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The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology

The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology
Foreword by Daniel Johnston; introduction by Louis Black

Three decades of music writing from Austin's renowned alternative newspaper creates an invaluable record of one of America's most vibrant musical communities—"the live music capital of the world"—and of musicians from Townes Van Zandt to Spoon.

Series: Jack and Doris Smothers Endowment in Texas History, Life, and Culture, Number Twenty-eight

February 2011
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336 pages | 8 x 10 | 115 color and b&w photos |

"Music saturates the city of Austin, always has, and likely always will," observes Louis Black, the founding editor of the renowned alternative newspaper, The Austin Chronicle. Music is more than simply the sound track of Austin, however; it's a force inseparable from the city's culture, economics, politics, and daily life. The very history of Austin can be drafted upon the frequencies that flood its streets, from legendary clubs—Antone's, Emo's, and the Broken Spoke—to internationally renowned events such as South by Southwest and the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Since publishing its first issue in 1981, The Austin Chronicle has evolved alongside the city's sound to define and give voice to "The Live Music Capital of the World."

In honor of the Chronicle's thirtieth anniversary, this anthology gathers the weekly's best music writing and photography, with introductions to each decade by the paper's principal voices, Margaret Moser, Raoul Hernandez, and Christopher Gray. Through album and live show reviews, stunning portraits, and in-depth articles, the collection traces the roots of Austin's unique sound, featuring seminal artists ranging from Doug Sahm and Stevie Ray Vaughan to the Butthole Surfers and Spoon. With historical pieces that look back at Twelfth Street's blues beginnings, the Sixties' psychedelic origins, and the definitive progressive country scene of the Seventies, the anthology provides an unparalleled sweep of Austin music history, while also shining light on the integral but often overlooked figures of the music scene with a thoroughness and honesty that's hallmark to the Chronicle's style. Framing the work from such esteemed music writers as Chet Flippo, Ed Ward, Dave Marsh, Joe Nick Patoski, John T. Davis, Michael Corcoran, and Peter Blackstock, are now-iconic images from photographers Burton Wilson, Scott Newton, John Carrico, and Todd Wolfson, among others.


AAUP Book, Jacket and Journal Show: Honors: Trade Illustrated

  • Foreword (by Daniel Johnston)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction (by Louis Black)
  • The 1980s: An Introduction (by Margaret Moser)
    • On the Road with Joe Ely (by Margaret Moser)
      • Joe Ely Band with Little Charlie [Sexton] at Club Foot (by Babs Modern)
    • Lou Ann Barton, Old Enough (by Jody Denberg)
    • Big Boys, Fun Fun Fun (by Jeff Whittington)
    • In One Ear: Wanderin' Around Soap Creek (by Margaret Moser)
    • The Skunks: Between a Rock and Hard Place (by Margaret Moser)
      • Raul's: A Very Select Discography (by Margaret Moser)
    • Rank and File: Mama, What's a Cowpunk? (by Dennis Nowlin)
    • The Fabulous Thunderbirds, T-Bird Rhythm (by Margaret Moser)
    • Gene Ramey Band at Piggys (by Greg Stephens)
    • Big Boys, Really Red, Crotch Rot at Club Foot (by Robert Draper)
    • Lyle Lovett at emmajoes (by Elaine Blodgett)
    • Texas Flood: Stevie Rising (by Michael Hall)
    • Standing Waves at the Nightlife (by Robert Draper)
    • Butthole Surfers, Butthole Surfers (by Michael Hall)
    • Blaze Foley at Austin Outhouse (by Rob Klein)
    • Marcia Ball's Evolution from Country Kicker to Blues Singer (by Jody Denberg)
      • Freda & the Firedogs; Supernatural Family Band, Lubbock Lights; The Contenders; Greezy Wheels "Finding Happiness"/"Monkey in the Church" (by Margaret Moser)
    • Dicks, Jeffersons, Hickoids, Fudge Tunnels at Voltaire's Basement (by Brent Grulke)
      • The Dicks, Dicks 1980--1986 (by Margaret Moser)
    • Ray Wylie Hubbard at Dixie's Bar & Bus Stop (by L. E. McCullough)
    • Butch Hancock: Songwriters Recognition Series (by Chris Walters)
    • Why I Worry About Joe "King" Carrasco (by Michael Corcoran)
    • Uranium Savages' 10th Anniversary Celebration at Soap Creek Saloon (by Marybeth Gradziel)
    • Glass Eye at the Beach (by David Dage)
    • Dino Lee (by Michael Corcoran)
    • Blaze Foley, Blaze Foley (by Louis Black)
    • Dan Del Santo, World Beat (by Chris Walters)
    • Poison 13, Poison 13 (by Brent Grulke)
    • Poison 13, Zeitgeist, True Believers at Continental Club (by Michael Corcoran)
    • Omar & the Howlers, I Told You So (by Brent Grulke)
    • Butthole Surfers, Psychic . . . Powerless . . . Another Man's Sac (by Brent Grulke)
    • B.W. Stevenson at Cactus Cafe (by L. E. mccullough)
    • Obviously True Believers (by Chris Walters)
    • Zeitgeist, Translate Slowly (by Brent Grulke)
    • Doctors' Mob, Headache Machine (by Brent Grulke)
    • Don't You Start Me Talking: Cutting Edge (by Michael Corcoran)
    • Daniel Johnston by Louis Black
      • Daniel Johnston, Hi, How Are You (by Richard Dorsett)
      • Not Daniel Johnston, How, Hi Are You: The Unfurnished Album (by Daniel Johnston)
    • Roky Erickson Meets R.E.M.: Fables of the Undead (by Thomas Anderson)
    • Butthole Surfers, Cargo Cult at Fifth Street Theatre (by Richard Dorsett)
      • Butthole Surfers at Ritz Theatre (by Stuart Gilbert)
      • Butthole Surfers at Ritz Theatre (by Stuart Gilbert)
    • Charlie Sexton, Pictures For Pleasure (by Jeff Whittington)
    • Rolling With the T-Bird Rhythm (by Chris Walters)
    • Don't You Start Me Talking: Austin Music Sucks (by Michael Corcoran)
    • Angela Strehli, Stranger Blues (by Jay Trachtenberg)
    • Darden Smith, Native Soil (by Elaine Blodgett)
    • Don't You Start Me Talking: Woodshock (by Michael Corcoran)
    • Timbuk 3: The Family That Plays Together Stays Together (by Sarah Wimer)
    • Jerry Jeff Walker, Nanci Griffith at Paramount Theatre (by Rob Mccorkle)
    • The Last Days of the Beach (by Steve Johnson)
    • Stevie Ray Vaughan: Straight from the Heart (by Michael Corcoran)
    • We Got Some Stuff in Store (by Martha Hartzog)
    • Don't You Start Me Talking: An Open Letter to Michael MacCambridge (by Michael Corcoran)
    • Dongfest at Dong Huong (by Eric Lord)
    • Wild Seeds, Mud, Lies & Shame (by Ed Ward)
    • Ray Benson at the Wheel (by John T. Davis)
      • Ray Benson's Favorite Songs About Texas
    • Bad Mutha Goose and the Brothers Grimm, Rev It Up--Jump the Funk (by George Leake)
    • Alvin Crow & the Pleasant Valley Boys at Broken Spoke (by Todd Jagger)
    • Robert Earl Keen, Jr., The Live Album (by Lee Nichols)
    • It Does Make You Want to Dance (by John T. Davis)
    • AMA Preview: Jimmie Dale Gilmore (by John T. Davis)
    • AMA Preview: Two Nice Girls (by John T. Davis)
    • AMA Preview: Lou Ann Barton (by John T. Davis)
    • AMA Preview: Doug Sahm & West Side Horns (by John T. Davis)
    • W.C. Clark Gets His Due (by John T. Davis)
    • Lucinda Williams: No Tougher Judge (by John T. Davis)
    • Dancing About Architecture: Liquid Repasts (by Ken Lieck)
    • Ed Hall, Love Spoken Here (by Joseph P. Mitchell)
    • Pastures of Plenty: Willie's Picnics (by John T. Davis)
  • The 1990s: An Introduction (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Page 2 (by Michael Hall)
    • AMA Preview: Arc Angels (by John T. Davis)
    • Reivers, Pop Beloved (by Jason Cohen)
    • Recommendeds: Tailgators, Bad Livers (by Margaret Moser)
      • Esteban "steve" Jordan (by Jason Cohen)
      • Herman the German & Das Cowboy (by Tim Stegall)
      • Terry Allen (by Jason Cohen)
      • Libbi Bosworth and Tumblin' Dice (by Margaret Moser)
    • Don Walser: Pure Texas Country (by Lee Nichols)
      • Don Walser's Pure Texas Band at Emo's (by Lee Nichols)
    • The Bad Livers: Picking the Wide World of Music (by Jason Cohen)
    • Skrew, Burning in Water, Drowning In Flame (by Marc Savlov)
    • Skellington, Skellington (by Jason Cohen)
    • The Devil and Daniel Johnston (by Jason Cohen)
      • Dancing About Architecture: Kurt Cobain's Daniel Johnston T-Shirt (by Ken Lieck)
    • Dancing About Architecture: Titty Bingo (by Ken Lieck)
    • Dixie Chicks, Little Ol' Cowgirl (by Lee Nichols)
    • Tish Hinojosa, Taos to Tennessee and Culture Swing (by Lee Moore)
    • Willie Nelson at State Capitol (by Paul Minor)
    • The U List: The Most Notable Austin Underground Bands
      • The Horsies (by Jason Cohen)
      • Stretford (by Tim Stegall)
      • Sincola (by Jason Cohen)
    • The Texas Instruments, Magnetic Home (by Luke Torn)
    • Stephen Bruton at Antone's (by Michael Eck)
    • ST-37, The Invisible College (by Greg Beets)
    • The Motards, Stardom (by Greg Beets)
    • The FuckEmos, The FuckEmos (by Greg Beets)
    • Nanci Griffith at Paramount Theatre (by Steve Brooks)
    • Eric Johnson at Antone's (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Townes Van Zandt, David Rodriguez at Cactus Cafe (by Steve Brooks)
    • At the Starting Gate of the Seventies (by Bill Bentley)
      • Shiva's Headband Experience (by Margaret Moser)
    • Ian Moore, Ian Moore (by Andy Langer)
    • Monte Warden, Monte Warden/Kelly Willis, Kelly Willis (by Lee Nichols)
    • Jerry Jeff Walker: Let's Go (Back) to Luckenbach, Texas (by Lee Nichols)
    • Remembering the Cosmic Cowboy Years (by Chet Flippo)
      • Listening to the First "Austin Sound" (by Chet Flippo)
    • Ed Hall, Motherscratcher (by Greg Beets)
    • Doyle Bramhall, Bird Nest on the Ground (by Margaret Moser)
    • Cotton Mather, Cotton is King (by Mindy Labernz)
    • Jimmie Vaughan at the Backyard; Joe Ely at La Zona Rosa; Buick MacKane at Hole in the Wall (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Cherubs, Heroin Man (by Greg Beets)
    • Johnboy, Claim Dedications; Bedhead, What Fun Life Was; Crust, Crusty Love (by Greg Beets)
    • Kathy McCarty: From Glass Eye to Dead Dog's Eyeball (by Chris Walters)
    • Guy Forsyth & the Asylum Street Spankers at Austin Outhouse (by Al Kaufman)
    • 1995 SXSW Picks and Sleepers:
      • Tony Campise (by Raoul Hernandez)
      • Ian McLagen & Monkey Jump (by Margaret Moser)
      • Wayne Hancock (by Lee Nichols)
      • Skatenigs (by Margaret Moser)
      • Omar & the Howlers (by Margaret Moser)
    • Michael Fracasso, When I Lived in the Wild (by Peter Blackstock)
    • Sue Foley, Big City Blues (by Margaret Moser)
    • Guy Clark, Dublin Blues (by Lee Nichols)
    • The Scabs at Steamboat (by Andy Langer)
    • Dangerous Toys: Toy Story (by Andy Langer)
    • SXSW Picks to Click: Sixteen Deluxe (by Margaret Moser)
      • Dancing About Architecture: Sixteen Delays (by Ken Lieck)
    • Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Braver Newer World (by Joe Mitchell)
    • Butthole Surfers, Electriclarryland (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Shawn Colvin, A Few Small Repairs (by Michael Bertin)
    • Townes Van Zandt: Dead Rabbits (by Ed Ward)
    • Miss Lavelle White, It Haven't Been Easy (by Margaret Moser)
    • Parallel Universe (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Davíd Garza's Musical Manifesto (by Andy Langer)
    • Jon Dee Graham, Escape From Monster Island (by Margaret Moser)
    • Tina Marsh & CO2 "Dreamkeepers" at Laguna Gloria Amphitheatre (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Bruce Robison, Wrapped (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Dale Watson at Little Longhorn Saloon (by Greg Beets)
    • Storyville, Dog Years (by Michael Bertin)
    • Shaver, Victory (by Jay Hardwig)
    • Beaver Nelson, The Last Hurrah (by Andy Langer)
    • Fastball: All the Pain Platinum Can Buy (by Andy Langer)
    • Spoon: Drake Tungsten and His Boy Skellington (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • SXSW Picks and Sleepers
      • The Cornell Hurd Band (by Margaret Moser)
      • Pong (by Raoul Hernandez)
      • Trish Murphy (by Andy Langer)
      • Monte Warden (by Andy Langer)
      • Soulhat (by Andy Langer)
      • Scrappy Jud Newcomb (by Margaret Moser)
      • Ephraim Owens (by Christopher Hess)
      • Damnations TX (by Christopher Hess)
      • Hot Club of Cowtown (by Christopher Hess)
      • Superego (by Christopher Gray)
    • Gerry Van King, The Cause of It All (by Andy Langer)
    • Brown Whörnet, Brown Whörnet (by Greg Beets)
    • MC Overlord, House of Funk (by Christopher Gray)
    • The Derailers, Full Western Dress (by Jerry Renshaw)
    • . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead: Destruction as Beauty (by Greg Beets)
    • Doug Sahm: Wasted Days, Wasted Nights (by Joe Nick Patoski)
  • The 2000s: An Introduction (by Christopher Gray)
    • James Hand: Where the Shadows Are Deepest (by Christopher Gray)
    • Slaid Cleaves at Cactus Cafe (by Christopher Gray)
    • Vallejo, Into the New (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • The Gourds: Songs of Innocence and Experience (by Christopher Hess)
    • Shearwater, The Dissolving Room (by Michael Chamy)
    • Ray Wylie Hubbard, Eternal & Lowdown (by Jim Caliguiri)
    • Clifford Antone: Those Magic Moments (by Margaret Moser)
      • Professor Antone (by Christopher Gray)
    • Dale Watson: One More for Her by Jerry Renshaw
    • The Weary Boys, The Weary Boys (by Christopher Gray)
    • Okkervil River, Don't Fall in Love With Everyone You See (by Michael Chamy)
    • . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Source Tags & Codes (by Michael Chamy)
    • Patty Griffin: 1,000 Musical Kisses (by Dave Marsh)
    • Alejandro Escovedo: Paradise (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Del Castillo, Vida (by Belinda Acosta)
    • SXSW Picks to Click: Gary Clark Jr. (by Margaret Moser)
    • SXSW Picks to Click: Los Lonely Boys (by Belinda Acosta)
    • Bright Lights, Inner City (by Margaret Moser)
      • Eastside MVPs
    • Blaze, Aural Karate (by Jay Trachtenberg)
    • Will Sheff and Will Johnson: Waking the Dead (by Melanie Haupt)
    • Scott H. Biram, Lo-Fi Mojo (by Christopher Gray)
    • Explosions in the Sky: Born on the Fourth of July (by Michael Chamy)
    • Tia Carerra, The November Session (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Grupo Fantasma, Movimiento Popular (by David Lynch)
    • Eliza Gilkyson: Lioness in Winter (by Margaret Moser)
    • The Meat Purveyors, Pain by Numbers (by David Lynch)
    • The 13th Floor Elevators: High Baptismal Flow (by Margaret Moser)
      • 13 Sixties Texas Bands You Don't Remember
      • 13 Mid-Sixties Texas 45s
    • Por Vida All-Star Tribute Concert at the Paramount (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Jesse Dayton: Country Soul Brother No. 1 (by Christopher Gray)
      • Banjo & Sullivan, The Ultimate Collection 1972--1978 (by Christopher Gray)
    • Carolyn Wonderland at Saxon Pub (by Margaret Moser)
    • Pinetop Perkins: When I'm 64 (by Margaret Moser)
    • The Crack Pipes, Beauty School (by Greg Beets)
    • Spoon, Gimme Fiction (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Jimmy LaFave: Ribbon on the Highway (by Dave Marsh)
    • DJ Rapid Ric: Whut It Dew (by Robert Gabriel)
      • Blazing Saddles (by Robert Gabriel)
      • Tee Double, The Lone Star L.P. (by Robert Gabriel)
    • Smog, A River Ain't Too Much to Love (by Christopher Gray)
    • Voxtrot, Raised By Wolves (by Darcie Stevens)
    • Randy "Biscuit" Turner: Making Biscuit (by Marc Savlov)
    • James McMurtry: Terms of Engagement (by Andy Langer)
    • American Analog Set: Static Between Stations (by Darcie Stevens)
    • Roky Erickson: Starry Eyes (by Margaret Moser)
    • The Sword: Winter's Wolves (by Audra Schroeder)
      • Seek and Destroy (by Trivett Wingo)
    • SXSW Picks to Click: Black Angels (by Audra Schroeder)
    • Riverfront Gamblers: Rattle Me Bones (by Christopher Gray)
    • Jon Dee Graham, Full (by Andy Langer)
    • Charanga Cakewalk, Chicano Zen (by Belinda Acosta)
    • Clifford Antone: I Saw the Light (by Margaret Moser)
    • Sound Team, Movie Monster (by Greg Beets)
    • TCB: Dark Places (by Christopher Gray)
    • Scratch Acid: The Greatest Gift (by Greg Beets)
    • Ghostland Observatory at Zilker Park (by Dan Oko)
    • Year of the Squirrel (by Audra Schroeder)
    • Peter & the Wolf at Eternal (by Michael Bertin)
    • Li'l Cap'n Travis, Twilight on Sometimes Island (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • Octopus Project, Hello, Avalanche (by Darcie Stevens)
    • Fun Fun Fun Fest Preview: Okkervil River (by Doug Freeman)
    • Off the Record: Winged Life (by Austin Powell)
    • Terrible Beauty (by Doug Freeman)
    • When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, Not Noiice (by Audra Schroeder)
    • Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal (by Margaret Moser)
    • Out of the Mouths of Children (by Austin Powell)
    • The Flatlanders, Hills and Valleys (by Raoul Hernandez)
    • SXSW Picks to Click: Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears (by Thomas Fawcett)
    • Sarah Jarosz, Song Up in Her Head (by Margaret Moser)
    • Rosie Flores & the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Girl of the Century (by Audra Schroeder)
    • Various Artists, Casual Victim Pile: Austin 2010 (by Audra Schroeder)

Like the founders of The Austin Chronicle and many of its esteemed writers, Austin Powell and Doug Freeman began covering the local music scene for the Daily Texan at the University of Texas, where they also hosted radio shows on KVRX. In 2006, Freeman founded the website Austin Sound, for which he still serves as managing editor, while Powell assumed the reins of the Chronicle's music news column, "Off the Record."


Austin, Texas, June 19, 2009: Two stories, one concert. Steve Earle is playing the Paramount Theatre solo and acoustic in support of his album of Townes Van Zandt covers, Townes. Earle plays a lot of Van Zandt songs and a lot of his own. Earle alone on stage isn't really alone; he's electric, intense, his sound filling the theater. Afterwards I tell him how one of the last times I hung out with Clifford Antone at his club before he died, some band was just cooking on stage. Clifford nudged me, saying "Look up there . . . ," and pointed to the rafters behind and over the stage.


"There's Doug up there just watching the show and grooving."


Townes and Doug Sahm didn't exactly groove in the same ways, but looking up high at the ceiling of the Paramount that night I knew that sure as anything Townes was up there listening. He’s digging the music, though if he had talked to Earle afterwards he would have made a few sly jokes at Earle's expense, ribbing him just a bit rather than complementing him because that was Townes' way.


Backstage, Earle tells a wonderful story about when he was on Letterman recently, performing Townes' "Colorado Girl." The host came up to him afterwards, as he always does, and as the credits rolled, leaned in asking, "Why didn't you do 'Snowing on Raton'?"


Music saturates the city of Austin, always has and likely always will. It's in the air, in the intense unending heat of the summer, in the brief cold of a short winter, and in the constant, sixty-eight-degree waters of Barton Springs. It may be just a slight breeze ruffling the leaves on the trees in the evening or the steam rising from the dry earth in the late afternoon of a too-brutal summer day. It's not that it's so very loud, but that in Austin, Texas, it's always and everywhere.


Cities have often been defined in finite ways. Pittsburgh was a steel town, Chicago the world's hog butcher, and Fort Worth once was the cattle processing capital of Texas. Austin is a city where the common daily background sounds are not just those of jackhammers and railroad cars, where the lifestyle and currency are not just about jobs, families, homes, and money. Awake the city is of music and asleep is dreaming of music.


Music is everywhere and of everyone, coming out of houses, schools, municipal buildings, cars, street corners, clubs, and parks. It's being made by so many people playing every kind of instrument as they perform all different kinds of music—a city of musicians busy practicing, learning, teaching, perfecting, recording, and performing.


Turn, turn, turn to the music everywhere, music being made in the present—but also in the future imagined and a past so honored and relevant it's not really past. The history can go back to traditional African-American toasting or Jayne Mansfield performing during the 1950s. It can include the evolution of contemporary gospel by telling the story of the Mighty Clouds of Joy or detail the birth of psychedelic music when the 13th Floor Elevators traveled to San Francisco.


The full history has to touch on yodeling and jamming at Threadgill's and the music that was played—as well as often gestated and matured—at Soap Creek Saloon and the Armadillo World Headquarters. The history spans the down-home rawness of the Split Rail and the literal army of songwriters that sharpened their edges at Castle Creek to the never-ending spawn of Emo's and the other Red River clubs. The story of the great Doug Sahm has to be included, as well as the mythic moment when Willie Nelson moved to Austin after leaving Nashville.


Necessary to the telling of the whole story are so many other stories, in fact far too many other stories. These range from the Big Boys mini-riot and Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan playing together at the Austin Music Awards through the continuing legends of Freda & the Firedogs and Paul Ray & the Cobras. There's the brilliant, brutal cultural counter punch of the Butthole Surfers and Scratch Acid and the contemporary international success of Explosions in the Sky, White Denim, Okkervil River, and Spoon. Currently there is a dazzling number of gifted female singer-songwriters including Shawn Colvin, Eliza Gilkyson, Patty Griffin, and Carrie Rodriguez. Yet, they shine even more in the context of blues legends such as Angela Strehli, Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton, Sarah Brown, and Sue Foley. There's almost no way to tell the story without mentioning the Huns, True Believers, Roky Erickson, Townes Van Zandt, the Flatlanders, and Daniel Johnston. This list barely scratches the surface, but in the direction of trying to come close to any comprehensive listing lies madness and near guaranteed institutional commitment.


An introduction to Austin Music even limited to the past quarter-century and focused by the Austin Chronicle's coverage is necessarily truncated. The Austin scene has never been about only one kind of music or style but rather the full past of music honored with cross-breeding and constant reinvention into innovative explorations that combine music and the slight tastes of remembered music.


Those who end up as music writers and critics usually begin to develop a more intense, co-dependent relationship with music early on in their listening lives. Not just the soundtrack to the lives they are living, music is an integral part of them, expanding possibilities by inflaming dreams and desires. Once the music takes root, it affects and alters life and lifestyle, inspiring imagination and ambition. Music justifies, validates, and helps celebrate. It is for dreamers who imagine that their lives and future can and will be so much richer than the one they are living.


In the spring and summer of 1981, a number of us began to gravitate around Nick Barbaro and Joe Dishner, who had begun talking seriously of starting an alternative paper in Austin. Certainly we were the children of Marx and Coca-Cola but also of politics, film, television, and, most purely and directly, rock & roll. Just as importantly we were the offspring of the Village Voice, Austin Sun, the East Village Other, the San Francisco Oracle, and Boston After Dark, sired by Crawdaddy!, Rolling Stone, Ramparts, I.F. Stone's Weekly, and Paul Krassner's the Realist.


On September 4, 1981, the first issue of the Austin Chronicle was published. Produced by our mongrel clan, it was a true hybrid. The conceit of the Chronicle from early on was to focus on Austin music. Important national releases were frequently covered, but the emphasis was on the local scene. The Chronicle staff decided even before the first issue was published that the paper's primary focus would be on local music, though certainly not to the complete exclusion of covering national and regional acts.


The first breakout content hit at the paper was Margaret Moser's "In One Ear" column. Though it covered road shows coming to Austin and releases by major national acts, its bread, butter, and groupie reporting was mostly focused on what was happening locally. The first major marketing/public relations score by the Chronicle was the first Chronicle Music Poll results published in 1982. This was followed in 1983 by the Austin Music Awards, honoring the poll winners.


The Chronicle covered theater, dance, food, art, politics, film, and comics, among many other things, though from the very beginning what drove the then bi-weekly paper and what brought readers and media attention to it was music. Moser's "In One Ear" column was followed by Michael Corcoran's "Don't You Start Me Talking," which became the bi-weekly must-read of the entire music community. The column was about music but also about Michael; the column was about Michael but also about music.


Around Thanksgiving 1986, Austin Chronicle publisher Nick Barbaro and I, at the urging of Roland Swenson and Louis Meyers, decided to start an annual regional music business meeting in Austin. Swenson had worked many different music business related jobs but was then working for the Chronicle; club booker and band manager Meyers had offices in the same building as ours.


The first South By Southwest Music Conference and Festival took place March 1987. It was relatively successful from the start. In the decade-and-a-half after that first event, similar events were tried in literally hundreds of cities. None really worked. We were intimately aware of this as SXSW Inc. tried to launch a few other events of its own.


The secret ingredient that made it work, we discovered, was Austin—not only the culture of the city, as well as its respect and understanding of that culture, but the very music scene. No other city was as hospitable as Austin. Even more important, no other cities had as many well-known journeyman and/or cult, regional acts as Austin, acts with many loyal fans that were into them and followed their music but were not hordes in the millions.


All of it finally came together to create an alchemical transcendence, a multidimensional, completely unique world lacking in traditional restrictions, populated by great musicians, endless music enablers, passionate fans, all kinds of artists, and brilliant writers, passionate about music.


There have always been a lot of good music writers in Austin and not just at the Austin Chronicle. Other established publications' attention to music, however, ebbed and flowed. Other music publications came and went. Over its twenty-eight-year history (as of September 2009) the Chronicle has been dogged and steadfast in its devotion to all kinds of music coverage. Reviews of records, tapes, CDs, online music, and live shows are crucial to this coverage. These are coupled with show recommendations by both national and Austin acts and profiles of local talent. Included as well are thought pieces, overviews of the local music business, pieces following certain bands on tour, and detailed histories of bands, clubs, scenes and musicians—those still thriving and the ones now gone. On an ongoing basis the writing has been accompanied by some of the best available music photos and art, outstanding photo features on musicians, dozens of memorable covers, and over twenty-five years of memorable AMA posters.


There are those who will argue that this introduction should have provided an historical overview that included hundreds of names of acts, solo artists, clubs, and memorable shows—or at the very least offered some of the many stories that have passed into local legend. An attempt at such coverage by necessity would have been painfully incomplete, leaving out so much more than could be included in this space. Instead, this introduction is an eclectic overview, one I hope that is in tune with this extraordinary anthology that attempts to cover all the varied elements, stories, and sounds that have birthed Austin music and have continued to keep it vital, ambitious, and relevant.


This anthology offers years of immediate coverage of the music and the scene. There are the city, the music, musicians, clubs, and concerts. There are the history, the national renown, the festivals, and the amazing amassed collection of music released from here. There are also the expansive lifestyle and rich culture of a music city.


Finally there is the media coverage: the critiquing, celebrating, recommending, and criticizing of the music and those who make it, the story as told as it was happening, the contemporaneous shaping of the myth. The Chronicle, though by no means alone in that pursuit, has been the most steadfast. It seems unlikely that any of the other media covering the scene have enjoyed the ongoing adventures nor have had nearly the ridiculous amount of fun as have the contributors at the Chronicle. This not in spite of but because of all the hard work, intensity, last-minute reporting, all-night writing, passion, pain, and pleasure that comes with the job. At the end of the day, when an issue is out and the Chronicle building empty, there is only one thing of which you can be sure, only one thing that keeps the writing as fresh, impassioned, electric, and imaginative as the scene: whether at home, in the car, at the clubs, or in concerts much of the staff is listening to or playing music. It has always been that way and still is, as it is of Austin.


Music is of the Chronicle and the people who put it out.


This one is for Doug Sahm, as they all are, who until the day he died made more music than all those grooving Nashville cats did taken all together.




Louis Black, September, 2009