Willie Nelson’s and Paul English’s bus

from the Sunday, June 8 edition of the New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/08/us/willie-nelson-rode-on-bus-but-called-another-home.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar&_r=0

Willie Nelson Rode on Bus but Called Another Home

By ANDY LANGER

Photo buss

Me & Paul, named after a 1984 song, was listed on Craigslist as a “former Willie Nelson Tour Bus,” but it was designed for his drummer, Paul English, as a plaque states. Credit Ryan Hutson for The Texas Tribune

The entertainer Willie Nelson has a ranch in Texas and a residence in Hawaii, but the place that he calls home is a bus named Honeysuckle Rose.

Joe Nick Patoski, in an interview for his 2008 biography, “Willie Nelson: An Epic Life,” asked Mr. Nelson where he considers home. “We were on his bus,” Mr. Patoski said. “He just pointed to the table, to say definitively that this — the bus — was home.”

Even when he is at his ranch in Spicewood, Tex., Mr. Nelson is said to often sleep on the bus, which is where he frequently engages in what he calls “adjusting his personality” — or smoking marijuana.

All told, there have been five buses named Honeysuckle Rose, according to representatives at Florida Coach, where Nelson has gotten his transportation since 1979. At least two are thought to be in the hands of private collectors, said Florida Coach’s general manager, Caleb Calhoun. And if a bona fide Honeysuckle Rose hit the market today, Mr. Patoski said that it could become a viable tourist attraction.
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On May 1, in a post titled “Willie Nelson’s Old Tour Bus Is Being Sold on Craigslist,” The Village Voice suggested that such a vehicle had come up for auction. A seller in Whitehouse, Tex., had listed a 1983 Eagle tour bus on Craigslist for $29,000, describing it in the headline as a “Former Willie Nelson Tour Bus.”

The Craigslist ad never explicitly said that it was selling Honeysuckle Rose or that Nelson himself had ridden in it. (In fact, a plaque stating “This coach was designed for Paul English of the Willie Nelson band” was visible in Craigslist photos.) Still, The Village Voice piece spawned dozens of stories from outlets ranging from Gawker to Britain’s Daily Mail to the concert industry bible, Pollstar, that used the misleading phrase “Willie Nelson’s bus” in their headlines or text. (Full disclosure: Even Texas Monthly used the phrase “Willie Nelson’s custom-made bus” in a post about the auction.)

“The problem is that it’s not Willie’s bus,” said Tony Sizemore, who has driven buses on Willie Nelson tours for 31 years. “It was built for Willie’s drummer, Paul English. Willie rode on it from time to time to play dominoes or poker with Paul. But it’s flat-out not true to call it Willie’s bus. It’s Willie Nelson’s drummer’s bus. It’s sort of like me: I’ve been with Willie Nelson all these years, but I’m not Willie Nelson.”

Photo businteror
Ryan Hutson for The Texas Tribune

Nevertheless, the auction closed on May 3 at $100,000 — presumably inflated by the international news media attention and perhaps by the confusion with a real Honeysuckle Rose. But by all accounts, the winners — Taylor Perkins and Michael Tashnick, Austin-based entrepreneurs who own Vintage Innovations, a company that restores and rents vintage Airstreams, buses and classic vehicles — knew what they were buying. Mr. Perkins said he spoke to Florida Coach before the sale to check its provenance.

“We knew from Day 1 that it was Paul’s bus,” Mr. Perkins said. (Despite accurate reports from The Dallas Morning News and Rolling Stone clarifying that the bus was assigned to Mr. English in the 1980s, Mr. Perkins’s purchase led to another round of misleading articles about “Willie Nelson’s bus.”)

“In publicizing our purchase, we’ve been very careful to explicitly say it’s a bus used by the Willie Nelson band in the early ’80s, that there were four created and this was one of them used primarily by Paul English. It’s Paul’s,” Mr. Perkins said.
Photo
Detail of the plaque that denotes that the bus was built for Mr. English.

Mr. Calhoun confirmed that the bus that Vintage Innovations owns is a Florida Coach custom coach originally called Scout but renamed Me & Paul, after Mr. Nelson’s 1984 song of the same name. In the 1980s, it rode alongside the crew bus, Warrior; another bus for the band named Red Headed Stranger; and Mr. Nelson’s Honeysuckle Rose.

Mr. Nelson’s first Honeysuckle Rose, a 1983 bus built by Florida Coach, was totaled in a 1990 crash in Nova Scotia, Canada — its interior was salvaged and placed into a 1990 model. Mr. Nelson upgraded in 1996 to a model that his son Lukas now tours in and again in 2005 to a bus that logged over 800,000 miles before being switched out last New Year’s Eve.

Now that he owns Me & Paul, Mr. Perkins said that finding and buying a Honeysuckle Rose has become a priority. In the meantime, Vintage Innovations plans to charter its bus to festivals, concerts and private events. Some of the proceeds will be donated to Farm Aid, which Mr. Nelson has supported. Although there is often a fine legal line between paying tribute to celebrities and using their names and likenesses for profit without permission, Mark Rothbaum, Mr. Nelson’s longtime manager, said he was largely indifferent to Mr. Perkins’s plans for Me & Paul.

“Go to a Willie show,” Mr. Rothbaum said. “Enjoy the concert. Willie is here. He’s on tour. He is absolutely a great entertainer. What would you rather pay to see? Willie or his friend’s bus? The answer seems simple enough to us.”

Andy Langer is the music columnist for Esquire and the midday D.J. on KGSR in Austin.

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Still Missing Selena: Here are Six Reasons Why-NBC News

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/still-missing-selena-here-are-6-reasons-why-n66031

selena-spread-01_43681a1eff58dbfa77a1b1778ec94a33.nbcnews-fp-1040-600

by Raul A. Reyes

or Abraham Quintanilla of Corpus Christi, Texas, Monday marks an emotional anniversary. It has been nineteen years since the death of his daughter, singer Selena Quintanilla Perez, known to the world simply as “Selena.” She died March 31, 1995, after being shot by the president of her fan club. Selena was 23.

Now 75 years old and the grandfather of 8, Quintanilla said it is bittersweet to meet fans of Selena, many of whom were too young to really remember the pop star who has sold over 60 million albums worldwide.

“It makes me feel good that after so many years people still remember my daughter,” he reflected. “But at the same time I would rather that she be here.”

Image: Selena Paul Howell / Houston Chronicle via AP file
Selena works on one of her songs in a Corpus Christi studio in March 1995.

Selena’s death struck a collective nerve, and the emotions have reverberated for years. When former President George W. Bush was Governor of Texas he named April 12th “Selena Day” in honor of her birthday, and there are still celebrations every year. There was a postage stamp issued in her name, and there is a Selena Museum in Corpus Christi, Texas,

Here are 6 reasons for Selena’s enduring legacy:

1. Millions of Latinos related to her bicultural life. Selena was an international singing sensation who sold out stadiums, but lived in a modest home next door to her parents. She dressed provocatively and was called “The Mexican Madonna,” yet she married her first and only boyfriend. And like so many Latinos, she navigated two cultures and managed to be comfortable in both. In fact, despite her renown as “The Queen of Tejano Music,” Selena was not a native Spanish speaker. Her Latin music career was already taking off when she decided to study Spanish, so that she could feel more confident expressing herself.

Selena’s death was a revelation to corporate America about the power of the Latino consumer market. In the aftermath of her passing, “Selena-mania” became a real phenomenon.

2. Her shocking death touched off an unprecedented outpouring of grief. Texas historian Joe Nick Patoski, author of Selena: Como la flor, recalled the day when Selena passed away. “I’m old enough to remember Dallas and JFK,” he said, “and it seemed like the same thing all over again. For Mexican-Americans in Texas, the reaction was intense and deeply personal. To this day, an entire generation remembers where they were when they heard the news.” In cities like San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Patoski said, impromptu shrines, memorials and vigils for Selena sprang up. He describes the public reaction to her passing as “amazing, heartfelt, and profound.” The Associated Press reported that after her death, there was a rise in newborns in Texas being named Selena; pop singer Selena Gomez, born in 1992, was also named for Selena.

Image: Selena Jeff Haynes / AFP-Getty Images file
Estella Leak wipes away tears during a memorial tribute for the slain Grammy-winning pop star Selena on April 2, 1995 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

3. Selena’s death was a revelation to corporate America about the power of the Latino consumer market. In the aftermath of her passing, “Selena-mania” became a real phenomenon. A special edition of People Magazine devoted to Selena sold out immediately (its success led to the creation of People en Español). According to Deborah Paredez, author of “Selenidad: Selena, Latinos, and the Performance of Memory,” Selena changed the way marketers looked at Latinos. “Her death served as a cue to the larger culture that Latinos were becoming more visible, more important,” she said. “Selena spurred the growth of the Hispanic market. Our culture became a hot commodity.”

4. Selena had broad appeal among Latinos and non-Latinos. Her fusion of musical genres won her a wide and enduring fan base. “A range of Latinos really connected with her,” Paredez said. “She drew from pop, Tejano, calypso, Afro-Caribbean, and cumbia music, so she signaled across a lot of cultural identities.” What’s more, Selena posthumously achieved her dream of mainstream success. Her album, Dreaming of You (1995), became the fastest-selling album by a female artist in pop history. The Hollywood film about her life (1997), gave Jennifer Lopez the breakout role that made her a star. In addition, there have been books, a record-breaking tribute concert, two stage musicals, a national search for “Selena’s Double,” and innumerable TV profiles. Selena’s husband, 44-year-old Chris Perez, said that even he was surprised by the success of his 2012 book, To Selena, With Love. “Our signings have been super-packed, and the fans have been great,” said Perez.

5. Selena’s loved ones have kept her memory alive. Her father is running Q-Productions, a management company and recording studio. Brother “A.B.” Quintanilla is a music producer. Selena’s husband Chris Perez, who won a 1999 Grammy Award for his album Resurrection, is working on songwriting and an upcoming solo project, and staying in touch with fans through his Facebook page.

“There haven’t been enough people like her in the Latino community,” said author Paredez,” so people continue to turn to her, to commemorate her.”

6. Selena the performer became Selena the “icon.” Like other celebrities who passed away too soon, from Marilyn Monroe to John Lennon, Selena has become larger than life, almost legendary. Historian Patoski notes, “In our memory, she will always be young, she will always be full of promise.” Meanwhile, public fascination with Selena continues because Hispanics, even the younger generations, still claim her as their own. “There haven’t been enough people like her in the Latino community,” said author Paredez,” so people continue to turn to her, to commemorate her.”

Selena’s husband Chris Perez said it is easy to understand why he – as well as so many fans – miss her. “I haven’t met anybody like her,” he said. “She was definitely one of a kind.”

First published March 31st 2014, 5:08 am

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.

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Writing workshop in Austin Feb 1

wltlogo

On February 1, I’ll be teaching a day-long workshop “Writing With A Sense of Place” in Austin for the Writers League of Texas.
Info is at www.writersleague.org/calendar/SenseofPlace

Here are some of the details:

“Writing with a Sense of Place” with Joe Nick Patoski
Add to my calendar

Register
$159
Register until
1/29/2014

Location
Mitte Carriage House
1008C West Avenue
Austin, TX 78701

2/1/2014 From 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

with Joe Nick Patoski

$99 for members (log in to get member price)

$159 for nonmembers

Place informs writing, as do the distinctive people of a particular place. Both provide critical context to writing. The class will discuss and define place, focusing on how to use words and ph rases to better describe place. Field research (weather-permitting) and independent investigation will be part of the class assignment, along with traditional instruction, discussion, writing drills, and exchange of ideas.

No matter what you write or how well or why you do it, this class aims to improve your existing writing skills and broaden your writing scope.

Joe Nick Patoski has been writing about Texas and Texans for four decades. A former cab driver and staff writer for Texas Monthly magazine and one-time reporter at the Austin American-Statesman, he has authored and co-authored biographies of Selena, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Willie Nelson and collaborated with photographer Laurence Parent on books about the Texas Mountains, the Texas Coast, and Big Bend National Park

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, published by Little, Brown, was recognized by The Friends of the TCU Library in 2009 with the Texas Book Award for the best book about Texas written in 2007-8. His most recent book for Little, Brown is The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America, which was cited by Kirkus Review as one of the ten best football books of the millennium.

Patoski has written about water, land, nature, and music for Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, the Texas Observer, Preservation magazine, National Geographic magazine, Rolling Stone, and The Oxford American. He also hosts of The Texas Music Hour of Power Saturday nights from 6 to 8 pm on KRTS 93.5 in Marfa and around the world on MarfaPublicRadio.org

Joe Nick lives near the village of Wimberley where he swims and paddles in the Blanco River.

NOTE: Tickets are not refundable, but they are transferable. If you purchase a ticket and then find you cannot attend, someone else can attend in your stead. Simply contact us at wlt@writersleague.org or 512-499-8914 and let us know so that we can update the class roster.

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Austin music pioneer Doug Sahm’s legacy (CultureMap)

http://austin.culturemap.com/news/music_film/11-13-13-doug-sahm-cactus-cafes-documentary/
Doug-Sahm_112047

A pioneer of the Austin music community, Doug Sahm was the master of so many authentically “Texas” sounds — western, Tex-Mex, rock ‘n’ roll — that live on in the music of the Texas Tornados and the Sir Douglas Quintet.

Though he passed away in 1999, Sahm’s influence is weaved into Austin music culture. Next week, KUT (along with a few choice friends) hopes to preserve that influence for generations to come.

“His story is the story of Texas music — no individual could play Texas’s indigenous sounds so skillfully and authentically,” says Joe Nick Patoski

On Monday, November 18, the Cactus Cafe will host a special edition of Views and Brews titled “Doug Sahm: All About the Groove.” Hosted by Jody Denberg, the celebration of Sahm will include local music royalty Marcia Ball, Speedy Sparks (Sahm’s guitar player) and Ernie Durawa (drummer for the Texas Tornados), as well as noted Texas writer and historian Joe Nick Patoski.

The event takes place on the 14th anniversary of Sahm’s death and will explore Austin music in the early 1970s, as well as Sahm’s influence on the local scene’s becoming nationally — and internationally — recognized. Panelists hope to celebrate a true Austin stalwart, opening the eyes — and ears — of younger generations to a soulful sound that still plays an important part in our modern culture.

(If you want proof, just wander down the block to Hole in the Wall, where Sir Doug’s music is immortalized in the jukebox.)

“For me, Doug is one of the touchstones of Texas music and one of the early founders of Austin’s vibrant music community. He’s a major reason I moved here in the early ’70s,” says Joe Nick Patoski.

“It’s time to let folks who have no idea who this Sahm character was/is appreciate one of the most beautiful cats to have graced a stage in Austin.”

“His story is the story of Texas music — no individual could play Texas’ indigenous sounds (country-western, western swing, rhythm and blues, jump blues, conjunto and rock ‘n’ roll) so skillfully and authentically. At the same time, he represented my generation of Texans, who thought differently and outside the box [and] who had to come to Austin to find our place.”

During the event, Patoski will premiere the sizzle reel of a proposed documentary about Sahm. “Jan Reid wrote a fine biography of Doug. The world doesn’t need another Doug book,” he says. “Printed words are great, but for those of us who knew Doug, there’s really no better way to tell his story than with his music, his voice and the voices of others who worked and played with him. In other words, on film.”

If the reel does its part, Patoski plans to secure funding and have a full documentary finished in time for SXSW 2015. “[Fourteen] years after his passing,” says Patoski, “it’s time to let folks who have no idea who this Sahm character was/is appreciate one of the most beautiful cats to have graced a stage in Austin.”

Views and Brews takes place at the Cactus Cafe on Monday, November 18. Doors open at 6:30 pm, and the event runs 7 pm – 8:30 pm. Entry is free, but donations are accepted.

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The Cowboys’ Indian

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from the International Business Times, link here:

Dallas Cowboys And The Indian: How A Computer Statistician From Uttar Pradesh Helped Create ‘America’s Team’
By Palash Ghosh
on October 25 2013 8:37 AM

The Dallas Cowboys are not only the most valuable franchise in the National Football League, they have also ascended to the status of genuine American icon. Either loved or hated by the public, the Cowboys are to pro football what the New York Yankees represent to major league baseball and the Boston Celtics to basketball — glamour, wealth, style and, above all, winning and success.

Indeed, according to Forbes Magazine’s latest evaluation of professional sports franchises, the Cowboys – worth a cool $2.1 billion – are the fifth most valuable athletic club in the world, just behind the Yankees. The next most valuable NFL team, the New England Patriots, clocks in at about $1.65 billion (or about $450 million behind the Cowboys).

While glitz and showbiz glamour don’t hurt, the foundation of the team’s enormous national (and even global) popularity lies with its winning tradition – the Cowboys have been to a record eight Super Bowls (tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers), winning five of them. Between 1966 and 1985 (a twenty-year period that witnessed dramatic changes in football as well as society), the Cowboys endured no losing seasons at all — an unprecedented reign of domination that not even the Yankees or Celtics can match.

Although the Cowboys have not appeared in the Super Bowl since 1996, flamboyant and controversial owner Jerry Jones has nonetheless enjoyed tremendous financial gains from the team – Dallas generates annual revenues of some $270 million, the highest in the league, boosted by lofty sponsorship deals and high revenues from premium seating. This prosperity allowed Jones to build the largest domed stadium in the world, the 100,000-seat behemoth AT&T Stadium, at a cost of some $1.3 billion (with significant financial assistance from the city of Arlington, Tex., of course).

However, the Cowboys’ climb to the top of the heap of Americana did not come easy. Founded in 1960 by Texas oil multi-millionaire Clint Murchison Jr., the Cowboys suffered five straight losing seasons (including a winless 0-11-1 maiden campaign), until they eked out a mediocre 7-7 record in the 1964-1965 season. The next year, the club sailed to a 10-3-1 record, before losing to the legendary Green Bay Packers dynasty of Vince Lombardi in the NFL Championship game.

That half-decade of painful evolution to success was primarily engineered by the team’s brain trust which comprised the disciplinarian, almost ascetic, head coach, Tom Landry; president and general manager Texas ‘Tex’ Schramm; and super-scout/ vice president of player personnel, Gil Brandt.

However, one figure from that long ago period has largely been forgotten – indeed, if he was ever known much to the public in the first place. One of the crucial ingredients in the Cowboys long-term success — a sophisticated player-draft system — was largely created by a man whose origins were very far away from North Texas and who initially did not even know anything about football.

In one of the unlikeliest sports “marriages” in U.S. history, the struggling Dallas Cowboys of the early 1960s – run by profane, hard-drinking, carousing foul-mouthed Texan men — reached out to a shy, studious, modest young fellow from rural India to help modernize, computerize and streamline their system of drafting eligible college players.

Prior to joining the Cowboys, Tex Schramm had worked a gig as a CBS Sports executive, helping to broadcast the Winter Olympics, where he became aware of and intrigued by the use of computers. He decided that computers could help the Cowboys choose players from the draft, including young athletes other clubs might miss.

“I decided… that I would have to find an objective method of deciding on the worth of a football player… I thought we had to find a way to judge players without emotion,” Schramm told Sports Illustrated in 1968. “We used computers to figure scores and standings when I was in charge of CBS coverage of the Winter Olympics… and I discussed using computers to evaluate football players with IBM experts then. But I didn’t get a chance to put the idea into operation until 1962, when I was with the Cowboys.”

That year, Schramm asked Service Bureau Corp., a subsidiary of International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), to develop a method of computerizing the football draft.

Enter one A. Salam Qureishi, a brilliant young Indian computer programmer and statistician at SBC (formerly at Case Institute of Technology — now called Case Western Reserve University — in Cleveland and hired by IBM in July 1961), who was sent to Dallas to meet with Schramm.

Born in a village in Uttar Pradesh in northern India, Qureishi did not drink nor smoke nor fool around, nor did he understand anything about football (he favored cricket and soccer) – and he also spoke in a heavy accent. One can only imagine how his initial conversations with the big gregarious American Schramm must have gone.

“All he knew was soccer,” Schramm said of Qureishi. “We had trouble communicating in the English language. It took a lot of patience to teach him the game [of football].”

Nonetheless, after a rocky series of initial introductions, Schramm and Qureishi somehow learned to communicate with each other and got down to business.

“Until I was called to Dallas, I knew nothing about American football,” Qureishi told Sports Illustrated. “I had learned to enjoy baseball because of its similarity to cricket. Now I think American football is easily the most scientific game ever invented.”

Schramm explained to Sports Illustrated that, prior to Qureishi’s arrival, the Cowboys’ scouting system’s principal problem was that they had too much data on too many players.

“We would start with, say, 2,000 players in their freshman year in college and steadily accumulate information on them,” Schramm said. “By the time they were seniors the number was down to 500 or 600. That total was reduced to 300. Then each of the 300 was ranked from one to 300. Since it took a man at least an hour to read and evaluate the information on a player… I knew we had to find a quick, dispassionate judge. The computer was the answer.”

Joe Nick Patoski, a Texas-based author who wrote about the Cowboys in a book entitled “The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America,” told International Business Times that despite their many superficial differences, Schramm and Qureishi worked very well together for several years.

“Schramm was a boisterous, aggressive salesman-type of man, but he was also highly intelligent, innovative and creative,” Patoski said. “He perceived how bright Qureishi was and how important he could be to him. Moreover, Schramm’s decision to devote the Cowboys to computerized scouting was quite a radical departure in the environment of early 1960s football.”

Indeed, pro scouting in 1962 was a part-time, amateurish affair – Qureishi’s efforts would bring the Cowboys into the Space Age.

Patoski noted that Qureishi’s input also had to be approved by Landry and Brandt, or it would not have succeeded at all.

But given the diverse personalities and divergent backgrounds involved in this epic drama, Qureishi’s learning curve in the exotic and strange world of 1960s Dallas, Texas was quite long and meandering.

“We had an Indian [man] who knew absolutely nothing about football and coaches who knew nothing about computers and less about Indians,” Schramm said. “Salam didn’t know whether a football was full of air or full of feathers.”

A culture clash of enormous magnitude indeed.

“With my heavy Indian accent and his Texas accent, we understood each other poorly at first. Somehow, we hit it off after a few initial missteps,” Qureishi said.

Qureishi also explained to Sports Illustrated the massive task in front of him in choosing the best players for a sport he knew nothing about.

“At that time, the most sophisticated computer system could work with something like only 80 variables,” he said. “It was immediately evident that we would have to cut down. We reduced everything to five dimensions.”

Those five essential variables, Qureishi asserted, were character, quickness-and-body-control, competitiveness, mental alertness and strength-and- explosiveness. He also developed a questionnaire on players that was distributed to college coaches across the country.

But that was only the surface of a far more complex system that took three years to finish.

“To a statistician, the task was a selection-and-ranking problem; select the best set of players from a given universe of college players with known measured characteristics,” Qureishi stated.

In 1964, as a kind of ‘test run’ of their system, the Cowboys’ computer picked, among others, college players Joe Namath, Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, and Fred Biletnikoff as top future prospects (all four went on to have stellar NFL careers, although not for Dallas).

“Namath [rated] ahead of [the others] because he had qualities that were held in particularly high esteem by this [computer] model,” Qureishi commented to Sports Illustrated. “He [Namath] had individual qualities that outweighed certain aspects of the… scale.”

Between 1964 and 1970, when the Cowboys won consistently, but failed to bring home the championship, Qureishi’s computer model helped select such players as Mel Renfro, Bobby Hayes, Roger Staubach, Craig Morton, Jethro Pugh, Walt Garrison, Rayfield Wright, Larry Cole, Calvin Hill, and Duane Thomas, among others, all of whom went on to have significant careers in the NFL and help to maintain the club’s dominance and growing popularity.

For example, Patoski noted the highly unusual selection of Bobby Hayes, the wide receiver who also participated in track and field at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and was called “the fastest man in the world.”

“Other clubs thought the Cowboys were crazy to pick Hayes,” Patoski explained. “Even though he was a high profile track-and-field Olympic athlete, he had never really played football before and went to a small, obscure black college called Florida A&M University, which was better known for its marching band.”

But Hayes went on to have a spectacular, game-changing career that eventually landed him in the Hall of Fame.

In July 1967, Cowboys owner Murchison launched a new company called Optimum Systems Inc. which would hold rights to the player-selection computer program developed by Qureishi. The firm was equally owned by the Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints and Qureishi himself. Optimum would expand beyond football to help corporations, municipal governments and other entities with data selection problems.

Meanwhile, Qureishi’s refusal to join the Cowboys owner and senior management in their endless bacchanalia created some humorous moments. At Super Bowl V in 1971, played between the Cowboys and the Baltimore Colts in Miami, Murchison (low-key and mild-mannered on the surface, but really a wild-living, licentious playboy) invited Qureishi to stay in a luxurious suite.

“There was much drinking and lots of girls,” Qureishi told Patoski about Murchison’s lavish parties in exclusive hotels across the country. “People drank like fish, there were hookers everywhere.”

But Qureishi would not participate in such shenanigans.

“I think people like Murchison were put off by Qureishi’s attitude, but I don’t think they were necessarily shocked by it,” Patoski told IB Times.

There were other odd moments – Patoski told of a long flight on an airplane where Murchison and Qureishi sat next to each other for hours, without saying a word to each other.

Patoski said that Qureishi had no direct contact with the Cowboy players and it was unclear to him if he was even a fan of the game.

As such, perhaps this bizarre partnership between the shy, unassuming observant Muslim Indian and the big bad Cowboys was not meant to last. The end of Qureishi’s tenure with the club centered on his problems with Murchison over the running of Optimum Systems. Eventually, Murchison forced Qureishi into resigning.

In 1972, Qureishi formed Sysorex, an international computer company in Silicon Valley, which he still serves as chairman (the firm is now called Sysorex Global Holdings Corp.)

Qureishi would not return to the Cowboys until 1986 when the world had changed drastically for the NFL. The Cowboys were now the laughingstock of the league, having made one failed draft pick after another. Also, Staubach had retired, Landry was under pressure to quit, Murchison went bankrupt and was near death and the team was in the doldrums. Schramm was still with the club (now owned by businessman Bum Bright) and asked his old friend Qureishi for help — and he complied.

However, the magic was simply not there anymore. “By this time, all the NFL clubs had sophisticated computer draft systems in place, so it was really hard for the Cowboys to stand out from the pack,” Patoski told IB Times. “Qureishi’s time with the club at this juncture was very brief.”

What is intriguing, however, is that, soon after Qureishi’s departure, (and roughly coincident with the emergence of new owner Jerry Jones), the Cowboys started making very smart draft picks again – including wide receiver Michael Irvin (1988), quarterback Troy Aikman (1989), and running back Emmitt Smith (1990). Those three superstars would, of course, generated three memorable Super Bowl victories during the 1990s.

“Qureishi is virtually unknown to the average football fan,” Patoski said. “But he was instrumental in the Cowboys’ success. The team is now a hugely profitable international ‘brand’ and he helped lay the foundation for that.”

Qureishi, who reportedly suffered a stroke in recent years, could not be reached by IB Times.
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Chet Flippo

chet3 Chet in the Navy, as illustrated in Rolling Stone.

The full, rich life of Chet Flippo, who passed away at the age of seventy in late June, was celebrated October 14 at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, where he had spent his last years as editorial director of CMT.com and writing the Nashville Skyline column.

Chet was something of a mentor and role model. He was eight years older, having grown up on the eastside of Fort Worth. He showed up on my radar as the Texas correspondent for Rolling Stone magazine, the music-oriented publication based in San Francisco that fostered a new kind of cultural journalism and launched the careers of many writers including Ed Ward, John Morthland, John Swenson, Cameron Crowe, Joe Klein, Jon Landau, Greil Marcus, Lester Bangs, Hunter S. Thompson, and Joe Ezterhas.

His first byline in Rolling Stone was a story on a Fort Worth band called Bloodrock, semi-famous for their teen car crash saga, “DOA.” Chet also took the photos accompanying the article.

Chet was a key figure in putting Austin and its music scene on the map. If producer Jerry Wexler hadn’t enlisted Chet to find Doug Sahm, Willie Nelson might not have happened. Chet was living in Austin with new wife, Martha Hume, attending graduate school at the University of Texas (his dissertation at UT was about the rise of rock journalism) while filing stories for Rolling Stone about people and sounds that the good people in San Francisco weren’t aware of. His byline was attached to the first national story about the Armadillo World Headquarters, his first feature on Doug Sahm returning to San Antonio from San Francisco made the cover. Without Chet there would have been no coverage of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings or Fourth of July Picnics, where rock and country sensibilities converged.

I was running the record department at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis in the snowy spring of 1973 when I read a story Chet had written about Doug Sahm at the Soap Creek Saloon that made me so homesick, my girlfriend and I moved back to Texas that summer. Only we didn’t go to Fort Worth; we went to Austin. The first night we went out, we went to hear Sir Doug at Soap Creek. The whole scene at the old roadhouse out in the cedar brakes west of Austin was everything Chet had written about: a cool hippie scene with a distinct cosmic cowboy flavor with the one musician who could play every indigenous musical style found in Texas holding forth on stage.

Within a year or so, Chet left Austin to open up the New York bureau of Rolling Stone. The magazine’s entire operations would eventually follow him there. We’d only met a few times, but I guess he’d seen my writing because when there was a shooting incident at a nightclub where a stray bullet almost nicked Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson, who was in a video truck outside the club, Chet suggested to an editor that they contact me. I got my first Rolling Stone byline thanks to Chet, and thanks to Tim O’Connor, the shooter, who was working with Willie Nelson and later became Austin’s biggest concert promoter . (Tim later told me he had to leave the state for a year because he’d had a prior arrest).

I continued to file stories as a stringer for Rolling Stone, which prompted me to drop out of college, in spite of Rolling Stone’s meager pay. That led to lots of freelance, a pop music column in Texas Monthly, and ultimately a writer’s life. Martha Hume, Chet’s wife, assigned me several stories for Country Music magazine, where she worked, including a piece on Jimmie Rodgers’ home in Kerrville, where the Blue Yodeler and the first country music star spent his last years. I even got to share a byline with Chet on a story about a benefit-gone-wrong for imprisoned boxer Ruben “Hurricane” Carter featuring Bob Dylan and his Rolling Thunder Review. (Through that story and some unusual circumstances, I sold Bob Dylan two used record albums while minding the counter of a friend’s record shop).

I quit writing for a few years to manage a band called Joe “King” Carrasco and the Crowns, which included my then-girlfriend and now wife, Kris Cummings. The band’s first gigs at the Lone Star Café in New York were informed by Chet’s presence and by Martha Hume’s guidance how to work the New York media.

The passing of Martha last winter and my missing a remembrance of Martha hosted by Chet in June prompted a trip to Nashville for Chet’s remembrance.

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It was a fine time.

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Before the proceedings, I had a chance to visit with Chet’s niece and with his younger brother Ernie, while Mickey Raphael, who was representing Willie Nelson and Family, pointed out all the folks who had showed up.

The memorial opened with a series of photographs laying out the life of the son of a fundamentalist preacher father and a tough, rifle-toting mother. Chet was an aspiring photographer and writer as a young boy who knew how to focus, how to operate a mimeograph machine, and how to publish an underground newspaper before he was thirteen. Until the image popped up on the screen, I did not know he, like me, was a high school cheerleader – high schools in Texas cities had boy and girl cheerleaders both. Photographs of Chet with Willie and President Jimmy Carter, with Dolly Parton, with his beloved Martha, and with a parade of other notables rolled out, one after another.

Then, the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “At the Crossroads” played on the sound system. Most of the gathering did not know the song, its composer, Douglas Wayne Sahm, or its significance. But they couldn’t missed the chorus: “You can teach me a lot of lessons, you can bring me a lot of gold, but you just can’t live in Texas, if you don’t have a lot of soul.”

The voice of Johnny Cash sang “I Shall Not Be Moved” before Cash’s daughter Rosanne Cash stepped to the podium. Noting that since the Armadillo World Headquarters no longer exists and that the Lone Star Café in New York is just a memory, she said there wasn’t a more appropriate place to celebrate Chet’s life than Nashville, in the building where the kind of country music greats that Chet respected most were honored upstairs in the Hall of Fame.

She was followed by Bill Carter, who ran security for the Rolling Stones in the mid seventies when Chet was covering them extensively for Rolling Stone. Carter opened by relating how the Stones feared Flippo and his investigative talent for unearthing details that lesser journalists never got. Carter went on to relate how Chet and him became and remained good friends over the years despite their initial adversarial relationship. No wonder. Mickey Raphael whispered that Carter was working for the Secret Service when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Chet had been a cryptographer in the Navy with top-secret clearance. No wonder these one-time adversaries were friends for life. They were both former spooks.

“Chet set an high standard for journalism,” Carter said. “He led a big, bold life.” He also captured the craziness of the Rolling Stones on the road at their peak, Carter related, epitomized by the run-in the band experienced with San Antonio authorities, egged on by media czar Rupert Murdoch, who first planted his flag in the United States buying the San Antonio News, which was making a big deal about the inflatable twenty foot phallus that Jagger used as a stage prop. That prompted a line by Flippo about “no big dicks allowed in San Antonio.”

Flippo’s relentless pursuit of the story while covering the Stones tormented Mick Jagger, who complained, “He’s everywhere” to Carter. “In every city, he knew exactly where we were and what we were doing.”

Carter introduced the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, whose John McEuen told the story of how Chet wrote about their Will The Circle Unbroken project in which a band of hippies, as McEuen described the Dirt Band, collaborated with a bunch of country music old-timers including Mother Maybelle Carter and Doc Watson to make an album. Turns out, Chet even joined the chorus of recording. The three players, joined by songwriter Matraca Berg, then launched into a spirited rendition of “Keep On The Sunny Side.”

Peter Cooper, the music journalist for the Nashville Tennessean, read excerpts from the “Fishing With Bobby Bare” chapter of Chet’s book Everybody Was Kung Fu Dancing, which went a long way explaining Bare as the kind of country music iconoclast that appealed to Chet. Cooper was followed by Bobby Bare himself, who said,” I did take Chet fishing. We went bass fishing and wound up catching a lot of crappie.” Bare recalled his first meeting with Chet in New York and how he didn’t fit the Rolling Stone writer stereotype he expected, and of subsequent visits in New York and later in Nashville. He also credited Chet for making him a rich man. The photograph of Bare that accompanied the first article Chet had written about Bare showed the singer-songwriter putting a plug of Red Man chewing tobacco in his mouth, which got him a million-dollar endorsement from Red Man

Rosanne Cash returned to the stage, recalling that Bobby Bare sang harmony on her very first record, before singing “The World Unseen,” a song she wrote after her father, Johnny Cash, had passed, supported by John McEuen on mandolin.

CMT ran a brief video tribute reel that was better suited for television viewing, followed by music executive Paula Batson who spoke of her long friendship with Chet and Martha and of her understanding that no matter how tight they were, when Chet was on the job interviewing one of her clients, he was relentless in pursuit of his story. Paula spoke of the early eighties “when Texans owned New York,” specifically citing Chet, Rolling Stone publisher Joe Armstrong, and Texas Monthly/Newsweek writer Richard West, another mentor of mine, and of Chet and Martha as a couple (“You knew they were sweet enough for each other”), and their deep knowledge and understanding of high culture and low culture.

A video of Jann Wenner, the cofounder of Rolling Stone, affirmed Chet’s role in making country music and country musicians hip. Without him, the magazine would have never covered Willie, Waylon, or Dolly Parton, much less Gary Stewart, George Jones, and Charlie Daniels. But he was hardly just country. “He was the best music writer we had,” Wenner said. Period.

Dierks Bentley sang “50 Miles” (of elbow room) with the Dirts and Matracha Berg before Ernie Flippo spoke on behalf of the family, noting that “50 Miles” was a song we sang at church,” and spending a good chunk of his remembrance celebrating all the misspelling of Flippo’s name (Chet and Martha saved all the misspelled letters) and how one reader decided Chet Flippo was the best made-up name in Rolling Stone. Chet was the only Chet in the family. Chester W. Flippo, Sr., their holy roller preacher father with a prominent mane of tall hair, was Chester, or C.W., but never Chet.

Ernie represented the family well, maintaining his composure until the last line, when he said Chet departed this world too early.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, joined by Bentley, Bare, Cash, and Berg, closed with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” with a recent photograph of Chet alone on a Florida beach on the big screen behind them.

Gone too soon, perhaps, but a well-spent life.

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Afterwards, I visited with Chet’s older sister Shirley. Ernie had mentioned that Shirley was being chaperoned by her nine year old little brother on a car date (“a chartreuse Mercury”) when Chet first heard Hank Williams on the car radio. That initial exposure would eventually lead to writing Williams’ biography Your Cheatin’ Heart.

Hank Williams is not well-known in Nashville today, despite being the single most-influential voice in country music. Nashville’s changed, but so has Austin, New York, Fort Worth, as have music and music journalism. But the words of the chronicler remain, telling the stories of a very special time and some special places, inhabited by a parade of good people.

A remembrance card at the memorial quoted Chet from A Style Is Born: The Rock and Roll Way of Knowledge in the tenth anniversary issue of Rolling Stone, published in December 1977. Great writing, he observed, is “like a letter from home, a transitory home, a home for the soul, a storehouse of everything meaningful to me. Music was, and still is, the starting point (proving the old analogy that was you listen to forms the soundtrack to your life) but that encompasses one hell of a lot.”

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Dallas Cowboys book out now in paperback

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Out now in paperback, $15.99 and hoping that this year’s team will live up to the dynasty I’ve written about.

“THE DALLAS COWBOYS stands as the definitive biography of a city and a football team.” — Dallas Morning News

From Dandy Don Meredith and Roger Staubach to the three mid-nineties Super Bowls won by the unbeatable trio of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith to TO, Tony Romo, and the glitzy soap opera team of today, the Dallas Cowboys have been the NFL’s star franchise for more than 50 years. Love them or hate them, the Cowboys are widely celebrated as “America’s Team.”

But the Cowboys have never been just about football. With their oil baron roots, overbearing, ego-driven owner, players who can’t stay out of the tabloids, a palatial new home that sets the standard for modern sports stadiums, fans as enthusiastic as cheerleaders, and cheerleaders who are as famous as the team itself, the Cowboys have become a touchstone of American popular culture.

Joe Nick Patoski plumbs all these stories in a book that is a rich, sometimes scandalous, always entertaining portrait of a time, a place, and an irreplaceable team.

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Elvis Reconsidered; the music cat

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I wrote the lead essay in a stellar 100 page commemorative Elvis – The King Revealed! magazine that’s on newsstands for another month or so, is available through ShopElvis.com and otherwise will be sold at Graceland.
Needless to say, it’s an EP Enterprises-authorized project.

I took it on because I’d never gone long on Elvis, had mixed feelings about his legacy, and wanted to know what those who worked with him musically thought of his musicianship. Who was the real music cat behind that one-name-superstar celebrity?

I got lucky and ended up talking to folks like Larry Strickland, Jerry Schilling of Elvis’s Memphis Mafia, David Briggs and Norbert Putnam who’d left Muscle Shoals to become Nashville session men who Elvis most frequently relied on, and Bob Sullivan, the engineer who recorded the Louisiana Hayride weekly radio broadcasts from KWKH in Shreveport where Elvis, Scotty, and Bill first broke out.

I did an interview with Argo on Elvis Radio, Channel 19 on Sirius/XM about the magazine and my essay, and Argo invited me to guest DJ next time I’m in Memphis. I think I’ll take him up on the offer.

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Happy Birthday, Willie Nelson

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Willie Nelson turns 80 on April 30.

This should be a national holiday.

I’ll be hosting an hour-long show on Willie and his music on MarfaPublicRadio.org at 3 pm central and 8 pm Tuesday. Tune in.
If you’re in Far West Texas, you can hear the broadcast on KRTS-FM 93.5 in Marfa, KRTP-FM 91.7 in Alpine, KDKY-FM Marathon 91.5 and KXWT-FM in Odessa-Midland, 91.3

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Willie turning 80; my interview in Texas Music mag

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Back in late January, I caught up with Willie Nelson for the first time since the biography I wrote Willie Nelson: An Epic Life was published.

We talked about music, his new recordings, Lance Armstrong, and life its ownself.

I’ll post the interview in a few weeks. If you’re hot to read it now, go buy the magazine and help out some good folks including a few writers.

link to the magazine here: txmusic.com

and here are two photographs taken by Turk Pipkin on the bus:
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and here’s the story:
Five years ago, my 500 page historical biography, Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, was published on Willie’s 75th birthday. At least seventeen biographies and his own autobiography, ghosted by Bud Shrake, no less, were already out there, but you can’t write about Texas without writing about Willie. I already knew him as the most interesting person in the world, just as he struck me during my first interview with him back in 1974. It turned out there were a lot of new things to learn, and unlike the case with most public figures, the more I knew, the more I liked him. Since a whole lot of other folks feel the same way, I’ll be talking about him for the rest of my life.

Since the Willie book, I’ve been obsessing about football, the Texas high school version and the Dallas Cowboys version, so I hadn’t been inside the Willie bubble in awhile. With his 80th birthday rolling around, a fine, even number to stop and ponder, it was a good time to check in. A lot had changed, I quickly discovered. A lot remains timeless.

Nutty Jerry’s is a massive, utilitarian metal building a few miles east of Winnie, the southeast Texas farming community just off Interstate 10 that is home of the Texas Rice Festival. Nutty Jerry’s is the community’s big bar, dancehall, and all-purpose entertainment facility. On a Friday night in late January, it was also a tour stop for the longest running road show in music, the Willie Nelson and Family traveling revue, this particular leg being one week into the Old Farts and Jackass Tour.

A little more than a year earlier, on the morning of January 8, 2012, Kevin Smith got the call from Mickey Raphael: “Can you drive to Winnie tonight and play with the band?” Smith was the standup bassist for Heybale! the trad-county supergroup of hotshot pickers featuring Merle Haggard’s guitarist Redd Volkaert and Johnny Cash’s (and the “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”-vintage Byrds’) Earl Poole Ball, currently in their fourteenth year of Sunday night residency at the Continental Club in Austin. Smith had also logged time with High Noon, the retro country band, original rockabilly Ronnie Dawson, western-swinger Cornell Hurd, and had knocked off more than 160 dates in a year-long tour with Dwight Yoakum in 2006. He got on Willie’s radar three years later by playing on the Willie and the Wheel album and tour, when Smith was with Asleep at the Wheel.

“Tommy Tedesco, in that Wrecking Crew documentary, said there’s three reasons you should take a gig – the hang, the money, and the music,” Smith said, fairly beaming as he tuned up a bass on the crew bus before the show. “All three of those are just great here. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Bee Spears, the one player in the Family band who could hear and anticipate Willie’s sometimes unusual timing and his tendency to sing behind the beat, died from exposure after falling outside his home in Nashville on December 8, 2011. The loss of the forty-year veteran was the band’s first personnel change since rhythm guitarist Jody Payne retired in 2008 after thirty-five years on the road. Spears’ last gig, which was a few days earlier in Mississippi, happened to also be the very last gig for Chris Etheridge, Willie’s long ago bassist in the early 1970s, who sat in with Bee and the band, knowing he was dying of cancer.

In the wake of Bee’s sudden death, Billy English switched from drums to bass (regular drummer Paul English, Billy’s brother and Willie’s friend and bandmate for sixty years, was at home in Dallas recuperating from a stroke) and Willie’s son Micah filled in on drums to finish out the year’s dates.

Smith doesn’t just play bass. He also plays old-style slap bass with a big upright, bringing a new-old sound to complement the other addition, young gun guitarist Lukas Nelson, who opens shows with his band, Promise of the Real, before joining his father’s band as second guitarist.

But on this balmy, late January evening, Lukas wasn’t feeling well, so his dad would have to handle the guitar chores alone, which actually turned out to be a good thing. Paul English had experienced a second wind and rejoined the family, playing and doing the books on the road. Paul allowed that he and Willie had played a round of golf had played a round of golf not too long ago but stopped after nine holes; they were two old duffers with nothing left to prove.
Music, however, was another matter. “I’m feeling good,” English smiled in his office in the back of the band bus, where he offices to keep the band’s books.

Poodie Locke, the garrulous stage manager for the band for the past 35 years and a legend in his own right, passed away from a massive heart attack in 2009. Filling his shoes was young John Selman, Poodie’s neighbor at Willie World. John, who joined the family after road managing Randy Rogers, had been at the job long enough to run a very tight ship. Shows were running on time from stage call to last note, performances consistently hitting the ninety minute mark, a cutback from the four-hour marathons of the 1970s, perhaps, but mighty impressive for a six-piece that included three octogenarians and one septuagenarian.

The three-bus, one-truck conglomeration was a lean, mean traveling machine, with music as the driving force binding everyone on board, one reason why Willie’s home base studio, Pedernales Recording, had recently gone private, so Willie can record whenever he wants.

Mickey Raphael, the Dallas-born harmonica man responsible for giving every WN tune its indelible ID, was almost giddy with the band’s renewed sound, the new crew boss, and the revived Paul. As the former “kid” in the band, Mickey went out of his way to mentor John Selman and now Kevin Smith in the Willie way. The infusion of youth was proving infectious.

The night before on an off-night in Baton Rouge, Mickey broke his standard “I usually stay in when we’re not working” policy and headed to Lafayette, an hour away, with Lukas Nelson and Kevin Smith in tow to join guitar wild man C.C. Adcock at an informal private jam and gumbo party with C.C.’s Lil’ Band of Gold compadres Warren Storm, Steve Riley, and Lil’ Buck Senegal, and David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, and the rest of Los Lobos.

Staying in on most off-nights reflects the maturation of Willie’s players. These days, wild times are recalled, not lived. “Everybody’s over their nonsense,” is how Kevin Smith put it. “I’m a pretty square dude. I don’t know how I would’ve done in the Poodie days.”

Once upon a time, band problems revolved around the inability to match drugs. When Willie banned coke back in the 1970s, the rest of the band continued doing blow. When everyone was dropping LSD, someone slipped Mickey some PCP, causing him to pass out at the side of the stage during on those four hour marathon sets without anyone noticing Mickey was missing. Mushrooms and Richard Pryor onboard caused Budrock to forget how to work the lights at the same of one show. If the band was jacked up, they were nowhere near as jacked up as opening act Johnny Paycheck nervously paced up and down stairs thanks to a lot of speed. The band was so high at some shows, “We played for four hours just to keep from having to get off the stage and having to deal with anybody,” Mickey said. These days, “Willie’s smoking and no one else is doing anything; it’s almost like a real band now,” Mickey marveled.

For all the recent changes, which included the late arrival and early departure of Willie’s bus from every gig, the core of this band of gypsies rolling down the highway remained the same. Budrock aka Buddy Prewitt, Jr., lighting director for the ages, reported he’s switched to LED lighting which has eliminating the heavy lifting of big lights and trusses of yesteryear. Tunin’ Tom, steward of Willie’s ancient guitar, Trigger, watched the Simpsons while Kenny Koepke showed off smartphone pics of his grandson. Billy English hung with his brother Paul in the office in the back of the band bus while Flaco Lemons tweaked the sound inside where the Franks Brothers and friends were setting up the merch booth. Outside Honeysuckle Rose, driver Gates Moore talked up Dallas Cowboys with top security man LG, who talked up his 49ers. Inside the bus, David Anderson maintained traffic control while staying close to Willie’s side.

While all the usual preshow business swirled around him, the man at the center of it all sat serenely in his booth chair in his rolling home thirty minutes before showtime, wearing a black t-shirt that read North Shore on the front with a map of the Hawaiian Islands on back. He was twirling a big fatty in his hand while surveying the world around him, facing forward, as always.

Willie’s friend Turk Pipkin had brought a guitar to be signed and auctioned for a fundraiser for the Nobelity Project. Daughter Lana poked her head out from the back of the bus where Little Sister Bobbie (actually, his big sister) was resting up, while daughter Amy sat up front, talking to Kevin Smith after Kevin got last minute instructions to open in A minor.

Willie, it turned out, had been rather busy for a man with his 80th birthday in sight. His book Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die was a bona-fide national best-seller. On the heels of the album Heroes, he had a new record about to drop, Let’s Face The Music and Dance, with an album of duets lined up behind it, along with a tour schedule that would keep him on the road, interspersed with breaks, through next fall.

“Still working, still fun, people are still showing up,” he said off-handedly of the schedule ahead.

The new album was kind of a repurposed Stardust. Rather than pulling songs from the Great American Songbook, though, Face the Music And Dance is part-Irving Berlin, part-Django Reinhardt, and all-Willie.

“Someone came up with the idea, ‘Why don’t you do an Irving Berlin album?’ I started thinking about his songs and all of a sudden, Face the Music is there. I listened to Sinatra’s cut on it and Diana Krall’s got a great cut on it. I really fell in love with the song all over again.

But instead of going total-Berlin, Willie veered off into other composers starting with “Walking My Baby Back Home,” and running through “You’ll Never Know,” and “Twilight Time.” “These are all great romance songs, “ he explained. So Irving Berlin simply became the inspiration.

“We’re playing a song or two or three from it every night, mainly because it’s new music and we enjoy a couple of new Django things that we’re doing.”

Ah, Django. Willie couldn’t do an album of classics and leave the original gypsy swing guitarist out of the mix. “Many years ago, Johnny Gimble gave me a tape of Django stuff,” Willie explained. “It’s the first time I ever heard him, and I realized as soon as I heard of him, I’d have to hear a whole lot more. I probably have everything he ever recorded, from the Hot Club of France to when he played the electric in New York. He was the greatest guitarist ever.”

Face the Music and Dance marks the second time he’s recorded “Nuages” and “Vous et Moi,” both of which appeared on 1999’s swing album Night and Day. But on the new version of the latter song in particular, Willie exhibits some of his finest guitar picking on any recording over the past two decades.

Still, it’s the old warhorse, “South of the Border,” that catches the ear, especially the singer’s plaintive “ai-yi-yi”s. “It’s one of those naturals when you’re from Abbott,” the man across the table said matter-of-factly, inhaling deeply before passing the big joint. “It’s one of the first songs you learn. I’ve got a lot of Mexican in me,” he laughed.

Willie asked if I heard about Country Music Association Male Vocalist r of the Year Blake Shelton’s comments about “old farts and jackasses” and that “nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music,” which earned Shelton a heated response from Willie’s friend and mentor Ray Price, who suggested Shelton check back in sixty-three years to check on his legacy. Price signed his letter “Chief Old Fart and Jackass.”

“Wasn’t that funny?” Willie said. “Ray will kick his ass. I think it was a stupid thing to say. I think he realizes it now, that maybe he stepped in it a little bit there.” He paused then expounded. “It’s not often they do [step in it]. Most everybody I know has a lot of respect for those who came before them. I think it was unfortunate thing he said. I haven’t heard a lot of that.”

Willie’s response was to rename his roadshow “The Old Farts and Jackass Tour.”

After Face the Music and Dance comes the duet album, To All the Girls. “I did some songs with Loretta Lynn, Dolly, Roseanne Cash,” Willie said. “You know, I keep having fun doing it. It’s my band on Face the Music and for the Duets album that’s being produced by Buddy Cannon, it’s Nashville musicians who know me up there.”

We talked about the revival of Paul English (“I don’t know. He’s been getting into that Viagra or something”) and the growing acceptance of marijuana, an appropriate topic since Willie sits on the advisory board of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, and was passing around some very strong weed at the moment. “I think there’s 15 or 20 states where medicinal is legal. It’s just a matter of time. When the economy gets worse, and worse and worse, people are gonna say, ‘Wait a minute. We’re missing a deal here.’ And they’re going to finally tax it and regulate it like Chesterfields. They’ll find out there’s a whole lot of money there. “

As onerous as his bust two years ago at the Sierra Blanca checkpoint on Interstate 10 in West Texas may have been, I thanked him because it got me a byline in the Texas Tribune and New York Times. Willie derived some benefit from the inconvenience too. “After I got busted I started the Teapot Party. There was a Tea Party and I thought there should be a Teapot Party. It was kind of a half-ass joke, but it’s now represented in every state in the union and in some foreign countries. There are millions of pot smokers out there who could vote if they wanted to. “

We also talked about Lance Armstrong, the other famous mega-celebrity with Austin ties, who had confessed to Oprah Winfrey that he had doped while winning seven Tour de France cycling races. If anyone could relate, I figured it was Willie. He could.

“If it [doping] is a bad thing to do – and in some instances and with some age groups, it would be a bad thing,” he said, maybe there was reason to go public. “But I don’t know any sport that’s drug-free, do you? From professional football to wrestling.” He laughed and said, “I know some of those old wrestlers who took better pain pills than you ever saw, because they went through a lot of pain. There’s a lot of sports out there that depend on drugs to get them [participants] to the next big town.”

Just like some entertainers enjoy a fine smoke before they hit the stage.

So in a way, Willie had been where Lance is. “We oughta look at it like, ‘Let’s don’t judge ‘til you’ve walked in that man’s shoes. Let’s not tell him how to live or what to do.’ That’s what we were all taught early in life. Judge not, lest you be judged. I don’t think any of us can afford to be judged too close or harshly.”

Turned out, Willie and Lance were friends. “I’ve passed a couple emails back and forth, but he got real busy,” Willie said. “I didn’t want to bother him.”

Did Willie offer Lance any advice?
He nodded, exhaling. “Fuck ‘em.

“Who knows what brought everything on and why everything was like it was? I think BC, Billy Cooper [Willie’s one-time driver], said it pretty good: ‘It’s my mouth and I’ll haul coal in it if I want to.’

“I know one thing that comes to mind when all that happened. I had an arm that I couldn’t use. I hurt it really bad when I was playing golf. George Clooney told me about a doctor in Germany. I went to see him. He took blood out and recharged it with a lot of healing qualities, put it back in, and my arm got OK. It’s about 100% now. You just can’t throw everything in one big bag and say, That’s bad.’”

That was Willie the Star talking. As the grand old man of Texas music, did he dispense advice to younger musicians coming up?

“If they’re any good, they wouldn’t listen to me or anybody else,” he allowed. “They’ll do what their instincts tell them to do and they’ll wind up doing the right thing. You can get a lot of bad advice out there.”

And what were Willie’s instincts telling him?

“To go do a show right here in a minute,” he said, nodding his head towards the big building outside the bus. “That’s about all I have planned until tomorrow.”

Those soulful, deep brown eyes across the table signaled it was time to go to work.

With the band dressed in various shades of black, and Trigger, his battered guitar tethered to his red-white-and-blue macramé strap, Willie had the full house at Nutty Jerry’s eating out of his hands from “Nightlife,” a tune originally recorded less than an hour from Winnie at Gold Star Studios in Houston, just before Willie hit Nashville and was discovered 53 years ago. This particular version showcased his guitar-picking with a long extended improvisation of deft, distinctive notes. He wore the song like an old sweater.

“Little sister” Bobbie, two years his elder, took off on her signature piece, “Down Yonder” to kick the show into gear, followed by “Me and Paul,” the saga of misadventures with Willie’s drummer, his back, and his best friend, Paul English, who nodded assuredly in time with the rhythm as he worked his brushes on the snare.

The crowd provided the response lines to “Good Hearted Woman” “in love with a good-hearted man.” Before long, hardcore fans were pressing up against the stage, women were standing up, arms raised high, mouthing the lyrics, with yeehaws and rebel yells echoing off the walls. Several times, Willie removed the red bandanna he wore around his head and tossed it into the crowd, with outstretched hands grasping for it like it was one of Elvis’ scarves, only better.

The last half of the show was pure tent revival, with daughter Amy and son Lukas, arms around each other, taking the stage to sing backing vocals while their father rolled through “On The Road Again,” “Always On My Mind.” three Hank Williams songs including “I Saw The Light,” working in “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away” until closing with his latest, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” a spiritual with decidedly secular lyrics.

As the band played on, Willie signed autographs for fans bunched at the lip of the stage, autographing hats, pieces of paper, shirts, bras, dolls…anything offered for close to five minutes.

And then he walked offstage. The band finally shut down, and Paul English gingerly escorted Sister Bobbie offstage. When Bobbie recognized a writer waiting at the bottom of the steps, she lit up, gave him a hug, and accepted his compliments for her performance. She kept smiling as she sweetly allowed, “The sound wasn’t very good tonight. You’re just going to have to come back and hear us again real soon.”

Her words made me stop and marvel. Bobbie and Willie have been playing together for seventy-six years. Seventy-six years. That’s longer than any two people in the history of American music. From their perspective, they’re simply still doing what their grandparents raised them to do: make music, and have fun doing it.

Paul helped Bobbie step gingerly onto Honeysuckle Rose, then stepped off as the door closed. Within seconds, the bus with the half-eagle, half-Willie face painted on the back began to back out of its parking spot. A minute later, it had vanished into the coastal fog.

And that should have been that.

Except that the following night in Bossier City, Willie and Family were joined onstage by one of his mentors, Ray Price, who sang “Crazy” and “Nightlife” and killed with his performance, inspiring Willie to advise the audience, “Watch out for them old farts!” The next night, Willie did an intimate two-fer with old friend Kris Kristofferson at the Bluebird Café in Nashville.

Like the big wheels rolling, the Willie show never really stops. It just keeps on going. The man behind it all wouldn’t have it any other way.

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