great FW garage bands like the Elite, Larry & the Bluenotes, the Barons; and interviews with other bands from other parts of the country and interesting comments from garagepunk "experts".
I've seen it and it was better than I thought it was gonna be (expectations were low since the people that made it aren't really hardcore garagepunk freaks like us). There is some really great old footage in it and some of the interviews and stories are funny. There are some really insightful comments from Ira Robbins (of Trouser Press fame), funnyman Billy Miller, and from Texas writer and Fort Worth native Joe Nick Patowski (this guy really nails it describing why FW had so many cool bands). It was cool hearing so many great songs on the soundtrack (my favorite: "It's Been A Long Journey" by the Roots...Begin argument here about how the Roots weren't from Fort Worth...but it was released on a Fort Worth record label!...sorry, I was having a flashback). This probably isn't going to be released theatrically, but may make it to DVD someday. You might be able to see it on your local PBS station eventually (especially in Texas). This thing is not going to knock your socks like you wish it would but it's interesting and fun and there isn't really anything else like it that I know of, so that alone makes it worth seeing for those of us interested in the "garagepunk collecting hobby".
Check it out here:"

Cool future DVD cover here:

Norton Records, whose three audio CD compilation inspired this look back, can be found here: (go ahead, just click the head of Esquerita and a wonderful world of music awaits)

Here's the catalog copy for the CDs:

Fort Worth Teen Scene 1964-67
Gigundo wrap up of 1964-1967 Texas garage whomp from Fort Worth, based on Larry Harrison and David Campbell’s landmark article in KICKS #4. Includes famed five star killers by the Elite, Jades, Larry and the Blue Notes, rare uncomped singles by the Gnats, Mistakes, Jack and the Rippers plus unished rawness from the Barons, Rising Suns, Mods and much, much, mo’! Brutal sound, full color label shots, gatefold LP’s and detailed bios and photos of the groups that made up one of America’s most intense garage scenes ever! All this plus two photos of the Slobs!
NORTON 304 FORT WORTH TEEN SCENE VOL. 1 Train Kept A Rollin’ (Cynics)/Little Girl (Jades)/Night Of The Sadist (Larry And The Blue Notes)*/I Don't Want To Find Another Girl (Five Of A Kind)/I’m Blue (Rising Suns)*/Humpty Dumpty (Visions)/The Girl (Gnats)/In And Out (Larry And The Blue Notes)*/Time Is All (Mistakes)/Gloria (Tracers)~*/Without Her (Barons)~/ Fly By Nighter (Wyld)/She Said Yeah (Tracers)/ One Potato (Elite)/Two Potato (Elite) /Chocolate Moose Theme (Chocolate Moose) Thanks A Lot Baby (Bards)/Empty Heart (Nomads)/Little Latin Lupe Lu (Rising Suns)~/All I Ask (Barons)~*/Betty Lou's Got A New Tattoo (Creep)~/Don't Blame Me (Barons)*/Days Mind The Time (Mods) ~/Come On Up (Jinx)* (~ = CD only) (* = prev. unissued) LP $9/CD $12

NORTON 305 FORT WORTH TEEN SCENE VOL. 2 Route 66 (Visions)/I'll Go (Cynics)/Alibis (Bards)/Night Of The Phantom (Larry And The Blue Notes)/My Confusion (Elite)/Lost One (Roots)/Jack The Ripper (Jack And The Rippers)/You Deceived Me (Boys)/I’m All Right (Jades)/Splash Day (Coachmen) ~/Come On (Barons)*/My Kinda Woman (Images)/Evil Hearted You (Mods)*/Never Again (Five Of A Kind)/Run And Hide (Jades)*/Live And Die (Barons)/Take A Ride (Chocolate Moose)/Mister, You're A Better Man Than I (Cynics)/Sad Sack (Hi-Lights)**/Garbage Man (Snowmen) ~/Everybody Needs Somebody (Larry & The Blue Notes) ~/I’ll Never Be Happy (Barons)/She Said Yeah (Tracers) ~*/I Can't Go On Loving You (Jinx) ~* (~ = CD only) (* = prev. unissued) LP $9/CD $12

NORTON 306 FORT WORTH TEEN SCENE VOL. 3 It's A Cry'n Shame (Gentlemen)/Phantom (Mark Five)/It's Gonna Change (Trycerz)*/That's Allright (Fearsome Five)/Be Nice (Nomads)/Baby (Better Get On Home) Jim Jones & the Chaunteys/Don't Burn It (Barons)/It's Been A Long Journey (Roots)/Half Peeled Banana (Chocolate Moose)/Please Tell Me Why (Boards) ~/In And Out (Larry & the Blue Notes)/Free Soul (Loose Ends)/Almost There (Trycerz)/I Hope I Please You (Barons)/I Wanna Know (Royal Knights)/She's The Girl For Me (Visions)/Little Latin Lupe Lu (Hi-Lights)*/Train Kept A Rollin' (Larry And The Blue Notes )*/Trippin' (Night Patrol)/Mercy Mercy (Jades) ~/I’ll Come To You (Elite) ~/Ching Bam Bah (Velveteens) ~/Watch Me (Tracers) ~/You're On My Mind (Barons) ~*/Mister You're A Better Man Than I (Jinx) ~* (~ = CD only) (* = prev. unissued) LP $9/CD $12

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stax Museum

I visited the Stax Museum of American Soul Music on an appropriately gray rainy day. Good stuff inside, lots of music playing, a righteous gift shop and a pretty good telling by Robert Gordon of a less-famous piece of Memphis music history. Stax-Volt may have been the pinnacle of the Memphis Sound, defining soul music as it did with folks like Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, the house band Booker T. & the MGs, the Staples Singers, Albert King, and lesser lights like the Bar-Kays, Big Star, and Moms Mabley, and was a triumph of salt-and-pepper sensibility, ow music was colorblind and how what was a good thing ended when Martin Luther King was assassinated and Beale Street torn down.

There's an impressive gallery of photos from Zelma Redding's collection of her husband Otis that's currently showing.

Naturally, Jim Dickinson, my favorite Curmudgeon of the South, put it in perspective, pointing out that Memphis let the building that housed Stax crumble and get torn down in 1989 and that what I saw at 926 McLemore Street was all a recreation.


No wonder that I didn't get the same chills I've gotten at Sun Records and at the Lorraine Motel, the kind that tell you something happened here. At Stax it wasn't like that, although as I drove off, I slipped Otis Redding Live in Paris into the car player, and fast-forwarded to the end of "Try A Little Tenderness." With Otis filling my ears with "gotchagotchagotchanananana..." I finally got that chill.

At least the future museum across the street is still standing.

Plus there's some solid soul street art remaining in the 'hood.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Space Opera story, music journalism at its best

As lousy, PR-sycophantic and hack-infested as most music writing is, every now and then you stumble upon a diamond in the rough.

That's my take of Frank Gutch, Jr.'s four-part history of the band Space Opera, a late sixties, early seventies progressive rock outfit from Fort Worth, Texas, my hometown. The saga is posted on . Gutch's research was motivated by his impression that Space Opera was from Canada, and that their sole major label release was a brilliant recorded work. He started asking questions and ended up writing what could just as well be a book. It is the complete telling, going back to earlier efforts of band members and going forward to update readers on Whatever Happened To....? all the band members.

I thought I knew the band, but Gutch digs deep and tells a fascinating tale of how they came together, and how active members, especially a young David Bullock, were players in Houston's developing folk music scene in the late 1960s that eventually produced Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett, and many more.
There's even some interesting Jerry Jeff Walker trivia. Check out this photo of SO precursor Whistler, Chaucer, Detroit, and Greenhill.

This album cover is pretty great for two reasons besides the music inside: Guy Clark designed the cover, and, with one band member missing, Guy graciously posed as part of the band.

What was most personally rewarding was Gutch's reporting on the teen recording scene at Sound City, the recording studio in the basement of KXOL Radio station on a bluff above the Trinity River right off 7th Street. It details the earliest recording work by the teenager who would become known as T-Bone Burnett (most of the kids at Paschal High knew him as Terry back then), the jive producer Major Bill Smith, and the pre-Daniel Johnston character dubbed the Legendary Stardust Cowboy.

Gutch makes a very persuasive case that Space Opera were as great as folks in Fort Worth and precious few other places believed, an especially timely analysis in light of the recent passing of band member Phil White.

Two of four parts are posted as of today (September 26). More to come.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hurricane Ike from the 19th Floor

For all the harrowing tales of destruction and disaster from Hurricane Ike, one of the best personal accounts comes from Josh Holstead, aka Rowdy Yates on KILT-FM in Houston and host of the nationally syndicated Country Gold. Here’s his report from the 19th floor, a place that I now know, I don’t want to be in a hurricane.

Josh’s email is

What I Did Last Week On My Vacation

by Josh Holstead

This morning I am going over my post hurricane wish list. Would you care to know what is at the top? Dramamine. In big block letters written with a bright orange highlighter on a large yellow notepad I scratched out two words:


I had no idea you could get motion sickness 19 stories up. I always thought that was for folks who did not take well to cruises, fishing off-shore or passengers on bumpy flights; like the lady that threw up in my lap on my last landing in Las Vegas. But you can get green-in-the-gills 19 stories up, and there was a lot more that 25 of us learned from Thursday to Sunday of last week as we rode out Hurricane Ike in our Greenway Plaza studios.

As if all of the pre-Ike coverage and his trek from the ocean to Houston were not enough to warn us, an 8 foot by 10 foot window bowing away from the frame of our building several hundred feet up was. That gave us our first indication it was going to be a very rough night. The time was 9pm and the eye of the storm would not visit us until around 2am the next morning. First noticed by our Chief Engineer Dan Woodard (who I have a whole new level of respect for) it would have been the smartest and simplest thing to shut the big, tall, three inch thick executive door, and let the window blow out and suck every last thing out of that office. But we are radio people. Brave people who volunteered to defend the CBS installation, protect the commercial inventory and relay vital information to the millions who were listening. So, half a dozen of us bravely entered the office of our Research Director Gina Messick and started hauling everything out. In hindsight, it was not all that bad. After all we ARE radio people, and many of us have had to move quickly, with NO notice, and at night. So, this wasn’t a stretch once we got past that whole fear of dying thing.

We all saw the footage of the storm rolling in. Many of us got a big kick out of Geraldo Rivera being swept off his feet and into a street full of Ike infused Galveston gumbo. But that was just a little taste of what would whip Galveston, The Bolivar Peninsula and the Southeast Texas coastline. CBS Radio Houston was there through it all.

Like Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Katrina, there are buzz words that radio and TV types toss around all too frequently. “Cone of Uncertainty”, “Shelter in Place” and “Hunker Down” have been said so much in the past three years I wish they would retire the phrases, like they retire the hurricane names after they beat the hell out of some place.

The new buzz word in our place was “compromised.”

Let’s all say it together: [kom-pruh-mahyzd]–from the combined and abridged book of Commercial Building Inspection and Meteorology 101, the word “compromised” (in our case) can mean some or all of the following things:

1 The roof has been ripped off of your building.

2 Water from hurricane rains is now flooding the elevator shafts, and half of your emergency escape stairwells.

3 Chunks of concrete from the roof are flying down the stairwell, powered by 120 mile per hour winds.

4 No need to close the door that leads to the roof. The door, the doorjamb around it and four inches of concrete that encased it are now lying horizontal on what was left of the roof.

5 Re aiming the STL dishes could be problematic as they are now in the 5th floor parking garage.

6 Those rapid succession “BOOM” noises you are hearing are not transformers. They are just the windows blowing out of the building. But we still have power, and thankfully the toilets were only temporarily compromised.

But with the building swaying, glass crashing, lightning flashing and winds blowing, we were providing calming voices, life saving information, news updates and hundreds of stories from people riding out the storm with us. In the back of our minds, every one of us wondering what we would see when the sun rose? What we would come home to, or even worse; if we even had anything or anyone to go home to.

I do want to recognize the services of the three brave men who were in our twisting AM 650 interior studios when the storm was the worst. News Director and Texas Radio Hall of Famer Robert B. McEntire, Galveston County resident and 7p-12midnight KILT-FM personality Tom Fontaine, and Captain Mickey from SportsRadio 610’s fishing show. Having now covered three big storms, I am certain I would rather have a fishing guide as my radio wing man than the head of the National Hurricane Forecast Center. Captain Mickey and Captain Wayne before him knew the coast, the people and the places-as well as the honey holes for big mouth bass and speckled trout.

These men and their producer Malana Nall had to physically brace themselves to keep chairs from rolling away from microphones and consoles. Tommy had to stand up and brace his legs a few feet apart was he was developing sea legs and a sour stomach. Even Captain Mickey himself, the Salty Sea Dog who makes his living fishing in rough Gulf waters was bracing for his own unexpected evacuation.

Once it was clear that all of our personnel had weathered the storm (though we could not say the same about the roof or parts of the building) it was time to take a deep breath. While the winds were still gusting at up to 50mph, the sun was rising on a battered City of Houston, and millions of tired eyes and weary faces staggered out of their safe houses with a sigh of relief that they too had made it through.

It was when most of us began picking up the pieces that our heart rates revved back up to full throttle. Why? A fire alarm. A fire alarm was going off on our floor and our floor only. Normally, this would not be a big deal as we have all been instructed on where to go and what to do in case of a fire. The real problem (as reported on our own airwaves) was that first responders could not and would not come and rescue us. Much like we saw with the first big fire down on Galveston Island-if the place was on fire, it would go up, and go up with us in it, and there was not a damn thing we or they could do about it. So, again, we wait it out. A number of us fan out to various parts of the building, reaching for the bloodhound within trying to sniff out anything that might have caught fire, generated smoke or otherwise fried to the point it set off the fire alarm.

While I did not get the *official* reason why it triggered, I have my own theory, and it was a dead ringer for right according to my buddy Steve Beers who sells fire systems for a living. When the roof door blew off, and the water started rushing in, it made the temperature and the humidity on our floor rise greatly in a very short amount of time. To add insult to injury, water and electricity do not mix, and some of the wiring in the building and the fire system may too have been compromised. So, a “fail safe” feature activated the alarm, and that was a good thing. Better to be safe than sorry-and then burn to death. The fact that a few people (with our complete understanding and support) chose to bend the buildings’ no smoking policy, in NO WAY had anything to do with that alarm going off-really.

So, the lack of smoke clears, and it is then that we begin to prioritize what we need to do to return to normal business operations, and more importantly assist our clients that would be calling with cancellations, additions, and even new business that would be brought on by Ike’s destruction.

But before we could get to that, our buildings’ management prepared us for a few things we were prepared to hear, but hoped we would not. The elevators were shot. While we still had power, we would need to switch to our emergency generators as they would need to cut the power to the building to assess damage, and we might need to prepare to cease operations in our suite for possibly four weeks!

Thankfully, our sister stations in Dallas were ready to take us in, and like a Minute Man I was already packed and ready to roll. But there was another route we could take. If we stayed in simulcast, and we needed studio space, we would just go to my house. I have a home studio, and a very nice one. This is where we produce my Westwood One show. We had power, phones, AC and bathrooms. My place was well equipped with what we needed to gather news , record interviews, and conduct a broadcast. I even had a Marti unit that had been assigned to me after the terrorist attacks. For seven years I had “George Junior” with a two foot whip in a box just waiting to be fired up. I live so close to the transmitter site it would be a chip shot to hit it. So, with a single audio cable out of my distribution amplifier and an antenna out the window, our “Aux-Aux” site was ready to go if we needed it.

The next obstacle we faced was our news operation. It was not compromised, but the route to it was. Hiking 19 flights of stairs is no picnic for anybody. It most certainly was not going to be something we would insist our News Director endure. He is a strong man, and a man we needed, but an injury that led to a hip replacement was not something he or we were willing to test. I knew he had the gear to go mobile from his place too. The only problem was he had no power. He was running minimum necessities from his residence on a generator, but we needed something more reliable as gas was in short supply.

Until last week you would have never convinced me that we would turn to batteries and wireless technology to get information back to the radio station after a catastrophe, but we did-and it worked wonderfully.

Years ago, I asked permission, and the company granted me the opportunity to stream some local high school football games on the internet. We’ve been doing it for five years now, and do it more for the fun and community good will. But I had the stream available, a laptop computer, and a Verizon Wireless air card. So, bypassing all traditional backups, we hooked a microphone into a PC, fired up the Live stream and we were in business-and with rich, stereo broadband digital quality too.

This would be the right time to express how important wireless devices, delivery and communication has become. When the phones went dead and the power went out, the cell towers stood, and millions of people communicated via text messaging. For every phone call we received at the studio, I bet we received 50 text messages. I was also blown away by the thousands of people who were following our coverage on-line. Those who were fascinated by our broadcasts and AOL’s promotion of it, and most importantly, the people who had evacuated. We were their only link to what was happening in their home town. I cannot stress enough how important this platform is, and cannot wait until it is standardized and made easily available everywhere and to everyone.

Never in my career have I had to be so conscious of what we were saying . Millions were depending on RADIO to inform them-and deliver vital information. Not TV stations broadcast on the radio, but live and local radio coverage. The all news station KTRH was giving news and our stations were giving information. It was information I know saved lives. Potentially thousands. We continue that service today. A lot of other stations went back to their old routines and programming. That was a mistake. How can you inform your audience about a FEMA food and water distribution center changing locations when you recorded your show the night before? That kind of radio can never be voice tracked. Still today people are suffering. Still today we are helping them.

One of the many valuable lessons I learned is how training is so important. Experience I have, upbringing I have, radio is in my blood. I grew up in the best radio news operations in Texas, and without question the best people. But during the hurricane, what came back into my mind was my first disc jockey shift on a Saturday night at KDNT in Denton, Texas when I was 16 years old. The wind was howling, the tower was swaying, balls of static electricity were rolling off the guy wires and the News Director rips off what looked like 18 feet of UPI weather copy and says “read all of that” and I did. So thank you to Joe Short, Scott Sommer and Bill Van Ness, who held my hand through my first on air weather event. I have been on the air for a hundred or more since then, but it was the first one I ever did that helped me through the biggest one I have done so far.

The surest indication (to me) that local, state and government officials had things handled was when I left RB’s place. I headed back to Sugar Land to take a shower and hopefully dine on something that did not require a can opener to eat, and I saw something in the sky that did not look like it belonged there. It sure as hell did not just take off from our Sugar Land municipal airport. It was an Army refueling plane, and in mid air it was gassing up two Blackhawk helicopters. A once in a lifetime sight for me. It made me proud.

What was most inspiring to us in the days following were the power crews. 10,000 men and 7,500 trucks. They are fearless men and women who came from 25 states to help reverse the largest power blackout in Texas history. As I write this, there are still over 1 million without it, but millions more that have it thanks to them. They are the true heroes. Due to our extended coverage, we preempted my syndicated “Country Gold” show and we did a live and local version of it instead. Late in the evening as we are taking calls from people with power and without power, a suggestion comes in that we play Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” for all the guys who are working 16 hour days, and sleeping in or under their trucks. It really caught on. What is even stranger is that Glen Campbell also sang the song “Galveston” and both songs were written by the great Jimmy Webb. What you may not know is that the first staging area for most of those electrical workers is Sam Houston Race Park-which has a beautiful new concert venue and has hosted Glen in the past. I think there are too many stars aligned for something special not to happen. I called a few folks, and there is something big already in the works.

I am considering changing my name from Rowdy Yates to “Hurricane Holstead.” After last weekend I am pretty sure I earned it.

After my first shift on all four stations, but before the storm really rolled in, my General manager Laura Morris delivered me a message from the President of the CBS Radio group, Dan Mason. His interests are more than professional. Houston used to be his home. He was monitoring the broadcast, and according to her, was very impressed at my performance. “Tell Rowdy I want to buy him a drink” was the message, and I must admit I was pretty puffed up about the call. But after going through what we did, I say the whole crew deserves a round. –and Dan, please pay the tab in person.

*Josh Holstead is the afternoon personality on KILT/100.3fm in Houston, Texas. Using the handle “Rowdy Yates” he is also heard nationwide every weekend on the #1 country request show “Country Gold” which is distributed by The Westwood One Radio Networks.

Bill Mack, World's Greatest Disc Jockey and the Truckers' Friend

I am a loyal listener of Bill Mack on the Open Road channel on XM 171.

No one in radio has the loyal audience like Bill does, which is why Willie Nelson calls in every Wednesday to take calls from truckers.

Bill has really championed the Willie book since it's come out. I visited with Bill and Cindy, his sidekick and life partner, on Monday and got to hear Cindy do her Marilyn Monroe version of Happy Birthday but couldn't watch her as I listened. It was so sultry, my ear wax melted.

Listen in and check them out.

Texas' Other Disaster

While all the attention has been focused on the Gulf Coast where Hurricane Ike trashed Galveston, swept away the Bolivar peninsula and wrecked Galveston, there's been historic flooding on the other side of Texas where the Rio Grande flooded out the small city of Ojinaga, closed the bridge to Mexico,

threatened the levees protecting the town of Presidio,

and closed River Road.

The local golf course was underwater.

It's the highest water since 1978, maybe worse. Heavy rains in Chihuahua state and Copper Canyon especially have forced dams along the Rio Concho, which provides the Rio Grande with most of its flow, to continue releasing water for the past two weeks. Now the there is real fear the levees will crumble from being saturated for so long.

The town of Redford has been virtually inaccessible for the last week and a half, although supplies for the community have been helicoptered in.

And it's been so wet in Far West Texas that Balmorhea pool had to close due to turbidity. Check with the park to determine if it's opened.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fall Harvest Out West

Or, a few snapshots of a week out West in early September.

Tourists snapping pics of the Golden Gate in SF

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy and author at The Booksmith on Haight Street in San Fran

Lonche at La Taqueria in the Mission with Kitchen Sister Davia Nelson and SF Chronicle writer Joel Selvin

Harvesting grapes in Lodi

No wine before its time

Melons in the field in Utah

Buffalo in the field in Wyoming

Sage grouse pecking their way through the grass

Big country, Wyoming