Every Saturday nite, yours truly hosts the Texas Music Hour of Power, showcasing all kinds of Texas sounds created over the past century of recorded music. The show runs two hours because Texas spans two time zones and frankly, the music is too dang big to limit it to one hour.
Earlier this year, renowned Texas writer Joe Nick Patoski released his 10th Texas-centric book titled “Austin to ATX: The Hippies, Pickers, Slackers & Geeks Who Transformed The Capital of Texas.” It’s an in-depth look of some of Austin’s most influential figures.
Patoski uses the term “alternative Austin,” which refers to the businesses that have been shaped by outsiders, musicians, freethinkers, artists and entrepreneurs who didn’t want to follow the status quo. These creatives, drawn to Austin for its counterculture and music scenes in the 1970s, developed communities and institutions that have paved the way for film, food and tech to become the cornerstones of life in Austin today.
Patoski says he wanted to understand why Austin has the reputation it does, and why some longtime residents have what he calls a “navel-gazing” love for the city.
“I wanted to … see what happened way back when, and the ‘Big Bang’ in the early ’70s, when people quit leaving Austin, and they started coming,” Patoski says.
In the 1960s, he says young people left Austin for bigger and better things, including famous musicians like Janis Joplin. Patoski says in the ’70s, the city’s distance from media centers on the East and West Coasts made it attractive to artists of all kinds.
“We make our own stuff up,” Patoski says. “My story is all these creation myths … of these outsiders who had to come to this place and work out their ideas and make something up out of nothing.”
He points to filmmakers like Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez, and to Whole Foods Market founder John Mackey, too. Now, Austin-based global brands include the world’s largest chain of organic food stores and the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals, among others.
“All these things were started, usually for the wrong reasons,” Patoski says. “People just wanted to get together and do something because it was cool.”
Patoski points out the differences between Austin and the rest of Texas. He says that while the rest of the state’s economy is based on extracting resources like oil and gas, Austin’s culture and economy are based on creativity.
Much has changed in Austin, though, since the 1970s. People in creative fields struggle to afford to live there, and the city’s population and physical size is much larger. But Patoski says new arrivals continue to view Austin as the kind of city those who live there imagine it to be.
“[Austin] continues to speak to people in a way that separates it from everywhere else,” Patoski says.
Here is audio of the SXSW panel on Who and What Makes Austin Austin? panel at SXSW 2019
with Heather Brunner of WP-Engine, filmmaker and editor Sandra Adair, and BBQ brisket master Aaron Franklin Audio of panel
During his years as a professional memorabilia collector for the Hard Rock Cafe chain, Thomas Kreason often noticed that many of Texas’ musical treasures — from rare phonograph records to celebrity guitars — were slipping out of the Lone Star State.
Join me for the Houston History Alliance’s 2016 conference addressing the musical soul of a city that’s not easy to pin down. There will be music, starting on Friday and running through Sunday. I will deliver the keynote address Saturday morning at MATCH in Midtown, followed by a number of panels addressing hip-hop, Tejano, Texas tenors, R&B and Honky Tonk, and other musical subjects. Come on out and groove, and dig into H-Town’s rich musical past.
Sir Doug & The Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove continues riding the film festival circuit, stopping in Waxahachie, just south of Dallas, on Weds evening, May 18. Sir Doug is one of several great films screening in Waxa for the fest including True Stories and Selena, plus lotsa music.
Check it out. Two other Texas screenings have been added – Sunday afternoon, June 5, at the South Texas Popular Culture Center in San Antonio, and Saturday night, June 11 at the Barnhill Center in Brenham.
We haven’t run a Music Documentary Monday in a while, but when we asked filmmaker Brendan Toller about his favorites of the year, he responded with such written enthusiasm for this title – an SXSW 2015 premiere, as was his own Danny Says – that we decided on a one-off revival of our review column to share it with readers at length. Check back in a few weeks for our annual round-up of the year in music film, featuring picks from Brendan and host of other connoisseurs.
Joe Nick Patoski is a rock ‘n’ roll/Texas font, penning books on Willie Nelson, Selena, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. His bylines have appeared in The New York Times, LA Times, No Depression, et al., and he quickly rose to Variety’s “Top Documentarians to Watch in 2015″ with his directorial debut, Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove. Doug Sahm’s recordings, legacy, and inducive character are among the thrills of my life, so it was just minutes on the ground at SXSW before Patoski and I were cackling in a corner over a mess of Franklin’s barbecue. This prowess of this production from Austin-based creative team Arts+Labor was the true gem of discovery at SXSW 2015, and few music docs in this “year of the music doc” have reflected the tone and candor of their subject so well.
Doug Sahm is an indefinable character, but here goes.
At 7 he was considered San Antonio’s country music prodigy, getting a tip of the hat from Hank Williams himself. In the mid-’60s, at the suggestion of record producer Huey P. Meaux, Sahm partnered with his longtime friend, organist Augie Meyers, and Jack Barber, Frank Morin, and Johnny Perez to form the Sir Douglas Quintet. The Quintet cashed in as a fake British Invasion band with their ’65 smash “She’s About A Mover.” They traveled the country and, like not a few other Texas greats (the 13th Floor Elevators, Johnny Winter, Butthole Surfers), got busted for a few joints. Sahm’s parents mortgaged their house to get him out of jail.
As soon as he shook loose from probation, Sahm moved to San Francisco, and any remaining “redneck” roots were hippified by the LSD revolution. He took this dual sensibility back to Texas, and it defines the forces that have kept his adopted hometown of Austin weird. As his lookalike son Shawn Sahm recalls in the film, Doug was driven by the groove – a desire to keep the whirlwind of beautiful music, women, and food forever in orbit. His eclecticism and showmanship permeate his solo debut, Doug Sahm & Band (produced by Jerry Wexler and featuring contributions from Dr. John, Bob Dylan, and the Memphis Horns), but those qualities didn’t always pay in the bloated ’70s record biz (see also NRBQ). In the ’80s Sahm took the rollicking highs and lows of showbiz to Scandinavia (“Bavarian Baby”!) and Canada, returning home late in the decade to form Tex-Mex supergroup the Texas Tornados. He passed away in 1999 at the early age of 58. Fans include: Jeff Tweedy, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Bottle Rockets, Drive-By Truckers, et al.
Like Sahm, Patoski and Arts+Labor chief Alan Berg are at heart creative-community organizers. They’ve assembled a team of Austinites that wind together beautifully shot interviews, archival stills, and rare footage and audio tapes (including an incredible reel-to-reel recorded by Sahm’s wife foreshadowing her departure from their marriage). Super-8, VHS, and HD formats are embraced and blended to stunning effect by colorist Joe Malina and director of photography Yuta Yamaguchi. Sir Doug and the Genuine Cosmic Texas Groove is infused with a thoughtfulness and heartfelt sense of humor that transcends tribute and effortlessly infects viewers with the groove: you too will be driven to discover astonishing music, love, and food, with Doug Sahm providing your spiritual soundtrack. As Sahm himself put it, “You just can’t live in Texas if you don’t have a lot of soul.”