BLUESMAN STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN | TRIBUTE TO AUSTIN’S FAVORITE SON

From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

Life has now taken me to the great city of Austin, Texas.  You can usually find me walking next to Lady Bird Lake early Saturday morning,completely stuck in my own head, and with my son in tow.  He’s a bit of a freak for guitars, and on one of our walks he asked me, “Who is that statue of the man with the guitar?” As we walked closer a smile crossed my face…

It has been twenty years since we lost Stevie Ray Vaughan in a helicopter crash– arguably one of the greatest blues guitarists ever, and one of the greatest musicians to come out of the Austin music scene. He was only 35 when he passed away, and was on a high from being clean and sober for four years. Stevie was making some of the best music of his life and then– gone in an instant.

Stevie Ray Vaughan played in my hometown of Chicago quite a bit while I was growing up.  Any serious blues player will tell you that all roads lead to the Windy City– and Stevie was no different.  He had a reverence for the blues and its history.  Stevie was heavily influenced by Chicago legend Buddy Guy (who along with Albert King, Otis Rush, Lonnie Mack, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and Jimi Hendrix really sculpted his style) and would show up at Buddy’s club Legends to jam after hours when he was in town.  I was lucky enough to see him play there several times.   You could tell that Dallas-born Stevie had cut his teeth playing the small clubs around Austin– he really liked that environment and usually played some great stuff.  You had to be willing to stay well into the morning hours to catch Stevie jam with Buddy and any number of Chicago’s finest players, but it was well worth it.  Well before the days of cell phone cameras and YouTube, most of these sessions will only live in the memory of those of us that were there to witness two of the greatest guitar legends take turns on classics– like Born Under a Bad Sign, Red House, Not Fade Away, and Mannish Boy.

I often pass Stevie’s statue on my Saturday walks, and wonder if others still stop and reflect on his greatness.  Do they know how truly special this guy was?  Sadly, time has a way of dulling our memory, and we can forget.  Man, I hope not.  I feel blessed to have seen Stevie play guitar back then.  His incredible sound was pure Blues and pure Texas.

Eli M. Getson

 

The legendary Texas Bluesman and guitar great, Stevie Ray Vaughan, going behind the back.

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A LOST ART OF DAYS GONE BY | VINTAGE CURT TEICH LINEN POSTCARDS

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I’m crazy for vintage Curt Teich linen postcards. The warm, fuzzy, softness of color, printed (sometimes slightly off register) on the linen-weave stock, of scenes when America had a youthful glow. It makes me yearn for a life and times that I was born too late for, by golly.  I find myself gazing at neighborhoods and cities, trying to chronologically piece them together.  I ask myself– what was it like here 100 yrs ago… which houses came first… which were layered in later, and when?  A lot of the scenes in these incredible windows to the past are places where I’ve lived, or passed through that are in one way or another core to who I am.

Imagine living again in a time with no cell phones, internet, and the other so-called modern conveniences that “save us time.” I could go back in a New York second.  Technology and consumption is moving at a scary pace, folks.  I wonder what we’ll be looking back at with nostalgia-glazed eyes 25 yrs from now… Planet Earth?

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Ford Model T – 1908-1909, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan

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Statue of Liberty on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor, New York City

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Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York City

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THE LAST PICTURE SHOW | EPIC FEAST OF DUST, DENIM, DESIRE & DREAMS

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If this film doesn’t make you feel something– check your pulse.  You’re probably dead.  It’s a feast for the eyes, ears and soul.  Beautifully sad, haunting, yearning.  It pokes at that hole inside that we all have. The music weaves through the film magically– a part of the story.  Like when Sonny tunes in the radio…

And the cornerstone is a crusty old codger who dies halfway through the flick.  Sam the Lion is The Last Picture Show.

When I was a boy, all I wanted to be was James Dean.  The smoldering, misunderstood, angst-filled rebel badass– always on the outside lookin’ in.  Now that I’m older, and hopefully wiser– all I want to be is Sam the Lion. The strong, salty, cowboy sage.  Mellowed with age– but straight-out speaks his mind. See, he’s got no time for puttin’ up with trashy behavior, and won’t hesitate to call a spade a spade.

Maybe if you’re twenty and don’t want to be James Dean– you don’t have a heart. And maybe if you’re forty and don’t want to be Sam the Lion– you don’t have a brain. Maybe that’s all just a bunch of bullshit.

Find your true skin and learn to be comfortable in it– the rest ‘ll take care of itself.

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EVEN COWBOYS GET THE BLUES | VINTAGE PHOTOS OF DUDES IN DENIM

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Times sure have changed.  Playing “Cowboys & Indians” outside has been replaced with playing “Halo” or “Call of Duty” in a darkened room.  Heck, it’s probably so politically incorrect to even mention “Cowboys & Indians” that someone somewhere is having a tizzy.  The American cowboy is an icon of grit, honor, independence and masculinity.  Hard work, long days, and little pay except for the open sky, a horse to ride, a hot meal and a drink or two to wet your whistle.  Maybe even a dance with a pretty girl if yer’ lucky– and don’t stink to high heaven.

The 1910s – 1930s saw the Wild West American lifestyle move largely from a way of life, to ever-increasing faded memories and mythology.  Our country was getting smaller. Technology and transportation were ushering in a new era of industrialized cities and advanced accessibility.  The real jean-wearin’ cowboy lifestyle of days past were kept alive over the decades largely through the Western fashions worn by the stars of silver screen and music.

These images are some of my favorite captures of the American cowboy at the very end of his reign– many not surprisingly taken by LIFE photography giants like Loomis Dean, and Ralph Crane to name a few. Some, unfortunately, are uncredited.  If you know the pic, give me a shout  so I can give the photographer their due, please.

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circa 1934– “Rear view of a man wearing chaps and spurs”  –Photo McCormic Co., Amarillo, Texas.

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Lubbock, TX, 1940– Matador, A Texas Ranch: Seven cowboys sitting along corral fence draped w. their chaps (which they don’t wear while not working), as they wait for brand irons to heat up during cattle roundup at Matador Ranch, the second largest in the state.  –photo by Hansel Mieth

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CARROLL SHELBY GOES MID-ENGINE | THE COOPER “KING COBRA” YEARS

Although Carroll Shelby’s Cobra was handily beating all comers in SCCA A/Production competition, he knew that it was not equipped to matchup with the advanced, lightweight mid-engined race cars that were set to dominate in the new upcoming ’63 Fall Series.  With little time, his answer was to try and repeat history by bolting proven American horsepower into a willing and able European mid-engined sportscar.

So he headed off to Europe and came back with two engine-less Cooper Monacos– and set out to retrofit the very capable racers with his signature formula of good ol’ fashioned Texas testosterone.  His crew had just one month, a welder, and a pile of old Cobra parts to turn the Coopers into Shelby’s new lean & mean King Cobra. Get ‘er done.

There are two stories here, intertwined.  There’s the story of Shelby and his attempt to dominate racing through sheer power and will with the King Cobra– and the story of his driver, Dave MacDonald, who through his love of the sport became a legend, and how his fate was forever changed when he made the difficult decision to leave Shelby and race for Mickey Thompson and Chevy at the ’64 Indy 500.

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Carroll Shelby (left in his signature striped coveralls) and Phil Hill at the 12 Hours of Sebring, 1963. Shelby entered four Cobras, driven by Dan Gurney and Phil Hill, two of which have new rack-and-pinion steering.  Hill succeeds in setting the fastest GT lap, but Shelby-American ultimately came up short, and Ferrari took the win.

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DAMN RIGHT I’VE GOT THE BLUES | LEGENDARY BADASS BLUESMEN

Townes Van Zandt was famous for saying– “There’s only two kinds of music, Blues and Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.” Boy, was he ever right. I say, gimme the Blues. The  most perfect sorrow-drownin’, tear-jerkin’, soul-howlin’, baby-makin’ music there is. Mystic sounds born from blood, sweat & tears — still giving birth to the best Rock & Roll bands to this day.

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R.L. (Robert Lee) Burnside — Born in Mississippi hill country back in 1926.  Worked as a sharecropper, picked up the guitar as a young man, heavily influenced by bluesmen — Fred MacDowell, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters (who was married to his first cousin). Burnside shook the Mississippi dust off his heels some time in the ’50s and headed for Chicago.  Within a year, his Father, brother, and uncle were all murdered.  He went back home to Mississipi where he ran into trouble himself — killing a man.  “I didn’t mean to kill nobody… I just meant to shoot the son of a bitch in the head. Him dying was between him and the Lord.”  R.L. Burnside gained a huge following and critical acclaim finally in the ’90s when he teamed up with Jon Spencer, releasing the masterpiece — “A Ass Pocket of Whiskey.”  Burnside died at the age of 78 in 2005.  –Image by Jim Herrington

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John Lee Hooker — Born in Mississippi, the youngest of 11 children, back in 1917 to a sharecropper family.  His Daddy was also a preacher, and when he was just 4 yrs old, his parents split-up.  His Mama married a bluesman, William Moore — a young Hooker took-up guitar, and credits his stepfather with being a major influence on him musically. With his own unique style of talking blues, infused with boogie-woogie, Hooker racked-up a string of hits — including“Boogie Chillen” (from 1948) and “Boom Boom” (from 1962), and my favorite John Lee Hooker tune is — “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.”  John Lee Hooker passed away in 2001.

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WINTER WHITES | JOHNNY & EDGAR — THE LEGENDARY WINTER BROTHERS

The Legendary Johnny Winter and his equally epic younger brother, Edgar Winter, began performing together when they were just kids. Their first TV appearance was on a local children’s television show in Houston / Beaumont area when they were somewhere around 10 years old, strumming the ukelele and singing. Both being Albino, and Johnny cross-eyed, they were quite a sight. The Winter brothers really glow in those old pics. it’s amazing.

Johnny Winter’s star rose quickly. He was the front man, and they began recording at the age of 15, when Johnny and the Jammers released “School Day Blues” on a local Houston record label. Coming up in the music scene back then he’d soak-in performances by his heroes– epic blues artists Muddy Waters, B. B. King and Bobby Bland. Johnny went on to become one of the best blues guitarists of all time. Edgar Winter took a more progressive route– with his smash hit Frankenstein” launching The Edgar Winter Group (with badass munchkin guitarist Rick Derringer) headfirst into major Rock and Roll stardom. I still love that monster riff, man.

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VICIOUS WHITE KIDS | THE SEX PISTOLS TAKE ON ROCK ‘N ROLL & THE SOUTH

10 Mar 1977, London, England, UK — The punk rock group, The Sex Pistols, are about to be moved by a policeman as they sign a copy of their new recording contract with A & M Records outside Buckingham Palace. The next record to be released is called “God Save the Queen”. The band members (from far left to right) are John Lydon, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Sid Vicious. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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I’m not gonna lie– life has been kicking my ass a little lately. It’s got me wantin’ to spit, sneer, and swear like Sid Vicious.  But instead, I’ll humbly take my licks and lumps, and keep on pluggin’ along the best I know how.  I actually have a feelin’ this could end up being one helluva year– for TSY and beyond.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here before, but I spend a ton of time in Dallas for business.  I’ve been going down for years, and know it pretty well.  Calling it my 2nd home is not a stretch by any means– it’s a cool town, and I’m very comfortable there.  Lots of great people and good eats.

So, Friday I was having lunch at El Fenix with my buddy Bruce, who’s a few years older than me, and outta nowhere I ask him, “Hey, man– were you in Texas back in ’78 when the Sex Pistols rolled through on tour?  You remember them?”

Well, his face lit-up like a Christmas tree as he said, “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!”

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The Sex Pistols’ infamous Dallas, Texas show marquee at the Longhorn Ballroom (once owned by Jack Ruby) back in January of 1978– “Sid was really f*cked up. Really drunk. He played for a while without his guitar plugged in. He played for a while with a fish. I think somebody threw it up there, a bass or something. People seemed pissed at him. He’d spit on the audience; they’d spit on him. That’s what you did. There was this element of, ‘You paid to see us play?'”– The Austin Chronicle

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ROKY ERICKSON | THE GREAT, LOST TEXAS PIONEER OF ROCK AND ROLL

“I’ve gone through three changes– I thought I was a Christian… then I was the devil… then the third one, where I know who I am… you know… I feel like I’m an alien.”  

–Roky Erickson

The beautiful, gifted, misunderstood and mysterious Roky Erickson wiil forever be lumped with Syd Barrett and other so-called mad, musical geniuses– but unlike some of the others, thankfully Roky came back to us.  Better late than never.  We love you, Roky.

Photo by Scott Newton

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Photo by Scott Newton

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LADIES LOVE OUTLAWS | WAYLON, WILLIE, JOHNNY, KRIS & COMPANY

 

“I’ve always been crazy– but it’s kept me from going insane.”

–Waylon Jennings

 

No one personified the hard-living, honky tonk, maverick life as much as Waylon Jennings did. Born in Littlefield, Texas, in 1937, he played bass with rock-and-roll legend Buddy Holly in the 1950s, roomed and misbehaved with Johnny Cash in the 1960s, and had dozens of top-ten hits along the way—including 1978’s “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” But it was as an “Outlaw” that Waylon made his biggest contribution. Along with co-conspirators Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, Billy Joe Shaver, and others, the Outlaws streamlined arrangements, eschewed clichéd lyrics, and modernized country music by looking back to its soulful roots and mixing in a shot of rock-and-roll.  Waylon Jennings, Performance Center, Cambridge, MA, 1976  –Image by Henry Horenstein

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Circa 1974, College Station, TX — Willie Nelson thrills a young crowd 40,000 strong as he opens his ‘July 4th Picnic’ in College Station, Texas. Crowds of over 150,000 were expected during the three day weekend music fest. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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Circa 1969, Cummins, Arkansas — Singer Johnny Cash as he chats with some of the inmates and guests during his visit to Cummins Prison in Arkansas.  April 10, 1969. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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