January 17th, 2020


Willie’s Corner

January 17th, 2020

at Texas Roadhouse

“Rainy Day Blues”, Willie Nelson & Family (Glastonbury 2010)

January 17th, 2020

Willie Nelson and birth of Austin Music Scene

January 17th, 2020

by: Joe Nick Patoski

Over the summer of 1970, a loose collective of hippies, free spirits, and dreamers refashioned the old National Guard armory building at the corner of South First Street and Barton Springs, just across the Colorado River from downtown Austin, into a concert hall and beer garden.

The Armadillo World Headquarters was all about music, a shared tolerance for marijuana, psychedelic drugs, and cold beer, and like its namesake had a hard-shell interior with a docile disposition. During its first two years of operation, the Armadillo brought in a parade of touring talent who otherwise would have bypassed Texas, including Ry Cooder, Captain Beefheart, Taj Mahal, Dr. John the Night Tripper, Frank Zappa, the Flying Burrito Brothers, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Bill Monroe, and especially Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

But it wasn’t until the night of Aug. 12, 1972, when Willie Nelson walked onto the stage of the Armadillo that everything changed. That performance in front of a mixed crowd of hippies and rednecks is recognized as the starting point of the modern Austin music scene.

A vibrant music community was already in the making, articulated by several outsiders who relocated to Austin like Nelson did to make music unfettered by commercial restraints. Most prominent were Jerry Jeff Walker, a New York folkie from the Greenwich Village scene who had written a hit song about a New Orleans street dancer called “Mr. Bojangles,” another singer-songwriter from Houston named Guy Clark, whose vivid story songs had been covered by Walker, and a lanky Fort Worth kid with high cheekbones and a taste for liquor named Townes Van Zandt, considered by his peers as the purist songwriter of all.

Walker also fronted the Lost Gonzo Band. Their live recording Viva Terlingua! — made in 1973 in the old Hill Country dancehall at Luckenbach (pop. 3) withfiddler Sweet Mary Egan and a harmonica player named Mickey Raphael — set thestandard for rowdy Texas-style country rock. It was the first“made-in-Austin” album to go gold.

The Lost Gonzos — Gary P. Nunn, Bob Livingston, Michael McGeary, Herb Steiner, Craig Hillis, and Kelly Dunn — performed as the Cosmic Cowboy Orchestra whenever they supported Micheal Murphey, the flaxen-haired, buckskin-loving singer-songwriter from Dallas with the two best-selling albums in Austin, Geronimo’s Cadillac and Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir. Murphey came out of the same Rubiyat Club folk scene in Dallas where a husky-voiced belter named B.W. Stevenson from Murphey’s high school, Adamson, developed his robust singing style that led to several hit singles, notably “My Maria,” No. 9 on Billboard’s pop singles chart and No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart in 1973.

Another Adamson grad and Rubiyat regular, Ray Wylie Hubbard, was beginning to make forays down to Austin from Red River, New Mexico, where he had a music club, while another Rubiyat vet, Willis Alan Ramsey, recorded his debut album for Leon Russell’s Shelter Records showcasing a country/folk/rock songcraft so exquisite he would never make another album.

Jerry Jeff Walker frequently worked as a solo act at Castle Creek, a listening room a block from the State Capitol that showcased singer-songwriters. Walker arranged for a friend of his from Florida named Jimmy Buffett to sit in between sets before getting his own gig. Castle Creek inspired a song Buffett was crafting called “Wasting Away In Margaritaville” that would become his calling card.

A San Antonio native named Doug Sahm came to Austin from the other direction, relocating from San Francisco where his rock ’n’ roll Tex-Mex flavored band, the Sir Douglas Quintet, had gone after their 1966 pop hit “She’s About a Mover.” A homesick Sahm chose Austin over San Antonio for its tolerance of people who looked and acted different. Besides, he had been playing the city since he was a seven-year-old lap steel guitar prodigy who sang country.

Music-making had historically been a provincial and low-key affair in Austin. Scholz’ Garten, established by August Scholz in 1866 and still the home of the Saengerrunde German singing club, was the city’s oldest drinking establishment.

The abiding appreciation of folk music and traditional music could be traced to 1909 when University of Texas assistant extension school director John Lomax and professor Leonidas Payne co-founded the Texas Folklore Society. Within six months, there were 92 charter members.

Fifty-five years later, Kenneth Threadgill’s filling station and beer joint on North Lamar served as the informal meeting place for folk music aficionados, including a young University of Texas student named Janis Joplin who showed up to sing and play at the weekly hootenannies. When properly inspired and lubricated, Mr. Threadgill would cut loose with yodels in the style of Jimmie Rodgers, country music’s first star.

Willie Nelson at the Armadillo in 1972. Photo by Burton Wilson.

Before Willie, traditional country music had been largely limited to a few bars and dancehalls such as Big G’s, Dessau Hall, Big Gil’s, and the Broken Spoke, and bands such as Dolores and the Bluebonnet Boys, the Moods of Country Music, Johnny Lyons and Janet Lynn & the Country Nu-Notes, Jess DeMaine and the Country Music Revue featuring Mary Margaret Kyle, and Bert Rivera and the Night Riders, whose leader had several years road experience as Hank Thompson’s steel guitar player.

In 1970, Freda & the Firedogs, a band of like-minded college students led by a dark-haired Cajun pianist named Marcia Ball, aka Freda, tapped into the traditional country zeitgeist and started drawing an unusually strange mix of students, bikers, Mexican families, hippies, hillbillies, and old-time country music fans to the Split Rail Drive-Inn on South Lamar.

Similarly, a small clutch of white kids were drawn to East Austin to soak up the African-American sounds of performers such as Erbie Bowser, Blues Boy Hubbard, T.D. Bell, Hosea Hargrove, and barrelhouse pianist Robert Shaw at clubs including the Victory Lounge, the IL, Charlie’s Playhouse, Ernie’s Chicken Shack, and Marie’s Tea Room Number 2. The white blues kids had their own playhouse, the One Knite on Red River Street, a half block from the police station where the Storm, featuring Dallas’ Jimmie Vaughan on guitar and Lubbock’s Lewis Cowdrey on harmonica, and the Nightcrawlers, the band headed by Irving drummer Doyle Bramhall and including Jimmie Vaughan’s little brother Stevie, were part of the weekly lineup.

Mexican-Americans had their own music scenes in clubs along East Sixth Street and in salons de baile on the edge of town where conjunto combos fronted by Johnny Degollado (El Montopolis Kid) and accordion maestro Camilo Cantu and Tejano big bands such as Ruben Ramos, aka El Gato Negro, and the Mexican Revolution played for dancers.

Rock ’n’ roll bands played cover versions of popular songs at fraternity and sorority parties at The University of Texas, but by the mid-1960s, some bands began to dabble in original music, most significantly the 13th Floor Elevators, a pioneering psychedelic band led by a yowling Travis High School dropout named Roky Erickson that had a national Top 40 hit in 1966 called “You’re Gonna Miss Me” distinguished by an electric jug. The Elevators and like-minded rock bands worked in such places as the Old New Orleans around the UT campus.

By the late 1960s, Austin had its first hippie venue, the Vulcan Gas Company at 300 Congress Avenue, inspired by music ballrooms in San Francisco where many Austin musicians and hangers-on had migrated. The Vulcan was the predecessor to the Armadillo, featuring local and touring psychedelic rock, folk, and blues artists and led to the discovery of an albino blues guitarist from Beaumont named Johnny Winter, who opened for blues giant Muddy Waters. House bands included Shiva’s Headband and the Conqueroo, an eclectic folk-rock-blues-jazz group. Vulcan shows were promoted with posters created by Gilbert Shelton, the creator of the Furry Freak Brothers, and other underground artists, and Jim Franklin, who made the armadillo into the iconic symbol of Texas hippies.

Willie Nelson became Austin’s music catalyst through his Nashville connections and extensive body of recorded work, and because he represented the kind of country music the rock ’n’ rollers and the folkies were trying to project in their own sounds. At 39, he was older than the student-aged musicians and had experience with publishing and recording contracts. And while he came to town clean-shaven with his hair barely covering the tops of his ears, he adapted quickly, letting his hair grow long, cultivating a beard, dressing on stage in blue jeans, tennis shoes, and T-shirts, with a bandanna around his neck or head, and an earring in his lobe.

With bass player Bee Spears wearing a headband and moccasins in Indian fashion and drummer Paul English performing with a black cape with red lining draped over his shoulders, and new addition Mickey Raphael, an Afro-haired harmonica player who had been playing with B.W. Stevenson, Willie Nelson and band fit right in in Austin.

Nelson’s groundbreaking Armadillo performance in 1972 opened with a string of early songwriting hits — “Crazy,” “Hello Walls,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” and “Nightlife” — to introduce himself to those in the audience who had never heard him before, then demonstrated his guitar-playing prowess as his band alternated sets with young country-rockers Greezy Wheels until closing time at midnight. Afterward, the show moved to a suite at the Crest Hotel across Town Lake that writers Edwin “Bud” Shrake and Gary “Jap” Cartwright had rented, where a guitar pulling ensued featuring Willie Nelson, with University of Texas football coach Darrell K Royal calling out requests and making sure the audience adhered to his rule to respect musicians and the music they were making: “If I can hear you, then you are too loud. If you wish to socialize, please go out on to the front or back porch.” Those who failed to observe the rule were asked to leave.

Willie Nelson’s first show at the Armadillo coincided with the appearance of KOKE-FM, an Austin radio station that coined the phrase “progressive country” to explain its eclectic playlist, which included Ernest Tubb and classic Texas honky-tonk, Bob Wills and the Made-in-Texas sound called western swing, Nashville rebel Waylon Jennings, as well as the Byrds, the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and lots of Willie Nelson, who also sang jingles for the station and played impromptu shows on the air with friends such as Kris Kristofferson. Progressive country would also be labeled as redneck rock, Texas music, and outlaw country. Whatever it was, the music sounded like nowhere else but Austin.

In 1974, Willie added television to his Austin portfolio when he agreed to perform in front of cameras at Studio 6A on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin for KLRN-TV (now KRLU-TV), the Public Broadcasting Service television channel serving San Antonio and Austin. KLRN program director Bill Arhos, producer Paul Bosner, and director Bruce Scafe secured grant money to film a pilot for a live music series focusing on original Texas music. The pilot led to the first broadcast of Austin City Limits in 1976. The series is the longest running music program on American television.

Willie would proceed to further invest in the Austin music scene by buying the old Terrace Motor Inn on Academy Street, just off South Congress Avenue, and by helping transform the Terrace’s convention center into the Texas Opera House, later known as the Austin Opry House, where he built a recording studio, before moving his operations to near Spicewood in the Hill Country west of the city where his empire included the most modern recording facility in Texas, a golf course, a western town, and condominiums.

— Joe Nick Patoski has been writing about Texas and Texans for four decades. His biography Willie Nelson: An Epic Life was published by Little, Brown & Company in 2008 and was recognized with the 2009 TCU Texas Book Award for the best book written about Texas. The article was written for the Texas Almanac 2012–2013.

Willie Nelson and Family on tour

January 17th, 2020

February 11
Johnny Mercer Theater
Savannah, GA

February 12
King Center
Melbourne, FL

February 14
Ruth Eckerd Hall
Clearwater, FL

February 15
The Amphitheater
St. Augustine, FL

February 17
Key West Amphitheater
Key West, FL

February 18
Broward Center
Fort Lauderdale, FL

February 20
Hertz Arena
Estero, FL

February 21
Walt Disney Theater
Orlando, FL

March 4
Houston Rodeo
Houston, TX

March 13
Riverwind Casino
Norman, OK

March  14
Globe Life Field
Arlington, TX
Chris Stapleton’s All-American Roadshow with Willie Nelson & Family, Jamey Johnson and Yola

March 15
Paradise Cove
River Spirit Casino
Tulsa, OK

March 19
Luck Reunion
Luck, Texas

April 17, 18
Whitewater Amphitheater
with Pat Green
New Braunfels, TX

April 20
Orpheum Theater
Memphis, TX

April 22
BJCC Concert Hall
Birmingham, AL

April 23
Wilkesboro, NC

April  25
Kroger Field
Chris Stapleton’s Concert for Kentucky
with Sheryl  Crow, Yola, & more
Lexington,  KY

April 28
Brown County Music Center
Nashville, TN

April 29
Riverside Theater
Milwaukee, WI

August 5
Wind Creek Steel Stage
Bethlehem, PA

August 11
Sturgis Buffalo Chip
Sturgis, SD

January 17th, 2020

Oh, what a smile.

Thank you, Phil Weisman for finding this cheerful picture. It this doesn’t make you smile, I really don’t know what would.

Willie Nelson to be honored with special Grammy week concert

January 17th, 2020

by: Randy Lewis

Willie Nelson will be saluted by peers and admirers including John Prine, Tanya Tucker, Shooter Jennings, Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi, Calexico, Andrew Bird, I’m With Her and Yola at the Americana Music Assn.’s annual pre-Grammy Awards benefit concert Jan. 25 at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.

The War and Treaty, Iron & Wine, Madison Cunningham, Gregory Alan Isakov, Ida Mae, Sierra Ferrell and others still to be announced also are slated to take part, according to the association’s announcement.

The evening celebrates the Recording Academy’s recognition of Americana musicians and typically uses the work of an Americana luminary as a focal point. Prine was the honoree last year and will be making his second appearance at the event to pay homage to the 86-year-old Texas singer and songwriter, who is not expected to attend.

Tickets are $75 and proceeds benefit the association. General sales begin at 10 a.m. Friday.

Previous honorees include Everly Brothers singer and songwriter Phil Everly, Eagles founding member Glenn Frey and country queen Loretta Lynn.

Happy Shoeshine Friday

January 17th, 2020

January 16th, 2020

This day in Willie Nelson history: American Music Award “Favorite Country Male Artist” award (January 16, 1984)

January 16th, 2020
Willie Nelson wins Favorite Country Male Artist award on January 16, 1984 at the American Music Awards. Willie Nelson is on tour, and the presenters Gregg Allman and John Schneider accept the award on his behalf.

Willie Nelson & Family at Musikfest (Aug. 5, 2020)

January 16th, 2020
Photo: David McClister


BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Country music legend Willie Nelson is coming to Musikfest.

The “Red Headed Stranger” himself will bring his decades of hits to the Wind Creek Steel Stage on Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m.

Nelson has released more than 200 albums and won 12 Grammys over his six decades in music.

Tickets ranging from $39-$89 go on sale to the public Friday, Jan. 24 at 10 a.m.

Willie Nelson at the Balboa

January 16th, 2020

Thanks, Phil Weisman, for photo of the Balboa Theater in San Diego. I love to see Willie Nelson’s name up in lights.

Paul English and Mickey Raphael

January 16th, 2020

“Poncho and Lefty,” by Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard 2020 Grammy Hall of Fame Inductee

January 15th, 2020


Multiple country stars will have their recordings inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame this year. 

The Recording Academy announced today that 26 recordings will added to the Grammy Hall of Fame, which preserves prominent songs of historical significance that are at least 25 years old.

Among the 2020 selections are  Patsy Cline ‘s “Walkin’ After Midnight,” which became her breakthrough single after its 1957 release, reaching number two on the  Billboard  country chart.  Also on the list is  Willie Nelson  and  Merle Haggard ‘s collaboration on “Pancho and Lefty,” the title track of their acclaimed 1983 album. 

Other country inductees include “I’ll Fly Away” by country gospel group  The Chuck Wagon Gang , one of the top-selling gospel songs in history, plus the  Allman Brothers Band  album  Eat a Peach,  and “I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow” by  The Stanley Brothers & The Clinch Mountain Boys . 

Nancy Sinatra ‘s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin,'” “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” by gospel act  Swan Silverstones , and “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live” by  Blind Alfred Reed , who recorded during the famous Bristol Sessions in 1927, will also be inducted. 

Elton John ,  Neil Diamond  and  Joni Mitchell  are among the many other multi-genre acts whose work will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.

“There’s nothing like a full Nelson”

January 15th, 2020