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

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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/
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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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The Cowboys’ Indian

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from the International Business Times, link here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A culture clash of enormous magnitude indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Qureishi would not participate in such shenanigans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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