Tag Archives: Austin

Craig Hillis at Southwestern Historical Quarterly reviewed my book

16 Oct

The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk. By Donna Marie Miller.
(College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2017. Pp. 256. Illustrations,
notes bibliography, index.)

Donna Marie Miller has written a very good and essential book. It is a
story of a native Austin family, the bar and restaurant business that patriarch
James White opened in 1964, and the countless characters both on
and off the stage who have populated this legendary honky-tonk for more
than half a century.
It is a good book because it is well researched, well organized, and well
written. Over a twenty-seven month period, Miller collected more than
one hundred oral histories from the White family and from employees,
patrons, and musicians and their representatives, thereby creating a valuable
trove of primary source data. She carefully explored the main currents
of Texas cultural history and Austin music history. Additionally, she
sought out films, videos, and audio recordings that were relevant to her
story.
Miller organized the book in seven sections, delineated by decades, and
within each section she wove together three dominant themes she calls
“braids.” The first covers local, state, and national events as they affected
the evolution of the Broken Spoke and the growth of the Austin music
scene. The “center thread” (11) depicts the life and times of the White
family, and the third braid presents the cast of characters—employees,
patrons, dancers, musicians—and their role in the story. This “braided
narrative structure” (11) enables the reader to experience the interplay
of the three story lines in a common historical setting.
Miller writes in an accessible and direct journalistic style. Her comprehensive
research is evident through her command of the material and
her free-flowing narrative. She sprinkles enough spice and lighthearted
anecdotes through the story to hold the reader’s interest and keep the
pages turning.
The Broken Spoke is an essential book because it analyzes a live music
venue, and in Texas, especially in Austin, the live music venue is the essential
cog in the wheel of our vibrant music scene. Whether a small folk club,
a rock ‘n’ roll joint, a multi-thousand seat concert hall, or a venerable
honky-tonk, these locations provide the economic bedrock upon which all
other aspects of the music scene unfold: the paychecks to musicians that
in turn underwrite managers, agents, music publishers, producers, studio
engineers, and related audio and video projects. Live music revenues
translate into musical instrument sales, advertising produced by copywriters,
graphic artists, and printing companies, and countless other commercial
enterprises that account for Austin’s multi-million dollar annual
entertainment and tourism industry. Miller successfully portrays how the
activities of the White family, the personnel and patrons at the club, and
an endless stream of musicians come together to facilitate the role that
the “Spoke” plays in the local and national music community.
Miller’s book calls the Broken Spoke “Austin’s Legendary Honky-
Tonk,” a bar, a restaurant, a “real country joint” (4), and “the last of the
true Texas dance halls” (6). It is also a home away from home for some
of country music’s biggest stars, a showcase for up and coming acts, a
blue-collar country club, an after-hours conference room for Texas legislators,
a country dance studio, a community center, and a country music
museum.
Most importantly, The Broken Spoke is a quintessential American story.
It is an authentic Norman Rockwell-like portrait of a strong, dedicated
family whose work ethic, commitment to each other, and shared vision
are now fueling a third generation. Having survived and thrived in an
extremely tough business, the Whites have nurtured a Texas tradition. The
Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk is an essential companion to
any student or enthusiast of Texas music and cultural history.
Austin, Texas Craig Hillis

Gallery

Rotary Club of Austin book talk 8.14.2018

16 Aug

James White and I talked about the Broken Spoke for members the Rotary Club of Austin Aug. 14, 2018 following their regularly scheduled luncheon at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th Street in Austin. Ben Stafford Rodgers also sang a few classic country songs. Afterwards we sold and signed books.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Gallery

My SXSW 2018 presentation and book signing 3.13.2018

28 Mar

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My book launch party April 22, 2017

10 Feb

Texas A&M Un3rdcoverrevisionmiller_jkt5-2iversity Press and I launched my book, The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk, Saturday April 22 at the Broken Spoke, 3201 South Lamar Blvd.  Book signings were provided by James and Annetta White and myself.

Ben Rogers played for tips in the dining room from 6 to 8 p.m. Terri White offered dance lessons in the dance hall at 8 p.m. for $8 per person. Afterwards, Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys performed in the dance hall  for an additional $12 per person cover charge. 

Order books at: http://www.tamupress.com/product/Broken-Spoke,8735.aspx

 

My review of the book, Pickers & Poets, posts to Elmore magazine

31 Jan

Pickers & Poets: The Ruthlessly Poetic Singer-Songwriters of TexTroubadours and Texas music lovers will adore this collection of essays assembled and edited by Craig Clifford and Craig D. Hillis, Pickers & Poets: The Ruthlessly Poetic Singer-Songwriters of Texas. Several different writers pay homage to some of the veteran songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s who began their careers within the Lone Star State. Hillis, an author and guitarist who has toured and recorded with a few of the book’s highlighted artists, provides insights about Steven Fromholz, Michael Martin Murphey, Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson. Clifford, also an author and working musician/singer/songwriter who holds a standing day gig as a professor of philosophy at Tarleton State University, adds his authoritative perspectives about Nelson, Kinky Friedman, Walt Wilkins, Hayes Carll, Ryan Bingham, and Miranda Lambert.

My personal favorite penned by Clifford, “Beyond the Rivers,” portends that modern songwriters seem “caught up in the pseudo-country tropes of pickups and painted on jeans.” He also claims today’s mainstream country gives spotlight mostly to the young and the beautiful. Jeff Prince discusses the role of “iconic cultural happenings” or music festivals that introduce fans to lyric-driven songs too unique or obscure for radio play. Kathryn Jones, in “Roots of Steel: The Poetic Grace of Women Texas Singer-Songwriters,” calls Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Terri Hendrix, Nanci Griffith, Tish Hinojosa and Eliza Gilkyson “trail-blazers.” She claims they refuse to be pigeonholed in “the good ‘ol boys club” of influential music circles in a male-dominated industry.

Andy Wilkinson explains in a feverish stream of consciousness narrative why the Texas Panhandle, namely the Llano Estacado of Lubbock, per capita has produced so many songwriters thanks to its great expanse of land, the wind, and a culture composed of mostly friendly people. While some songwriters have had to leave the state to find their audiences, others simply have jumped into Austin’s musical stew pot. This book promises a tantalizing feast to satisfy avid readers of nonfiction musical history.

Also please see my article posted on Elmore magazine’s website at:

http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2017/01/reviews/books/pickers-poets-the-ruthlessly-poetic-singer-songwriters-of-texas

My review of Dale Watson’s new CD posts to Elmore

6 Dec

Dale Watson – Elmore MagazineHonky-tonk singer, songwriter, guitarist and Lone Star beer aficionado Dale Watson provides a stout and tasty remix of 12 country music classics with his newest CD, Under the Influence. Watson covers his favorite artists’ songs that span more than 50 years – from Bob Wills’ 1939, “That’s What I Like About the South,” to Merle Haggard’s last top 40 hit of 1989, “If You Want to be My Woman.” Watson intoxicates listeners with Mel Tillis’ (Wine) Pretty Red Wine and Ronnie Milsap’s 1974 hit, “Pure Love.” The silver-haired crooner with an Elvis pompadour charms with dizzy abandon on Conway Twitty’s 1960 hit, “Lonely Blue Boy.” With earnest, he performs Lefty Frizzell’s 1958, “You’re Humbuggin’ Me,” and Little Richard’s “Lucille,” last recorded by Waylon Jennings in 1977.

The Lone Stars – Don Pawlak on pedal steel, Mike Bernal on drums and percussion and Chris Crepps on upright bass and background vocals – join him on the album, along with Earl Poole Ball on piano and T. Jarod Bonta on piano. Watson rose to international fame with his 2013 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman and breakout hit single, “I Lie When I Drink.” The founder of Ameripolitan music tours 300 days per year, and often plays Austin’s Broken Spoke or the Big T Roadhouse near San Antonio.

Also please see my review posted on Elmore magazine’s website at:

http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2016/12/reviews/albums/dale-watson-3

Elmore posts my story about the Feb. 4 private Willie Nelson concert

12 Feb

Elmore Magazine | Willie Nelson and Asleep At The WheelAbout 200 very lucky country music fans were treated to a private concert by Willie Nelson, Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel February 4th at the famed Broken Spoke; Thursday nights in February will never feel so hot again in Austin, Texas. The founder of Girling Home Health Care Inc. sponsored the city’s biggest private event of the year at its oldest and most beloved honky tonk. Unable to attend her own birthday party due to the onset of sudden illness, Bettie Girling, the widow of the late Robert Girling, watched the party via Skype from her bed at home across town. Nevertheless, Nelson and Benson sang “Happy Birthday” to Bettie together with all of her invited guests who also enjoyed a barbecue feast and spirited drinks. For about an hour and a half and just inches away from his audience, Nelson sang a hit parade of songs that marked more than 50 years of his professional music career, beginning with the 1961 number one hit, “Hello Walls,” followed by “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” (1975) and “On The Road Again” (1980).

The 82-year-old Red Headed Stranger closed the night with an intimate crowd sing-along on “The Party’s Over,” a song Nelson wrote and Claude Gray first recorded in 1959. All evening Benson accompanied Willie on guitar and backup vocals together with keyboard player Emily Gimble, the daughter of the late Texas Playboy Johnny Gimble. Other Asleep at the Wheel members included fiddler Katie Shore, steel player Eddie Rivers, mandolin and fiddle player Dennis Ludicker and David Sanger on drums. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and his wife, Cecilia, also made a brief appearance together at the celebration, flanked by several Travis County deputies. Dozens of other local celebrities, including writer/actor/filmmaker Turk Pipkin sat on the dance floor to take photos up close and personal. Closing time came early – 10 o’clock– at the red, rustic and barn-like Broken Spoke, a 51-year-old icon that has withstood the test of time and new development along a one-mile stretch of South Lamar. Its 76-years young founders, James and Annetta White, both waved goodbye from the porch as dust settled in the Broken Spoke’s dirt parking lot and Nelson’s tour bus left for a Feb. 9 appearance in Charlotte, N.C. a.

Please also see my article as it appears on Elmore magazine’s website by following this link:

http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2016/02/reviews/shows/willie-nelson-and-asleep-at-the-wheel

My interview with Cindy Cashdollar posted to Elmore

25 Mar

BESTCindy Cashdollar    Texas Guitar Women toasted some teary goodbyes Feb. 19 while regaling joyous stories of the good old days at the One2One Bar in Austin with five-time Grammy award winner and resonator and steel guitar player Cindy Cashdollar.

Cashdollar’s Austin friends officially gave her the boot — albeit a gold-colored and bejeweled one — as they celebrated on stage in front of a standing-room audience at the first of two such parties scheduled for her through March.

The send off party sold out days in advance as news spread that Cashdollar plans to leave town soon for her hometown of Woodstock, NY.

The Texas Guitar Women members included: bass player Sarah Brown, guitarist and singer/songwriter Shelley King, and drummer Lisa Pankratz, and guitarist/singer Carolyn Wonderland. Special guests included pianist and singer Marcia Ball and guitarist and singer Rosie Flores, who joined up halfway through the show.

Those who missed this party have a second chance when Johnny Nicholas & Hell Bent hold another send off for Cashdollar March 25 at Saxon Pub where Cashdollar has been performing most Wednesday nights with him and his band.

As one of the most famous female resonator and steel guitar players of all time, Cashdollar traverses the genres of blues, bluegrass, Cajun, country, folk, jazz, rock, roots, soul and Western Swing music.

Cashdollar has contributed to dozens of album recordings, three movie sound tracks, four instructional DVDs, and has performed on stage with some of the biggest names in the industry throughout a professional music career that spans nearly 30 years.

In an exclusive interview with Elmore magazine, Cashdollar said she soon plans to record a second album as a follow up to her debut CD, Slide Show.

Guests who performed on Slide Show read like a who’s who list of Americana and roots musicians including: Sonny Landreth, Marcia Ball, Lucky Oceans, Mike Auldridge, Redd Volkaert, Herb Remington, Jorma Kaukonen, and Steve James.

She plans to return to Austin as frequently as she can, she said.

   “There’s no way that I could ever leave Austin and not come back,” Cashdollar said. “There’s too many good things to just shut the door and go.”

She will return to her hometown of Woodstock, NY after living in Austin 23-years to live closer to her family and her significant other, Harvey Citron, of Citron Guitars.

“I’m still going to be working, that’s for sure. When you’re a musician – most musicians any way – you have to keep working. It’s funny because everybody thinks I’m retiring, but no, not at all,” she said.

While in her late 30s, Austin became her home base in 1992, after Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel hired her to go on the road. She spent eight and a half years with ASAW before leaving the band in 2000.

Since then she has performed and or recorded with Ryan Adams, Dave Alvin, Marcia Ball, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Van Morrison, Jorma Kaukonen, Daniel Lanois, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Leon Redbone, Peter Rowan, BeauSolieil, Rod Stewart, and Redd Volkaert to name a few.

Cashdollar became the first woman inducted into the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2011 and she also was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

   “Austin is this incredible pool of so many talented singers, songwriters, musicians and so many great artists in one place. It’s just unbelievable,” she said.

“I’ve had such an amazing time here. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to work with people in Austin and with people outside of Austin. I just feel lucky to have had the best of both worlds.”

After she settles into her Woodstock digs she will hit the road this summer to tour with British guitar player and Grammy award winner Albert Lee and his band.

Cashdollar is her real name. She has been told that the name originated with the Mohawk tribe and Dutch who settled in Upstate New York.

Her fellow musicians on stage often claim that Cashdollar hits perfect notes consistently and that she often tailors her sound to “follow” fellow band mates instinctively to fit her music into the genre being performed.

“Steel guitar is fretless – it’s a very unforgiving instrument. I mean you’re playing all of these guitars with a slide bar so there’s not very much room for error. You’ve got to be in tune,” she said.

   “I really try to listen to a lot of components that are going on. I try to listen to the lyrics, I try to listen to other musicians that I’m playing with and I try to figure out just where can I best fit where I’m adding something instead of overcrowding something that’s going on. That’s the way my brain, or my ears always work.”

Cashdollar also brings several guitars with her to play wherever she performs or records. She possesses an uncanny ability to change guitars often on stage, a feat that boggles the minds of most musicians, as not all guitars are created equally.

“The steel guitar I play has two different necks and two different tunings and eight strings,” she said.

“To me that’s fun. I always like a challenge. The more versatile, the better for me. It’s like cooking. I always compare music to cooking. You can’t really over spice anything unless it’s really called for. I always think of musicianship as being like the spices in a recipe. You want to enhance the recipe or dish. You don’t want to overload it.”

Her career expanded over the last 17 years while contributing to three movie soundtracks including: the Horse Whisperer, in 1998; Elf, in 2003; and This is 40 in 2012.

   She also has made guest appearances with the Guy’s All Star Shoe Band on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion radio series that broadcasts every Saturday. The show airs from 5 to 7 p.m. Central Texas time on National Public Radio (NPR,) and also on Sirius XM satellite radio live from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, MN. Cashdollar admits that the performances kept even her on her toes.

“Being that it’s live radio, things happen at the last minute and you just kind of have to be ready,” she said.

Cashdollar has created four instructional DVDs for Homespun Tapes and she teaches workshops at Fur Peace Ranch in Pomeroy, OH. ResoSummit in Nashville, TN.

Teaching has become an important component of her career, she said.

  “To me to be able to teach and to give people something to take with them is really rewarding,” she said.

“Touring, there generally are a few people at every show that come out and tell me ‘I learned how to play from your instructional DVDs and it is such a wonderful feeling.”

As a teenager, Cashdollar visited a multitude of popular club in Woodstock. She recalls often seeing Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson in the roots rock group The Band; blues singer and harmonica player Paul Butterfield; Northern Irish musician and singer George Ivan “Van” Morrison; guitarist/auto harpist and front man for Lovin’ Spoonful, John Sebastian; blues singer/songwriter Bonnie Raitt, blues songwriter and record producer William James “Willie” Dixon, and father of Chicago blues musician McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield.

“There was this club there called The Joyous Lake in Woodstock where I saw most of the acts when I was probably 15 or 16 years old,” she said. “Nobody worried about ‘carding’ anyone (for legal identification.) I saw all these great players. I think that’s what really where I got my various interests in all kinds of music.”

While in her late 20s, Cashdollar played locally in various Woodstock bands, before landing her first touring gig on a Dobro with one of New York state’s bluegrass band led by singer, songwriter and guitar player John Herald.

She toured with Herald for five years. Throughout the 1960s, Herald wrote songs performed by legendary folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Maria Muldaur and Linda Ronstadt. He died in 2005 at age 65.

Then for five years she toured with blues and jazz artist Leon Redbone.

Cashdollar said she feels obligated to pay forward the favors that she received growing up in the idyllic and magical Catskill Mountains surrounded by musicians during an era when music gave life to every moment.

“It was a beautiful place to grow up. I feel really happy to have grown up there,” she said. “It was a very creative place to be. When I was growing up there was a lot of music, a lot of bands moving there and a lot of artists. That was my college – that was my education.”

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Hell Bent promise special surprise guests for Cashdollar’s final send off at the Saxon Pub at the end of March.

 

Please see my story posted to Elmore magazine’s website by following this link: http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2015/03/features/cindy-cashdollar-bids-austin-farewell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Flatlanders to reunite Sept. 20 at The Paramount

12 Sep

    Gilmore1 Hancock,Glasse,Albert,GilmoreCountry singer, songwriter, actor, recording artist and producer Jimmie Dale Gilmore, plans to reunite with the other original band members from Americana roots band, The Flatlanders, including Butch Hancock and Joe Ely.

    The Flatlanders will present a special concert at 8 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Paramount Theater in Austin.

    It’s been nearly 40 years since Gilmore, Hancock and Ely, began jamming with Steve Wesson who played Autoharp and musical saw, Tony Pearson on mandolin and bassist Syl Rice, to become The Flatlanders.

    In 1972 the band made their musical debut at the Kerrville Folk Festival and won the New Folk Singer/Songwriter Competition. That same year, the Armadillo Beer Garden opened in Austin and The Flatlanders performed during its entire first week.

   “There were six of us originally in the Flatlanders, but only three of us continued with musical careers,” Gilmore said.

     In 1974, Hancock and Ely began their solo careers before Gilmore participated in a spiritual group that was learning the art of meditation from Prem Rawat at his headquarters in Denver.

    “I actually first became connected with one of his disciples in Austin. Then I went and lived in New Orleans for a short while before I went to Denver. I went to Denver because there was a large community of people who were studying with him (Rawat) there,” he said.

    “It (Denver) was the place to study and practice meditation with that group. Early in my music career I had studied Eastern Philosophy. I first became interested in it in the ‘60s and from there, that was the spiritual journey that led me to Denver.”

    He left that community in 1980 and returned to Austin. For a long time, he performed often at the Broken Spoke with his band. Success came to Gilmore slowly. He also had a steady gig every Wednesday night at Threadgill’s on South Lamar.

    “That’s where I got to know a lot of Austin musicians,” Gilmore said. “I did it every week and we had different people sit in to play. Just like we did last night; it was a very similar thing. We had a big following. So that’s why this thing at El Mercado is nostalgic.”

    Throughout the 1990s, the original members of The Flatlanders remained the best of friends in Austin, but they seldom performed together.

    Ely enjoyed success in his solo career while Hancock and Gilmore toured together as a duet. Separately, Gilmore and Hancock also headlined their own bands.

     “There’s this intertwining of many people; there’s so much history. I’ve been playing for such a long time and I’ve done a lot of different things,” Gilmore said.

    From January through April of this year, Gilmore teamed up most Monday nights to perform with Christine Albert and David Carroll at El Mercado South in Austin for weekly nostalgic and musical trips down memory lane.

    Newcomers luckily stumbled upon the unofficial Austin venue during the South-by-Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festival, (SXSW) March 7-16.

    However, members of the three-piece combo had performed acoustic folk music and familiar ballads every week for a year and a half, billed as “Mystery Monday.” The name stems from their tradition of inviting surprise musical guests to sit in on stage.

    The show during SXSW didn’t disappoint patrons, either new nor regular, while they munched tostada chips dipped in spicy homemade-style salsa, ate their fill of Mexican combination plates, and drank foreign ale fermented south of the border or top shelf margaritas.

    Albert and Carroll regularly perform only two sets on stage every week. Occasionally, guitarist/harmonica player and singer/songwriter Butch Hancock hosts the show with guest appearances that change week-to-week.

   “We had a good thing there every week,” Gilmore said. “It’s been really great – consistently amazing.”

     March 10, the mystery guests included Austin’s acoustic and electric mandolinist/composer Paul Glasse and legendary rockabilly guitarist Bill Kirchen, aka: “the Titan of the Telecaster.” Kirchen served as a member of the musical outlaw group, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen from 1967 through the 1970s.

     Albert closes her show with a moving rendition of the Southern Gospel song, “I’ll Fly Away,” written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley.  She sings it as a tribute to friend and former band mate, the late Austin guitarist, singer and songwriter, Sarah Elizabeth Campbell.

    The duo performed it at their final show together last December just before cancer took Campbell’s life.

     Gilmore and his wife, Janet, used to show up regularly at El Mercado South as fans of the Albert and Campbell show. Often Gilmore sat in to play a few tunes with the two who have been his good friends for years.

     In January, Albert asked Gilmore to join her on stage once a week, to keep the show going at El Mercado South. Their combined circle of friends remained otherwise unbroken and has intertwined with multiple members of local bands.

     Albert used to sing in Gilmore’s band in the 1980s with her husband, Chris Gage, and both toured with him. Later, Albert and Gage also produced albums of their own.

    Gilmore has enjoyed at least two musical careers – one as a member of The Flatlanders in the early 1970s and another as a headliner act from the 1990s through the 2000s.

    The Amarillo native grew up in Lubbock and attended Texas Tech University for a short time. Gilmore has known Hancock since they both attended Atkins Junior High and Monterrey High School together in Lubbock.

    In 1964 Gilmore met guitarist and singer/songwriter Joe Ely who also was born in Amarillo and they share musical connections that cemented their life-long bond.

       “Buddy Holly’s father, L.O., financed a demo recording (tape) for me and so I put a band together. The place we hung out and practiced at, was owned by Tommy Nickel and so was band came to be called the ‘T. Nickel House Band.’ We hung out at T. Nickel’s house, so as a joke we called it that. It sounded like a nightclub or something,” Gilmore said. “Some people thought the name was a drug reference, but it wasn’t.”

      That band never did become famous. The T Nickel House Band included: guitarists Gilmore, Ely, John X. Reed, and Jesse “Guitar” Taylor, as well as drummer T.J. McFarland.

     “John X. Reed and I came to Austin together,” Gilmore said. “We didn’t move here, but we visited and played in town. The very first place John and I ever played together in Austin was at Threadgill’s.”

     Gilmore also played in Angela Strehli’s band, Sunnyland Special, in the late 1960s long before her name became associated with Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton, Sue Foley and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Strehli’s Sunnyland Special included Gilmore, Lewis Cowdrey, Taylor and McFarland.

     Opening night Aug. 7, 1970, Gilmore performed with his band, The Hub City Movers, at the Armadillo World Headquarters, once located at 525 and 1/2 Barton Springs Road.  His band had been the last house band to perform during that same summer at The Vulcan Gas Company, then located at 316 Congress Avenue.

    “I was involved in folk music, with folk musicians and rock musicians, and also blues musicians and country musicians. I was connected with so many different groups of people,” Gilmore said.

     Ely and Gilmore have stayed connected throughout the years since meeting in Lubbock.

     “We were actually fans of each other; we used to go hear each other play,” Gilmore said. “We met playing at little dives and coffee houses and boot leg joints in Lubbock. Lubbock was dry, so any place that had any kind of night life was usually illegal.”

    In Lubbock, Gilmore and Ely found a group of creative friends who shared similar interests.

     “He’s (Ely) been one of the treasures of my life,” Gilmore said. “There were plenty of other Bohemian, creative people from Lubbock who kind of banded together in that period.”

     Gilmore and his friends shared common interests including philosophy.

     “For me, philosophy and spirituality have always intermingled. That’s always been part of my deep interests. I was never ever what you might call ‘religious.’”

         Fans in the audience at El Mercado South span years of Gilmore’s, Hancock’s and Albert’s careers.

     “There are so many good friends in my background. The really wonderful thing about this ‘Mystery Monday’ gig is I’ve been able to play with a lot of people that I used to play with regularly. It’s a reunion kind of thing – really beautiful.”

     In the break between the band’s two song sets, two of Gilmore’s friends, a San Francisco-based and country folk duo, known as Wildwood, performed. The duo consists of Desiree Wattis, a Virginia coal miner’s granddaughter, and Avery Hellman, the grand-daughter of the late Warren Hellman, founder of the famous Hardly Strictly Blue Grass Festival of San Francisco — a festival that drew 650,000 people last year.

    “Warren Hellman and I actually made a record together, but that’s a whole and completely different story in itself,” Gilmore said. “It was a totally unexpected thing that happened. We had become personal friends ten years ago in the course of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. We shared a love of bluegrass and old-time music.”

    Gilmore joined Hellman’s seven-piece old-time music group that called themselves The Wronglers and recorded a 2011 album, “Heirloom Music.” They toured one season all over the country, fulfilling one of Hellman’s life-long dreams during the last year of his life.

    As part of the show March 10, Gilmore performed one of the songs that The Wronglers used to play, a country standard made famous by the Carter Family, “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes.”

    Heidi Clare, the original vocalist/fiddle player for the Wrongler’s. She acted as tour manager for Wildwood all during SXSW and at El Mercado South that Monday night during the girls’ performance.

    “I’ve become acquainted with the whole (Hellman) family and we had done a couple of songs together at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festivals, so that’s how I invited them to the show that night,” Gilmore said.

    Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel also scheduled the Wildwood girls to open their show at the Rattle Inn March 11.

    For three months ever Monday night, several threads of Gilmore’s past often came together at El Mercado South to connect him to multiple people all in one place at the same time.

   Glasse performed on the first album Gilmore ever recorded as a solo artist, “Fair and Square,” released in 1988. A number of local musicians performed on that album produced by Ely and released by High Tone Records. Gilmore enjoyed success with the album’s hit single, “White Freight Liner Blues.”

   Gage toured with Gilmore nationwide beginning in 1993 and continuing throughout the mid-1990s.

   In 1991 Gilmore released “After Awhile” on Nonesuch Records, produced by Stephen Bruton, who had played guitar with Kris Kristofferson and then Bonnie Raitt. Kristofferson recently released Bruton’s “The Road To Austin,” 73-minute documentary, that screened during the SXSW Film Festival March 10. Bruton died in 2009. Gilmore does not appear in Bruton’s documentary because the late musician and filmmaker scheduled filming the same day that Gilmore attended his son Colin’s wedding.

      Emory Gordy, Elvis’ former bass player produced Gilmore’s hit solo album, Spinning Around the Sun, in 1993.  Three years later, Gilmore recorded Braver Newer World, released on the Elektra label and produced by legendary Grammy winner, T Bone Burnett. Gilmore has been nominated three times for Grammys, but has never won.

   “During that time, I got lots and lots of publicity,” Gilmore said. “I also did lots of touring. That was the time in my career that I was the most visible.”

      In 2000, Gilmore released One Endless Night on the Rounder Records label and returned to High Tone Records to release Don’t Look for a Heartache in 2004. He released Come On Back on Rounder Records in 2005.

     Gilmore also appeared as a bit actor in films: The Thing Called Love in 1993 and The Big Lebowski in 1996. He has also appeared on late night television shows hosted by Jay Leno and David Letterman as well as Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.  His song “Brave New World” graces the film soundtrack for 1995’s Kicking and Screaming.

    He enjoyed his regular weekly gig at El Mercado South that ended in April. Now occasionally he will sit in with the band on stage as part of “Mystery Mondays.”

     “It’s different every week. We do a lot of the same songs every week, because they’re the songs that we know, but the sound is different because we have different instrumentation,” Gilmore said. “David (Carroll) contacts the people to play with us and he has a lot of friends and really good taste.”

     Along with their son, Colin, Gilmore and his wife Janet, have two daughters, Elyse Yates and Amanda Garber.  Her husband, Scott Garber, sometimes plays bass with Gilmore. The Gilmores also have several grandchildren who he refers to as “the most important part of our lives.”

     “I’ve enjoyed two basically different personas – one under my name and one under The Flatlanders, but I’ve done a lot of different things with both of those,” Gilmore said.

     “I never have really thought much of career and that kind of stuff. I just do what I like for however long it lasts.”

http://www.theflatlanders.com

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
JA
X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-language:JA;}

Marcia Ball interview appears in July issue of The Alternate Root magazine

7 Jul
Marcia Ball performed for the first time in nearly 40 years at the Broken Spoke March 31 as part of the "Behind the Song" radio program and a benefit for

Marcia Ball performed for the first time in nearly 40 years at the Broken Spoke March 31 as part of the “Behind the Song” radio program and a benefit.

Rhythm and blues singer Marcia Ball put on her first concert at the Broken Spoke in nearly 40 years as part of the radio program, “Behind the Songs,” that airs regularly on Austin’s alternative country radio station KOKE-FM, broadcast on channels 98.5, 99.3 or 105.3. (http://kokefm.com)

Ball performed at the “Behind the Songs” recorded live show that drew more than 400 people March 31, who each paid $20 to attend. After the live show at the Broken Spoke, organizer Joel Gammage and his multi-media crew edited and cut the raw video up into vignettes, which he provided to KOKE-FM radio station to air at different times throughout each month.

Radio station hosts also provide in-studio live interviews with the “Behind the Songs” featured artists prior to each broadcast of the vignette performances. For example, Ball provided phone-in interviews with listeners beginning at 8 a.m. April 4, at KOKE, with radio personalities prior to the pre-recorded broadcast of the “Behind the Songs” program. The live show served as a fundraiser for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, (HAAM,) the local organization that provides affordable health care for the city’s low-income and uninsured musicians.

The show was hosted by bandleader, singer and songwriter for The Wagonners, Monte Warden. Other performers included singers and songwriters Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King, as well as a former contestant for the television series, The Voice, Brian Pounds.

Ball’s earliest friendships formed with young democrats at the state capitol helped her to gain her first singing gig at the Broken Spoke in 1973.

Ball performed at the Broken Spoke as part a band known as Freda and the Firedogs, who entertained at Sen. Lloyd Doggett’s fundraising campaign the same year he began his first run for the Texas state Senate. Since 2005 Doggett has served in Washington D.C. as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas’ 35th district.

Ball began her own rhythm and blues band in 1975 and became a successful songwriter and singer as well as a local supporter of liberal political causes. More than 500 people packed Doggett’s private party nearly 40 years ago on that Monday night at the Broken Spoke.

Hippies, either barefoot, or wearing moccasins or tennis shoes, made up a large portion of the audience. Few of them knew the traditional Two Step, but improvised by dancing what James White likes to call the “hippie hop.”

“We were a little hippie country band that played at the Split Rail every Sunday night and other college bars and places around town,” Ball said. “We were pure country then, but we just didn’t look the part so much. We were playing some of the most classic country in town of anybody. We weren’t playing radio country even then, we were playing older stuff – Merle Haggard and George Jones and stuff like that.”

Back in those days, Ball sang a lot of Tammy Wynett and Loretta Lynn stuff and she also yodeled a bit.

“We were singing ‘Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ with Lovin’ on Your Mind,’ and stuff like that,” she said. “I remember how happy we were that first night that we played there at the Broken Spoke, standing on the old loading dock hauling our stuff in. We thought we had made it, we really thought we had.”

Playing at the Broken Spoke had been the ultimate goal for Freda and the Firedogs, she said.

“Playing the Broken Spoke legitimized us in a way that we were aiming for and the best way to get in there was to play this fundraiser for Lloyd Doggett,” Ball said. “He was a political candidate who we loved anyway. That university and state house crowd had been followers of ours. We were playing for the protest rallies held for the shuttle bus drivers at the University of Texas who were striking for wages, and we played at the Armadillo (World Headquarters) for whatever cause that anybody could think of. We had always done that and I still do. So the politicos knew about us,” Ball said.

The original members included founder of the band, Bobby Earl Smith who played bass, guitarist John X. Reed, drummer Steve McDaniels, steel player David Cook, and Ball on piano. The band played together from 1972 until 1974 as Freda and the Firedogs before Ball left to start her own band.

“I wasn’t the most experienced musician in that band. The steel player was younger than me and everybody else had been in more bands and had more success than I had,” she said.

Ball had moved to Austin a few years before from Baton Rouge, LA where she had played with a rock and roll band. In Austin she joined a short-lived little rock and roll band for a while.

“A lot of us at that time liked the kind of cross-over music that The Band was playing and the Byrds were playing — people who were mixing country and blues with rock. There was a lot of that Bob Dylan and (his record) Nashville Skyline and the Rolling Stones,” she said.

She arrived in town in 1970 and met Smith in 1972 while he performed in another band who enjoyed performing what Ball calls “a mixed bag of music.”

“Kirby Gupton was a great singer and great guitar player who could play George Jones, Merle Haggard, B.B. King, and Van Morrison and stitch all that together and it was just a wonderful gig. I went to see them one time and I met them and sat in that night. Afterwards, Bobby Earl called me that week and asked me if I wanted to play some gigs and we started,” she said.

Ball comes from a musical family on her paternal side: her grandmother played piano, her great-grandfather composed music and she has an aunt who played piano. Her brothers don’t play music, although she has a younger brother who plays drums a bit.

She has fond and favorite memories at the Broken Spoke as both a performer and a fan, including the night in 1976 that she saw the original Texas Playboys perform there without Bob Wills who died the year before. Sleepy Johnson, Jesse Ashlock and Keith Coleman all played fiddle, Smokey Dacus played drums, while Leon McAulliffe performed on steel guitar, Al Stricklin on piano, Leon Rausch on vocals; with Tommy Allsup and Bob Kiser both on guitars.

“It was the night after the Texas Playboys had performed for an episode of Austin City Limits. That night they played at the Broken Spoke and they used my piano. My son was a baby and I had him with me and I hauled the piano in and set it up and then I had to take him out to his grandmother’s house so I could get to the Spoke to see the gig,” she said.

“I was a little late getting back to the Broken Spoke. The place was full and people were sitting on the dance floor. That was something I had never seen – it was weird to see people sitting on the Broken Spoke dance floor; people usually danced. Everybody had packed in there that night to see the Texas Playboys. As I walked it, they were playing the song, ‘Maiden’s Prayer.’”

Ball had heard all day about how well the Texas Playboys had performed the night before at ACL.

“Earlier that day everyone who had seen the Texas Playboys perform at Austin City Limits just went on and on about them. I thought that perhaps they had exaggerated. When I saw them perform that next night at the Broken Spoke it was just better than I could have imagined. It brought tears to my eyes; it was just wonderful,” she said.

Ball said at the time, James White’s step-dad, Joe Baland and mother, Lena White-Baland, helped to run the Broken Spoke.

“I remember that you couldn’t wear a hat on the dance floor,” Ball said. “Joe would come out and tap you on the shoulder and make you take your hat off. It was like it was impolite to wear a hat on the dance floor, it also started fights,” Ball said.

Unlike other clubs in town, inside the Broken Spoke cowboys could still wear their hats – just not on the dance floor.

“I came to Austin to live in a more liberal place than Baton Rouge. We actually were on our way to San Francisco, but we had a lot of friends who had moved here from Louisiana. We stopped to take a little break in the trip and to visit and then have our car worked on, but we never left,” Ball said.

In Austin and in other cities throughout the United States known as music meccas, the times were changing — fast. During the party at the Broken Spoke for Doggett, hippies and cowboys mingled together and everyone got along.

“There was already a movement in that direction at the time, the Armadillo was already having Willie (Nelson) play regularly. Music everywhere always brings people together and music certainly in Austin was bringing all kinds of people together,” Ball said.

“James White was happy to find somebody else who could fill his club. He really gave us more credit than we were due. He saw us and a big crowd that night and put those two together. Really, we did have a good following, but there was a whole lot of promotion on the part of the politicos that made it look like we were ready to play the Broken Spoke. It was the ‘big show’ for us.”

As Freda and the Firedogs, the band led the way for other crossover bands that played the Broken Spoke.

“I played with that band and loved it. That was not my background. Other bands, like Asleep at the Wheel and Alvin Crow, those guys were completely country and still are. They’ve had a long history with the Broken Spoke,” Ball said. “Although we played through several reincarnations of my band; we became less and less country. We have still always had an open door at the Broken Spoke, which has always been great.”

After the Firedogs broke up in 1974, Ball’s sound began the transition back to her rhythm and blues roots when she started her own band in 1975.

“I just started writing some and I just realized as a piano player and a background as I had, that was just the direction that I was going to be going,” Ball said. “I had a very varied repertoire that ranged from jazz to country and western, to swing and then in 1980 I went to pretty much blues, or R&B.”

She continued to perform at the Broken Spoke well into the 1980s drawing crowds, despite the fact her band no longer performed pure country classics. Over the years, Ball’s music changed, but the Broken Spoke has remained the same.

“I have to say if anybody has held the line on being the same club, doing the same thing he was doing the day he opened his doors, it would have to be James White at the Broken Spoke,” Ball said.

The Broken Spoke has a history inside its walls that cannot be found anywhere else. While multi-story condominiums and commercial real estate has encroached upon the Broken Spoke, it continues to hold its own.

“The Broken Spoke is a little bit like the Alamo now,” Ball said. “The Broken Spoke draws tourists to town, to Texas really.”

Ball’s friendship with James and Annetta White spans more than 40 years.

“James White weathered all of the competition that ever existed in this town. In the late 1970s when Austin was overrun by pre-fab metal buildings pumping out Urban Cowboy type country music, James White just stayed there in his little spot and kept it real,” Ball said. “Now they’re all gone and James is still here and it’s still real.”

The Whites have helped to nurture a generation of musicians, songwriters, and singers who have made their way into the world of professional music. The Broken Spoke stands today as a symbol of Austin’s love for pure country music.

“I love James and Annetta. I’ve always just thought the world of them,” Ball said. “Their hearts are totally in the right place as far as music and community are concerned. He’s helped a lot of musicians. They’re very loyal to their musician friends who have played there all these years. Of course James brought to Austin all of the great country artists. What Clifford Antone was to the blues here, James White is to country music in Austin.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ball’s 2014 tour schedule link: http://www.marciaball.com/schedule.html My article published in the July 2014 issue of The Alternate Root magazine at http://thealternateroot.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2453:marciab-bsat&catid=208:what-s-trending&Itemid=268

%d bloggers like this: