5 to 8 pm in front of KRTS in Marfa
Calling all Image Wranglers!!
gratis, gratis, gratis
Tuesday July 15, 2014 @7pm
Remember The Armadillo with our Views and Brews at the Cactus Cafe this Tuesday July 15 @ 7:00pm, as Jody Denberg of KUTX hosts Eddie Wilson, Jim Franklin, Micael Priest, Danny Garrett and Joe Nick Patoski to dispel the myth, “If you remember the Armadillo, you weren’t there”.
See posters that helped style a generation of Austin music and hear stories about the days at the Dillo that made music history world wide.
Views and Brews is free and open to the public, we hope you can join us as we add another chapter to the Armadillo Oral History Project this Tuesday at 7.
Eddie Wilson, a legend, co-founder, owner of the Armadillo (1970 until left in 1976 yet Dillo lasted until end of 1980), owner of Threadgill’s North and South. Was a rep for the brewing association in town when assumed the role of manager of Shiva’s Headband. Spencer Perskins of Shiva’s asked Eddie to find a place for the band to perform….now, that’s a funny story…taking a leak out back of a bar and saw the warehouse that came to be the Armadillo with other investors. Gary Cartwright, in his Texas Monthly article, called him Austin’s pluperfect hustler.
Jim Franklin, a legend, poster artist and first master of ceremonies (you should see his giant armadillo hat he would wear…did performance art on stage to introduce bands)…he is considered the father and mother of all poster artists (says Micael Priest) who established the armadillo mammal as the symbol for the underground in Austin at the time. He also owned/operated the psychedelic club Vulcan Gas Company until its demise right before the birth of the Armadillo. Resident artist at the Dillo.
Micael Priest, poster artist most known for his Willie Nelson poster, became mc after Franklin took off to other parts. Micael is the heart and soul of the Oral History Project. Never has there been a more entertaining raconteur who weaves long stories with detail and context…13 minute tale about the Russians who came to the Capitol and the Dillo edited down for David’s doc…pure magical storytelling!!! Micael is why I pitched this idea at the Cactus.
Danny Garrett, poster artist for Dillo, Antone’s, Castle Creek, etc. Good friend of Micael’s.
Joe Nick Patoski, former senior editor of TX Mo., music reporter at the AA Statesman, book on Willie and Stevie, etc….in pre or production of Doug Sahm doc.
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.
You can dial it in online at www.marfapublicradio.org or use the Tune-In app, I Tunes, or the Public Radio Player app for KRTS-FM in Marfa.
If you’re in Far West Texas, you can hear the show on these fine frequencies – KRTS 93.5 FM in Marfa, KRTP 91.7 FM in Alpine, KDKY 91.5 FM in Marathon, and KXWT 91.3 in Odessa/Midland/Notrees
And do join in on our on-air discussion by subscribing to my newsfeed Joe Nick Patoski on Facebook (where my trusty assistant Dick Thompson leads the Image Wranglers posting images and providing the back stories to the music that’s playing in real time, transforming listening to radio into a visual, multimedia experience. We call it Picture Radio
Here is the Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/joenickp
and come over the Texas Music Hour of Power page on Facebook and give us a Like while digging the Texas music we dig up to share during the rest of the week: https:www.facebook.com/TexasMusicHourofPower
Each week, the show is posted here when it airs, for your listening pleasure.
October 4’s first hour is here
and la hora numero dos – esta aqui
Here’s the first hour of the September 27 show
and the second hour
Here’s the first hour of the September 20 show
Here’s the second hour of the September 20 show
First hour of Sept 13 show
Here’s the second hour of the September 13 show
First hour of Sept 6
and here’s the second hour
Here’s the first hour of the August 30 show for your listening and dancing pleasure
la hora numero dos esta aqui
Here’s the first hour of August 23 show
and the second hour
from the Sunday, June 8 edition of the New York Times
Willie Nelson Rode on Bus but Called Another Home
By ANDY LANGER
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.
Continue reading the main story
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.”
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.
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.
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
As seen in USA Today, March 28, 2014
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
It was a fine time.
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.
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.”