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Interview story with Hattersley featured in June issue of Fiddler magazine

6 Jun


Half a century ago, Mary Hattersley went by the name Mary Butler, then a shy musician who learned to play the violin at six years old and the daughter of a choir professor at the University of New Mexico in Las Cruces.

At 20 she dropped out of  college classical music courses at NMSU and ran off to San Francisco. Her adventures took her across the United States, all the way to New York, before she finally settled down in Austin, Texas in 1970.

Today, 50 years later, she’s known as just “Sweet Mary” Hattersley who has earned a reputation as an accomplished fiddler player. Her musical career spans decades of performances with celebrities of country, blues, jazz and rock and roll musicians and hall of famers. She also teaches Suzuki method fiddle lessons to children in Austin.

As a 70-year-old cancer survivor, Mary’s professional life continues to grow and her music – which has been released on both vinyl and CDs – has worn many different recording labels – without ever straying too far from her roots. Mary’s life changed forever once she stepped onto the stage of an Austin bar called “The Checkered Flag,” in 1970.

Eddie Wilson, the manager of The Armadillo World Headquarters saw her and the band, Greezy Wheels, perform and booked them to open for The Burrito Brothers. Before she played with the Greezy Wheels band, she earned her fiddle education by sitting in with Kenneth Threadgill and his Hootenanny Hoots. She went by the name Mary Egan at the time; the surname of her former common law husband.

Threadgill had a fiddler already, “Fiddlin’ Joe” Martin.  He and Mary hit it off and Martin taught her the fiddle player’s national anthem, “The Orange Blossom Special,” written by Ervin T. Rouse. The song, performed at breakneck tempos with imitative qualities of a train whistle and wheels, became the vehicle to showcase Mary’s virtuosity. Martin, a Mississippi native, died in 1975 — years before Mary would teach that very same song to other famous musicians backstage before her own shows. However, Mary has never stopped paying Martins’ favor forward.

“He (Martin) was always very kind to me as I really didn’t know anything.  Joe would just let me play along.  I truly learned most of the country songs on stage.  I never was a paid member of the Mr. Threadgill’s band.  I was sitting in with him at Bevo’s when I met Cleve,” Mary says. “I didn’t know then how to lay out and wait my turn.  I just played over everything.  It always amazes me how nice everybody was to me.”

Even before becoming known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin supported a tremendous number of music venues that catered to folk, or country and western, blues or jazz music in the 1970s. Mary played at nearly all of the locations, including Bevo’s, one of her favorite hangouts.

Mary often took additional impromptu lessons from Mance Lipscomb and Bill Neely, before they performed on stage at Threadgill’s bar and restaurant. Lipscomb, a great blues singer and guitar player and writer from Navasota, Texas earned a name for himself after blues researchers from Arhoolie Record company discovered him and published some albums. Lipscomb died in 1976 and worked much of his life as a tenant farmer and day laborer born into a family of Alabama slaves.  Author Glen Alyn wrote a book about Lipscomb entitled I Say Me for a Parable. In the book Lipscomb talks about teaching “Sweet Mary” Egan-Hattersley how to play rhythm.

“Mance had that style of picking where he played his own bass line on the guitar with his thumb.  He was legendary around here when I met him.  He influenced all of us younger pickers,” Mary says.

Neely, the son of sharecroppers from Collin County, Texas showed Mary how to bridge the gap musically between traditional country and the blues. Neely, a regular performer on Wednesday nights at Threadgill’s, often shared the stage along with Lipscomb, Janis Joplin and Pete Seeger. He influenced Mary and other musicians such as Dan Del Santo, Alejandro Escovedo, and Nanci Griffith before Neely died in 1990. Mary says she became good at what she calls “following.” She learned to listen to key notes and rhythmic changes that other musicians performed on stage, in order to learn the songs that she did not know.

“I could learn what I needed to play by listening,” Mary says. “I could pick out of the air intuitively, what the other musicians were playing, following instinctively – you hear it in your head first, then you feel it, and then you play it.” She found the experience of performing fiddle on stage “electrically-charged,” she says.

Mary’s performances drew the attention of Cleve Hattersley, who would become her future husband.

“I didn’t think of it as a romantic bond that I had with Cleve,” Mary says. “I thought of it as an electric, magical thing, music. I had music theory lessons before I could speak and he liked that about me. I liked his creativity.”

It would be years before Cleve and Mary would end up a couple; as they still had some things to learn about themselves and about the type of music that they wanted to play.

“Looking back now, I realize Cleve and his sister, Lissa, and even I were all Yankees,  really. We didn’t know anything about country music. Prior to that we were all aligned with The Grateful Dead, (and Austinites) Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators,” Mary says. “We used to call ourselves the Greezy Wheels ‘skiffle’ band – a term used in the 1930s that means ‘casual.’ There was a lot of folk, with old-timey gospel, and string instruments including mandolin, that we used to play. It was the mixture that made us who we were.”

The Greezy Wheels at the time also included: lead vocal and guitar player Pat Pankratz, Mike Pugh on bass,  and Tony Lair on drums. Cleve’s sister, Lissa Hattersley also sang with the band.

“Lissa (Cleve’s sister,) of course was not old enough to be performing in the bars,” Mary says. “She was only 17, very soon to be 18. She was a little shy too, so we had to get her a little tipsy to get her up there on stage to sing with us.”

The Greezy Wheels then became the unofficial house band at the Armadillo World Headquarters, playing there more often than any other group.

“We opened for ‘the Boss,’ Bruce Springsteen at the Armadillo World Headquarters when he was doing his first tour of the United States. He had just played Houston and a bunch of people followed him down here to Austin. He was young and nobody really knew who he was,” Mary says.

Their band mirrored the changes occurring in the 70s – a blurring of lines both socially and musically in the world. The Greezy Wheels opened for other regular acts at the Armadillo World Headquarters at the time, including Willie Nelson, Marcia Ball, Alvin Crow, and the Asleep at the Wheel band. The performers drew a mixture of audiences from all walks of life and ages.

Greezy Wheels also opened for Doug Sahm, of San Antonio. Sahm, had led a rock band, The Sir Douglas Quintet, in the 1960s and 70s.  Sahm earned acclaim as a protégé for having played on stage at the age of 11 with Hank Williams Sr. during one of the star’s last performances.

“Doug (Sahm) was the favorite of everybody, everybody’s friend,” Mary says. “Doug was the sort of person we all looked up to.  He had been in the band, the Sir Douglass Quintet, but when he and I started playing at Threadgill’s (bar and restaurant) it was Doug who taught me to play the old country standards.”

Mary participated in some wild jam sessions with all types of famous musicians on stage at the old Austin Armadillo World Headquarters.

“I remember those nights in the 70s, when there wasn’t any air-conditioning, but there was plenty of music in the air – in the beer gardens in Austin and on the stages, and along the back alley walls,” Mary says. “The 1970s were divided among those groups of people who had long hair and those who didn’t. There were the traditional country and western singers and the blues singers and the rock and rollers. But when we performed together, we were all friends who played music.”

The Greezy Wheels opened the show the first night that Willie Nelson performed at Austin’s old Armadillo World Headquarters.

“It was a risky thing that Willie did; he didn’t know if he could cross over country into  western music with the hippies, but it worked,” Mary says.

Fiddler Mary Egan became a familiar name in the progressive country world; her name appears on the back of a number of record albums in the 70s. Jerry Jeff Walker invited Mary to play on two of his albums: Jerry Jeff Walker in 1972 and then Viva Terlingua! recorded in Luckenbach, Texas in 1973.

“We use bales of hay around us as sound walls and around the drums while we recorded,” Mary says.

Later, Walker, and the rest of his band returned to Terlingua to perform some tracks off the album live, including “I want to go home to the Armadillo,’ written by Gary P. Nunn. Sound engineers later mixed two of the live cuts from the Terlingua performance with those recorded earlier in Luckenbach. After they released the album, it went gold.

Soon afterwards, Mary Egan-Hattersley returned to Austin to play with the Greezy Wheels band. One night while waiting back stage to perform at the Armadillo World Headquarters, she saw French virtuoso violinist and jazz composer Jean-Luc Ponty. He asked Mary to teach him to play “The Orange Blossom Special” and she did.

“It was just a few notes, but he picked it right up,” Mary says. “Then Ponty went on stage and played it with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention.”

In the early 1970s, The Greezy Wheels often also played at The Bottom Line and The Lone Star Café, the premiere country and western music venue, in New York City. Well-knowns like Willie Nelson, Kinky Friedman, Roy Orbison, Delbert McClinton, Freddy Fender, Doug Sahm and Jerry Jeff Walker all played there.

They also played the same festivals as  Friedman and his Texas Jewboys and Frieda and the Firedogs (now known as the Marcia Ball band.) The Greezy Wheels band coast-to-coast became one of the brightest stars in the progressive country western and blues-blended musical universe.

They became the first band from Austin to sign with a major label; the same company that distributed records by The Rolling Stones,  London Records published their album, Jus Love Dem ‘Ol Greezy Wheels, followed by their second, Radio Radials.

“London Records put us (The Greezy Wheels) up in Bogalusa, Mississippi in a wonderful recording studio out in the middle of nowhere. We all lived in the house and recorded there,” Mary says. “I remember the smell from the paper mill.  There was this paper mill in the same town and if you’ve ever been near a paper mill, you’d know, they stink. They smell like Brussels sprouts. So the smell was part of the deal, a funny part of our experience.”

After finishing their first album, the Greezy Wheels hit the road in an antique Flexible Flyer bus.

“I made curtains for it (The Flyer.) Inside we could set up a card table and there were places to lay down our instruments and store our equipment,” Mary says. “But then we ended up having too much equipment for the bus. Things got crowded.”

With Cleve and Tony Airoldi, the Greezy Wheels now had three guitarists, including Pankgratz, as well as a mandolin player; a drummer, plus a new conga player, Madril Wilson, and of course, Mary on fiddle and Lissa, on vocals. The group disbanded in 1978.

It took 25 years for the Hattersleys to get the Greezy Wheels rolling again. In 2001 Mary and Cleve, and his sister, Lissa, reunited the Greezy Wheels to release the CDs: Millennium Greezy, HipPOP, and StringTheory. Then Cleve and Mary also released a duo CD entitled, Totally. The Hattersleys returned to the spotlight by joining The Band’s drummer, Levon Helm, at his “Midnight Ramble” at The Barn in Woodstock, New York regularly beginning in 2009. Helm died in 2012.

Last year Mary and the Greezy Wheels released their album, Gone Greezy, on their own label, MaHatMa Records, earning them a spot in the Texas Music Hall of Fame in 2012 and their hometown’s top ten list of albums recognized by The Austin Chronicle. Currently, their newest album, Kitty Cat Jesus, which released this past May, features two hit songs: “I Cry Myself to Sleep,” and “I’ll Get Away With It.” Both have received lots of radio station airplay.

Other current Greezy Wheels members include: lead vocalist Lissa Hattersley and other band members: vocalist Penny Jo Pullus, drummer Johnny Bush, bassist Brad Houser, and trombone and harp player, Matt Hubbard. Both Bush and Houser previously played with Edie Brickell and The New Bohemians in the 1980s. Hubbard also performs with Willie Nelson.

Mary recalls that Cleve told her once that as a little boy he had always dreamed of becoming Roy Rogers.

“I had always wanted to be Dale Evans,” Mary says.  “Dale had a tomboy element to her, but she was very feminine. I still put on my Dale Evans boots and dresses to wear whenever I perform.”

Evans still serves as Mary’s role model. Mary never forgot the song that Evans wrote and sang with Rogers, entitled “Happy Trails to You.” RCA Victor Records released the song in 1952 as a 78-rpm and then a 45-rpm vinyl single. Later the song became the theme for the television show, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

“I always wanted to be part of a pair like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans,” Mary says. “Cleve and I think of ourselves today as a dynamic duo.”

This past June marked the couple’s 39th anniversary, as common law husband and wife, legally registered in Travis County. Cleve is 66 and Mary just celebrated her 70th birthday June 8, 2013. Doctors diagnosed her with vulvar cancer and removed all her affected tissue July 2, 2013.

“They found out I had it right when we were in the middle of my (Blazing Bows) summer fiddle camp. I decided we would do camp anyway. The doctors went in and found the cancer all in one place and got it out. The surgery went well. There’s nothing else required,” she says.

Some might consider that the Greezy Wheels time has passed, but the band’s fan base reveals that their sound as always, remains one roll ahead of its time.  Once referred to as “progressive country” 40 years ago, the Greezy Wheels’ sound today represents an amalgamation of country and western, blues, gospel and jazz.

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June2014coverwithmystory This interview story ran in the June 2014 issue of Fiddler magazine.

The Jitterbug Vipers sing

27 Aug

While Slim Richey may look older than Santa Claus, complete with white hair and a gray beard, the big guy never looked as hip.  The 75-year-old lead guitarist for the Jitterbug Vipers, aka: “Most Dangerous Guitar Player in Texas” on stage wears a rock lobster bowling shirt embroidered with guitars on each breast, white plaid beach shorts and red Converse tennis shoes.

Richey often dons a Fedora with a white feather plume stuck into its leopard print hatband while he plays his Sunburst 1937 Gibson L-4 or an Arbor White Falcon copy guitar on stage.

His band performs regularly at the Elephant Room, or Lambert’s or the Continental Club, in Austin. They also perform the second Monday of each month at noon live on the Internet streaming from The band also heads west and to the Pacific Northwest this fall to play in  Eugene, OR, Seattle, WA, and Hollywood, CA before taking off for a European tour in November through December.

Instrumentally their music sounds vintage, a fusion of styles from the 1930s and ‘40s that began with early swing jazz ensembles, but their edgy lyrics blur contemporary lines – on topics of drugs and sex. An open SKB equipment case complete with flashing holiday lights displays the Jitterbug Viper’s quirky name at the front of the stage wherever they perform. It also serves as a nice depository for cash donations.

The rest of his band members call themselves the “Hidee Hidee Hos” including: vocalist and co-songwriter Sarah Sharp, his bassist wife Francie Meaux Jeaux and drummer Masumi Jones.  The band’s visual authenticity and original music allows its members to wave that ethereal “Keep Austin Weird” flag where ever they go.

As Jitterbug Vipers’ lead vocalist, Sharp has drawn a lot of attention to the band since she began performing with them four years ago this November. Today the petite and blonde model-thin singer and mother of three elementary age children disarms her audience with her liquid jazz voice alone.

When she first started singing with the band, Sharp wore a body sling and nursed her son, Angus, on stage. Angus attended more than 100 gigs in utero and just as many Jitterbug Viper gigs on stage from the time he was only three and a half weeks old until he turned six months old, Sharp said.

“It was a 99 percent positive reaction. He was too little not to have with me. If he needed to nurse, I nursed him inside the sling. It wasn’t an exhibition. The only people who noticed what was going on were other moms,” Sharp said.

“I made a big point of making it obvious that he was wearing special earplugs. We have a very quiet stage volume, but if I was watching a baby on stage, I would be worried about their ears.”

Angus had a stage presence and he absorbed the music, she said.

“He has the music in him. The first time he made any sort of fuss was around three and a half  months old when he started steering me toward whatever he wanted to see. Some nights he was all about Slim’s hands, some nights he needed to watch the drums.  I often had to turn and sing over my shoulder so he could be content watching the drums.  He definitely let me know.”

Meaux Jeaux used to sometimes shout on stage: “Slim, turn around; he can’t see your hands!” if Angus started to fuss. That always settled Angus back down, Sharp said.

These days, Angus and his two siblings: Alistair, 6, and Stella, 5, stay at home nights with their dad, British-born Andy Sharp, a guitar player who has a day gig working as a software developer.  His stage name is “Buffalo Speedway.” The couple has been married 15 years. When the Jitterbug Vipers performed at Hyde Park Grill South, the whole Sharp clan turned out in attendance.

“I haven’t played there in a while, but we get a lot of jitterbug and lindy hop dancers and they all understand the cultural significance of the songs. That’s one of the gigs where I often brought my whole family,” Sharp said.

Some of the lyrics to the Jitterbug Viper songs do not necessary convey family friendly themes and discuss “smoking” and “getting high.” One song “Stuff It” Sharp co-wrote with Elizabeth McQueen of The Asleep at The Wheel band.

“(McQueen’s) a momma too. We laughed the entire two and a half hours it took to write that song. It’s probably getting the most national airplay of all the new songs,” Sharp said.

The song provides plenty of double entendres. Even the name “Vipers” comes from a sub-genre of cannabis culture that associates itself with those who make hissing sounds like snakes when they smoke.

“Viper music is a sub-genre of 1930’s and 40’s jazz, mostly party songs like (Cab Calloway’s 1931) ‘Minnie the Moocher.’ Back then, drinking and gambling were illegal, drugs were not. It’s akin to beer drinking songs today.  The new album is mostly originals, inspired by that genre,” Sharp said.

The band’s original songs with titles from Phoebe’s Dream CD have received less local radio air play: “When You’re High,” written by Sharp and Kristopher Lee Wade and “Dangerous,” by Sharp and Katie Holmes, and “Viper Moon,” written by Sharp and Slim Richey.

Cover songs off their previous 2012 CD, Tell ‘em Joe Sent You, included Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” as well as Buck Washington’s 1944 “Save the Roach for Me,” and the Ink Spots’ 1944 “That Cat is High.”

Sharp found her niche in 2009 with the Jitterbug Vipers by filling in and substituting for the band whenever former lead vocalists Kat Edmonson of Houston and Emily Gimble, grand-daughter of legendary Johnny Gimble, couldn’t make a gig. Emily Gimble now performs with the Marshall Ford Swing Band. She also recently performed on Three for the Road, a CD by Warren Hood produced by Charlie Sexton.

“The (Jitterbug Vipers) used to play everywhere all of the time and I knew who they were. I used to play as a singer/songwriter alone, but I couldn’t be on the road anymore. Things started slowing down for me when I got pregnant. I saw playing with them several nights a week as a solution to being on the road,” Sharp said.

Sharp’s pitch bending and expressive phrasing leads the band’s melody in each song including “Phoebe’s Dream,” the title cut off the band’s newest CD. The song has received more local radio air play than any other Jitterbug Vipers songs to date. Her distinctive voice makes every bit a signature statement for the band as guitarist Slim Richey’s riffs.

She also maintains a musical singing duo separately with Andrea Perry, called Kaliyo; the two have co-written and performed one song per week since last October.

“I’ve never fully figured out why, but jazz comes out of me differently than pop music. It sounds different. It’s often more versatile voice and I tend to never sing a song the exact same way twice,” Sharp said.

Though neither knew one another at the time, both Sharp and Jones attended Berklee College of Music in Boston about the same time.

Jones has lived in Austin a little more than five years after coming to town from New York and prior to that from Japan. She has two sons, Lewis, 14, and Kai, 13.

She discovered the Jitterbug Vipers, one night while attending a “Ham Jam” house party for professional musicians hosted by host Daren Appelt, who lives in North Hills subdivision of Austin.

“He used to put on these house parties for professional musicians to jam all night long. He served free alcohol and ham.  I went to jam there, but drummers were not allowed to play because of the noise ordinance – neighbors complained,” Jones said.

“Slim came up to me and asked me ‘Why aren’t you playing?’ When I told him, he offered me a gig. It was such a ‘Dangerous’ decision to make since he had never heard me perform.”

Masumi, who had previously performed with big bands in Japan, these days plays the hi-hat cymbal with brushes like feathers and keeps a subtle swing pulse on the base drum. She emphasizes a fluid rocking momentum at the far ends of each instrumental song, creating a relaxed feel.

The small ensemble, minus showmanship, creates a calming, unhurried feel to the Jitterbug Vipers’ music. Jones together with Meaux Jeaux, the bassist, occasionally screams or yells in the background during a few of the up-tempo songs like “Stuff It.” Although, Sharp’s solo voice for the most part remains unhindered on stage.

Meaux Jeaux’s timing and her two and four beat plucks and pulls on her upright bass strings, lock in well with Masumi’s sweeping drum movements.

Somewhat awkwardly, by appearances, Meaux Jeaux keeps her back to the audience while performing on stage, to focus on Masumi.  Their combined musicianship creates a quintessential basic rhythm section sound for the band.

“It was perfect the first time we played together; it was ‘I want your babies; I want to lock you in my closet,’” Meaux Jeaux said of Jones.

Meaux Jeaux, Richey’s wife, may be 61, but her young spirit appears personified by her punk hairstyle complete with streaks of red and blue hair dyes. She also wears giant oversized white frame sunglasses sometimes on stage.

She said she remembers the first time she and Richey played together some 27 years ago. They have been married for 25 years and have celebrated their union in 15 separate weddings. They were first “spiritually” married Aug. 15, 1988 in Copper Canyon and then legally Jan. 1, 1989 in Dallas.

When the two began performing together on stage, Meaux Jeaux could only play electric bass. She had to teach herself to play an upright bass.

Richey improvises instrumentally in the Jitterbug Vipers’ song sets by providing riffs one or two measures at a time and colors the musical score behind Sharp’s unaffected voice. He also provides some 3 and 4 quarter note rhythms in a down stroke with a loose wrist.  He sometimes gently picks the strings by playing half notes and whole notes while he keeps his amplifier boosted to medium volume.

“You just make it up as you go – it’s usually not written down,” Richey said. “I don’t sight read or anything like that. I just play it until I remember it. I played a three-part song in a dream one time and I could remember it when I woke up with great clarity, but it was way too hard to play. I wouldn’t eat or sleep until I learned to play it. Otherwise it would have evaporated from memory.”

Richey hails from Atlanta, Texas where he performed with his high school jazz band. In 1952 he became a guitarist for the “Black Bayou Buckaroos.” After graduation, he played started a band called the Cass County Coon Hunters.  The band campaigned with Ralph Yarborough when he ran against Pappy Lee O’Daniels and Price Daniels for the governor of Texas. He attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman where he played with various jazz bands such as The Lime Lighters, The Ramblers, and The Contemporaries. He majored first in petroleum engineering, then business, and philosophy before he finally graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in education.

He moved to Seattle from Oklahoma in 1965. Richey played only two gigs in Washington before other career interests distracted him.

“I went off the musical path for a while,” Richey said. “I had a booking agency, then stores, then a recording studio. I quit playing for 25 years.”

In 1972 he was awarded the title of “outstanding soloist” at the Oklahoma University Jazz Festival judged by Leonard Feather and Buddy DeFranco, with whom he jammed with on stage. He doesn’t sing anymore; he has a gravely spoken voice since undergoing two surgeries on his vocal cords.

In 1984 he played fiddle with renowned composer and symphony conductor David Amram at the Kerrville Folk Festival where Richey regained his taste for playing.

“He (Amram) never heard me play guitar, but he recommended me for house guitarist for a jazz festival in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I bought a $125 electric guitar to play that gig,” Richey said.

After returning home to Fort Worth, he joined a “bebop” rehearsal group at the famous jazz venue, The Caravan of Dreams. With picking partner, Dave Lincoln, together they started a Tuesday night jazz jam at The Hop, in town.

“My music is influenced by jazz, but I’ve played pop music, hillbilly, country, and swing. My influences were Billy Holiday, Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan, and Stuff Smith,” Richey said.

Richey moved to Austin and performed with the Jazz Pharaohs for 16 years off and on. In 1996 he went on tour with Don Mcalister Jr.’s band to Europe, traveling throughout Switzerland, Italy and Sicily.

Richey met Meaux Jeaux at a party in Fort Worth and the two moved to Driftwood in Hays County in 1992. Soon afterwards, he formed his “dream ensemble,” which he first called The Cat’s Meow band with Edmondson and Gimble, before Sharp joined.

Richey fathered 12 children and married twice before Meaux Jeaux. The couple has two children: Sara and Jordan Baxter, 33-year-old twins, of Austin. Most of his other 12 children live in California along with his ex-wives. However, his 42-year son, Tom Richey, a guitarist like his father, lives in Arlington.

In March, The Jitterbug Vipers won the “fourth best performing jazz band in Austin,” according to The Austin Chronicle’s Music Awards.  Jones took ninth place on drums in the same poll.

In 2011 The Jitterbug Vipers  won second best performing jazz band in the same music poll. Meaux Jeaux took eighth place on bass, and Sharp won seventh place in vocals, while Richey took sixth place in the city as a guitarist.

~   Jitterbug Viper schedule of performances ~  

WEDNESDAY August 28, 2013

7 — 9:30 p.m.

Lamberts, 401 W 2nd Street. Austin, TX. (512) 494-1500 No cover.

SATURDAY August 31, 2013

7 – 10 p.m.

TAG’s 5th Anniversary Party (Texan’s for Accountable Government.) Anderson Mill Tavern, 10401 Anderson Mill Road, Suite #121, Austin, TX. $20 cover.

WEDNESDAY September 4, 2013

7 — 9:30 p.m.

Lamberts, 401 W 2nd Street. Austin, TX.  Phone: 494-1500  No cover.

THURSDAY September 5, 2013

6 —  8 p.m.

The Elephant Room, 315 North Congress, Austin, TX.  (512) 473-2279.  No cover.

FRIDAY September 6, 2013

6:30 — 8:30 p.m.

The Elephant Room, 315 North Congress, Austin, TX. (512) 473-2279.  No cover.

MONDAY September 9, 2013


The Internet show, “Vipers At Noon”, Internet streaming LIVE show.

Streams live from Sarah’s living room the second Monday of every month.

Live in Asia, Europe, Eurasia, Africa, South America, and North America.

WEDNESDAY September 11, 2013

Time TBA

Aqua Serene, 2836 W. 11th, Eugene, OR. (541) 302-9073

THURSDAY (September 12. 2013)

noon — 1 p.m.

Aqua Serene, 2836 W. 11th, Eugene, OR. (541) 302-9073

THURSDAY September 12. 2013

2:40 p.m.

Jitterbug Vipers LIVE radio performance in-studio:

at KLCC, 89.7 FM Eugene, OR.

THURSDAY September 12, 2013

Evening time TBA

Jazz Station, 124 W. Broadway, Eugene, OR. $10 cover

SATURDAY September 14, 2013

9 p.m.

Alhambra Theater, 4811 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR  503-360-1450 . $8 ticket. 

WEDNESDAY  September 18, 2013.

6:30 — 9 p.m.

The Continental Club. Austin, TX.

1315 South Congress. 441-2444.  No cover.

SATURDAY September 21, 2013

7 – 10 p.m.

Ino’z Brew and Chew.

14004 Ranch Road 12, Wimberley, TX. (512) 847-6060 No cover.

MONDAY  September 23, 2013

6:30 —  8:30 p.m.

at the Elephant Room,

315 North Congress, Austin, TX.  (512) 473-2279.  No cover.

TUESDAY September 24, 2013

5 p.m.

8th Annual HAAM Benefit Day.

Maria’s Taco Express, 2529 S Lamar Blvd  Austin, TX. (512) 444-0261

Many Great bands: The Shoulders, The Wild Seeds, The American People, The Painted Redstarts, Finley Sexton, Grace London, Gypsy, Johnny Goudie, Ariel Herrera, and Skyline!

Free concert. Donations.

WEDNESDAY September 25, 2013

9:30 a.m.

Good Day Austin

KTBC  Fox 7 TV station

WEDNESDAY September 25, 2013

6:30 — 9 p.m.

The Continental Club

The Jitterbug Vipers with the keyboardist Connor Forsyth.

1315 South Congress. 441-2444  No cover.

FRIDAY September 27, 2013

9 — 12 noon

17th annual Texas Heritage Music Day,

at the Robbins-Lewis Pavilion at Schreiner University campus

in Kerrville, 2100 Memorial Blvd (HWY-27) Free.

FRIDAY September 27, 2013

6 – 8 p.m.

at the Elephant Room, 315 North Congress, Austin, TX. 512 473-2279.   No cover.

WEDNESDAY October 2, 2013

 6:30 – 9 p.m.

The Continental Club., 1315 South Congress. (512) 441-2444.

With keyboardist Connor Forsyth. No cover.

TUESDAY October 22, 2013

7 — 7:45 p.m.

Hotel Café, 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd. Hollywood, CA  (323) 461-2040, Cover $10 

WEDNESDAY October 30, 2013

6:30 — 9 p.m.

The Continental Club, 1315 South Congress. (512) 441-2444.

with the keyboardist Connor Forsyth.  No cover

SATURDAY November 9, 2013

Time TBA

10th Annual Rice Festival presented by Cabin 10

held in Fischer Hall, downtown Fischer, Texas.


November 28 Through the first week in December, The Jitterbug Vipers will tour England, then Italy.


Published on Austin Fusion magazine at

Beekeepers sponsor Tour De Hives Aug. 17

8 Aug

by Donna Marie Miller

Thousands of bees buzz just inches away from Tanya Phillips’ face on a recent hot August afternoon. They carry golden pollen from native wildflowers to hives located on her property just off U.S. Highway 290 in Oak Hill.

She peers into an observation hive that her husband, Chuck Reburn created. It allows Phillips to watch her bees safely from behind a sheet of clear glass as they reproduce and make honey in their human-made habitat.

Still, other bees exit and roam from the hive, zipping and zizzing through the air around Phillips’ head.

Phillips and Reburn, who own Bee Friendly Austin, a certified naturally grown apiary in Oak Hill, will co-sponsor Tour De Hives Saturday Aug. 17, beginning at 8 a.m. on their property located at 9874 Wier Loop Circle in Oak Hill. The Facebook address is:

The event will kick off with honey and mead tasting, beehive tours and basic introduction classes to beekeeping. Self-guided participants will sign waivers to visit bee yards within a 20-mile radius of the state’s Capitol until 2 p.m. using flyers with maps and directions. This is not a pet-friendly event and Phillips advises participants to leave them at home.

Phillips will provide some training presentations and a few vendors will also provide equipment used for harvesting and will allow tasting of honey products. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for The Bee Friendly Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports scientific education, public awareness, humane treatment of bees, sustainability, and the collection of honey from bees.

The Phillips-Reburn business web address is: Information about the classes Phillips teaches and the hives that Reburn sells can be found at:

Phillips and Reburn represent just two Austinites who enjoy beekeeping. They plan to introduce others to nine other local beekeepers as part of the Tour De Hives. Participants will caravan to various homes in Austin to observe backyard beekeeping.

“I started this whole vision of The Tour De Hives. We like being on the leading edge of ‘cool.’ We did ‘back yard chickens’ (farming)  in the city before it got trendy and now back yard bees are the next Austin ‘funky thing’ and we think it’s time to get folks started because the bees need us,” Phillips says.

The Tour De Hives will also coincide Aug. 17 with “National Honey Bee Day.” Phillips hopes people will be inspired. Future beekeepers can order their bees in December, receive them by March and build up a strong colony by next summer.

“We hope this first annual Tour De Hives will lead to a bigger and better one next year,” Phillips says. “The trend is happening. We know this because we participate in all kinds of groups and organizations connected to beekeeping through and”

Some of the groups are Austin Area Beekeepers, San Marcos Bee Wranglers, Central Texas Beekeepers and FayCo Beekeepers of Fayette County.

Some of the focus groups hope to alter the global-wide decline of honeybees. Scientific researchers have blamed genetically modified seeds, environmental influences, and pests such as the varroa mite, according to Brit Amos, author of “Death of the Bees. Genetically Modified Crops and the Decline of Bee Colonies in North America,” published Aug. 9, 2011 on

“Our goal with the Bee Friendly Foundation is to create a grant that a college student of entomology can receive to study bees and that research will benefit bees,” Phillips says. “Like an assistant professor of apiculture in the department of entomology at Texas A&M University.”

The foundation’s website address is:

Other beekeepers, like Phillips and Reburn, farm honey as a sustainable food source as well. The couple hopes to move to their farmland near Big Bend National Park within three years and start living “off the grid,” she says. Their future mountainous desert home has solar energy, a rainwater collection system, and area to plant a large garden and to care for bees.

At Phillips’ current home in Oak Hill, bees fly towards a metal water tank, like those reserved for cattle. The bees land on top of a concrete hexagonal-shaped island designed specifically for bees in the pond’s center surrounded by water.

“They’ve left the hive. They’re foragers, they’re female. We don’t really have any male bees right now. It’s not drone season yet. So you probably won’t see the boys,” Phillips says chuckling a bit.

“This floats in our pond for the bees, so they won’t drown. Unlike the wasps –

they will fly down and can land on the water and they can take off, but bees can’t do that.”

Phillips doesn’t run nor hide from the bees. She’s affectionately given all five of her personal beehives names – such as “Bee-yonce,” “Bee-onca,” “Ona-bee,” “Bee-atrice,” and “May-bee.”

The exits on hives face the very same direction forming a parallel line, northeast along a barbed wire fence that surrounds the Phillips-Reburn property. Phillips gets inches away from one hive with two holes in it that bees enter and exit.

When she’s simply observing the bees, she wears just shorts and a T-shirt, no protective bee farming gear. The largest of her hives has three additional holes, currently plugged with corks.

“If you get enough bees, you can open more holes,” she says. “But you don’t want to open more holes than they (the bees) have the ability to guard.”

Since she started keeping beehives in May, the numbers of bees living in each her colonies has remained small – less than 30,000 per hive.

“I was supposed to be the only bee keeper,” Phillips says. “But as soon as Chuck started studying bees, he was like ‘I’m gonna’ do bees too.’  And he kinda goes crazy; when Chuck does something, he does it all the way.”

In the last three months, Reburn has built 12 Langstroth style hives, large rectangle-shaped wood boxes that stack vertically to provide eight frames each for bees to create combs.

According to Oscar H. Will III, author of  “The 2011 Guide To Backyard Bees and Honey,” published on, the Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth designed the modular structures in the mid 1800s in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Though Langstroth never profited from his patent, apiarists still consider him “the Father of bee keeping.

Reburn also built nuc hives, smaller starter wooden ones shaped like hat boxes. He will more than likely combine the bees living in his nucs with his other hives to strengthen them for the winter, Phillips says.

“What I build or what we are using are these eight-frame ‘mediums,’ so it’s a little narrower than the old-school ones, which make them a little lighter,” Reburn says. “They’ve got aluminum tops that I’ve built on all of mine and I’ve got an inner cover that is set up so I can actually feed through the top of them in the dearth when I’m first starting out a hive and feeding them sugar water. And I do all cedar construction on my boxes. Hopefully they’ll last quite a while that way.”

Reburn built Phillips’ top bar hives, modeled after a centuries-old form of human-made beehives that originated in Greece, according to Peter Sieling, who wrote “A Brief History of the Top Bar Hive,” published on

The top bar hives consist of a series of 1 and 3/8-inch wooden slats laid horizontally on top of a wood box to allow bees to build combs separately inside.

“The bees are calmer and easier. You’re lifting just one bar at a time when you’re opening the hive, so it’s really light; it’s not heavy like lifting a whole box,” Phillips says.

In order to open and close the handmade wooden hives Phillips sometimes subdues the bees using a smoker. The hand-held device burns wood and pieces of raw cotton to create a flameless, cool smoke.

“People think that the smoke calms the bees, but I always say ‘I don’t think it calms the bees.’ One, they don’t have eyelids, so it hurts the bees; and two, they release a pheromone called an ‘alarm pheromone’ and it masks the alarm scent, so the bees can’t smell (and say) – ‘oh my god, there’s danger, danger around.’ So it kind of confuses them. So it hurts their eyes and it confuses them,” Phillips says.

Reburn often uses propane lighter to light the smoker.

“There’s these wood pellets that we use: I think it’s almost like an animal bedding that they sell in a compressed wood pellet with a little bit of wood scraps,” Reburn says. “And then I add a little bit of cotton in there. There’s raw cotton you can use as well. But the wood scraps work real well, if you can get ‘em lit. That’s the trick. You don’t use much and we don’t use it if we don’t have to.”

When opening up the hives, Phillips uses a protective suit.

“I don’t like to get stung,” she says. “So I researched a little bit about what is the best suit to buy and decided for Texas I wanted an Ultra Breeze® (suit.) It does let a little bit of air in, but it’s sandwiched waffle material – it has an inner layer, a waffle layer, and another layer so the bees can’t get through. And if they did sting one, it still wouldn’t get through all three places.”

She likes the Ultra Breeze® bee suit because zippers run from hip to ankle, making it easy to get in and out of quickly. The gear also allows easy access to pockets, with Velcro snap closures at the wrists and ankles. Phillips usually wears boots and long socks underneath the suit, to prohibit bees from attempting to enter her suit from the ground. The spacious suit also features a special zipper-sealed hood with a form-fitted enclosure or mask kept away from the face.

“The other thing I like about this suit that I haven’t found anywhere else is the face mask has a bottom stiffener. Most of them have this one (the stiffening arc brace around the head,) but they don’t have this one, (the one across the chin,)” Phillips says.

“Unfortunately, it sells for $259 and you cannot find it cheaper. But it’s the best and I’ve never been stung through my suit.”

She thinks that she has been stung on the back of her hand through the gloves, she says.

“When they sting you through the gloves, it’s not sticking the stinger (in) real deep, so it doesn’t hurt. When they sting you, their whole abdomen detaches and that leaves it in your skin. That’s why if you leave it in there, it’s still pumping the liquid in you,” Phillips says.

“So you just want to real carefully, grab the abdomen and pull it back out, or slide it out like with a credit card, or your fingernail and pull the stinger out and it (the pain) goes away right away. Honey bee stings hardly hurt at all and they hurt for a very short time.”

She says the pain one feels from a honeybee sting is nothing like any received from a wasp or hornet. The less a beekeeper disturbs a hive, the better. Most hives require little maintenance after the first year, about one visit every two months.

Phillips says that when opening up a hive, she immediately locates the queen, the largest bee, the one with a large golden-colored abdomen usually found closest to the larvae, or bee “babies.” The life span of a female honeybee from egg to adult ready to leave the cells of a honeycomb spans 21 days, she says.

“For three days it’s an egg, then a larva, then it starts out as a white bee – it’s so cool and then it changes into the bee that we see now,” Phillips says.

“They (other bees) start shaking her, (a queen) and stop feeding her and pushing her out around the hive. And she’ll start to lose weight. And when she gets thin enough that she can fly, her and half of the bees will take off. It’s called a swarm. They’ll land up in a tree or on a building somewhere and they’ll all hover up like a football or a giant basketball of bees. Then, they’ll sit there and they’ll wait and they’ll send out some scouts. As soon as the scouts find a place to live, they’ll put some pheromone out and then they’ll go and do their little bee dance and tell all the other bees where they’ve found some place to life.”

The swarm of bees will move as one in a formation similar to a tornado in the air until the bees fly into their new location. Once relocated, the bees will sit and fan their wings and spread more pheromones so the rest of the bees can find their way. The rest of the bees will begin feeding a few of the larvae (left by the exiting queen) extra royal jelly to make queen cells. Typically the first or strongest queen born will kill the rest of the queens and take over as the new queen of the hive.  The life cycle of a queen honeybee is 16 days; drones, the male bees, take 24 days and are much larger.

Phillips says she and Reburn will take calls from people to remove a swarm of bees and relocate them safely. She says she and Reburn cannot offer “cutout” services or remove established bee colonies from their hives – such as the inside walls of structures. That takes a special professional removal team.

“We like to pick up swarms,” Phillips says. “But we don’t do cutouts. We don’t do that. Some places do that, but we are more about beekeeping for the bees than us. We’re not beekeeping as a life-supporting business. If we make enough money to help the bees, that’s all we care about.”

Phillips says that most people who are afraid of bees don’t know enough about them. Those who learn about them, often end up wanting to help the bees. At the Tour De Hives, Phillips plans to offer some classes in an air-conditioned building led by PowerPoint.


Bees depend upon human relationships

“Bees are about relationships and working together to achieve sustainability. I think the world will need a lot more of that to survive and thrive for future generations,” Phillips says.

Phillips and Reburn introduced their neighbors Bill and Sharon Stanberry to bee keeping recently. The Stanberrys keep two hives just down the road.

“Tanya and Chuck raise bees and we’ve talking about it for some time. I wanted to put some in my back yard in Western Oaks and thought we’d try a couple of hives over here first,” Bill Stanberry says.

“Tanya and Chuck have been very, very supportive and helpful – good trainers. So it has been a good learning experience; it looks like we’re going to have honey.”

Phillips says both she and the Stanberrys will allow their bees to keep their honey for the first year, but will harvest the hives during their second year. She plans to take as much as 20 to 30 pounds of honey from each of her hives after their second year of production.

Phillips and Reburn will co-sponsor Tour De Hives with BeeWeavers Apiary of Dripping Springs; owners Danny and Laura Weaver plan to add their new bee farm, mercantile, and learning center to one of the stops on the tour.

Before Phillips invested in her apiary and started her non-profit organization, she took some classes hosted by Dean Cook at Rohan Meadery, one of the vendors who will offer mead tasting as part of Tour De Hives.


to present at Tour De Hives Austin

Rohan Meadery

  6002 Farm to Market 2981La Grange, TX 78945(979) 249-5652

John and Wendy Rohan, owners of Rohan Meadery just outside of LaGrange, represents the first its generation of meaderies to process Texas honey into wine. Since the Rohans opened in 2009, four other meaderies have followed and soon a fifth will open in Austin.

The Rohans formed the Texas Mead Association and also sponsor a Mead Fest in Sequin during the month of September as part of National Honey Bee Month. They also are members of the Fayette County Beekeeper (FayCoBeeks) Association.

The Rohans built a tasting room in 2010 nestled between Round Top and LaGrange. The company produces 12 different mead varieties; including traditional mead fermented from honey alone and 11 other fermented fruit meads that include:

The Rohans make their meads from Texas Wildflower honey and Texas Huajilla honey. They also collect honey from hives on their own property and some from the Reed Family Honey farm in Montgomery County. Otherwise, the Rohans use only a small portion of an orange-blend honey from Florida mixed in the peach-flavored mead they make.

When the Rohans attend the Tour De Hives Aug. 17 they won’t bring all 12 varieties of mead with them. The company can’t keep all varieties in stock long enough to have more than five or six types of meads on hand at any one time. Right now, the Rohans plan to bring five types of mead with them to town next week, Wendy Rohan says.

Fermented honey, considered a wine in the state of Texas, takes anywhere from six months to a year to process. In terms of quantity, the Rohans’ production varies every year because it depends upon the honey supply. They processed about 500 cases last year – or 12 bottles per case, at about 750 ml per standard wine bottle.

“We’re tiny. We’re the tiniest winery you can imagine, very tiny for a winery,” Rohan says. “In the past couple of decades, there has been this resurgence in craft brew, crafted alcohols – artisanal handmade alcohol, whether it’s spirits, or grains and beers. We need to thank of the craft brewers; they have expanded the palates of what people consider flavorful. They’ve pushed people to try things that have flavor and complexity.”

The Rohans use either one of two processes to create their mead. The honey is fermented first by itself for a couple of months and then they add fruit juice or they ferment fruit juice and the honey together. The process just depends upon the type of mead that the Rohans choose to make at any time, she says.

“Honey is the number one show-stealer — by volume or weight — it is the number one ingredient in all our meads,” she says.  “I think the Tour De Hives is a great idea. I’ve met Tanya and Chuck on a number of occasions. John and I think they’re great people. We hope to support the event anyway that we can.”

BeeWeaver Apiaries – Hill Country location

3700 McGregor Lane

Dripping Springs, Texas 78620

(866) 547-3376

Bee Goods Mercantile –

6301 Highland Hills DriveAustin, TX  78731 547-3376

Danny and Laura Weaver represent fourth generation beekeepers that own three locations in Texas associated with both BeeWeaver Apiaries and Bee Goods Mercantile: one in Dripping Springs, another in Navasota near College Station, and still another non-retail Austin location where they house bees. The Weaver children will likely become the family’s fifth generation bee farmers.

The Dripping Springs location is currently being renovated. The family has hives and equipment on the land, but it is not completed. Eventually the family plans to teach lessons, said Central Texas beekeeper, Andrew Shahan.

He manages the bees at Dripping Springs and teaches one-on-one beekeeping courses on client properties or at the BeeWeaver facilities.

The BeeWeaver company also sells equipment on its website and will ship it to bee farmers.

When Shahan received his bachelors degree in entomology from University of Florida in 2012 he contacted the Weavers in Texas because they are internationally known for their queen breeding. He’s 24 years old and the first beekeeper in his family.

“My family thought I was a little bit crazy when I told them that I was really into bugs, but they all love it now,” Shahan says.

One of the largest facets of the BeeWeaver family business involves selling bees. Shahan and the Weavers ship queen bees around the world. Most of their clients – about 50 percent – are based only in Texas and the company also serves beekeepers around the world, he says.

Typically, beekeeping has been passed down from generation to generation within families, but that’s changing in Texas, especially.

Shahan said the company ships “a lot of bees” – alive each week by U.S. Postal Service or UPS. Each box has 3 pounds of bees and a queen along sugar water when it arrives. It’s a tricky feat; but people need to think months ahead in this business.

“Spring time is when people should start new colonies. If someone wants to start a new colony with BeeWeaver queens, they need to order their bees in September. The way beekeeping works, bees don’t start building up their colonies until springtime. So you pre-order in September, saving your spot to get some bees, but we don’t ship until the first week of April,” Shahan says.

“People are getting on board with beekeeping. That’s why my job was created. There are so many beekeepers in Central Texas and there are only a few courses. I’m not aware of anyone else who offers one-on-one courses like I do. There is a movement towards beekeeping in Central Texas.”

Younger people seem to be taking an keen interest in beekeeping, what used to be considered an older person’s vocation. While owning one’s own queen bee may be causing a buzz worldwide, in Austin overall interests in growing and crafting ones own food sources reign supreme, he says.

“At one time, all the beekeepers were older, farming men who had been beekeepers for decades and owned thousands of hives. Today, the new beekeeper is your middle-aged or young person who has heard about the loss of all the bees around the country and in the world and typically keep just a few hives. They’re interested in helping keep the bee population healthy,” Shahan says. “And in Austin, more young people are interested in growing and sustaining their own food supplies.”

Beekeeper terminology:

  • Apiary – a bee yard that includes bees, hives and equipment used for their sustainability
  • Beehive – a place where a colony of bees live and thrive, human made or nature made
  • Beeswax – secretions from a worker bee’s body used to build a comb
  • Brood – a name for immature bees who live inside the cells of a comb
  • Comb – a mass of six-sided sells that contains the brood, as well as stored honey
  • Drone – the male honey bee
  • Dearth – a feeder containing a 1:1 ratio of sugar water for bees in a human-made bee hive
  • Honey – a sweet material produced by bees from the nectar of flowers that contains both minerals, vitamins, proteins and enzymes
  • Hive beetle – a destructive pest of honey bee colonies, they cause damage to the comb, pollen, and honey
  • Langstroth hive –a style of human-made bee hive only a few centuries old that features a box designed from wood with a series of ten removable frames inside it, all covered by a canopy or roof with one entrance in or out.
  • Larva – a white, legless, grub-like insect and the second stage of a bee’s metamorphosis
  • Life cycle – the development of a bee from an egg to an adult, when it leaves its cell, takes a total of 21 days including: a) hatching = 3 days, b) larva = 5 days, c) pupa = 13 days.
  • Nuc hive – a smaller size human-made bee hive made from a wooden box with only five frames inside it,  built Langstroth style.
  • Scouts – worker bees that search for a new home hive
  • Smoker – a device that produces a flameless, cool smoke that subdues bees in a hive by masking the scent of a beekeeper as well as the alarm pheromones of the colony’s bees
  • Stinger – the barb at the end of the abdomen of a bee that contains the apitoxin and results in the release of “alarm pheromones” and the insect’s fatality
  • Swarm – a collection of a single queen, drones and worker bees that leave a colony to await a new home hive to be discovered by scouts
  • Top-bar hive – a several thousand years-old style of human-made hive created from wood or other materials for the purpose of beekeeping, designed with a series of removable wood slats each anywhere from 1.25 to 1.38 inches wide placed on top.
  • Queen – a female bee with a complete reproductive system that lays all of the fertilized eggs in a hive
A beekeeper pulls a comb filled with honey as well as larva ("bee babies" for viewing.

A beekeeper pulls a comb filled with honey as well as larva (“bee babies” for viewing.

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