DIARY - 9 AUGUST 2006 - ON THE ROAD IN TEXAS
MCMURTRY DEFIES TEXAS HEAT
"There's a Vietnam vet with a cardboard sign/ sitting there on the
left turn line/ flag on his wheelchair flapping in the breeze/ one leg
missing and both hands free." - We Can't Make It Here - James
the Lost Highway for a picnic is stimulating stuff when the first
I 35 pit stop is Gruene - the oldest dance hall in Texas.
Nestling high above the Guadalupe River, the 1872 circa dance hall
walls are adorned with pictures and memorabilia of famed country
stars of the past and present.
In 1978 I caught Ray Benson and Asleep At The Wheel live at Gruene
- this time we arrive at high noon and admire photos of John Travolta
in 1996 movie Michael that was filmed in the adjoining Gristmill
restaurant and boathouse.
So we decide on tasty Texas cooking, aka the quaint Guy Clark song,
at the rustic 1870's cotton gin that was renovated in 1977.
stop is San Marcos - home of the famed songwriter Kent Finlay who
discovered Oregon born Todd Snider at the Cheatham St Warehouse
when Todd was a bus boy.
Finlay wrote Blow-Up Plastic Girl - a bizarre 11th hour hidden
track on Oklahoma born Mel McDaniel's 1977 disc Gentle To Your
an unlikely hit in locales diverse as Texas and 4KQ, Brisbane, when former
Nu Country DJ and 3UZ programmer Rod Stone was music director.
A similar story to Snider's Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues -
the hidden tune on his 1994 disc Songs From The Daily Planet that
launched him to fame with a little help from Jimmy Buffett and Keith Sykes.
I interviewed McDaniel about the song for 4KQ on my 1983 U.S. sojourn.
I also shocked Snider when I inadvertently revived it in a phone interview
with him in my decade plus long High In The Saddle stint on 3RRR-FM.
But this time we miss Kent, who hosted the songwriting soiree the night
before - so my chauffeur indulges a shopping habit.
It's a good move.
Our arrival in world live music HQ Austin is derailed by a motel booking
glitch that means we miss swing maestro Cornell Hurd.
But we visit Threadgills - another historic venue built on a petrol station
by deceased singing landlord Kenneth and featuring revered singer-songwriter
McMurtry, 43, and son of the famed novelist-movie scriptwriter Larry -
Brokeback Mountain is the latest - is showcasing his 12 track eighth
album Childish Things out here on Didgeridoo.
Son Curtis, 14, plays sax and Terry Allen's son Bukka guests on fiddle
and organ on the disc but are not visible in the Texas heat that permeates
this outdoor gig.
But the singer performs classics that include Choctaw Bingo, also
cut by Ray Wylie Hubbard.
Slayton's got his Texas pride/ back in the thickets with his Asian bride/
he's got a Airstream trailer and a Holstein cow/ he still makes whiskey
cause he still knows how/ he plays that Choctaw Bingo every Friday night/
you know he had to leave Texas but he won't say why." - Choctaw
Bingo - James McMurtry.
We head uptown
to our air conditioned digs to prepare for the long night ahead that kicks
off with the annual Mickey Newbury festival featuring descendants of the
late Texas singer-songwriter.
Newbury died at 62 in 2002 with a huge catalogue of songs cut by artists
diverse as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Waylon & Willie and David Allan
It's also the world launch of Kacey Jones video clip of San Francisco
Mabel Joy - title track of her acclaimed tribute disc to Mickey featuring
Kristofferson and fellow singing actor Waylon Payne.
Jones' trio and Payne - who played Jerry Lee in the Johnny Cash movie
Walk The Line and is the lead in the new Hank Garland film - are
among the luminary live cast. Also on is video director Stacy Dean Campbell
- a one time Australian tourist with Texan troubadour Hugh Moffatt and
three-album veteran who filmed the clip in his hometown of Carlsbad, New
Well most of it - the scene in which Golden Gloves boxer Kristofferson
knocks out Payne was shot in Austin on the eve of the recent S X South
ROBISON CRANKS BROKEN SPOKE
night is young so we ride into South Austin honky tonk The Broken
Spoke where Bandera born Bruce Robison and his hot band headline
Robison, a prolific earner from hits cut by artists diverse as Dixie
Chicks, Gary Allan, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, toured Australia
in 2000 with his singing spouse Kelly Willis - mother of their four
Bruce, promoting seventh album, Eleven Stories fondly recalls
his Aussie sojourn that included live to air performances on Nu
Country FM at Beer Can Hill.
host James White, recovering from heart surgery, joins Bruce on
stage for guest roles on Rolling In My Sweet Baby's Arms
and Hey Good Lookin'.
White is bemused to learn the now defunct Melbourne country band
Broken Spoke borrowed his historic dance hall name for branding
purposes for its debut disc.
The band featured Nu Country FM DJS and TV hosts Paul Hicks and
Red Smith and Dead Livers guitarist and Nu Country technician Rodger
Robison - photo by Carol Taylor
JONES HOSTS NU COUNTRY TV
coming down brings us to Jones' Howard Johnson motel room as producer
Carol Taylor films a Nu Country TV interview and hosting role with Kacey
Jones, also revered as producer of Kinky Friedman tribute disc Pearls
In The Snow. Jones recruits East Burwood Rams Under-11 rover Jordan Taylor
as roadie to gather a swag of memorabilia to accompany her hosting role.
It's an 18 years after reunion for this writer who first interviewed Jones
in Nashville in 1988 when she was lead singer of ground breaking country
comediennes Ethel & The Shameless Hussies.
how Waylon Jennings guested as a traffic cop on their song Last Night
I Really Laid Down The Law.
She reveals her songwriting CV that includes songs cut by David Allan
Coe - one of the headliners at Shotgun Willie Nelson's July 4 picnic.
Jones, born in the world garlic capital Gilroy in California, also runs
a stable of indie record labels - one is Kinkajou with The Kinkster.
And she won acclaim as the singing comedienne on a syndicated radio show.
As the Sabbath turns from afternoon to evening we check out the famed
Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey circus that has set up in the shadows
of the Governors' Mansion in downtown Austin.
photographing elephants, zebras, lions and horses, producer Carol
decides to shoot footage outside the stately digs of incumbent Governor
Rick Perry - an old mate of our country king and TV show host Lee
Although we don't venture inside to check out the beds and linen for
The Kinkster and his unnamed Governess-in-waiting we arouse the security
cameras when Rams rover Jordan throws his new Texas Longhorns gridiron
ball at the fence.
us enough breathing space to check out the Governor's 12 Step Program
- the exact number from the mansion to the street - and the two stepping
trail to the nearby heavily guarded Capitol building, circa 1888.
BUYS BACK THE CHURCH
Nelson - Photo by Carol Taylor
dalliance in the Texas capital on the Sabbath means we miss another
historic gig in Shotgun Willie's hometown of Abbott.
Willie, now 73, purchased the 1899 Methodist church and performed
gospel songs with sister, Bobbie, and Leon Russell.
Nelson celebrated his preservation of the church services and building
with a concert that brought together family, friends and longtime
parishioners for prayers and gospel music.
"Sister Bobbie and I have been going to this church since we
were born," Nelson said.
you're all members of the Abbott Methodist Church, and you will be, forever
blessings from guest ministers, Nelson performed with Bobbie and guests
including Leon Russell.
They sang hymns such as Uncloudy Day, I'll Fly Away, Will the Circle
be Unbroken and Precious Memories.
The congregation listed 600 members at its peak in 1886, according to
its historical marker.
But the steepled church building, which itself dates from 1899, closed
in May after its last service as part of the United Methodist denomination.
The dwindling congregation merged with a larger one in Hillsboro.
Abbott, located along Interstate 35 about 65 miles south of Dallas, is
home to some 300 people.
Nelson greeted old friends in the sanctuary after the service.
"This has been quite an experience, all these people," he said.
"We went to school together, played ball together, dated together."
While his own involvement will be minimal, Nelson said he decided to buy
the property because he couldn't stand the thought of the church being
"We sang, and my sister played piano here," Nelson said. "My
grandmother brought us, and we came every Sunday, every Monday and Wednesday."
He said the church will remain a community church, and will not become
an entertainment venue.
with David Dawson
Photo by Carol Taylor
dawns as our unflappable producer Carol resumes chauffeurial duties
to beat the Texas heat in a 140 mile trip north to Carl's Corner
for our audience with Texas Governor In Waiting - Kinky Friedman.
Kinky chose the truck stop festival HQ of Willie's highly publicised
energy efficient bio-diesel fuel as our meeting place.
one of The Kinkster's many political platforms and we drop his name
at the gates of this July 3 curtain raiser for Willie's July 4 picnic.
We find Kinky
and his constant companion, pianist and fellow Texas Jewboy - Little Jewford
- in the VIP hospitality tent where celebrities dine out in splendour.
suggests the Gibson Guitars bus that doubles as his campaign HQ for
the Nu Country interview.
We meet campaign chief Dean Barkley who successfully shot professional
wrestler Jesse Ventura into the role of Governor of Minnesota and
learn our interview is being filmed by another TV crew for a docco
on The Kinkster.
We don't catch up with Reid Nelson, who ran Dan Quayle's congressional
campaign in Indiana, coordinator of Kinky's petition drive.
But The Kinkster
delights in introducing Public Relations Manager Jason Hardison who facilitated
our entrée into Carl's Corner with VIP passes.
"This is Chicken Dick," The Kinkster reveals as to distinguish
his slender PR chief from himself Richard Kinky "Big Dick" Friedman.
It's impeccable timing as Texas Secretary Of State Roger Williams has
just ruled that Friedman's nickname Kinky, not Big Dick, was not a slogan
and thus did not violate state law.
But Williams declared that rival independent candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn
can't include "Grandma" as a nickname on her ballot.
Without wanting to reveal the interview contents I'm happy to report that
Governor Perry's 20 million dollar plan to install border cameras to film
Mexicans crossing the Rio Grande is manna from heaven for The Kinkster.
The recently revealed security saga that finds hapless swimmers and sprinters
beamed live onto the Internet is a Godsend for Kinky who describes it
as a crowd pleaser akin to Mexican Idol where Texans can vote the wetbacks
out of their state and houses.
The Gubernatorial bus is a welcome retreat from the heat and voter support
snowballs for Kinky with his memorabilia on full display throughout the
festival and Lone Star State.
The Kinkster once again adorns the cover of the prestigious Texas Monthly
magazine that featured his columns until he stood for Governor.
SHOOTER JENNINGS SQUEEZES
The thrill of the chase inspires videographer, producer and cameraperson
Carol who finds Kinky's clout - he gives us his all access backstage passes
- enables us to invade the stage.
We're in the wings filming young Texan chanteuse Pauline Reese showcasing
fourth disc Too Texas - Live At Cherry Ridge when we spy a skinny,
bespectacled chap and companion to our left.
Jordan informs us the lad is Shooter Jennings - who had a cameo
as his dad Waylon in the Johnny Cash movie Walk The Line.
Also in the wings is Waylon Payne - who played The Killer in the
But not for long - Payne guests with Django Walker (son of icon
Jerry Jeff) during his set.
galaxy is dazzling with the famed Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - celebrating
40 years in the recording saddle including a role in Paint Your
Wagon - excelling on their set that includes Django's dad classic
hit Mr Bojangles.
Asleep At The Wheel and Johnny Bush, who repeatedly thanks Willie for
cutting and opening his shows with his tune Whiskey River, take the stage.
Shooter and hot band perform songs from their two recent albums Put
The O Back In Country (2005) and Electric Rodeo (2006) - the
latter shares its title with Nu Country TV host Lee Kernaghan's 2002 disc.
Our producer Carol, video camera in one hand and brand new Cannon digital
around her neck, discreetly shoots Shooter, 26, and his song source and
long time sweetheart Drea De Matteo.
Drea won an Emmy for her portrayal of Adriana La Cerva on The Sopranos.
So when Shooter and Drea leap onto one of several gleaming Harley hogs
adorning the stage, Carol reaches for her Cannon.
But, even with super shutter speed, she is just a mili-second short of
a snap for the glossies that might have paid for our sojourn.
Such is life in Texas.
RAY WYLIE HUBBARD AND DAVID ALLAN COE
Meanwhile rover Jordan, who shows Lone Star lads how to kick his Texas
Longhorns ball, returns to stage right as veteran outlaw Ray Wylie Hubbard,
60, performs tunes from his new disc Snake Farm - his 13th album in 30
It's only when Ray's son Lucas, 14, joins him on guitar, Jordan realises
his playmates were kinfolk of the legend who has no qualms about revamping
famed hit Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother.
The Oklahoma born, long time Texan handles a power failure with better
humour than seven times wed fellow outlaw David Allan Coe, now 66.
Coe recovers to showcase his country classics and new tunes penned with
Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker and Pantera and Damageplan drummer Vinnie Abbott
whose brother Dimebag Darrell was shot dead two years ago on another stage
Coe and Damageplan have released a bizarre "hillbilly metal"
disc Rebel Meets Rebel cut with Dimebag Darrell before he was murdered.
Photo by Carol Taylor
chanteuse Heather Myles proves an oasis for fans of pure country music
when she performs songs from fifth album Sweet Talk And Good Lies
with her stone country band.
She reaches back into her catalogue and proves why she has graduated
from being a jockey to riding the roots country range as one of its
most credible flame keepers.
Myles performed her tune You've Taken Me Places I've Never Been
in Disney movie Snow Dogs.
At 37 she has attracted duet partners of the calibre of Merle Haggard
and Dwight Yoakam over the years but she is the focus of this set.
raised on racetracks and country by two generations of jockeys and trainers
at the Three C Ranch, Riverside.
After her set she admits she once packed a 38 pistol for protection while
on the road.
But we don't ask her if she still drives a 1964 Ford Ranchero, has a Schauzer
named Sonny and cat named Mimino.
The singer says she is still keen to tour Australia after an ill-fated
attempt by a local promoter to bring her here a few years ago.
"Sadly, I never received the deposit," Myles revealed.
The night is closing in so we bid adieu to Carl's Corner for the drive
north to Forth Worth for Willie's 33rd annual Picnic in the historic Stockyards
in the shadows of Billy Bob's - the biggest honky tonk in the world with
42 bars and a live bull riding ring.
Stay tuned for that special report and exclusive pictures.
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