John Spong has a narrative essay in Texas Monthly describing the rebellious country music scene around Austin Texas in the early seventies. A few of my favorite quotes:
JERRY JEFF WALKER I had a whole lot of money available, and I knew what people like the Band were doing. You buy the equipment, make your record, and when you’re done, you own the shit! I thought that might be a good thing to do.
BOB LIVINGSTON Someone had gutted the old Rapp Cleaners on Sixth Street, put burlap on the walls, and made it one of Austin’s first recording studios. We’d been with Murphey in a Nashville studio, and now we’re with Jerry Jeff in this funky little place, plugged into a sixteen-track tape recorder in the middle of the room, with no board, no nothing. We’d get there about seven each night, and Jerry Jeff would be standing in the doorway, mixing sangria in this big metal tub.
JERRY JEFF WALKER The sound engineers wanted to bring in this souped-up equipment. I said no. This needed to be like one of those nature shows: [He whispers in an affected English accent]“This is the first time we’ve ever seen the birthing of a Tibetan tiger baby.” I figured if somebody could sneak up on a tiger, we could be recorded where we’re comfortable.
Of course the scene at Willie Nelson’s fourth of July picnics and a nice vignette about Billy Joe Shaver and peyote:
BILLY JOE SHAVER I got into that dang peyote and got to thinking I was Jesus. I was just walking around, healing people. I baptized a bunch of them.
I like this next quote by James White about letting these new country rebels play at his club. Maybe it’s because he judges everyone so much on their shoes. And of course — musical integration comes because five hundred hippies will buy a lot of beer.
JAMES WHITE opened the Broken Spoke in 1964. They drew over five hundred people. And I guess about 70 to 80 percent were hippies. Some of them were barefoot or wearing moccasins or tennis shoes, like a PF Flyer. None of them could two-step. They all did a dance I called the Hippie Hop, jumping around like old hoedown dancing. But there were five hundred of them, and I figured anybody who can draw five hundred people is okay.
I know that Willie Nelson is fundamentally bad-ass, but this article gives me a whole new perception. Here he is calming down redneck violence during the transition:
STEVE EARLE I saw Willie play this joint in Pasadena called the Half Dollar. Pasadena was where the Ku Klux Klan clubhouse was in the Houston area. It was as redneck as Texas got, full of refinery workers who went dancing every weekend. But that night, a bunch of us hippies wanted to sit on the floor and watch Willie play. So as the regulars go around the dance floor, they’re kicking us in the back. Willie stopped in the middle of a song and said, “You know what, there’s room enough for some to dance and some to sit.” That chilled it out.
Austin gave Tom T. Hall a lesson in gender politics. Visible here is the understanding that the power/disempowerment of gender dynamics is the pleasurable thing for male-dominant sex:
TOM T. HALL My show at the Armadillo was the first time I was ever propositioned by a woman. I came out of Kentucky and had this naive notion that men were supposed to chase women. That was the sport of it. So this beautiful, blond-haired girl came out of the audience looking like one of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. She said, “Hey, you want to go screw?” I said, “Oh, I don’t think so.” The charm had gone out of the thing.
I’ve got to search for the first season of Austin City Limits.
BILL ARHOS That first year of Austin City Limits was crazy. Doug Sahm was on, and the air in the studio turned purple from marijuana smoke. I had to throw a guy out for spraying silver paint up his nose. Seriously. And God, Jerry Jeff was supposed to tape one night, but he’d gone to Miami to see the Cowboys play in the Super Bowl. If they’d won, he would’ve never shown up. But they lost, and he came, walking onstage while the Gonzos were singing “London Homesick Blues,” just grinning like an idiot. I said, “What the hell?” And someone said, “There’s a guy in the audience wearing a gorilla suit.” There was.
Perhaps the best musical defense against a drug charge by Waylon Jennings:
RICHIE ALBRIGHT The next day Waylon was booked for possession, and that was big news in Nashville. And it was funny because Willie played in Nashville that night and had Waylon come out onstage. The place went nuts. The day after that, we were at the lawyer’s office, and Waylon said, “You got a guitar around here?” They did. He said, “You’ve got to hear this new song.” He started playing “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand.” He got to the part where he says, “They got me for possession of something that was gone, long gone,” and the lawyers faces all drained. They said, “You can’t say that.” Waylon goes, “Hell, it is gone.”
Interesting how common gun play was at this point:
RAY BENSON We were filming a show at the Alliance Wagon Yard, and I’m in the video truck with a guy from CBS Records named Herschel. I put my hand on the board and suddenly go, “Ow! Was I just shocked?” and then Herschel goes, “Ow! My leg!” and I turn and see his jeans going dark with blood. One of Willie’s guys had shot at Joe Gracey’s brother with a .22, and the bullet went through the side of the van, grazed my left hand, and then went into Herschel’s leg. But when CBS found out who shot him, they decided not to press charges. They didn’t want to alienate Willie.
LEON RUSSELL That was my video truck. But I figured that if you send your million-dollar truck down to Austin, you’ve got to expect to get a bullet hole or two in it.