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THE ORIGINAL TEXAS MUSIC MAGAZINE

March 2020

VOLUME XLVII, NUMBER 9

On Stands Now!

Buddy Magazine: The Original Texas Music Magazine Dallas Texas March 2020

In This Issue:
Forged in Texas Steel
Will Sexton
Vaughan Brothers
Quebe Sisters
A Guy Clark Documentary
Texas Nexus
Record Review
In Memoriam: Paul English

Forged in Texas Steel

Snapshots from the Texas Side of the Pedal Steel Guitar Universe

By S.D. Henderson

Forged in Texas Steel

The net difference between explaining quantum physics and the intricacies of a pedal steel guitar to a four-year-old child is negligible. It’s a complex and daunting instrument to behold, much less to play. At least with the pedal steel you can let them hear Ralph Mooney’s contributions on “Swinging Doors” or “Rainy Day Woman.” His steel intro and licks on those two alone are just as iconic and quintessential as Merle or Waylon’s vocals. With physics, it’s just a bunch of math, this is better. It’s music.

Drive By Touring

In the next 1670 words or so, we’re going to take you on a drive-by trip through the local pedal steel guitar universe. We probably should have planned on camping or booking a hotel, but we’ll come back again I promise. Along the way, we’ll point out some fun facts and history, take you to a local manufacturer where history is being remade, and introduce you to some new Buddy Texas Tornadoes really making a difference through their mastery of the instrument. There’s no time for snacks, and if you had to go, you should have gone at the house, because there’s also a movie and a show at the end.

Mediatech Institute

If the history of music started with some guy banging two sticks together thousands of years ago, then the pedal steel guitar is one of the most modern of musical instruments. If not the youngest historically, it can’t be denied that the pedal steel is distinctly the most American creation of all things with strings. The pedal steel as we know it didn’t exist prior to the 1950’s. Sure, there were Hawaiian guitars that inspired the sound; and later resonators, dobros and flat steel guitars from about the 20’s forward. But the pedal steel was born here, still just one generation into it’s history.

Born in the USA

Look at pedal steel up close. Two necks, around twenty strings, two tunings, two raised nuts, a fretboard that never feels a string. It is like and unlike a guitar in every sense. You look just below that deck and there you find the series of pedals and knee levers that speak a language that few understand. If that’s not enough to make your head spin, flip one over and look under the hood. That’s where things start to get complicated.

Forged in Texas Steel

For all it’s mechanical complexity, in the hands of the right player, the pedal steel imbues a song with an understated elegance and melancholy or a simple expression of revelry in just a few notes. Unlike any other instrument, the pedal steel call it’s own players. Few would look at one and jump at the chance to learn. It’s the call of the instrument, that moment of “What makes than sound?” while listening to a Merle Haggard record that draws them in.

I’d hate to give you the early impression that I know something about the pedal steel. Outside of listening to decades of music and drinking in honky tonks; my knowledge is scant and my ignorance is deep. I’m just the guy with the tour bus here. Fortunately, I had the phone numbers of some formidable men who understand the instrument like few others. Each of them pointed me in the right direction and shared some interesting places to stop on our tour this month to share with you.

I lean heavily on Lloyd Maines, who is always a wealth of information, generous with his time and suffers fools like me well. Maines’ work as a pedal steel player and producer are both hallmarked by his unique gift of synthesizing simplicity from complexity. When asked about the two necks of a typical pedal steel, Maines explained, “It’s kind of a joke among steel players, you’ve got your C6 neck, and your car payment neck. That’s what people want to hear.” It’s safe to say anything accurate I write about the pedal steel comes from Maines, anything off is my own creation.

Dallas International Guitar Festival 2020

Say hello and wave metaphorically to Larry White. He’s been a lifelong pedal steeler who’s made an indelible imprint on Texas music over the past forty plus years. He played with Ray Wylie Hubbard and the Cowboy Twinkies (still arguably the best band name ever) and made huge contributions to Freddy Fender’s groundbreaking work throughout the seventies. Before I got on the phone with White, I didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of the impact that Dallas, Texas and the rest of the state has made on the steel guitar.

White started the conversation that piqued my interests and set the course, “There’s a legacy in pedal steel guitars right here in Dallas,” he mentioned, and I was hooked.

Dallas’ Own Steel Mill

There are two big epicenters of pedal steel seismic activity over the years. The first shocks were really felt in Nashville where Buddy Emmons and Shot Jackson built the legendary Sho Bud pedal steel guitar. A few years later, three pedal steel pioneers Maurice Anderson, Tom Morrell and Danny Shields founded another historic mainstay right here in Dallas.

Texas Homegrown with Maylee Thomas

MSA Guitars launched in 1962 in Oak Cliff, Texas. Steel Guitar Hall of Famer Anderson, the A in MSA, had searched for years to find a pedal steel he could depend on, and one that would embody the best the instrument could offer. For an instrument that’s at least as complicated as a lunar lander, it made perfect sense to partner with an aerospace machining company to bring their vision to fruition.

In a 1974 Buddy Magazine article on MSA’s pedal steel, Anderson still owned the company that produced “the finest pedal steel guitar built,” all right here in Dallas. For years they made industry standard setting instruments collaborating with other luminaries like Bud Carter, the “steel’s foremost engineer of his time” as described in his hall of fame resume. The story of MSA might have ended in the early nineties with industry and market changes and the company needed to focus on their primary revenue stream, precision machining of stuff for other complex things.

Forged in Texas Steel

Stan Bennett was part of the original engineering and machining team that built MSA from the early years forward. Pedal steel guitars have been in the Bennett family bloodline for generations. After a decade of making parts for any number of other non-musical things, the sounds and the feel of the pedal steel guitar kept calling. Bennett’s sons Kyle and Sonny made the decision to continue the quest of making the finest steel guitar available on the market.

In 2002, MSA was reborn, reimagined and relaunched by the Bennett brothers who continue to blend aerospace precision and engineering with the heart and soul of high lonesome and mournful wail of the pedal steel. Kyle Bennett leads production and Sonny re-designed and re-engineered the MSA platform to produce beautiful instruments; more reliable, agile and inventive than ever. The MSA Legend XL, MSA Studio Pro and Superslide steels are played or coveted by steel players across the globe. This year they will release a new creation the Tour Pro Legend XL Ten Six. Orders will come in as quick as they can fill them.

TSGA Jamboree

If this article has done nothing more than add to your acute pedal steel confusion, then the next stop on your extended tour of the steel guitar universe should be the annual Texas Steel Guitar Association Jamboree and Show this month here in Dallas. From March 12 through March 15, the Sheraton DFW will play host to the 36th TSGA Jamboree. I don’t want to bury the lead here, but in addition to full immersion in the pedal steel world, you can also catch all three Buddy Texas Tornado steel guitar honorees showcasing their talents live during the event.

Forged in Texas Steel

Speaking of Texas Tornado pedal steel guitar honorees, for the second year in a row, we’ll start with another apology. Making a list of everything awesome is a pretty big undertaking, and there will always be a few things that we just plain missed. We’ve been around a long time, but we’re a little late in giving the pedal steel it’s full due. One prime example is the aforementioned pedal steel hall of famer Ralph Mooney, somehow we missed putting him on our list. We’ll fix the glitches in time, but not quite by press time.

Herb Steiner

One such glaring omission from our list, corrected today, is Herb Steiner. Longtime Robert Earl Keen pedal steel and string man Marty Muse summed it up quite nicely, “I’ve been a friend of Herb’s since the first day I stepped foot in Austin. Any kind of hall of fame for the steel guitar, Herb should be in it. He knows everybody in that world and he’s played with everybody.” Inducted into the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2005, the abbreviated list of artists that Steiner has played with, and the influential projects he’s contributed to are manifold.

Forged in Texas Steel

Starting out touring with Linda Ronstadt’s Stone Poneys, it was Gary P. Nunn who encouraged Steiner to relocate to Austin. The rest is Texas history. Almost all of the steel work on B.W. Stevenson and Jerry Jeff Walker’s revolutionary recordings in the seventies is by Herb Steiner. His pedal steel range is limitless; from western swing and traditional Texas country music with Johnny Bush, Gary P. and Alvin Crow to the outer space environment of the Cornell Hurd Band. Herb Steiner is a fixture in the pedal steel world, and a deserving and welcome, yet belated, Buddy Magazine Steel Guitar Texas Tornado.

Mitchell Smithey

Our second 2020 Buddy Magazine Pedal Steel Texas Tornado understands the pedal steel on a level that few others comprehend. Mitchell Smithey is an amazing player who can sit in with just about anyone at any time, and over the years has done just that. Mitchell has toured with many different artists including Gary Stewart, TG Sheppard, David Frizzel, Doug Stone and LeAnn Rimes. Just playing three Gary Stewart songs live should give any steel player direct entry to the hall of fame. Go back and listen to “She’s Acting Single” or “An Empty Glass” or “Quits” and you’d have to agree. Currently with the Texas Music Hall of Fame Band, Mitchell is a world class pedal steel player. Equally impressive is Smithey’s deep mechanical knowledge of the pedal steel. As an apprentice to renowned player and designer Bud Carter, Smithey worked at Carter Steel Guitars crafting, building and setting up steel guitars while keeping an active playing career. He is now on staff at MSA, where he continues to create the sounder that creates the sound for all current MSA players.

Junior Knight

Our third Buddy Magazine Pedal Steel Texas Tornado this year just looks like a pedal steel player. I’m not sure I can even explain that adequately, but when I think of a pedal steel player that’s not Lloyd Maines, I think of a guy like Junior Knight. As a founding member of the Texas Steel Guitar Association and hall of famer, Knight’s accolades and credentials are as undeniable as his playing style. Also inducted into the Texas Swing Hall of Fame and the Western Swing Music Society of the Southwest Hall of Fame, Knight is a deeply established presence in the pedal steel community. Although semi-retired after 50 years of playing, Knight is a long time MSA player, credited not only as a musician but as a man, “Those of you that know him know his heart is the size of Texas! A better, kinder man you will not meet.” Like many pedal steel players, Knight is unassuming, preferring to let the song be the focus of attention. His steel playing has highlighted the work of luminaries like Ray Price and Gary Stewart, and has also worked with Junior Brown, Jody Nix and LeAnn Rimes to provide just the right amount of steel to make it real country music.

Men of Steel

Before we drop you off and park the bus for month, if you’ve ever been moved to curiosity by the wail of a pedal steel there are few definitive resources to go to for historical information about this unique American marvel of soul and sound. When he’s not playing or touring with Robert Earl Keen, Marty Muse has been working on a documentary that will finally chronicle the history of the pedal steel through the men who created the sound and machinery that built country music as we know it today.

Forged in Texas Steel

Muse adds, “This is a truly unique American instrument. In my lifetime, a lot of the guys who were instrumental in developing the instrument were still alive, but there hadn’t a real, quality Ken Burns style documentary about the development of the pedal steel guitar. This is something that I really want to see on the screen.”

Still in production, “Men of Steel” captures the history of the instrument in first person, preserving the history of the instrument. Some of the stories would have been lost to history if Muse and filmmaker Jeff Himpele hadn’t had the foresight to start the project years ago. The legacies of Buddy Emmons, Ralph Mooney and Maurice Anderson will resonate with future generations of steel players and fans of all genres of roots music. Even if you can’t play a pedal steel, you can play a part in bringing “Men of Steel” to the screen for future generations. For a really cool preview and a lot more information, visit steelguitarmovie.com

I’m running out of space and time as the laws of physics and linguistics conspire against me. The pedal steel guitar is a big story and a big presence in the kind of music we love here at Buddy. So, as we wind the tour down, I hope you took some mental snapshots along the way. They will be blurry because we never stopped moving. We will continue to revisit and champion the pedal steel guitar in future issues, one pedal or lever at a time, but if you want a head start, there are two unique opportunities where the world of the pedal steel can be condensed to a space you can experience on your own.

Rock Rattle N'Roll Collectibles

You can see all three Buddy Magazine Pedal Steel Texas Tornados play live (and buy yourself your own MSA Pedal Steel guitar) at the 36th Anniversary Texas Steel Guitar Association Jamboree and Show from March 12 through March 15 at the Sheraton DFW in Dallas.

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Finding a balance

Will Sexton concentrates on simplification

By Jan Sikes

Will Sexton concentrates on simplification By Jan Sikes

Will Sexton played on stage for the first time with brother Charlie at the young age of nine. When his grandmother passed away, Will received a suitcase of memorabilia she had kept, which included a 1978 poster advertising little Charlie Sexton and his brother Will at Hondo’s along with W.C. Clark. Will recalls playing weekly at Cheatham Street Warehouse with W.C. as well as with the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan.

In middle school, Will played a horn in a jazz band, but when the songwriting bug bit him, he switched to guitar, and that has remained his instrument throughout decades in the business.

At the age of sixteen, Will moved to New York and pursued music full-time. 

Memphis

Will said, “When I was in my early twenties, I got really tired of touring. I had a new baby and wanted to be home, so I got a staff writing job for A&M Records. I switched from touring to making a living by writing songs.”

Protegé

Pause for a moment and let the young age of this songwriter/musician sink in. He was a true child protégé who made a lucrative career out of every aspect of music.

Will went on to say that, over the many years, he worked as a producer, a session musician, a touring musician, and a songwriter. 

“It was a way to change things up and not get burnt out on any part of it,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to do a bunch of different things. People would ask me what my favorite thing to do as an artist was, and I always had a hard time answering that question. I’m turning fifty this year, so that’s 43 years of doing it. So, I’ve been at it for a minute.”

Even though brothers Will and Charlie went separate music ways, with Charlie playing in Bob Dylan’s band, they continue to do shows together on occasion, with their band Mystic Knights of the Sea. 

Will said, “Charlie and I have recorded over forty songs together, and he has those recordings, so someday they’ll be used for something. I’m the kind of guy that always has a work in progress.”

Everything changed for Will when he had a stroke in 2009.

“The thing about the work in progress was that, whenever I had my stroke, it was the first time I’d ever had a reprieve.” he continued. “It was amazing. There was something beautiful about it. Because at that point, there was a part of my brain that just didn’t have that anymore. For the first time in years and years, I didn’t have to think about a guitar lick or song lyric. It was a drag, but it also was freeing. Then I literally had to start over again.”

Will moved to Memphis about five years ago, following the stroke. 

Will recalled. “After I got out of the hospital from the stroke, ironically I ended up getting a nice gig touring with Sahara Smith, who had just made a really great record. I had only been out of the hospital for a week and couldn’t talk well, but I was able to still play guitar. It ended up creating more of a touring thing that I hadn’t experienced since I was a teenager. There was no reason for me to stay home because I couldn’t take care of anybody at that point.”

You might say there was a bit of magic that happened when Will met Amy Lavere while touring with Shannon McNally. 

“Amy was my favorite traveling companion. We became partners, and then we got married. We’ve toured eight or nine months out of the year over the past five years.”
Will has now released a new album that hit the shelves on March 6. Don’t Walk in the Darkness is an eclectic, layered, and multi-dimensional collection of lyric-driven songs. And by saying that, I am not downplaying the music part of the album by any stretch of the imagination, as the Crescent City legends, The Iguanas, serve as the main backing band. 

Zoo Music in Garland Dallas Fort Worth Texas

“The Iguanas were always a fixture at the Continental Club in Austin,” said Will. 

“I was, and am, a huge fan, and this record was the perfect opportunity to collaborate with them. They are such a natural entity, like a powerful train that glides itself along the track. That meant I only had to worry about coming up with the songs I wanted to cut, sing them, and play a little guitar.”

Don’t Walk ….

Will wrote all of the songs on this album and includes a co-write with Waylon Jennings. 

The title track on the album, “Don’t Walk the Darkness (Through the Day)” is a powerful song both lyrically and musically. The message is one that will speak to everyone universally. 

“It’s interesting because I was taking a break from recording and clearing my brain, and I reflected on the songs I’d written years ago. I used to write about the way I wish I felt, instead of how I really did feel. So, I decided to do that with this song. If you reflect negativity in your songs, you’ll get it back. So, I just really wanted to say something about that. And the words “ don’t walk the darkness through the day” said it the way I thought others might understand. Don’t put yourself in a dark place when there is light puts a positive spin on it.”

My pick of the album was a tune titled “Witness.” And Will quickly agreed that this is probably his favorite. With a Tex-Mex flare, it reflects Will’s San Antonio roots.

“When I first wrote the song, it had a totally different title. But I had that melody. After I had my stroke, I struggled to write lyrics. I mean, musically, I had no struggle writing, but the words were harder. So, I stripped it down and kept it simple. “Witness” is about the love of my life.”

Written with Waylon Jennings shortly before his death, “Don’t Take It From Me” is a plea of sorts with great musical composition. 

“What My Baby Don’t Know” is a hypnotic blues shuffle, layered with heavy guitar riffs.

“That song is about people who come knocking on our door trying to peddle something or the other. Or I’m the kind of guy that if we’re having a yard sale and someone asks if we have a sprinkler for sale, I’ll go to the backyard and get our sprinkler and sell it for fifty cents, then the wife will tell me, “we just bought that a week ago for fifteen dollars,” so the song is just an overview of that whole thing.”

As with other tracks on this album, Will said he’d written the chords and melodies years ago for “The Whole Story.” But I wanted to know more about the idea behind it.”

Jimmy Wallace Guitars Garland Texas

“The lyrics to this song are stories that go deeper than one aspect. For instance, a guy is sleeping on the sidewalk in New York City, but maybe what people don’t know is that his wife got killed in a car wreck, and then he lost his job, and maybe he’s sick. So, I just wanted to talk about the bigger picture behind one scene in a story. Another example is maybe a guy goes to buy a car, but he looks like a bum, and the salesman treats him like a second-class citizen, but the guy is actually a billionaire, so he then buys the company and fires the salesman. There’s always more to a story than first meets the eye.”

The horns

The West Side Horns and the Doug Sahm realm are reflected in many of the songs on this album, and that goes back to Will’s earliest Texas roots. Sax man Art Edmaiston, vocalists the Barnes Brothers, and soul diva Susan Marshall add more overlays to this album. It is Americana music at its best! 

After forty-three years in the business, Will Sexton had some words of wisdom for any up-and-comers in the business. 

“I would tell any new artist to take the time to enjoy your accomplishments. The tendency is always to keep raising the bar higher. When you dream of nailing one particular thing, and you get there, enjoy it instead of immediately wanting to push harder. In other words, when your ideal situation happens, take time to let it soak in, celebrate it, and enjoy it, instead of immediately reaching for something else.”

Those are wise words indeed, from a man who’s walked a mile or two in those shoes. It’s kind of like turning the screw just one more turn and breaking the head off after it was already tight in the wood. 

Will Sexton and his wife, Amy Lavere, will be touring extensively to promote this new album together. You can find the tour schedule on Amy’s website at amylavere.com.

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Vaughan Brothers artwork dedication: The difficult road

By Kirby F. Warnock

Vaughan Brothers artwork dedication: The difficult road By Kirby F. Warnock

On March 20, the City of Dallas will dedicate an artwork honoring two of Oak Cliff’s favorite sons, Jimmie Vaughan and his younger brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Besides the usual comments that, “it’s about time,” this dedication carries a much larger significance than a belated recognition of two of the best guitar players of all time. This will also mark the first time Dallas has erected a monument to its creative class.

Before now, all of the statues and monuments in Big D honored businessmen, politicians or military heroes. 

Vaughan Brothers artwork dedication: The difficult road By Kirby F. Warnock

This oversight is hard to fathom when you look at all of the incredible artists and musicians that came from Dallas, like Steve Miller, Freddy King, T-Bone Walker and Blind Lemon Jefferson, the actress Jayne Mansfield as well as actors Owen and Luke Wilson. Then there is Michael Nesmith of The Monkees, and musicians B.W. Stephenson and Michael Martin Murphy who sprang from a Dallas music scene that was robust and vibrant in the 1960s, along with more recent artists that include Erykah Badu, the Dixie Chicks, and Edie Brickell.

Yet despite all of the fame and fortune generated by our Dallas artists, none have been honored with a monument in their hometown … until now.

What makes the Vaughan Brothers’ artwork so special is it marks the first time this town has recognized its place in music history, and there is a lot of music history along the banks of the Trinity River.

Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan occupy a special place in rock history by virtue of their incredible God-given talent, and the respect accorded to them by their peers and the biggest names in rock & roll.

The biggest selling LP of David Bowie’s entire career (more than Young Americans or Ziggy Stardust) was the album that Stevie Ray Vaughan played on,  Let’s Dance.

Vaughan Brothers artwork dedication: The difficult road By Kirby F. Warnock

Carlos Santana asked Jimmie Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds to accompany him on his album. This artwork is also a historic representation of a Dallas music scene that slowly ceded its influence to Austin, yet never bothered to codify or write down its one-time place in the sun. In the decades from 1950-1978, Dallas was not only the center of the music industry in Texas, but the entire southwest. 

Some would even argue it was the midway point of influence in the record industry, right after New York and Los Angeles.

However, no one bothered to record all of this, until now. The Vaughan Brothers’ artwork will be recognition of an era in Dallas that saw the rise of FM radio giant KZEW and its competitor Q-102, the Texxas Jam, one of the largest outdoor concert series in the nation, and the genesis of what would eventually become the largest concert promotions company in the country, Live Nation. (Live Nation’s CEO. Danny Eaton, got his start in Dallas at the old Palladium and the Hot Klub.)

Tavern On Main Street Richardson Texas

Will said, “When I was

All of this took place in the early 1970s, but has now disappeared, save for the tales many of us remaining baby boomers tell on a barstool or at a friend’s house. As more funerals occur, the music history of this town is slowly vanishing.

That all changed with the authorization of this artwork and the struggle to see it to completion over a five-year span. The first step was to have the City approve such a sculpture, then raise the money to maintain it. Looking back on it, that was the easy part. 

The delays and bureaucratic red tape that came for the next four years just about wore me out, but an army of Vaughan Brothers friends, fans, and music lovers stayed right behind me, pushing me forward at every obstacle.
There are just too many of you to name in a single story, from the hundreds of small donors who sent in checks for $25 to Edwin Cabaniss and Jeff Liles at the Kessler Theater who sponsored a fundraising concert to get us over the top and Jeff Castro who always called me to offer encouragement or a pep talk when I got discouraged. 

Then there was Kay Kallos, the head of the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, who herded me along through the reams of paperwork, meetings and deadlines that go with something this big, and unusual and her steadfast assistant, Drema Chavez. (If anyone thinks government jobs are a cushy way to earn a living, spend a week with them.)

The selection process itself was a long and winding road, made even more tedious and arcane by the requirements of city government to have it completely open, transparent and put out for bid. First there was a required community meeting held at the North Oak Cliff library for any input. SRV friends and fans Dianne Edwards and Sarah Tillman attended, along with several other folks. Then an open call for designs for an “artwork” was issued.

The Office of Cultural Affairs chose the term “artwork” over “statue” so the artists would not feel constrained, or put into a box. More than 75 artists responded, with another open meeting held to discuss the designs and narrow it down to three finalists. The three finalists did presentations on their artwork at the third open meeting at the Bathhouse Cultural Center. I texted Jimmie photos of each of the finalists’ work during that meeting and in the end, he and the entire committee assigned to this endeavor, chose an intriguing design from Spanish artist Casto Solano. 

It consisted of four large steel panels depicting the Vaughan brothers, their music, and their childhood in Oak Cliff. As Jimmie texted to me, “Who wouldn’t like that?”

I have to say I was relieved, because I feared that a statue might wind up like the one of Lucille Ball erected in her hometown that did not look anything like her. (Once a statue is cast and erected on public property, it takes an act of Congress to remove it.)

Although this process was slow, long and wearing, it was the right thing to do, because if this artwork were built on private property it could be removed the minute the property was sold. (Just look at what happened to the frogs on top of Tango.)

The biggest regret I have is that several folks who provided the inspiration for this won’t be here to see it. Stoney Burns, the founder of  Buddy  who took me to see Jimmie Vaughan for the first time at the old Tolbert’s Chili Parlor in downtown Dallas; Bugs Henderson who lamented the fact that we had no statue of Freddy King; and Smokin’ Joe Kubek, who played the fundraiser at the Kessler Theater.

When I was a student at Baylor University back in 1971, two of my favorite history professors were Dr. Paul Armitstead and Dr. Thomas Charlton. Dr. Armitstead taught Texas history, but always emphasized that our cultural history was just as important as our “history.” Besides teaching about the Alamo and San Jacinto, he told us about Elsie the Cow, the mascot for the Borden Milk Company, and the Magnolia Oil Company’s adoption of the Pegasus trademark. Dr. Charlton emphasized oral history, or history from the viewpoint of the common man (not the generals or politicians). He taught me about the impact of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

This artwork not only honors two of the greatest guitar players of all time, it cements theirs, and Dallas’ place, in Texas cultural history. And that’s something to be proud of.

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Quebe Sisters

By Nancy Moore

Quebe Sisters

"Light a kerosene lamp set on an embroidered cotton tablecloth, in an old farmhouse. Pretend your digital music device is a 78-rpm record player. Press play on track one of the Quebe Sisters’ newest album. Lose your shoes; grab your lover, and dance barefoot in the kitchen, till the Texas night yields to dawn. We’ll love the stars out of the sky"  – Sophia Quebe

“My Love, My Life, My Friend” In sisters’ elixir of trio-fiddles and unadulterated human harmonies, antique and progressive Western swing swirls in a classy, modern martini glass. Hauntingly vintage and daringly sparse, Hulda, Grace, and Sophia Quebe bring the taste and the chops to pull off a jazz-laden collection of originals and covers to their latest self-titled release The Quebe Sisters (2019). It’s as if they recorded sound in Sepia Tone.

The Kenneth Threadgill Concert Series

Recorded at Texas Treefort Studio, in Austin, with Jim Vollentine at the helm of the mixer, track one of The Quebe Sisters, “Always Seem To Get Things Wrong,” is a cover penned by Jesse Harris, known for his work with Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux and others. The sisters play it more up-tempo with a pronounced swing feel.

Track two “My Love, My Life, My Friend,” an original by Sophia Quebe, stands out among the standards on the collection, while fitting right in. Another original, “Pierce the Blue,” follows suit in honoring the genre the sisters are steeped in. The time waltz finds the cowgirls crooning as if they were singing to the doggies on a cattle trail, with beautiful pastoral lyrics.

When called to the task of reviewing their latest work, this writer expected to see the quaint youngsters North Texans have seen on local news features, over recent years. When did the Quebe tweens grow into young women in their 20s and 30s?

Sophia Quebe puts it like this: “Over the last few years there’s been a lot of growth and transition in our band. We’ve been working on our sound and writing material for our new album.” “This is us, kind of doing everything on our own, according to our own imaginations and vision. It was a really fun process.”

The Quebe Sisters have recorded four albums, since their first effort in 2003. And the new collection is the first to feature originals.

The rhythm section features Simon Stipp on flat-top and arch top guitars, and UNT alum Daniel Parr on upright bass. Their soulful skills lay a solid foundation for the front-ladies on cuts, such as the jazz standard “Lullaby of the Leaves.”

“Load at 7 (Leave at 8),” a co-write instrumental by bassist Parr and Sophia, no doubt is a tip to a musician’s daily itinerary.

The lead break of Willie Nelson’s “Summer of Roses” showcases the ensemble’s understanding of jazz intervals and phrasing. The tension builds towards the end of the passage into a crescendo of fiddle licks that skip and frolic like Fred Astaire. Just delicious.

The sisters have toyed with their stage plot over the years, rotating left-to-right order. These days, Hulda usually stands center stage, with Sophia flanking on stage right, and Grace on stage left. The current record (yes, it’s available at shows and on their website on vinyl) finds them swapping lead vocal duty on various songs. But no matter who’s singing lead, the ladies sing as if they were one voice, and play flawlessly, as if they were one instrument – it’s that close; that tight; that amazing.

“Lonesome Road,” another cover speeds up the tempo as a deep cut. An intoxicating cover of “Lullaby of the Leaves””follows; again with that cowgirl cattle trail cooing and harmony that you might expect to hear wafting out of a saloon door in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

The Dallas-based band will tour the East Coast this year, including stops in Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. But North Texas is home. Sophia said, “Dallas has the big city feel; Fort Worth still has the Stockyards, which we grew up playing so many gigs, and cut our teeth playing out there.” “There is such a kinship between the Fort Worth spirit, the Western element, and Western swing.”

Notably, the old Time Warp Top-Hand of the pedal steel guitar himself, Tom Morrell played on the Quebe’s first album. Sophia notes,’“I was 15 when we recorded that. I knew he was a big deal at that age. But now, looking back, I’m just so grateful that we were able to meet him and have him play on our album. He was one of the best steel guitar players; super inventive.”

The sisters credit their mentors, world-renowned fiddle champions Joey and Sherry McKenzie, with teaching them as youngsters. Lately, the Quebes have been keeping company with legendary jazz drummer Duffy Jackson, up in Nashville.

“The Waltz You Saved for Me,” a lovely simple melody,”“Bluegrass In the Backwoods,” a Gypsy jazz barnburner, and “Twilight on the Trail,” a lullaby serenade round out the disc.

The album The Quebe Sisters is available at live shows and on their website. More information can be found on their website quebesisters.com.

An East Coast tour is in the works, and the band will perform at the Greenville Municipal Auditorium on March 17 on a bill with Mandy Barnett.

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Without Getting Killed or Caught: A Guy Clark Documentary film

By Jan Sikes

Without Getting Killed or Caught: A Guy Clark Documentary film By Jan Sikes

Tamara Saviano met Guy Clark in 1998 but didn’t develop a friendship with the iconic songwriter until 2000 when another Texas songwriter, Lee Roy Parnell, took her to Guy’s house and into the legendary and magnificent workshop.’That workshop is now a recent addition to the Outlaws and Armadillos exhibit inside the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, which is dedicated to honoring Texas singer/songwriters.

Around this same time Guy’s wife, Susanna had fallen ill and Saviano sat for hours at her bedside while she told stories about Townes Van Zandt. In Saviano’s words, “That long, rainy, spring day in 2000 unfolded into a trip of a lifetime.”

It wasn’t until late 2008, after much gentle persuasion from the Director of the Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University, that Saviano approached Guy Clark about writing a biography.

Saviano said, “I was too chicken to ask Guy. I’d been around him enough to know that he tells the same stories over and over and over again. Oh, they are glorious stories but I didn’t believe Guy would be willing to give me anything new or too deeply personal. In fact, he had written a song on the Workbench Songs album with the lyric, “Do not write my expose. I do not kiss and tell.” So, no one was more surprised than me when Guy jumped in wholeheartedly to work with me on the biography.”

Saviano interviewed Guy and Susanna Clark extensively throughout 2011 and 2012.

“The day after Susanna died, June 12, 2012, Guy gave me a box of Susanna’s written journals and another small box of cassette tapes which turned out to be Susanna’s secret audio diaries,” Saviano said. “I asked Guy if he had read or listened to them, and he said he hadn’t, but whatever was in them was Susanna’s truth and I was welcome to it.”

First publishing

Without Getting Killed or Caught was published in September 2016. And that was the end of the twelve-year long project - or so Saviano thought. Now, three years later, a documentary film bearing the same name, Without Getting Killed or Caught, will premier on Friday, March 13, during the SXSW Film Festival in Austin at the ZACH Theater.

The entire process of making this film has been one of seemingly interwoven coincidences or perhaps even divine interventions.

Once the stars aligned and Saviano knew beyond any doubt she would spearhead this monumental project, she and her husband, Paul Whitfield started interviewing Guy on camera right away.

“Guy was sick, very sick, and we knew he was not going to be around for much longer,” she recalled. “We interviewed him in 2014 and 2015, following the same research path I’d followed on the book, never knowing exactly what story we would tell in documentary form.”

Then she and her husband began to interview Guy’s close friends, Rodney Crowell, Richard Dobson, Travis Clark, Shawn Camp and Jim McGuire. Rodney is the only one of that group that remains in the film.

The next step in the process was to raise money to make the film. They set a goal of $75,000 to get started, but Saviano raised $180,000. After fees, they ended up with $166,000. It wasn’t enough to make a film, but gave it a good kick start.

Without Getting Killed or Caught: A Guy Clark Documentary film By Jan Sikes

Guy Clark passed away on May 17, 2016.

Saviano teamed up with Bart Knaggs of Austin to write the film script and completed it in 2017 with a surprise twist. “Our script really came to life when we decided to tell it from Susanna’s point of view and focus on the relationship between Guy, Susanna and Townes and how it shaped Guy and Susanna as artists,” said Saviano.

It is impossible to think of Guy and Susanna without including Townes and I had to know how that plays out in the film.

“The documentary is mostly about Guy and Susanna’s careers. We don’t talk about Townes’ body of work, but we have a lot of Townes in there as far as the relationship he had with Guy and Susanna,” Saviano said. “I think the most powerful parts of the film are Susanna’s recordings. We hear Townes throughout the film on these recordings. And we have her poetry and diary entries about Townes. The three of them, Guy Susanna and Townes loved each other. Guy and Townes were best friends. Susanna and Guy were married and Susanna and Townes were soul mates. There was no way to separate the three of them.”

The synchronicities kept stacking up as Saviano moved forward with this documentary.” Once the decision had been made to make this documentary from Susanna’s point of view, the need for a voice-over emerged.
Saviano shared. “The whole thing with Sissy Spacek doing the voice-over for the film was like a lightning bolt.”
And the synchronicities were too many to ignore. As Saviano explored the idea of using Sissy Spacek, she discovered that the actress grew up in Quitman, Texas, about a hundred miles away from Susanna’s hometown of Atlanta, Texas. After Spacek won the Academy Award for’“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” she recorded a country album in Nashville and Guy’s good friend, Rodney Crowell, produced it.

“Rodney and I met for breakfast and he revealed another interesting puzzle piece. Sissy had recorded a Susanna Clark song, “This Time I’m Gonna Beat You to the Truck,” on that album. Then while we were at breakfast, Rodney texted Sissy and told her about our project. Sissy said to send everything to her manager and she’d take a look at it,” Saviano said.

Sissy’s manager, Courtney Kivowitz, called Saviano almost immediately and said that Spacek was interested.’
On December 6 and 7 of 2019, the crew spent two days with Sissy Spacek. “The first day,” Saviano recalls, “Sissy and I spent a few hours reading through the script and talking about Susanna. The next day we took her into Soundcrafter Studio in Austin to record the narration. Sissy morphed into Susanna before our eyes. It was magnificent and exactly what I had envisioned all along. I feel like Susanna was pulling some strings to make it happen."

It’s easy to see that this film has layers upon layers of beautiful material and too many nuances to list.
It was put together out of love and respect for Guy and Susanna Clark and the roles they played as crafters of music in an era that left an indelible mark on the history and evolution of music.

There is a FaceBook group page dedicated to Guy Clark’s memory and legacy, facebook.com/groups/withoutgettingkilledorcaught/ as well as a facebook page dedicated to the film.

There will be two other screenings of the film during Austin’s SXSW festival. March 14 at 2:45 pm at Long Center and March 19 at 5:30 pm at the Violet Crown Austin.

You can find all this information and more on the website: withoutgettingkilledorcaught.com

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Texas Nexus

By Mary Jane Farmer

When I first moved to North Texas from the music-rich Texas Hill Country, I couldn’t find live music anywhere. For three whole years, I didn’t hear a smidgen of live music. Somehow, info began coming to me about area venues. But, it was for musicians I had never heard or heard of. Why should I go hear them?

Egads, what an egotistical idea. “They can’t be good if I haven’t heard of them.”

Well, I started taking chances, going to hear these ‘unknowns,’ and guess what — most of them were good, excellent!

For years, I was assistant to the Kerrville Festivals producer and worked all the festivals there. Some incredible musicians from all over the U.S., Canada, and abroad played. Then, a few years back, I went back to Kerrville for the 18-day Folk Festival. I looked at the line-up and found it full of ‘unknowns.’ I did the math—92 percent of the musicians playing that year were ones I had never heard or heard of. Sound familiar?

I went, I listened, and I became fans of those ‘unknowns.’ True, a very few I really don’t care to hear again. I listen to their streamed music, and have even booked a few of them at venues and events. I love band and singer/songwriter contests, like the current Rusty Wier contest at Love & War. Many of those who enter are new to me, and most of those who enter are good.

My point here is — I go hear unfamiliar performers, often. It broadens my appreciation level. I know venues don’t book no-talent musicians, at least not on purpose. And I strongly suggest that others do the same — give ‘em a listen. Take a chance. Chances are you’ll be glad you did. 

‘nuf said.

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Record Review

Shelley King
Kick Up Your Heels
Lemonade Records

By Jan Sikes

Shelley King Kick Up Your Heels By Jan Sikes

Shelley King’s ninth album release, Kick Up Your Heels, is a celebratory musical affair. With collaborations from some of her music family, Delbert McClinton, Carolyn Wonderland, Cindy Cashdollar, The Subdudes, and Bryon Isaacs, it is eclectic and encompassing.

The album begins with the sound of a storm rolling in and leads into a tribute to the late great Levon Helm with “Levon’s New Drum Set.”

The rough weather continues with “Stormin’ In the South.” However, the song isn’t about the weather at all but instead about tempestuous relationships. Cindy Cashdollar’s crackling lap steel guitar emphasizes the lyrics.

“Hurricane Party,” a co-write with Marcia Ball, is the very essence of the theme of this album. You cannot listen to this song without moving to the music, and Delbert McClinton’s vocals and harmonica add dimensional layers.

Written by Levon Helm and Henry Glover, “Blues So Bad” conveys a rich array of emotions through King’s vocal delivery.

Another toe-tapper, “One Shot At A Time,” recounts a party where the drinks flow and troubles disappear one shot at a time. The guitar work by Marvin Dykuis and Tony Redman is luminous. King sings, “Well after midnight/I’m at my best/And I’m drinking troubles off my chest/Give me straight up Jack/No Moonshine/One shot at a time…”

The title track, “Kick Up Your Heels,” is an invitation to let go, set your worries free and move to the crazy Cajun beat.

Shelley channels the purest elements of R&B with “Soulville,” written by Henry Glover and Dinah Washington.

“Heart of a Girl,” my personal favorite on this album is inspired by a true story. And I am a sucker for a good story. King’s mother and her biological father re-met after thirty years, at one of King’s shows and fell in love again. They’ve now been married over thirteen years.

“Crush” explores the lusty and exhilarating vibes that can happen between players on the bandstand and the women in the audience.

The album ends with “How Eagles Fly.” This song speaks of the frictional times we live in and hopes for national solidarity on some level. “There’s a whole lot of division out there, but ultimately we are all in this together,” said King.

Kick Up Your Heels is an excellent album that will remain on my playlist. Shelley King embodies everything a female artist should from great vocals and well-written lyrics to crisp instrumentals. It is an inviting and rewarding musical journey.

She is currently on tour throughout Texas during March and April. You can find all her show dates at shelleyking.com

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Wild Rabbit Salad
Trouble In Town
Regi Music Records

By Jan Sikes

Wild Rabbit Salad Trouble In Town By Jan Sikes

This group is perhaps the most diverse and imaginative I have heard in some time. Starting with the band name, Wild Rabbit Salad, to the songs, arrangements, and vocals, Trouble In Town is uniquely brilliant.

“Drop Top Cadillac” pays tribute to songwriters Hank Williams Sr and Townes Van Zandt and that 1952 baby blue drop-top Cadillac.

A long and detailed story song written by Townes Van Zandt, “Tecumseh Valley,” showcases Houston native, Marietta Roebuck’s smooth-as-silk vocals.

A warning, “Mine No. 9,” tells of the dangers that can only be found deep beneath the ground.

Biographical, “Everybody Loves my Hat,” is perhaps a true tale of the unique headwear that band frontman, Bucky Goldberg sports. “The haberdasher said/You can take it home today/But all the sales are final/And he kinda looked away…”

Another tale of a true event, “Killing Flood in Houston,” features Marietta. “People are dying just trying to get home…”

What’s a guy to do when his bride leaves him at the garden wall? “Amelia” is a lover’s lament.

Soulful and reflective, “Lying” is what happens when someone pretends to be fine after a lost love, but deep inside, they’re not. So, to say so would be lying.

“Four Days Sober” rocks out with the electric guitar. “I’m four days sober/she’s five days gone…”

The ethereal theme and lyrics on “When They Rise” tends to lend a bit of spirituality to the album.

“Trouble in Town” is another story song that tells of a young man’s life changed forever.

Wild Rabbit Salad’s interpretation of Townes Van Zandt’s “Waiting Around To Die” is one of the best I’ve heard. It is obvious their love and admiration for the late songwriter, and his influence on their music shows on every song.

Recorded at Lucky Run Studio in Houston, Trouble In Town is Americana music with all its diversity and eclectic nuances at its finest. It takes courage to confront some of the crazy and unpredictable ways the world spins out of control, but these two singer/songwriters do just that.

You can learn more about Wild Rabbit Salad at wildrabbitsalad.com.

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In Memoriam

Paul English

In Memoriam Paul EnglishPaul English, Willie Nelson’s Drummer and best friend, Dies at 87.

He was memorialized by friends a Billy Bob’s Texas on March 3, 2020

By Jo Ann Holt courtesy of Texashillcountry.com
Paul English, longtime drummer, enforcer, and manager for country music icon Willie Nelson, died February 12, 2020, following a battle with pneumonia. He was 87 years old, an age he probably never expected to reach before meeting Nelson in 1955.

They met when Paul accompanied his older brother to the studio at country music radio station KCNC in Fort Worth.   

Oliver English was a renowned guitarist, playing on Nelson’s Western Express interview show that day.
Nelson later wrote in his memoir, “It’s a Long Story: My Life,” that he liked Paul from the first. “He was a gun-toting, fun-loving outlaw with plenty of charm but no fears,” Nelson wrote.

Although he was only 22, Paul already had a troubled past. He’d been a member of “The Peroxide Gang,” a thief, and a pimp. He even made the Fort Worth Press’s “Ten Most Unwanted” criminals list five years in a row. English later said if he hadn’t met Willie, he would have been dead or in the penitentiary.

The two young men became fast friends, and English joined Nelson’s band as an accountant, enforcer, and part time drummer. He collected past-due fees from slow-paying bars and honky-tonks. One club they played had to rig up chicken wire in front of the stage to (hopefully) protect the musicians from flying beer bottles.

His dark beard and somewhat sinister good looks earned Paul the nickname “the Devil.” Willie bought him a black satin cape they had spotted in a Hollywood store window. English wore it onstage with a black hat for the next fifty years to enhance his devilish image. He was also rumored to carry a gun or two, hiding in his boots.

In 1966, Paul joined the Willie Nelson Family band as its fulltime drummer. The road adventures of the two BFFs included several narrow escapes and scrapes with the law, as they journeyed from playing joints and dives to far bigger stages across the country. Their talents, and Paul’s management skills, eventually led to much better-paying gigs. During the Nelson Family band’s heyday, Guinness Book of World Records listed Paul English the highest paid drummer/sideman in music.

On his 1985 album, “Me and Paul,” Nelson sings, “We received our education, in the cities of the nation, me and Paul…They said we looked suspicious, but I believe they like to pick on me and Paul.”

In Memoriam Paul English

A native Texan, English was born in Vernon on November 6, 1932. He is survived by his wife, Janie, and three sons: Robert Paul, Jr., Evan, and D.W. English.

Mickey Raphael

“If you’d ever met Paul, I’m sure you came away with your own unique story."

"Paul was my hero. He had MY back and everyone’s on stage. I’d turn around sometimes watching him on the drums and feel like HE was the one driving this thing. Like the rear driver in a hook-and-ladder fire truck, he guided some  us through treacherous turns and unknown territory and sometimes if we tried to get away, he’d reel us in."

"We always prided ourselves as working without a net, but we had Paul. He was our net and protector."

“Once at dinner, he went around taking salt away from everyone. Because it was bad for us—I guess he didn’t want us to get it confused with all the blow we were doin’."

“Paul famously wore a floor-length black cape with red velvet lining. Willie told me the story of how Paul got the cape: They were walking around in Los Angeles and Willie saw the cape in a store window and told Paul ‘You should wear that cape, I’ll get it for you.’ Paul said ‘Of course,’ and the rest is legend." 
 
“We were playing in LA at the famous country club, the Palomino. Paul and I were in the elevator at our hotel, and when the door opened and we walked out, we passed Little Richard. He was wearing a black cape which came to his waist." 

"Paul proudly strutted through the lobby in full stage regalia — black pants and shirt, red patent leather boots, and the infamous cape flowing to the floor.  As we passed Little Richard, I saw him do a radical double take, looking at Paul, as Paul never lost focus walking through the lobby.”

Ray Wylie Hubbard

"Paul English’s black hat and snare drum and cape were on the stage at Billy Bob’s Texas Tuesday when I walked up the stairs. Janie saw me and came over and hugged me and said, ‘Thank you for being here. Paul always asked about you and followed your career and would smile when your name came up.'"

In Memoriam Paul English

“Hearing that, I choked up, and, fighting back tears said, “I am so saddened by the reason I am here, but deeply honored that you asked me to sing ‘Me and Paul’ and ‘I Still Can’t Believe You’re Gone.’"

“Benny McAuthor came over and said I could use his guitar for my segment. Ray Benson came over and wasn’t high yet, and we figured out who would do what in the gospel segment ending a memorial for whom the word ‘legend’ seemed inadequate." 

“His first job as a drummer was with Willie, and his last job as a drummer was with Willie. I mean 1966 was when he became Willie’s full-time drummer and enforcer. 1966…Wow."

"I can’t remember who did exactly what after Janie spoke about Paul and his two families … “Yes … families: blood and musical. There was so much love and respect for Paul. I swear you could feel the universe nodding its approval that this man, who definitely had a checkered past as a young man, had become a bodhisattva — an enlightened being whose purpose is to contribute  to the benefit of others through compassion and by putting others first."

“The songs sung and the stories told were so powerful and touching and honest, and for an hour and a half on a Tuesday afternoon as family and friend in the world’s largest honky tonk spoke and sang and cried and laughed…the door between the physical world and spiritual world was kicked open by the memories of the life force that had been Paul English, and for that brief time, acknowledged each other … and it was healing,” Hubbard concluded.

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