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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Texas Accordion Kings and Queens this Sat

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Accordionistas! The 25th Accordion Kings and Queens is at Miller Outdoor Amphitheater in Houston this Sat nite – 6 pm, gratis! gratis! gratis! CJ Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, Rio Jordan, and tributes to Valerio Longoria, Mark Halata and Texavia, Ginny Mac, and Conteno con Los Halcones, along with winners of the Big Squeeze talent contest.

deets are at TexasFolklife.org http://www.texasfolklife.org/event/25th-annual-accordion-kings-queens-0

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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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Where to dance, Texas-style

As seen in USA Today, March 28, 2014
http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/10greatplaces/2014/03/27/texas-dance-halls/6957465/

Gruene-HExterior-Courtesy-of-Robert-Fletcher

by Larry Bleiberg

Long before Pandora and Spotify, music lovers found entertainment at dance halls. In Texas, the tradition continues in sites that have become cultural landmarks. “You’re someplace special, and the music is respected and honored. It’s a whole encompassing experience,” says Joe Nick Patoski, a journalist who hosts the weekly Texas Music Hour of Power. He shares some favorite spots with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

ALSO ONLINE: Beautiful Texas: Photos of the Lone Star State

Gruene Hall
Gruene, Texas
Bands go out of their way to play Gruene, which calls itself the oldest dance hall in Texas. Located in a former ghost town, the white clapboard saloon helped launch stars such as Lyle Lovett and George Strait. On summer nights, the un-air-conditioned space with a wooden dance floor packs in crowds. “It’s a good sweat,” Patoski says. “If anyone plays the Texas circuit, they play Gruene.” 830-606-1281; gruenehall.com

Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon
Houston
This classic country music venue, where Willie Nelson once played with the house band, now calls itself Texas’ largest LGBT country and western club. “This is where modern culture meets old tradition,” Patoski says. “It shows how pervasive country dance music is in Texas. It doesn’t matter who’s doing the boot-scooting. It’s the same old thing.” 713-677-0828; neonbootsclub.com

Billy Bob’s Texas
Fort Worth
While the world’s largest honky-tonk might not be an intimate venue, it offers such extras as bull riding for guests willing to sign a waiver. “It’s an urban-cowboy setting. They have big headlining acts, and what it lacks in history and texture, it makes up in bigness,” Patoski says. 817-624-7117; billybobstexas.com

Music City Texas Theater
Linden, Texas
This former theater is the go-to place for music in East Texas, Patoski says. While it’s a sit-down performance venue, which makes it more like an opry than a dance hall, it has a deep history. It’s run by Richard Bowden, who played with Don Henley and Glenn Frey, who went on to form the Eagles. 903-756-9934; musiccitytexas.org

Broken Spoke
Austin
This Texas institution celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Now it’s a holdout, surrounded by a new mixed-use apartment complex. “They’re used to be dozens of honky-tonks like the Broken Spoke,” Patoski says. “You can’t come to Austin without going to the Spoke if you want to have a music experience.” 512-442-6189; brokenspokeaustintx.com

Stagecoach Ballroom
Fort Worth
This family-run hall maintains an old-school atmosphere with vintage lights and a 3,500-square-foot floor for twirling couples. It even offers free dance lessons before many shows. “If you’re in Fort Worth and you want to hear country music, this is where to go,” Patoski says. 817-831-2261; stagecoachballroom.com

Luckenbach Texas
This legendary dance hall found its fame in the Waylon Jennings song that took its name from the Hill Country ghost town. Patoski says the song doesn’t do it justice. “Luckenbach is like stepping back in time 100 years. It’s a great place to pitch washers and horseshoes and have a beer, even if you don’t go into the dance hall.” 830-997-3224; luckenbachtexas.com

Crider’s Rodeo & Dancehall
Hunt, Texas
This seasonal Hill Country getaway along the upper Guadalupe River is one the state’s premier outdoor dance venues, Patoski says. “Before air-conditioning in Texas, you always went to the hills to cool off. Why dance in a stuffy old dance hall? Just do it outdoors.” It’s open weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with a rodeo and live band every Saturday night. 830-238-4441; on Facebook

Schroeder Hall
Schroeder, Texas
This spot in cattle-ranching country on the coastal prairie proudly calls itself the “second-oldest dance hall in Texas,” leaving others to argue about which was first, Patoski says. Expect to find local and regional bands and enthusiastic dancers. “Once upon a time, every small town in Texas had a place like this. There’s nothing around it. It’s real rural music,” Patoski says. 361-573-7002; schroederdancehall.com

John T. Floore’s Country Store
Helotes, Texas
This San Antonio-area hall, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is famous for its tamales, although its performance roster included Elvis, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan and more. During the summer, the outdoor patio is packed with dancers. “It’s just a cool old joint,” Patoski says. 210-695-8827; liveatfloores.com

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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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A Doug Sahm Groove-In Mon Nov 18 Cactus Cafe

Sahm_Cactus_11_18

Come on out to the Cactus Cafe on the University of Texas campus on Monday evening, November 18 for a Views and Brews discussion about Doug Sahm, the original Austin groover moderated by Jody Denberg of KUTX and featuring Marcia Ball, Ernie Durawa, and Speedy Sparks in a panel discussion, along with a screening of a four minute sizzler reel of a proposed film documentary directed by Joe Nick Patoski. Doors 6:30, show at 7

Doors 6:30 showtime 7 pm

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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.

chet1 Chet’s Chili recipe

It was a fine time.

chet2

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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