Friday, February 20, 2015

Austin’s Homegrown Sound

"Like a playlist that charts the musical arc of a certain time and place," writes arts critic Jeanne Claire van Ryzin of the Austin American-Statesman, “Homegrown provides the visual soundtrack to an Austin as it emerged into a progressive music town." Well, now 
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there's an actual soundtrack to accompany the book and exhibitionHomegrown: Austin Music Posters 1967 to 1982. Our Spotify playlist is like a crash course in the diverse music scenes of Austin's heyday.

When most people think about the Austin music scene of the late 1960s and 70s, they think of psychedelia, classic rock, or progressive country, but the music posters covered in Homegrown include lesser-known Austin scenes like blues and punk. So, yes, of course Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Doug Sahm are on our playlist, but so are acts like Big Joe Williams, Walter Page, and Clifton Chenier.

Follow this playlist on Spotify for an indispensable aural history of Austin from the late 1960s up until the 1980s. As we all know, the music of the eighties is an entirely different story.

"Starvation"Golden Dawn: This cult-status psychedelia band from Austin still plays Psych Fest.

"Rainy Sunday Morning"
—The Thingies: An obscure band that was only in Austin for about five months before their manager got in trouble with the IRS.

"Mojo Hand"—Lightnin' Hopkins: This Texas bluesman recorded more albums than any other blues musician. Read all about his life and music in the award-winning book Mojo Hand by Timothy J. O'Brien and David Ensminger.

"You're Gonna Miss Me"
—The 13th Floor Elevators: Often credited as one of the first psychedelic bands in the history of rock n' roll (according to Wikipedia), this seminal band featured guitarist and vocalist Roky Erickson and influenced acts from ZZ Top to Primal Scream. This song leads the High Fidelity soundtrack. They're playing their 50th year reunion on May 10! Visit for more information.

"Homesick Armadillo Blues"—Shiva's Headband: House band of the Vulcan Gas Company of the 1960s and part founders of the Armadillo World Headquarters, these guys still perform in Austin and were crucial to Austin's legendary music scene.

"CIA Man"—The Fugs: The Fugs protested war through satirical songs and staged "The Real Woodstock Festival" to fight against the commercialization of Woodstock '94. This song is featured in the Coen brother's movie Burn After Reading.

"Sunday Morning"—The Velvet Underground: Andy Warhol challenged Lou Reed to write a song about paranoia and this is Reed's answer to Warhol's challenge. It's a pretty fitting subject for the heady Sixties.

"Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo"—Johnny Winter: This earlier version was later recorded by Rick Derringer and hit #23 on the Billboard Hot 100. Johnny Winter originally thought this song was a little corny, but Winter's version is certainly bluesier than Derringer's.

"Man Mistreater"—Big Joe Williams: This Mississippi-born bluesman played "an electric nine-string guitar through a small ramshackle amp with a pie plate nailed to it and a beer can dangling against that," wrote blues historian Barry Lee Pearson.

"Going Down"—Freddie King: Constantly touring for three hundred days out of the year, Freddie King became one of the Three Kings of blues. Ann Richards proclaimed September 3rd Freddie King Day.

"Diggin' My Potatoes"—Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry: Collaborators in blues, Brownie brought the guitar and the voice and Sonny brought a masterful harmonica. Farm injuries blinded Sonny by age 16 and Brownie had polio but was eventually able to walk thanks to the March of Dimes. 

"If You're Going To The City"—Mose Allison: A jazz singer and pianist with a B.A. in English (minor in philosophy), Mose was a voracious reader and intensely political. He has been covered by The Who, The Clash, The Yardbirds, Van Morrison, and Elvis Costello. The song "Allison" from The Pixies album Bossanova is about Allison.

"Swinging The Blues: Topsy"—Walter Page, Buck Clayton: Walter was taught by a retired Cuban military bandleader and called him a "chubby little cat, bald, one of the old military men." Not only was Buck Clayton was a leading member of Count Basie’s "Old Testament" orchestra, he also contributed to musical history in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"Fixin To Die"—Bukka White: 'Bukka' being the phonetic spelling of his first name, Booker died in Memphis coming from somewhere between Aberdeen and Houston, Mississippi. Best known for playing steel and slide guitars, his sound inspired Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin.

"I'm A Man"—Bo Diddley: Essential to a rhythm and blues education, we'll just say he is listed as being an inspiration to Elvis Presley and The Beatles and leave it at that.

"Let The Good Times Roll"—B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland: You should know that B.B. King is one of the greatest guitarists of all time and also has a fine establishment on Beale Street. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said of Bobby "Blue" Bland, "[he's] second in stature only to B.B. King as a product of Memphis's Beale Street blues scene." You won't be skippin' this one.

"Got My Mojo Working"—Muddy Waters: One of the greatest blues songs ever recorded played live like it's supposed to be. Known by music scholars as the 'missing link' between Delta Blues and Rock 'n Roll, you'd best listen to more if you haven't already.

"Ain't That A Shame?"—Fats Domino: New Orleans to the core, he probably knew that recording a Nashville sound would end his chart domination. In the 1980s, Fats decided to never leave New Orleans. He was rescued by members of the National Guard from the Katrina floodwaters after CNN had reported him dead. After losing everything, he had to stay in Baton Rouge for three days before slowly making his way back to the Big Easy where he is today.

"I'm Coming Home (To See My Mother)"—Clifton Chenier: Clifton spoke French, played the accordion, and won a Grammy, so it makes sense he'd be called the 'King of Zydeco.' He reached a national audience by appearing on Austin City Limits in 1976.

"Texas Flood"—Stevie Ray Vaughan: Austinites will (or should) know Stevie's story since this inductee to the Blues Hall of Fame and the Musicians Hall of Fame made a living playing gigs at the then newly-opened Antone's, helping make it Austin's home of the blues. Stevie will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. An incredibly talented product of Dallas, alcohol, abuse, and the 1980s, Vaughan tragically died in a helicopter accident at the age of 35.

"C-Boy's Blues"—The Fabulous Thunderbirds: The first band to be broadcast on the internet using high-definition cameras!

"Whiskey River"—Willie Nelson: Synonymous with Austin to many, Willie moved here in 1972 to retire. It didn't last. He is an indelible part of Texas history; so much so that the Dolph Briscoe Center holds his personal collection. Willie's exploits are legendary and some of them are well-documented!

"It's Gonna Be Easy"—Doug Sahm: Sahm performed alongside Hank Williams Sr. the last time Hank Williams ever performed and was offered a permanent spot on the Grand Ole Opry at age eleven. His son is the drummer for the Meat Puppets!

"A Hard Way To Go"—Savoy Brown: A London blues act. Like The Thingies, members of Savoy Brown also experienced personnel changes early on due to "creative accountancy" by a manager.

"Birds of Fire"—Mahavishnu Orchestra: Jazz-rock fusion group whose original members were English, Czech, Chicagoan, Panamanian, and Irish. Part rock in unusual time signatures and part funk, classical Indian, and rhythmic. Various members have worked with Frank Zappa, Beck, and Chick Corea.

"Wild Horses"—The Flying Burrito Brothers: Founded by Gram Parson and Chris Hillman, this band was performing at the Altamont Free Concert when fights broke out among audience members. New Zealand has a chain of Mexican restaurants named after the band.

"Raga Baha: Alap and Gat in Ektaal"—Ravi Shankar, Alla Rakha: Perhaps most popularly known as George Harrison's sitar mentor, Shankar was a much-celebrated cultural ambassador for India in the West. He's also Norah Jones's father!

"Touch of Grey"—Grateful Dead: The iconic jam band's most commercial single. Their dedicated followers ("Deadheads") were known to tour with the band for months or years. A police detective was quoted as saying,  "I'd rather work nine Grateful Dead concerts than one Oregon football game. They don't get belligerent like they do at the games." Textbook hippie culture.

"Happy Just to Be Like I Am"—Taj Mahal: Blues with a serving of Caribbean and African flavor, the Taj Mahal sound has mostly been performed in front of white audiences. Mahal has gone on record saying that he's disappointed in the lack of interest in the blues among contemporary African Americans.

"Shaky Flat Blues"—The Pointer Sisters: This girl group from Oakland is best known for their 1984 hits "Jump (For My Love) and "Automatic."

"Runaway"—Bonnie Raitt: Bonnie got started at a time when very few women were recognized for outstanding guitar work. Today, Rolling Stone has named her number 89 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Fire up this playlist on your way to San Marcos to check out the Wittliff Collection's exhibition opening March 1st! Featured artists Kerry Awn, Jim Franklin, Danny Garrett, and Micael Priest will participate in a panel discussion moderated by artist and poster historian Nels Jacobson.

Check out where Homegrown has gotten attention so far:

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