SEXTON BROS & ARC ANGELS | AUSTIN, THE BRAMHALL LEGACY & VAUGHAN…

I love Texas. There are more Rock, Country, Folk and Blues music greats from the Lone Star State than you can shake a stick at– not to mention the colorful and storied scene they created that lives-on today. The loyal fans who were around back then dutifully keep it alive through a rich oral history.

My buddy Bruce is one of those guys. Ask him if he recalls when the Sex Pistols toured through Texas in ’78 and his eyes light up like a Christmas tree. Before you can catch your breath, out come tales of the filth, fury & raucousness of that time like it was yesterday– “You mean that Sid Vicious kid?  Yeah man, of course I remember it. It was a mess! He was runnin’ his mouth, spittin’, and swingin’ that bass around like a baseball bat on stage– mowin’ people down.  They wanted to kill him!” Ask him about Charlie Sexton, and out come tales of the early days of him and his lil’ brother Will playing in clubs before they were teens…then with the Vaughan brothers (Jimmie & Stevie Ray)…and Charlie’s much-loved band, Arc Angels, with Doyle Bramhall II, son of the legendary Doyle Bramhall…and how Doyle (Senior) and the Vaughan brothers own history together (among many others, Jimmie and Doyle both came out of the legendary band, The Chessman) was foundational in laying the groundwork for the Dallas / Austin music scene in the 1960s & 1970s that is so prolific, relevant, and vital to this day. Whew.

These three families– The Vaughans, the Bramhalls, & the Sextons, are forever entwined with one another in the history of Texas music. Everyone knows about Jimmie & Stevie Ray Vaughan, ’nuff said. Doyle Bramhall (Senior) is a legend who left his mark on this world that sadly lost him back in November. Doyle Bramhall II is known for his early days with Charlie Sexton in Arc Angels. Young Doyle went on to be a singer in his own right, and a much in-demand guitarist who has backed-up some of the greats like Roger Waters and Eric Clapton. Then we have the Sexton brothers…

Charlie Sexton was often railed as a Post-Wave pretty boy, which he definitely was during his mainstream popularity. (I remember a few of the hip girls in High School with Charlie Sexton posters on their walls, and tee-shirts emblazoned with his pouty lips & piled-high coif on their budding chests.) His rising star somehow failed to reach its promised heights back then, but over the years Charlie has silenced his critics by becoming a very well-respected musician (his guitar playing is simply incredible) and producer who has toured and recorded with some of the biggest names in the business– Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, to name just a few. And for you hipsters out there– he even played with Spoon on Austin City Limits back in 2010. Will Sexton is less known, but no less talented– and perhaps even the more sensitive, thoughtful musicians of the two. Definitely more folksy, in a good way. (In all fairness, the video clips I chose of the Sexton brothers are of when they were very young, back in the ’80s, in fact. I think it’s safe to say we all have some fashion / hair moments from those days that we’d all like to forget. Go on YouTube to see their current work, which is very solid.) Charlie and his little brother Will went off on different musical paths, but those paths will bring them together again, as both make their mark in the annals of Texas music history for us to savor, and the next generation to discover.

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July 4th, 1982 — A very young Charlie Sexton,13-yrs-old, playing with the Joe Ely Band (which toured as the opener for The Clash back in the day– you heard me right, this kid opened for The Clash.) at Gilley’s, Pasadena, TX. That Rockabilly look would carry through to Charlie’s next band, the Eager Beaver Boys– in fact, the hair would get higher and higher. –image Tracy Hart

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1979 — Great shot of Joe Strummer of The Clash, and Texas music legend Joe Ely at the Tribal Stomp II concert. –Image by © Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis

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Another old, undated pic of the very young Sexton brothers, Charlie & Will, playing together in Texas. Both Charlie and Will were taught to play guitar by Texas legend and “Godfather of Austin Blues”– W.C. Clark (who along with the Vaughan brothers, Doyle Bramhall and others, was critical in laying the early  foundation for the Austin Blues scene). In 1988, the brothers formed the band “Will & the Kill” and released a 38 minute self-titled album produced by Joe Ely that featured Jimmie Vaughan on a few tracks. The album was recorded at the Fire Station Studio and released on MCA Records.

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On many occasions, the extraordinary, young Sexton brothers– twelve-year-old Charlie and ten-year-old Will opened for Stevie Ray Vaughan and joined him on stage. –via Cheatham Street, San Marcos, Texas. Whate were you doing when you were 10? Good God.

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Charlie Sexton’s big hit single “Beat’s So lonely” broke into the Top Twenty charts back in 1985. Yep, it’s Teen Beat fodder, but the kid was a no slouch– check out the pick harmonics during his guitar solo in the video below. 

Texas music legends Roky Erickson and Will Sexton, Ritz 1987 –Image by Martha Grenon, via The Austin Chronicle. Will Sexton is one of Austin’s most beloved singer/songwriters whose solid style has been compared to Nick Lowe and Tom Petty. There is a great podcast interview with Will Sexton here.

Classic freakin’ clip of  young Will Sexton being interviewed during the “Will & the Kill” days, so ’80s! If you were around back then, this will slay you.

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The band Arc Angels was formed sometime around 1991 featuring Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall II, backed by the legendary Tommy Shannon & Chris “Whipper” Layton of “Double Trouble” (Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing band) fame. “Arc Angels” released a self-titled album on Geffen Records in 1992, produced by Steven Van Zandt. Personally the band couldn’t hold it together– communication issues, drugs, etc, began to break them down. It would be the band’s only official release, and “Arc Angels” would break-up within 3 years. In the video below, check how Doyle’s left-handed guitar is strung, high strings on top– its the opposite of how Jimi Hendrix (the most famous lefty guitarist) strung his. 

Another shot of “Arc Angels”, featuring Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall II, backed by the legendary Tommy Shannon & Chris “Whipper” Layton of Double Trouble (Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing band) fame. In 1995, Charlie formed “The Charlie Sexton Sextet” and released “Under The Wishing Tree” that while being somewhat of a commercial flop, was critically well received.

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Charlie Sexton, Stiv Bators, Adam Bomb, Johnny Thunders and that’s the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones just out of frame. Limelight VIP room in NYC. This shot was published in Melody Maker. —-image via Adam Bomb

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February 1991– Doyle Bramhall II & Charlie Sexton of the Texas band Arc Angels –image Tracy Hart

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March, 1991– Doyle Bramhall II & Charlie Sexton, the Arc Angels performing at Austin Music Awards –image Tracy Hart

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Feb, 1991– Charlie Sexton and Chris Layton at Bon Ton Room in Houston, Texas –image Tracy Hart

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You can’t mention Doyle Bramhall without paying tribute– one of the forefathers of the Dallas / Austin music scene. Bramhall (on drums) partnered with Jimmie Vaughan in Dallas (on guitar, of course) to form a blues band– The Chessmen during the 1960s. Later the two, along with Jimmie’s younger brother, and soon-to-be- Blues God, Stevie Ray Vaughan (he played in Bramhall’s band The Nightcrawlers in the 1970s, and it’s widely recognized that Bramhall was a major influence on Stevie’s vocal style), headed south to Austin to help create the the rich & vital music scene there that is still a hotbed of talent today. Many take solace in the thought that Doyle and Stevie are now together again making music in heaven.

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17 thoughts on “SEXTON BROS & ARC ANGELS | AUSTIN, THE BRAMHALL LEGACY & VAUGHAN…

  1. Arc Angels still perform together every once in a while. They released a live CD/DVD last year called Living In A Dream that had a few new tracks.

  2. Damn JP !!! You’ve done it again !!! Enlightening us with such a depth of background info, it stitches a complete picture even more tightly together, unreal. Love the look on Mr Thunders face . . . check out the eyes . . . . fantastic shit mate, nobody mines the veins of popular cultural history like you, thanks.

  3. What a great site! Saw Charlie Sexton with Dylan in Glasgow last year, a fantastic player and definitely the best thing on stage that night . Ghastly early 90s fashion aside these are great pictures, the one with Strummer and Joe Ely is a cracker

  4. And, you can’t mention Doyle Bramhall Sr. without saying that he wrote or co-wrote over a dozen of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s best known songs…..including Tight Rope, Lookin’ Out The Window, Change It, If The House Is A Rockin’, and Telephone Song to mentiuon a few.

    I think the best song Bramhill Sr (along with his wife, Barbara Logan) wrote, and my favorite Bramhall Sr. song was Life By The Drop. It wasn’t actually written for Stevie Ray, it was written as Bramhill Sr.’s gift to Stevie Ray about both of them getting straight and sober, and their friendship together over the years. Bramhill Sr. didn’t even know Stevie Ray had recorded it until he was researching material to include in The Sky Is Crying compilation after Vaughan’s death, that he found the acoustic recording of it on tape.

    Every time I hear Life By The Drop, I always think “Damn, If he didn’t nail those lyrics dead-on”.

  5. Ah hereby recognize JP as an HONORED Son of The Great State of Texas (Ah’m a Dallasite Mah Own Damned Self…although a lil’ displaced…in Tokyo!). These posts take us back home….now, not that it’s mah place to be so presumptuous to think that Ah could guide The Hand of Fate, wouldn’t it just swell so many hearts to see a Joe Ely post?

    Thanks for all you, Your Own Damned Self, do for us, JP….

  6. You should check out the Bramhall Brothers, I think they are Doyle II’s little cousins. They used to play the old Muddy Waters on lowest greenville. Along with Cricket Taylor, Hashbrown, U.P. Wilson, Bugs Henderson, Henry Qualls… man the owner Wade used to book some great acts.

    I am still in love with Cricket.

  7. Great article as usual. These guys are fantastic in their own right…..but perhaps a nod to their mentor and idol, the legendary Texas Cannonball Freddie King. After all the curtain at Armadillo said “The House that Freddie Built”. Indeed!!! I have read a lot of articles about SR and Jimmy, and they never fail to tout their main man. Playing that big red stereo 336 Gibson, those screaming leads, incredible runs or that hypnotic boogie riff, Freddie was a hero and a god to these fine young men. He certainly was a big part of where they wanted to go. An article on both TWHQ and Freddie would be awesome. I love BB and Albert, but Freddie was the attacker, the boogie man, the one and only Texas Cannonball!!! Great article!!!

  8. I remember flicking on a DVR’d Austin City Limits a couple of years ago, drunk after a night out. I looked up to see Mr. Sexton playing with the fellows from Spoon. I immediately went to wikipedia to look him up and was floored. ‘Beats So Lonely’ rules and I had no idea it was the same dude, axe-wielding on the same stage with Spoon. Hat’s off to Austin. A Great American Town.

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