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
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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 email@example.com or 512-499-8914 and let us know so that we can update the class roster.
Roky Erickson, Godfather of Texas psychedelia and the lead singer of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, is honored with a restrospective of three reissues of the best music of his solo career. Light in the Attic records has reissued The Evil One, Don’t Slander Me, and Gremlins Have Pictures as splendidly-packaged CDs and vinyl LPs, both formats including extensive liner notes by yours truly. The liners for all three combined make for a small book about Roky’s post-Elevators career. I’d actually participated in the first extensive interview with Roky following his incarceration in the Rusk Hospital for the Criminally Insane (a bad deal that has to do more with Texas’s twisted form of justice than with Erickson’s mental state), and wrote about Roky completing the recording for the Evil One (released on 415 Records in the US and on Epic UK around the rest of the world) when I was a reporter for the Austin Statesman. I learned a lot doing research on these recordings. TEO and Don’t Slander Me were mostly recorded in San Francisco and produced by Stu Cook, the bassist for Creedence Clearwater Revival, along with Billy Miller, the autoharp player who was part of the band Blieb Alien that backed Roky in his first post-Rusk appearances and recordings in Austin in 1975. Duane Aslaksen’s guitar and production skills are critical pieces of The Evil One and Dont Slander Me, as part of the Aliens, Roky’s studio band. Gremlins Have Pictures includes the primitive Ritz Theatre live performance that led to Erickson’s first single, “Starry Eyes” and “Two-Headed Dog” produced by Doug Sahm and issued as a 45 on Mars Records, as well as recordings Roky did with the Explosives, the Austin power trio that toured with him in the early 80s. The Ritz gig (the show is introduced by Austin artist Jim Franklin) led to Erickson’s return to the stage and studio. The stories are told by Stu Cook, Roky’s manager Craig Luckin, along with Billy Miller, Duane Aslaksen, Freddy Steady Krc, Epic A&R chief Howard Thompson, and many others, shining light on a brilliant, sometimes twisted career at its peak, with madness always lurking in the shadows. The deets are here: www.lightintheattic.net
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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.
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
As the port and melting pot of American music, the Crescent City sound began in Congo Square, where African slaves and immigrants from the Caribbean and Europe played music from their home countries and proceeded to mix it all up. Jazz came from New Orleans, and by virtue of lineage so did rhythm and blues, rock & roll, Zydeco, brass bands, and bounce. Music is the linchpin of Mardi Gras, of St. Joseph’s Day for the local Indian tribes, and of Jazz Fest. Music celebrates births and ushers the dead to the cemetery in festive fashion. If New Orleans isn’t really where all music comes from—as Ernie K-Doe once proclaimed on WWOZ, the city’s community-owned radio station—then I’d like to know where else.
You can hear music anywhere, but in New Orleans you can feel it and smell it in the thick and salty air. Now and then you can read about it—but rarely in stories as well-told as Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man by Harold Battiste Jr. with Karen Celestan (2010), and Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans by Ben Sandmel (2012). These are the first two books in a series published by the Historic New Orleans Collection. The large-format books are liberally illustrated with photographs, poster and record label reproductions, and ephemera—get-well cards, poster boards, newspaper clippings, election buttons—that alone are worth the cover charge. But the storytelling makes the difference in these lavishly produced books.
Of all the arts that inform New Orleans’s rich culture and separate the city from everywhere else, music remains by far the most important. The musicians at Preservation Hall, one of they city’s oldest living traditions, charge $20 for playing jazz funeral standard “When the Saints Go Marching In”; it is so well known around the world that tourists can’t help but request it. And the creators of this culture, the musicians at the heart of it all, from Jelly Roll Morton to Lil Wayne, have been recognized for their contributions and have sacrificed themselves for their art (a moment of silence for James Booker, Professor Longhair, and all the has-beens and never-wills). Harold Battiste Jr. and Ernie K-Doe, the subjects of the two books, traveled wildly divergent paths to reach hometown legacy status.
Battiste is that rare success story from New Orleans’s classic R&B/rock & roll heyday, from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s; he was one of the cats who left town to be somebody and make money. Most artists bitch about never getting paid and having royalties and publishing rights stolen, and were and are bitter, but Battiste rose to a position of prominence as an A&R cat for Specialty; as owner of the trailblazing African-American-owned AFO label; as a producer and arranger of classic American popular music (including Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” and some of the earliest recordings of the Marsalises, New Orleans’s first family of jazz); and as producer and arranger of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and musical director of their television show orchestra. Along the way, Battiste tried to give breaks to others, including Melvin Lastie and Mac Rebennack, whom he produced as Dr. John, The Night Tripper.
Battiste was a scrupulous list keeper and diarist, and many of his diary entries turn up in his memoir. Still, for all the intimate writings, a reader is left wondering about the dynamics of Battiste’s relationship with Bono and with other music-business players, as well as the specific details of what led to his divorce (besides the implicit demands of the lifestyle musicians lead). Too often Battiste gives his personal life short shrift to focus on career highlights.
Ernie K-Doe’s story is more compelling, due largely to the writing talents and outsider’s eye of author, musician, and historian Ben Sandmel, whose prose reads like a great New Orleans song is supposed to sound: you start tapping your foot with each turn of the page, as the tales grow wilder, more exotic, and larger than life. Each time you’re ready to put the book down, you’re swaying and moving to some silent rhythm.
K-Doe was one of those one-hit wonders who never got his due, popularly or financially, after his moment in the national limelight with the number-one single “Mother-in-Law,” in 1961. Like so many others, his story should have ended there, but K-Doe’s mid-life resurrection became the bigger story. First he was a disc jockey on WWOZ, where the self-declared Emperor of R&B became a star in his own right. Then he and his third wife, Antoinette, started Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge, where K-Doe held court and gave a satisfying show (on most nights) to visitors seeking an authentic New Orleans music experience—unlike, say, witnessing Frogman Henry singing “Ain’t Got No Home” on Bourbon Street for the two-drink minimum.
Sandmel’s appreciation and respect for K-Doe and Antoinette shows through his rollicking, party-time narrative that celebrates the extreme aspects of entertainment without ignoring the consequences of what the pursuit of pleasure can bring. K-Doe’s post-“Mother-in-Law” life was defined by what Sandmel calls “anarchic madness,” which is a nice way of describing the collateral damage brought on by all that partying, such as alcoholism and broken relationships.
But the redemption K-Doe found late in life through his wife and the Mother-in-Law Lounge is indisputable, culminating with his postmortem immortalization in 2001 as a life-size, stuffed statue that remained the lounge’s centerpiece even after Antoinette’s death on Mardi Gras morning in 2009. Betty Fox, Antoinette’s daughter, ran the joint for a year and a half before she threw in the towel, acknowledging that she wasn’t her charismatic mother. The current owner, trumpet player Kermit Ruffins, temporarily reopened the lounge at North Claiborne Avenue and Columbus Street for this year’s Mardi Gras, and he hopes to eventually reopen the venue full-time.
K-Doe may have talked a lot of shit (he once said, “Ain’t nothin’ but two songs gonna make it to the end of the world—’The Star-Spangled Banner’ and ‘Mother-in-Law'”), but he was always worth listening to. The man’s radio wizardry and penchant for hyperbole has been preserved for posterity:
As for the larger question K-Doe posited about all music and New Orleans, both books go a long way in providing the answer: music couldn’t have come from anywhere else.
For more on Ernie K-Doe and the outsize influence of New Orleans on America’s musical tradition, read “All Music Comes from Louisiana” by Chris Rose, featured in the OA’s Louisiana Music Issue.
K-Doe on DJing and WWOZ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UNSdf9i0ixA
The October issue of Texas Monthly magazine features the Regime Change chapter from the book The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America.
Last part of the stories behind the story of my West Texas Music drive, one of 16 drives featured in the June 2012 Texas Monthly Drive issue.
Today, we conclude where it all started, at least for the teenagers known as Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
The Hub City is the largest city in all the Great Plains, and home to Texas Tech University. But for all its assets, the city’s contribution to rock and roll is the one that continues to resonate around the world, even if some of the locals are still uncomfortable with the social implications the music wrought.
THE BUDDY HOLLY CENTER is Lubbock’s all-purpose museum with art exhibitions and traveling exhibits, and music on the patio during summer months. The main attraction, of course, is Buddy Holly, whose life is celebrated in the Buddy Holly Gallery, a permanent exhibit at the center with a $5 admission fee.
Showcases are devoted to Buddy’s childhood with his leatherwork, Cub Scout uniform, and drawings of cowboys and horses, and self-portrait in pencil, and his personal record collection, which includes The Midnighters’ “Sexy Ways” and Larry Williams’ “Slow Down;” his early influences; his rapid rise; Petty’s studio; and to the Crickets.
The Gallery features the writing of Robert Palmer from the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, a music timeline from 1929 to 1959, and a touch screen It’s So Easy trivia quiz prepared by the late Bill Griggs, the World’s #1 Buddy fan. It isn’t as easy as Griggs would have you believe.
Sample question: Buddy had a pet cat named Booker T and a pet dog named
b) Reddy Teddy
c) Alonzo, the correct answer
As Holly’s renown grew, his glasses got bigger, although the pair he died with, which are on display, were classic black horn-rimmed frames.
There’s a 15 minute film where Paul McCartney makes clear the Beatles’ biggest influence were the Crickets, Keith Richard discusses the Holly sound, Don McLean discusses “American Pie,” his song about the plane crash that killed Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper, J.I. Allison demonstrates rhythm, and Vi Petty plays Celeste. Gallery admission: $5
An adjacent room with no admission fee is the West Texas Hall of Fame loaded with great casual photos of Holly and Jennings, along with a special shoutout to Bill Griggs, the world’s #1 Holly fan who spent the last years of his life in Lubbock by choice. The Ivy West Texas Music Map illustrated by John Chinn in the center’s hallway shows all the talent who came out of the region. 1801 Crickets Avenue @ 19 th St., 806 767-2686, buddyhollycenter.org
Directly across from the center is the West Texas Walk of Fame, honoring entertainment celebrities from the region (hey, y’all, where’s Natalie Maines?) whose centerpiece is a life-sized statue of Buddy Holly brandishing a guitar.
THE CACTUS THEATER, a block from the Buddy Holly Center, is Don Caldwell’s musical labor of love and the linchpin of the Depot Entertainment District. The Cactus presents live music and musical performances most weekends and many weeknights. The Buddy Holly Story musical has enjoyed several extended runs in this lovingly restored 30s vintage venue.
1812 Buddy Holly Ave. @ 19th, 806 762 3233 cactustheater.com
KDAV AM 1590, one of the coolest oldies radio stations anywhere, welcomes visitors to step inside the radio station and see the disc jockeys in action up close and personal. The station bills itself as the Buddy Holly station, and I gotta say, there’s something about hearing “That’ll Be the Day” crackling over the AM radio while cruising Lubbock’s wide streets that make everything seem right in the world.
1714 Buddy Holly Ave., 806 744 5859 kdav.org/kdav
LUBBOCK HIGH SCHOOL is Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ alma mater as well as the most significant architectural structure in the city. The red-tile roofed, sand brick high school is between downtown and the Tech campus on
2004 West 19th @ Avenue D, 806 766 1444. Call the administration office in advance to request a hall pass to view the Buddy Holly showcase in the hallway
STUBB’S BARBECUE is where folks like Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Terry Allen and the rest of the Lubbock mob played back in the 1970s before all of them, Stubbs included, moved away. The Stubbs barbecue sauce legend started here as did some storied events such as Jesse Taylor’s Sunday Night Jam and the night when Tom T. Hall played pool with Joe Ely using an onion as the cue ball. Underneath the statue of Stubbs in overalls holding a heaping plate of ribs is a small plaque that reads “There will be no bad talk or loud talk in this place” – Mr. Stubblefield’s mantra that was written on his menus and posted throughout his joint. Having enjoyed the establishment in its heyday, it’s startling to see how small the building footprint is today. 108 E. Broadway http://stubbsbbq.com/started.php
Continue on East Broadway to MLK, turn right and continue to Teak and follow the signs to the Lubbock cemetery and the final resting place of Buddy Holly. The simple gravesite is plainly marked. Tradition mandates you leave a guitar pick on the flat headstone. The earth from which Holly sprang from and to which he returned may look hard and desolate, but it’s fertile soil for music makers who sound like Texas.