THE EPIC AUSTIN MUSIC HISTORY CHRONICLES | PHOTOGRAPHY & WORDS OF SCOTT NEWTON

Photographer Scott Newton has been an avid observer chronicling the evolution of music, politics, and his own personal life in Austin, Texas, since 1970– from The Armadillo in the early 70s through 35 years of Austin City Limits. If you love the Texas music scene of the 1970s & ’80s, well then friends, this is right up your alley. Scott’s photography is among my favorite ever of this era and of the characters that he brilliantly and intimately captured with his lens… And his personal commentary is icing on the cake. Enjoy.

waylon jennings scott newton photography

“In 1974 Waylon was ornery and mean. He was also vital and real. He wasn’t a nice guy, like Willie… he was raw and direct and just generally pissed off. (he also was never better than 1974) So, on that night in ’74 when I walked to the front of the stage at the Armadillo and saw the other photographers cowering away from the stage I had a choice… cower or shoot. I chose to shoot. Good thing. It turns out he had just kicked the camera of Charlyn Zlotnik and hated photographers. So I shot him glaring at me….which 30 or so years later was exactly what the art director was looking for. Album cover Waylon Live, BMG Heritage. Funny how things sometimes work out…” — Photo © copyright 1974 Scott Newton

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Willie Nelson 1983 Scott Newton photography

“…unseen gem of Willie Nelson from the early ’80s.” — Photo © copyright 1983 Scott Newton

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hank williams jr bus scott newton photography

“Hank Williams Jr’s Tour Bus. Somewhere outside Austin, 1975. A still life of sorts….” — Photo © Copyright 1975 Scott Newton
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willie nelson austin scott newton photography

“Willie Nelson opening his 4th of July Picnic in Bryan, TX 1974. I’ll never forget how, in broad daylight, I realized that Willie had grown and changed remarkably in the year I’d been photographing him. He just suddenly seemed so much more substantial. I wasn’t the only one who saw it, either. He simply put on the public persona of Force of Nature and never put it away. I call this shot “The Prophet” because that’s what I thought he looked like when I was shooting…” — Photo © copyright 1974 Scott Newton

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leon russell scott newton photography

“Leon Russell, 1973, Austin. In the early ’70s, other than straight ol’ shit-kicker Country, Leon Russell was about as big as it got in Texas. He had a distinctive, blues-rock style, heavy on piano rock tunes, with sensitive love songs occasionally thrown in. He was the major draw to the ’74 Picnic at Bryan/College station…I doubt half those kids who went to the Texas Motor Speedway Picnic knew who Willie was…they were there for Leon…” — Photo © copyright 1973 Scott Newton

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Jerry Lee Lewis Scott Newton photography

“The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis in his prime. 1974 Austin, TX. You never knew what you were gonna get with Jerry Lee Lewis. You could get the most amazing show, or you could get diatribes against whomever he didn’t like at that moment. For example, the night I shot this he verbally excoriated another photographer, a woman, for somehow offending him, and yelled at her until she left in tears. Then he glanced at me and said, ‘I guess you’re all right’, and went on with a classic Jerry Lee Great Balls o’ Fire performance. Erratic but brilliant. That would be my take.” — Photo © copyright 1974 Scott Newton

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Townes Van Zandt Scott Newton photography

“While perusing through old images forged at Castle Creek, Austin TX, March 1974 I came across this shot of Townes Van Zandt performing. He looks so young. I’m not sure if it was this time, or another time at Castle Creek, but once I heard him introduce and perform Pancho and Lefty saying that he’d just written it… After he got offstage he was eager to hear what everyone thought of it…suffice to say everyone told him it was great…” — Photo © copyright 1974 Scott Newton

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Emmylou Harris Scott Newton photography

“Emmylou Harris and the Rooster, June, 1977 Backstage, Austin Opry House. The opening of the Opry House under Willie Nelson and Tim’s ownership was celebrated with Willie and Waylon and Emmylou performing… So, I hesitate to tell this the way it happened, but I’ll go ahead in the name of accurate journalism: Sometime during the festivities one of the stagehands grabbed me and said, ‘You’ve got to come with me! Emmylou is stroking Bee’s cock!’ I said, ‘Why would they want me there?!’ He said, ‘Just come on!’, and escorted me to the little greenroom and opened the door to the sight you see. A visual gag, most inappropriate for such an ethereal being as Emmylou, but kinda funny nevertheless.” — Photo © copyright 1977 Scott Newton

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Rodney Crowell Guy Clark Scott Newton photography

“Rodney Crowell and Guy Clark backstage, opening night, June, 1977, Austin Opry House. These guys are the spine and soul of singer/songwriter Nashville; both are from Texas originally. On opening night they were there to be part of Emmylou’s band, and to help open the new Austin Opry House.” — Photo © copyright 1977 Scott Newton

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Billy Joe Shaver Scott Newton photography

“Billy Joe Shaver, Austin Opry House, 1977. Billy Joe’s life reads like an eventful country song, which he is so good at making into real songs. Born really poor, without a father, raised by his grandmother, picked cotton as a child, dropped out of school, joined the service at 17, accidentally cut off two fingers on his right hand in a sawmill, and somehow ended up writing songs first, and performing them in public for pay later. Waylon Jennings’ huge album “Honky Tonk Heroes” is largely composed of Billy Joe Shaver compositions. Billy Joe’s album “Old Five and Dimers” is a recognized country classic. Married and repeatedly remarried his wife Brenda, lost his son and musical collaborator/successor Eddy to an overdose; lost his wife, finally, to cancer. Shot a man in the face and was acquitted by a jury. Still performs and tours, just as original as ever…” Photo © copyright 1977 Scott Newton

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Joe Ely Scott Newton photography

“Joe Ely, backstage on the phone, Austin Opry House, 1977. I really don’t know why I love this shot of young Joe so much, but there’s something sweet and timeless about it…” — Photo © copyright 1977 Scott Newton

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Muddy Waters Scott Newton photography

“Muddy Waters. Backstage, Austin Opry House, 1977. Muddy was friendly and cooperative with the ‘white kid’ photographer. He posed, smiled, held still, and generally put some life into our little 2 minute informal and spontaneous shoot. I’ll always be grateful. That’s Lou Ann Barton next to him.” — Photo © copyright 1977 Scott Newton

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Tom Waits Scott Newton photography

“Tom Waits. Austin Opry House 1977. Tom Waits’ tour of Fall 1977 was a classic in many ways. He had a lighting /staging concept that was stark and elemental, accentuating his rough, stark poetry/ songs…perfect for my style of photography…all abstract and pure form…exactly what I love to shoot. So, I made the most of the opportunity and created one of my favorite performance portraits…” — Photo © copyright 1977 Scott Newton

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Roky Erickson Scott Newton photography

“Roky Erickson, Austin Opry House, 1977. I’ve known Roky since 1972. I don’t have room here to discuss all that should be said about him. He’s been called the father of psychedelic rock, and punk rock. His first real band, The 13th Floor Elevators, changed the arc of music everywhere with their influential albums from 1965, especially “Easter Everywhere”. Roky had, and still largely has, the most amazing voice. Perfect for rock music. If it wasn’t for the mental issues he’s dealt with since his exposure to the medieval methods employed to treat mental illness in the late ’60s, (shock treatments, etc) who knows how different his career might have been. In any case, the folks in Austin love and respect him. Here, he’s looking pretty good. He is a genius, no doubt.” — Photo © copyright 1977 Scott Newton

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Taj Mahal Scott Newton photography

“Taj Mahal, Austin Opry House, Thanksgiving Day, 1977. Ok, I don’t want to just rave about everyone, but when it comes to Taj, you’re just going to have to hear it. He is the best of his genre. And what genre would that be? Have you ever heard the double album, ‘Giant Step/De ol Folks at Home’? If not, go buy it now. 40 years old and still one of my top 10 of all time. He rules several genres; a true master. This shot conveys the spirit of Taj pretty well. He used it for his publicity shot for over ten years.” — Photo © copyright 1977 Scott Newton

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Willie Nelson running Scott Newton photography

“Willie Running Race (For Stehlin Foundation Cancer Benefit–Run For Your Life), 1977. Austin Opry House entrance on Academy Drive, Austin TX. Having Willie own a large concert facility had certain spin-off benefits. We had events like this hard run around the hilly 14 acres… Willie definitely ran to his own drummer. What other country star ran? Name one… still thinking? As far as I know he still runs. He actually inspired me to take up my daily sunrise running for decades now (three miles around Lady Bird Lake with my runnin’ pug Sluggo); an activity I still do as much as the ol’ body will allow…(those pesky knees)…” — Photo © copyright 1977 Scott Newton

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Bobbie Nelson Scott Newton photography

“Bobbie Nelson. Austin Opry House, 1977. Willie’s older sister Bobbie has been an anchor to WillieWorld for, oh, eight decades now. She plays so sweet and ethereal. There’s always at least a hint of hymns in her playing. I love detail shots; here’s one of Sister Bobbie that gives you just a hint of who she is…” — Photo © copyright 1977 Scott Newton

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Coach Royal Bobbie Willie Nelsom Scott Newton photography

“Coach Royal, Bobbie, and Willie Nelson playing for themselves backstage at the Austin Opry House, after hours, 1977. As House Photographer, with my darkroom inside the building, I often ran across special moments when various musicians, especially Willie (since he owned the joint), just hung out and played for themselves in the big empty halls (there were two attached large rooms and many smaller ones). This would be one of those moments. Just Willie, Sister Bobbie and Coach alone in the room, doing that thing they do so well.” — Photo © copyright 1977 Scott Newton

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Willie Nelson Trigger Scott Newton photography

“Willie Nelson, Austin Opera House, 1978. One of my personal favorite Willie Nelson images. You can feel the spirit of the man, and hear his music, in this one.” — Photo © copyright 1978 Scott Newton

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Guy Clark Scott Newton Photography

“Guy Clark, Austin Opera House, 1978. I feel that Guy Clark is top-tier American songwriter. We’re talkin’ Dylan, Paul Simon, Neil Young, all of them. Guy Clark belongs there, on that level. And he’s still growing and getting even better, still creating at an expanding level…Here, in ’78, he was really pretty, to boot. Now, he favors the stern look of a Preacher of some sort…such is life. What a career, spanning so much.” — Photo © copyright 1978 Scott Newton

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Rusty Wier Scott Newton photography

“Rusty Wier, Austin, TX 1975. I’m really not liking the process of having to come up with short, pithy one or two sentence descriptions of wonderful local musicians, and friends, who are no longer with us; there’s no other option if I wanna show ‘em, I guess… Here’s Rusty, South Austin’s finest and favorite. A great performer and born hellraiser. He was a friend of mine; I really miss him. — Photo © copyright 1975 Scott Newton

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Patti Smith Scott Newton Photography

“Patti Smith, Austin Opera House, 1978. I had seen lots of rock star types strut about the stage for years, but I had never seen, up to then, true performance art acted out under the cover of musical performance before Patti Smith. My definition of art is consciousness made tangible. It was clear her consciousness was deep and compelling, as was her music, poetry, and her performance art…” — Photo © copyright 1978 Scott Newton
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lou reed scott newton photography
“Lou Reed, greenroom after show, Austin Opry House, 1978. It was every bit as cool as you’d think. He was smart, but prickly. Everyone could tell he wasn’t someone you’d want to piss off. The show had an edge, the audience had it, too. All of my live shots were unattractive to me; they didn’t get to his essence at all… but this little greenroom vignette catches him pretty well…” — Photo © copyright 1978 Scott Newton
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Elvis Costello Scott Newton photography
“Elvis Costello, Austin Opera House, 1978. There is no one like Elvis Costello onstage. He vibrates at a different frequency; quicker, sharper, more acute. Highly intelligent, his songs are a joy on many levels…” — Photo © copyright 1978 Scott Newton

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Scott Newton photographer

“Self portrait. Scott Newton at work. 1976 Austin, TX. Young and eager; I sure wish I was still as flat-bellied as I was 38 years ago, but alas, I’ll never look like that again. Those were the days, and that’s the guy who composed all of these shots. Just wanted you to know whose eyes saw all of this first….” Photo © copyright 1976 Scott Newton

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And a few Scott Newton gems from outside Austin, but still in TX–

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david allan coe scott newton photography

“David Allen Coe packs heat, 4th of July Picnic Gonzales, TX. The ’76 Picnic was as wild an affair as I’ve ever been part of. Three days of mayhem in the heat. At sunset on the 4th the entire front section of the crowd started firing roman candles and fireworks at each other; you can imagine the chaos that ensued. The crowd was shooting roman candles at everything, including photographers on the stage…No one died, or it would have been called the Texas Altamont –there were multiple rapes and fights and unexpected violence interspersed with the normal Picnic peaceful vibe. By the end no women could be found anywhere near the stage for all the groping… It had gotten too big and wild. Backstage, idiots like David Allen Coe (shown here) were parading about with guns hanging out of their back pockets… the idyll was over. I’m glad it didn’t get any worse than it got…” — Photo © copyright 1976 Scott Newton

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kris kristofferson scott newton photography

“Kris Kristofferson, 1976 4th of July Picnic, Gonzales, TX. Always a heartthrob for the girls, Kris was as pretty as he’d get in ’76. A really good songwriter, he never had much of a voice. A really nice guy, though, approachable and friendly just like you’d suspect. — Photo copyright © 1976 Scott Newton

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17 thoughts on “THE EPIC AUSTIN MUSIC HISTORY CHRONICLES | PHOTOGRAPHY & WORDS OF SCOTT NEWTON

  1. Amazing photographs of these icons. Thanks for laying them on us complete with commentary. Love your site and all you do. Thanks again!

  2. JP-Sweet article. I was lucky enough to have been at some of those shows. Next time you’re in town I’ll show you my Willie shots as well as Willis Alan Ramsey

  3. JP, you have the best eye for photography. You and Aaron from Ate Up with Motor are my personal candidates for Library of Congress duty. You deserve a wider audience than just us ol’ shit-kickers.

  4. Great stuff as usual JP. I’ve always loved Scott Newton’s work, that guy sure captured pure coolness. Just check out that mean ol’ Waylon look!

  5. Fantastic! Thanks for unearthing yet again such an amazing collection JP. Scott’s shots and the anecdotal stories behind them are perfect. Great stuff is always right in front of us. Sometimes it just takes 30-40 years for the power and beauty to shine.

  6. Nothing particularly wrong with carrying a gun, unless you’re doing it in a feeble attempt to prove you’re some sort of badass. And JP, I’m glad you and Scott hooked up.

  7. Pingback: The Epic Austin Music History Chronicles By Way Of The Selvedge Yard | Stag Blog

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