Music News – May 14, 2020

…….Coming Soon…..Music News….May 14, 2020……..

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NB Magazine Article – The Birth of Red Dirt Music – June 2020

The city of New Braunfels has a vibrant music scene that consists of many parts. Over the past few months, I have chronicled the purchase of Gruene Hall, KNBT-FM switching to the Americana format and the rise of Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett. This month I want to talk about the Red Dirt music scene that originated in Oklahoma in the Stillwater area. The name comes from the color of the soil in Oklahoma and got its start in the bars around Oklahoma State University. A few years after Keen, Lovett, Pat Green and Cory Morrow made their mark in Lubbock and College Station, a new set of musicians were playing the bars in Stillwater. Bob Childers, a local singer, songwriter, is known as the Father of the Red Dirt music scene. Childers lived in an old two-story house called ‘The Farm’ on the outskirts of town. Local musicians would hang out together and write songs. Childers recorded his first album, I Ain’t No Jukebox, in 1979 with his pal Jimmy LaFave. Steve Ripley, another Farm alumnus, was the first to use the red dirt name in 1972 when he called his independent label Red Dirt Records. In the early 80’s, bands like the Red Dirt Rangers, along with singers Jimmy LaFave and Tom Skinner were all hanging out at the Farm and developing their own style of music. Little did they know that they were creating a new genre of music, one that would spawn an entire generation of musicians and sell millions of records. Unfortunately, the old house burned down in 2003 but by then, the Red Dirt sound was permanently entrenched in the music scene.

My critics say that Red Dirt music is simply Americana music recorded by bands that originated in Oklahoma. I disagree. The Oklahoma Red Dirt sound was built by acts like Childers, Skinner and LaFave, then expanded to include a more southern rock sound. Bands like The Great Divide, Jason Boland and Cross Canadian Ragweed were all influenced by the older artists but put their own spin on the music they created. It has been described as a mix of folk, rock, country, bluegrass, blues, Western swing, and honky tonk, with even a few Mexican influences. The late Jimmy LaFave once described the music this way: “It’s kind of hard to put into words, but if you ever drive down on the Mississippi Delta, you can almost hear that blues sound. Go to New Orleans, and you can hear the Dixieland jazz. Go to San Francisco, and you get that psychedelic-music vibe. You hear the Red Dirt sound when you go through Stillwater. It has to do with the spirit of the people, there is something different about them. They’re not Texans, they’re Okies, and I think the whole Red Dirt sound is just as important to American musicology as the San Francisco Sound or any of the rest. It’s distinctly its own thing.”

Regardless of how you define the Red Dirt music, the important thing to note is the migration of several major acts from Oklahoma to New Braunfels. These acts, Stoney LaRue, Jason Boland, and Cody Canada all moved here from the Stillwater area and brought their music with them. For several years they were extremely popular and brought thousands of new fans to their shows here in town. They joined Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers to form a strong group of musicians. These musicians were close friends and performed many shows together. They were all fans of classic country acts like George Strait, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson. Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen were also huge influences for these artists. They took all these music formats, mixed them together and created what many fans call the ‘New Braunfels’ sound. This new format in turn influenced an entire generation of young artists, many that live here in our city. All these factors played an especially important part in making New Braunfels one of the most popular music cities in Texas and in America.

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Music News – May 7, 2020

One of the hardest things to maintain during these trying times is a positive attitude. I’m normally a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy but I must admit these past few weeks have been really tough. The news continues to be going from bad to worse on a daily basis. At last count, over 27 major concert tours were cancelled for the remainder of this year. As the state tries to slowly reopen, no one knows what the future holds for the live music scene. If people flock back to the music venues like they did this past weekend to the beaches in Port Aransas, things will be ok. Someone on Facebook commented that the people making all the stay at home rules are not affected at all financially by these rules. Politicians continue to get paid, have full insurance coverage and unlimited travel privileges. I wonder if I’m too old too run for office. Kinky Friedman ran for Governor once with the campaign slogan ‘How Hard Can It Be?’ My slogan could be ‘I once hung out with Willie on his tour bus.’ Since I’m a huge dog lover, is Dogcatcher an elected position? There was some good news this week that I’m happy to share with you. George Strait was given his own channel on Sirius XM Radio and Nicholas Cage has been signed to portray Joe Exotic in a scripted show about the Tiger King.

 

Freiheit Country Store Reopens

Freiheit Country Store is leading the way with their return of live music last week. They had a phenomenal turnout which is certainly good news for other venues. This afternoon starting at 4pm they will feature Braydon Zinks, Mario Flores, Clay Hollis and Aaron Copeland. Keep a close watch on Freiheit’s Facebook page and Website for a detailed list of upcoming live shows. At press time, Zack Walther just announced that his Walther Wednesdays are resuming each week on the Freiheit stage.

 

Gruene Hall Prepares for May 18 Reopening

Gruene Hall and KNBT-FM officially announced the cancellation of this year’s Americana Jam. This is sad for two reasons. First of course is all the fantastic live music that takes place at the Jam and second, I feel bad for the non-profit organizations that miss out on a major donation from the proceeds of the event. Gruene Hall is also doing live-streaming shows, not at the hall, but at the artists house. Each artist wears a special Wish I Was at Gruene Hall t-shirt during their sets. Mark your calendars for May 9 with Jason Boland at 8pm and Josh Ward on May 16 at 6pm. At press time their website has May 18 as their re-open date. Hopefully that will happen, and no more delays will be implemented.

 

Whitewater Amphitheater Hoping for The Best

Whitewater Amphitheater are still planning on their four concerts scheduled for June. They include Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen on June 13 and ZZ Top on June 14. Hopefully the June 20 show featuring Sheryl Crow will still happen. This will be her first appearance in our neck of the woods. Billy Currington is set to make a return appearance on June 27. He’s a popular performer at the amphitheater and is known for his high energy concerts. I spoke with Will Korioth, the owner of Whitewater. He’s trying to remain optimistic about the current situation and hopes to keep all the shows on the schedule. Keep an eye on their website at WhitewaterRocks.com.

 

Tavern in the Gruene Closes as a Live Music Venue

In a very honest and heartfelt post on their Facebook page, the new owners of Tavern in the Gruene have made the difficult decision to close as a live music venue. They explained how challenging it is to run a bar and after the COVID virus hit, they could no longer afford to keep it open. It will remain a special event center available for weddings, parties and private bookings. I hated to hear this news because I have many fond memories of seeing live music here. Unfortunately, there will be many more stories like this before things get better.

 

Walt & Tina Wilkins, singer, songwriters, Cedar Park, TX

Walt Wilkins is easily one of the most respected songwriters in the business. He has written songs for hundreds of people and obviously for himself. His wife Tina is a fantastic singer, songwriter as well. They are two of the nicest and most positive thinking people I have ever met.

They are hanging out at home in Cedar Park with their son Luke. “We’ve had over 55 gigs cancelled, including our Waltstock & Barrel Festival this month. Like everyone, this time at home has been challenging, but at the same time, a gift.  We have really enjoyed quality time with our son, who starts college in the fall. His Senior season as a baseball player, graduation and so many other fun things. cancelled. With his extra time, Luke has been working on school projects and released an album on iTunes called LUCAS -18. He created the entire thing by himself, in his room. We are so fortunate that he has this outlet and passion. otherwise, it could have been a really long 6 weeks, with his parents. Walt has made our backyard a little sanctuary, full of native plants and many sweet places to sit and enjoy the season. He is also working on a new EP. Mostly though, he has been visiting his dad, who lives in an assisted living facility about a mile or so from us. He visits him through his window several times a day. He is a wonderful son. I have been burning things, I mean cooking, walking, writing and gratefully, singing. We stay connect with our friends via Zoom happy hours and really have enjoyed watching The Crown on Netflix. This is the most time we have spent together in 20 years of marriage. We still like each other, so that’s good. We have also been enjoying a few cocktails. We have loved listening to our friends on Facebook Live! We rarely get to see a whole show by our friends, so it’s been great to sit outside, have a beverage and enjoy! We have also been listening to vinyl. Nothing like vinyl on a Sunday afternoon! And Tom Gillam in the morning on KNBT. I’m an official “early morning listener”. Even though throughout the shutdown, my early morning has been stretched to mid-morning. I still catch a few tunes though and some witty repartee. Walt bought a really cool Julie London record before the shutdown plus John Prine, Little Feat and Bonnie Raitt have graced our living room lately too. We will file for assistance with MusicCares, a program through NARAS (the folks who put on The Grammys). We will file for a small business loan too, if there is any money left. Fortunately, most of our musician friends have been making enough to get by performing on Facebook Live, singing telegrams and personal concerts via Zoom. We have been blessed with many kind folks who watch our Thursday night online show from our front porch. Their generosity and kindness have been a Godsend. We cannot say enough about how wonderful it has been to “see” friends online. We miss playing live, but this has been a great way to stay connected. We have a virtual tip jar that we post with each performance. Amen and hallelujah for the online tip jar. We play every Thursday at 7pm on Walt’s Facebook page: Walt Wilkins Music.”

 

 

Live Streaming Concert Calendar

Almost every musician is doing some sort of virtual live streaming concert. As information becomes available, I’ll list those that maintain a regular schedule for their events. Events are listed alphabetically. To watch these shows, log onto their Facebook pages. Please tip the musicians if you can afford to at PayPal or Venmo.

 

Adam Johnson – Solo live concert – Thursdays at 8pm

 

Alex Meixner – Facebook Polka Time – Sundays at 1pm CST.

 

Band of Heathens – Tuesday night Supper Club – Tuesdays at 7:30pm

 

Brett Cline – Facebook Concerts at BCMusic Live – Thursdays at 7pm

 

Bret Graham – Monday Night Live – Mondays at 6pm

 

Carolyn Wonderland – Live from Wonderland – Wednesdays at 8pm

 

Cody Canada – Facebook Concerts – Wednesdays at 8:30pm

 

Drew Kennedy – Live in the Backyard – Mondays at 8pm

 

Garth Brooks – Inside Studio G – Facebook Concert – Mondays at 7pm

 

Max & Heather Stallings – We Ain’t Drinking Alone – Wednesdays at 7pm

 

Phil Hurley – South Austin Moonlighters – Facebook Concert – Tuesdays at 7pm

 

Ray Wylie Hubbard – Live on KOKE-FM – Tonight at 8pm

 

Radney Foster – Live from Nashville – Thursday at 6pm

 

Reckless Kelly – Music from The Mountains – Sundays at 7pm

 

Sean McConnell – Live from His Studio – Thursdays at 7pm

 

Sequestered Songwriters – Weekly Tribute Shows – Mondays at 6pm

 

Todd Snider – Live from East Nashville – Sundays at 11am

 

Wade Bowen – Wade’s World – Fridays at 8pm

 

Walt & Tina Wilkins – Walt Wilkins Music – Thursdays at 7pm

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The Birth of Americana Music

The New Braunfels music scene is one of our most popular attractions, bringing fans from all over the state. So far we’ve talked about how Gruene Hall and KNBT-FM joined forces to give artists a place to play and a radio station to feature their music. Last month we learned that when Mattson Rainer attended his first show at Gruene Hall, it was to see a sold-out concert by Robert Earl Keen. This was a game changer for Mattson and was one of the deciding factors that convinced him to change the format of KNBT to Americana. However, have you ever wondered where Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett got their start? Fortunately, Robert’s best friend and college roommate is Brian Duckworth, who happens to live right here in town. I recently spoke with Brian and he shared his story of the early days with Robert and Lyle Lovett.

“Robert and I have been friends since third grade,” explains Duckworth. “We lived in Houston and were friends all through our school years and still are today. His mom was an attorney and was very well read; she had a true appreciation for language. Robert got his love of reading and writing from her.” After graduation, Brian enrolled at Texas A&M with an eye on becoming a veterinarian. Keen followed soon after and his mom rented a house for him. “I lived in the dorm but moved in with Robert once he got the house,” Brian recalled. “It belonged to an old rancher who often asked Keen to help him with chores on his ranch. I had an old fiddle and Robert had his sister’s guitar and we had a little band called The Front Porch Boys.” Robert and Lyle would later write about the rancher in their hit song, aptly titled The Front Porch Song.

During their second year at A&M, Lyle Lovett moved into a house down the street and soon joined them for the front porch jam sessions. “We didn’t know we were playing Americana, we were just playing music we liked,” explains Brian. “We would listen to lots of music, from Commander Cody to Taj Mahal to Bill Monroe. One album that had a big impact on us was ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’ by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. We wore that one out.” Keen and Lovett started playing acoustic gigs at a local coffee house called The Basement and they would check out other musicians that played there.” After graduation, Keen moved to Austin and along with Lyle started playing on Sunday afternoons at Gruene Hall.

In 1986 he moved to Nashville but returned to Texas after failing to make a dent in the mainstream music scene. By the time he released his third album, West Textures, he had written his signature song, ‘The Road Goes on Forever.’ He started touring on a national level, often sharing the bill with two of his hero’s, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Brian had stayed behind in Houston and had a day job but played with a local country cover band. He would sit in with Keen on weekends. “After I traveled out to Terlingua with him one weekend in 1989, I decided to quit my job and join his band full time. When I called him to let him know what I’d done, he was a little freaked out because now he was responsible for my salary.”

Brian stayed in Keen’s band until 2000, when he grew tired of life on the road and decided to open a fiddle repair shop in downtown New Braunfels. Keen lives in Kerrville now and along with fellow Texan Lovett, they had no idea that those crude front porch jams would jumpstart a new genre of music, one that would flourish in Texas and spread to Oklahoma and then all across America. “It’s funny,” says Duckworth, “when Robert first started people criticized his voice, now people are deliberately trying to sing like him. At night, when I close up my shop and walk across the street to my truck, I think I can hear Robert singing at the Pour Haus.”

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The Story of KNBT-FM Radio

The history of Gruene Hall was documented in a two part series that concluded last month. Those that have followed the story know that things really came together when our local radio station, KNBT 92.1 FM, decided to change their format from mainstream country to Americana. Have you ever wondered how this change happened and why? Well, you’re in luck. A few weeks ago I sat down with Mattson Rainer, Program Director of KNBT, and got the full story on when, why and how it happened. “I moved here in 1993,” explained Mattson, “and we were playing mainstream country at the time. There were already several stations in San Antonio and Austin playing the same thing. Since you could pick up those stations here in town, I started thinking about shifting us to a more southern rock format. Maybe Marshall Tucker Band’s song “Can’t You See” would fit next to a Travis Tritt song.” Mattson knew they needed to do something different, something that might make KNBT stand out from all the other stations.

Gavin Magazine was a weekly publication and Mattson checked the country charts every week because that’s what they were playing. “One day in 1995, I flipped the page and there was this Americana chart,” he recalled. “When I looked at that chart, I saw Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris and I thought, this could be something that might work here. When you are the 9th station on the dial in a small market playing the same music, it was tough getting the record companies to pay attention to you. They were focused on the bigger markets. I knew I wanted to be involved in the music business and I also wanted to have fun with it. I thought if we started the Americana thing, maybe we could get CD’s to give away, maybe get artists to stop by and do interviews.”

Another event took place that would further cement Mattson’s desire to change the format. “During this time, there weren’t many music venues in town, just Landa Station and Gruene Hall. So I went to Gruene Hall to see Robert Earl Keen. I recall everybody singing the words to his songs. I grew up listening to the Grateful Dead and with them it was more than just the music, it was the scene. You knew the words to the songs and the band had a connection with the fans.” He realized instantly that he could relate to this scene happening right before his eyes at Gruene Hall. Keen would start a song and the crowd would sing along to every word. “I thought to myself, these people love music, and I don’t know about ratings and charts, but I know they love this guy. This is exactly the way I was with my bands when I was growing up. So I thought, Keen plays here twice a year, I wonder if his fans might want to hear ‘The Road Goes On Forever’ more often than that. That experience at Gruene Hall gave me the confidence that there was an audience for this music.”

Mattson was a music lover first and a radio station guy second, so he never understood why the country stations weren’t playing Willie Nelson. “I just couldn’t understand it. That would be like a New York classic rock station not playing the Rolling Stones.” So Rainer started working on a playlist, one that included Nelson, Keen, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Steve Earle. He contacted Gavin Magazine and got added as a reporting station. Almost immediately he started getting CD’s to give away on the air and Americana artists were willing to do interviews on the station. Rather than make the change instantly, he decided to start a show on Saturday nights and call it Crossroads Americana. It was where Americana met the other types of music. He picked the name because Crossroads Americana sounded better than Americana Crossroads. The new show was meant to test the water, to see if anyone would listen.

On Saturday night, March 15, 1996 to be exact, Crossroads Americana made its New Braunfels debut. There weren’t a lot of sponsors on Saturday night so it was the perfect timeslot to try out a new show. He started at 7pm and the first song he played was Change It by Stevie Ray Vaughan, then it was Buck Naked by Terry Allen, then Robert Earl and Guy Clark. After that he was off and running. About a week later, he received a letter from a local resident named Al Barlow. It was a long letter but basically it said, “If you keep playing this music, I’ll tell all my friends to listen.” In a very short time, classic country music started becoming more pop country. “In my opinion, pop country is just bad pop music with a fiddle,” explained Rainer. Soon he was adding Americana tunes to his afternoon shift on the air. Guy Clark songs were now being played next to Tim McGraw. As Mattson likes to say, “Mainstream country weeded itself out and the Americana music thrived.” Finally they had to ask themselves, who are we? The answer was, we’re an Americana station in New Braunfels, Texas.

His first three on-air interviews once he made the switch were Fred Eaglesmith, Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson. It was then he knew the station had found its music. It was the team he wanted to play for. It felt good. On June 8, 1997 they did their first event at Gruene Hall. It was called the KNBT Birthday Bash to celebrate their one year anniversary of playing Americana music. A year later, they changed the name to the Americana Music Jam and started donating the proceeds to local charities. Finally, the new Texas acts had a place to play and a radio station that would play their music. Mattson summed it all up with a simple fact, “It was a very fortunate thing that the music I liked to play on KNBT was the same music that Pat Molak liked to book at Gruene Hall.”

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The Story of Gruene Hall – Pt. 2

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of the pictures on the wall at Gruene Hall, they represent many thousand concerts. Have you ever wondered who started putting pictures on those walls? That person is Nanette Sullivan, the General Manager of the hall. She was one of the first employees hired by Pat Molak after he purchased the hall, and like Pat, she was there at the start and has witnessed four decades of history. Last month I told the story of how Gruene Hall was saved from the wrecking ball and now it’s time to tell the story of how it became one of the most important music venues in America. I sat down with Nanette at one of the old tables in the front room and let her tell her story.

When I asked about all the signed photos, Nanette pointed to the wall close to the office entrance. “I started putting pictures up on that wall,” she explained. “We would get promo 8 X 10 photos in press kits when artists played here. I started getting them autographed and hung them on this wall. Before long they were covering more walls and it just took off from there.” One of her favorites is a picture she took when Townes Van Zandt first played there. “He was leaving in his truck so I grabbed my camera and went outside. He rolled down his window and smiled at me.” She has one in her office of Keb Mo sitting on the stage, another of her favorites that she took. In the early days the hall closed from mid-December to mid-February. By the mid-90’s they started staying open year round and were booking more big name acts.

This is the decade that Gruene Hall started earning its reputation as an important venue in the music business. Obviously, Texas artists like Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen, Gary P. Nunn and Asleep at the Wheel played there. But the thing that set the hall apart from other venues were the acts like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, George Thorogood, Greg Allman and Buddy Guy. They always booked a wide variety of music, from the blues to country, pop, rock and everything in between. I once witnessed Hank Williams III play a set of traditional country music then cut loose on a loud set of punk rock. They’ve never been afraid to push the boundaries when it comes to music and America took notice.

Naturally Nanette had thousands of stories to tell, like the day local boy Hal Ketchum came back to Gruene to show off his new tour bus. When Leon Russell first walked in the side door, all decked out in black with his white hair and beard flowing in the breeze. Nanette snapped his photo as he gazed across the dance floor at the stage. During soundcheck at his first show at the hall, John Hiatt yelled Yee-Haw into the mic, acknowledging the country vibe he was feeling. When Jerry Lee Lewis landed his private jet at the New Braunfels Airport, they arranged for Two Tons of Steel singer Kevin Geil to pick him up in a vintage Cadillac. Of course the flood benefit Willie Nelson played in 1998 was a major event. She was there when young acts like Clint Black, Garth Brooks and the Dixie Chicks took the stage. When Levon Helm brought his band to the hall, she realized history was being made that night. Other shows that really stood out were Keb Mo, Chris Isaac, John Prine, Raul Malo, Aaron Neville, Taj Mahal, and the Texas Tornados. She has fond personal memories of George Strait being very professional, Lyle Lovett being a very kind and gentle man, of Robert Earl Keen’s funny stories, of Loretta Lynn being one of the sweetest people she’s ever met.

I asked her if any young acts have made an impression on her. Charlie Crockett and Jamestown Revival were the first two she mentioned. “After 45 years so much of this is one big blur. When I start looking at my music collection, I think…oh wow…lucky me…I got to see, hear and meet most of these musicians I have always admired.  It’s been a good ride.” Indeed it has and Gruene Hall continues to push the boundaries by bringing world class acts to our city. Just one more reason New Braunfels is recognized as a major music city in America.

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The Story of Gruene Hall – Pt. 1

The history of the thriving New Braunfels music scene that we enjoy today can be traced back in time to a variety of events that took place over four decades ago. One of the most important events occurred in 1974 when a young Pat Molak had the idea to buy a dancehall. I had the pleasure of interviewing Pat to get the story on how the most famous dancehall in Texas ended up in our city. “After college I had various jobs but always wanted to own a dancehall,” recalls Pat. “I was 27 years old and I knew how to open a beer but not how to run a dancehall. I loved the music scene that was happening in Austin so my idea was to buy a dancehall and get the musicians to play there.” He didn’t know about the Gruene area until his friend Bill Gallagher told him about it. “I had heard that Cibolo Creek Country Club was for sale and I put in an offer to buy it, but they didn’t accept my offer. In hindsight, I’m glad they didn’t.”

An Austin development company had purchased the land in Gruene and were planning to build condos and houses in the area. Chip Kaufman, an architecture student at UT in Austin, had also discovered Gruene while kayaking down the Guadalupe River. He persuaded the developers to let him inventory the buildings in Gruene for the Texas Historical Commission. Working with Molak and Gallagher, they convinced the developers to sell the old buildings to people that would restore them. In 1975, Molak purchased Gruene Hall and Gallagher bought the Gruene Mansion Inn. Kaufman obtained the old gristmill and was actually living in it at the time. Once Pat purchased the hall, he and partner Mary Jane Nalley, began the long process of bringing live music to the historic building.

The story has been told a hundred times but I asked Pat to tell it once more. “When I walked in, just the front bar area was being used. After a few beers I asked where the restrooms were, and when I walked around the bar that’s when I saw the dancehall. It was full of junk, there were some hay bales and the couple that were leasing it even had a bed back there. We had to redo all the wiring and the septic system. Our water was coming from the river so that had to be fixed. Kaufman would buy water about twice a month to fill up the water tower so we could have fresh water.” It was a real struggle in the early days, but by April of 1975, they were ready for some live music.

Marcia Ball was one of the first bands to perform at the hall back when she was fronting the band Frieda & the Firedogs. Asleep at the Wheel also played the hall that year and Ernest Tubb was the first Nashville based artist to play at Gruene Hall. In our conversation, Pat talked about getting help from Kent Finlay, who owned Cheatham Street Warehouse and Kitty McVay, a booking agent in Austin, who helped him track down contact information for the bigger named acts. After owning the famous hall for 45 years, you can bet Pat has some amazing stories and he shared a few with me. My favorite was the day back in 1975 when Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker dropped by to hang out and drink beer. “I had just returned from the bank,” says Pat. “When I walked in I saw Willie and Jerry Jeff at a table drinking beer. Their entourage included writer Bud Shrake, Jerry Jeff’s wife Susan and the Sheriff of Hays County. Willie and I talked for several hours and he had some ideas about possibly playing some shows at the hall and maybe opening a recording studio nearby. He gave me his phone number but no one ever answered when I called. It was pure luck or fate or whatever you want to call it,” says Pat, “but I realize just how lucky we are that all of these pieces fell into place to make Gruene Hall what it is today.”

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NB Magazine – 175th Year Edition

As our city celebrates their 175th year, many events are planned to pay tribute to our heritage. When the German’s came to Texas, they brought many things with, including their love of music. History tells us that by 1850, German’s made up more than 5% of the entire population of Texas. The central part of the state where New Braunfels is located, was known as the German Belt. The new settlers brought their instruments and musical style to Texas, with the accordion being one of the most popular instruments. During these early days before electricity, the accordion was popular because of its ability to be played loud. Naturally when I think of loud accordion playing, the name Alex Meixner instantly comes to mind. Not only is he an amazing musician, Meixner is well versed in the history of the accordion. I spoke with Alex about the traditional German music and how it also influenced the Hispanic population that were already in Texas when the German settlers arrived.

“The accordion and many of the initial dances, like polka, waltz and schottische, are of German origin,” explained Meixner. “When the Court of Maximillian colonized Mexico, they brought instruments and dances with them. As the settlers and natives integrated, more instruments were introduced such as trumpets and violins from Europe and guitarrons and bajo sextos from Mexico.” When I asked Alex to explain the basic differences between the German and the Mexico styles, he broke it down this way. “The tempos and dance steps are very similar but are generally a bit slower for the Mexican conjunto music because they are more improvisational. The bajo sexto replaces the left hand of the accordion player with bass lines and chord accompaniments in order to free the accordionist for more chromatic lines.” If you are non-musical like me, that last sentence was probably confusing. In short, I think it means when there are other instruments on-stage, the accordion player gets to go crazy and act like a madman.

Traditional polka music that we all celebrate and salute during Wurstfest is often associated with Germany, but in fact it originated in Bohemia, an area now within the Czech Republic. Texas polka styles are different from those in the Cleveland, Ohio region, which was also a popular site of early German settlers. In Ohio, the polka was more oompah-influenced because of the huge German population. In south Texas, polkas had a more Latin influence. In the mid-1800’s, northern Mexico and south Texas was a heavily settled area. When the Texas Germans met the northern Mexicans, they realized that their traditional music was very similar. They called their music musica nortena, meaning northern music while the German settlers referred to theirs as polkas and waltzes. Blending the two styles together was a natural progression over time.

“The Tejano music is a modernized pop approach to the traditional conjunto music,” said Alex, as he continued his music history story. “Much like German music has evolved with more American and international popular influences, Tejano has as well. It must modernize to be relevant to younger audiences. Especially in recent years, there has been a lot more cross pollination between the cultural groups. In 2006 I recorded a Grammy nominated album called Polka Freak Out with Bubba Hernandez. This album was our attempt to bridge elements of both styles in an effort to bring the cultures together.”

As you can see, our dearly loved polka music is steeped in history from Germany, Bohemia, Texas and Mexico. Reminds me of my grandma’s homemade vegetable soup, it takes a lot of ingredients to make it taste so good. So the next time you are at Wurstfest enjoying great polka music from Alex Meixner and the many other polka bands performing, remember all the history involved in the music you are hearing. Or, you could just drink another beer and savor the fact that your live in one of the most diverse music cities in America. Happy 175th Birthday New Braunfels.

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Music News – April 30, 2020

Here we are, the last day of April and so many things are still in limbo. Many concerts scheduled for May are now being moved to June or later. Whitewater Amphitheater has officially rescheduled the Cody Johnson shows scheduled for May 23 and 24. The May 23 show will now take place on September 26. Unfortunately, the May 24 show has been cancelled. The June 11 Urban Cowboy Reunion concert featuring Micky Gilley and Johnny Lee at the Brauntex Theatre is still on the schedule but may be moved to July 23. The Gruene Hall website shows a May 18 reopen date, but it looks like the Americana Jam will be rescheduled or unfortunately cancelled. Freiheit Country Store has a few shows on their May calendar and so does Floores Country Store. Time will tell if any of these shows get cancelled or rescheduled. As I mentioned many times before, I’ve been writing a music column every week since the mid-70’s and I’ve never seen anything like this before. The COVID virus has completely wiped out the entertainment business around the world. Every day I talk to musicians, venue owners, road managers, booking agents, PR firms, tour bus drivers, sound guys, road crews and merchandise people. The story is the same for everyone, complete devastation. Thousands will not survive this, and I don’t mean those that catch the virus. Many people in this industry will be forced to leave the business and find a new way to make a living, if they can. Many will be left homeless or so deep in debt that bankruptcy will be the only answer. I just hope our economy can survive whatever the future holds. As I’ve done for the past few weeks, I checked in with more musicians to see how they are doing during these crazy times.

 

Phil Hurley, singer, songwriter, guitarist for the South Austin Moonlighters, Austin, TX.

The South Austin Moonlighters are one of the best bands on the Texas music scene. Their albums are critical hits as well as fan favorites. They seamlessly blend old school California country rock with Texas outlaw styles. Phil and the band are hunkered down in Austin trying to survive the downtime. “Our whole calendar has been wiped clean. For March, April and May, my group lost around 30 gigs in four different states. I had around ten solo shows canceled as well. In this downtime I’ve been trying to up my home recording game. I got a new recording interface and have been “learning on the job” as they say. I’ve never been known for my engineering skills, but I’m making strides. Writing new tunes and getting my fiancé to join me. She’s a great singer and we’ve been having a lot of fun making music together. Our wedding was scheduled for Sunday, April 19th, but that’s all been postponed as well. I’ve been listening to a good mix of music. The Band, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, The Jayhawks, Jeff Fielder (a friend from Seattle). We’ve all reached out for some government help. I think I will receive some assistance from MusiCares. I’ve been trying to contact the Texas Workforce to see if I can apply for unemployment, but it’s been a dead end. The website says to call, you call, and they say go to the website. Rinse, repeat! I am more than willing to get a day job, but everything is closed. I did help a friend with some construction in his back yard out in Bastrop. But there’s really no work available. Unfortunately, I have a few friends who have the virus or have had it and are getting through it. I was fortunate enough to do some touring with a great group called Fountains of Wayne and they just lost their very talented bass player, Adam Schlesinger, to the virus. His death was a real hit in the face. He’s my age! Too close to home. I started taking my safety much more seriously after that news. I’ve submitted videos as part of an event for the Saxon Pub and for the 35th anniversary of Waterloo Records. I’ve also started “going live” on Facebook on Tuesday evenings at 7 pm central time.

 

Aaron Stephens, singer, songwriter, solo artist, New Braunfels

Aaron is one our talented musicians that performs all over south Texas. His soulful voice is often compared to Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers. “At the moment all of my gigs have been canceled until late May and early June. During this time, I’ve been running a lot, playing guitar and occasionally, I’ll try to write something. Every day is kind of open-ended. I just do what I feel like doing, in that sense, it’s been nice. I’ve been listening to a lot of Bill Withers, of course, but also, I’ve been listening to the Greyhounds out of Austin. Definitely looking into all options as far as government assistance. I’ve been looking for other ways to make money, I’m not ruling out any options. I have a cousin who was misdiagnosed with the virus. There’s definitely a lot of uncertainty going around.

 

Adam Johnson, singer, guitar player & singer for the band Cold Jackets, New Braunfels

Adam plays solo acoustic shows plus he’s the leader of a blues rock band called Cold Jackets.

“I guess in terms of lost gigs, I’m coming up on almost 30 shows cancelled between my band, solo shows and side gigs with other bands. I have definitely been writing a lot, sending voice memos back and forth with friends. So, it’s still possible to collaborate on songwriting. My band Cold Jackets has managed to finish up a new album, so lots of home recording as well. Trying to always expand and listen to new music, but John Lee Hooker seems to be fitting the mood lately. Any of his albums really, but especially the old stuff. My band mates and I have all filed for different financial aid/benefits, but no word yet on if any of them will come through. A lot of them are understandably swamped. So far none of us have applied for other jobs as far as I know, but it’s definitely on our minds quite a bit. I do have a couple friends who have contracted Covid-19, they say it is not fun. I’ll be doing my live streams on Thursdays. Usually at 8pm, but times may vary since I’m trying to do one for my UK fans and friends.”

 

Zac Wilkerson, singer, songwriter, incredible guitar player, Little Elm, TX.

Zac entered the music business by accident. He reluctantly entered a talent contest and won first place, with the prize being a set onstage at Larry Joe Taylor’s 2017 Texas Music Festival.

Things took off from there and now Zac is a full-time musician with several fantastic albums in his catalog. Zac and his family are hanging out in the house in Little Elm, near Dallas. “We’ve been here for two years in June and have settled in well. Everything has been cancelled or rescheduled. My calendar has been cleared and the future is wide open. I am always writing. I can’t stop, It’s a sickness. I have been demoing new songs and corresponding with my Producer, Manager Adam Odor at Yellow Dog Studios in Wimberly. We’re moving forward with plans for another record but recording different parts from our own homes. Not the way I like to make records, but better than not making records at all. I’ve been listening to much more John Prine lately. It’s been added to my regular daily prescribed dosage of Bill Withers. We’ve discussed with the band how to get them some assistance and they are still working through the process and trying to help in that any way I can. One of my band members was working with his family business but that has slowed to a halt and now he’s out of work. The other has been without work for 4 weeks. Luckily no one we know has caught the virus.”

 

Carolyn Wonderland, guitarist, singer, songwriter, South Austin. 

Carolyn is a highly respected, singer, songwriter and phenomenal guitar player. When she’s not pursuing her solo career, she’s touring as the guitarist for John Mayall, the legendary blues star. She lives in Austin with her husband A. Whitney Brown, a former staff writer for Saturday Night Live. “We are way out in South Austin. Just like the rest of us touring acts, all dates for John Mayall’s band and my band have been cancelled or postponed. So, there’s John’s US tour and April’s month-long tour of New Zealand and Australia, all of my band’s US Spring dates, and most of the rest of the year seems to be touch and go. We have the greatest folks at Intrepid Artists (our booking agency) working hard every day to bring live music back to the people as soon as it’s safe, wise, and possible. In my downtime I am restringing instruments and learning to beat on drums with sticks. Man, I miss playing with my band and with my friends so much, I’m learning how to stitch together video of us playing together and sharing them as we learn. Picking up new skills, I suppose is the positive spin on the situation. The plans to release our new record are being pushed back until there is some sense of a plan for music and the musicians who create it in this new environment. I cannot wait to share the new music. Dave Alvin producing the album really brought out the best in us, and he and Stuart Sullivan are a superb team. I’ve been listening to a lot of Doug Sahm, it’s definitely mood altering. I’m also digging on folks’ livestreams and stumbling on treasures like someone posting a 1965 outdoor concert of Coletrane’s Quartet in Belgium, getting psychedelic with The Third Mind’s new eponymous release, bopping around to Shelley King’s new “Kick Up Your Heels” and just preordered Ruthie Foster’s Big Band release. We are all attempting to file for unemployment. So far, unsuccessfully. I have a couple of friends who have survived the virus and have lost one friend and several heroes. We are doing a live stream every Wednesday at 8pm Texas Time at

“Wednesdays Live from Wonderland“ features A. Whitney Brown’s “Little Big Picture” commentary and I’ll play a different themed song collection each week.”

 

 

 

Live Streaming Concert Calendar

Almost every musician is doing some sort of virtual live streaming concert. As information becomes available, I’ll list those that maintain a regular schedule for their events. Events are listed alphabetically. To watch these shows, log onto their Facebook pages. Please tip the musicians if you can afford to at PayPal or Venmo.

 

Adam Johnson – Solo live concert – Thursdays at 8pm

 

Alex Meixner – Facebook Polka Time – Sundays at 1pm CST.

 

Band of Heathens – Tuesday night Supper Club – Tuesdays at 7:30pm

 

Brett Cline – Facebook Concerts at BCMusic Live – Thursdays at 7pm

 

Carolyn Wonderland – Live From Wonderland – Wednesdays at 8pm

 

Cody Canada – Facebook Concerts – Wednesdays at 8:30pm

 

Drew Kennedy – Live in the Backyard – Mondays at 8pm

 

Garth Brooks – Inside Studio G – Facebook Concert – Mondays at 7pm

 

Max & Heather Stallings – We Ain’t Drinking Alone – Wednesdays at 7pm

 

Phil Hurley – South Austin Moonlighters – Facebook Concert – Tuesdays at 7pm

 

Reckless Kelly – Music From The Mountains – Sundays at 7pm

 

Todd Snider – Live from East Nashville – Sundays at 11am

 

Wade Bowen – Wade’s World – Fridays at 8pm

 

Zack Walther Band – Walther Wednesdays – Wednesdays at 7pm

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Music News – April 23, 2020

Does anyone know what day it is? Or what month we are in? Has it really been a month that we’ve been stuck at home? At my house we have lost all track of time. We are staying up all night, sleeping late, eating enchiladas for breakfast, having ice cream for dinner and binge-watching dozens of shows on Netflix. Our dog Buddy is totally confused, he has no idea what’s going on and follows every step we take. He’s afraid he’s going to miss out on a late-night run to Sonic for tater tots and a milkshake. We still have another week of April to get through and at press time it looks like the first week of May might see the return of live music. The Americana Jam is still on the calendar for May 17 so there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. Hopefully, you were able to catch the KNBT-FM broadcast last Saturday of some older Jams. Meanwhile all of our musician’s friends are still at home, off the road and unable to earn a living. Just as I’ve been doing for the past few weeks, I checked in on some of them to see how they are doing.

 

Rodney Crowell, singer, songwriter, a true Texas icon, Nashville, TN.

Rodney Crowell is one of our most gifted songwriters. Born in Houston, he moved to Nashville in the 70’s and became a major star. Crowell is a regular performer on our local stages. When I checked in with him, he only had a few words to share about how COVID-19 had affected him.

“I can only say that Covid19 needlessly took John Prine and that’s as much as I’m willing to say about this time we’re all trying to make sense of. Stay safe and well.”

 

Kevin Post, singer, songwriter, guitarist for Blake Shelton, Nashville, TN.

I met Kevin back in the 90’s when he was playing guitar for Terri Clark. We’ve stayed in touch over the years and now he plays for country artist Blake Shelton and appears on the TV show, The Voice. “I’m hanging out at home in Nashville,” said Kevin. “Every gig I’ve had has been cancelled, not even sure if I will get to play steel guitar on The Voice this season. Blake’s tour was cancelled after four weeks, not rescheduled, just refunded tickets. Major bummer. I’m working on my next album, which tentatively is called ‘Them Blue Skies’ which might also be the first single. Also, working on my golf game a lot even though the courses are closed, we can still play because of some legal technicality. Unfortunately, the course is only a few hundred yards from where the recent tornado’s hit, so there are many torn up houses right near the course. I’ve been listening to Bill Withers a lot since he passed away recently, RIP, he was an inspiration as a musician and a man in general. Financially, I’m doing alright, I’ve always been good with my money. I don’t have to apply for any assistance right now, but I might donate some of my time, as Nashville was hit with a tornado, then the pandemic back to back.”

 

Max Stalling, Texas singer, songwriter, can be seen on our local stages, Dallas, TX.

Max and his wife Heather are staples on the Texas stages and Max is one of our favorite songwriters. “We are holed up here in Dallas.  We considered bugging out to either my hometown of Crystal City or my wife’s parents place in Salado but ultimately decided we needed to be home through all this. All of our shows have been cancelled. Honestly, we seem to never have enough time in a day, very little actual downtime. It takes a lot of energy to keep your nose above the waterline. We spend a lot of our time working on moving the canceled dates to later in the year, sorting out our path forward, preparing for the live streaming stuff we are doing (that takes a lot more energy and prep than we realized). I only wish we were finding time to write new songs! We have listened to a lot of John Prine lately, since he passed away from COVID no less than a week ago. Also, lots of Haggard. Then we spend a lot of time following our friends on their live streaming stuff on the internet. Some of our band are seeking government help and some are not. We have spent a lot of time sorting out what the right thing to do is. So far, none of us have had to get a day job. Everybody has teaching gigs that help offset circumstances that allow for the tiniest bit of breathing room. Heather and I are doing a weekly live stream on Facebook and Instagram called “We Ain’t Drinking Alone” Wednesdays!”

 

Ray Wylie Hubbard, iconic singer, songwriter, author, Wimberley, TX.

Ray Wylie Hubbard is one of our most beloved songwriters. Few can match his wit, humor, and talent when it comes to the art of songwriting. This is the guy that wrote ‘Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother’ and ‘Snake Farm.’ That alone makes him a true legend among Texas musicians. “Judy and I are at home in Wimberley. About 20 something gigs were cancelled or rescheduled. We were scheduled to play Gruene Hall and record a video in mid-March and poof, gone. I am writing of course, but we got a new record coming out in July, so we are working on the campaign for that. I’m not listening to a lot of music but reading Joseph Campbell and Sylvie Simmons, these are priorities at the moment. As far as checking on the government assistance, Judy handles all that. The only person I’ve known that got the virus was John Prine, it was a rough loss. Otherwise I’m just hanging tough, stay safe, yours truly. Ray Wylie.” Ray has a new CD coming in July titled ‘Co-Starring.’ The first single is called Bad Trick and features Ringo Starr on drums, Don Was on bass, Joe Walsh on guitar and Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes on guest vocals.

 

Drew Kennedy, singer, songwriter, author, New Braunfels, TX.

Drew is one of our favorite local musicians. Everyone loves Drew. He is one half of the Topo Chico Cowboys duo with his friend Josh Grider. He is also one of the first local musicians to write a novel. Fresh Water From the Salton Sea tells the story of a traveling musician, a subject that Drew knows a lot about. “We are here at home in New Braunfels and all of my gigs were cancelled. I’m writing with a lot of Nashville based writers via Zoom, usually 2 or 3 times a week. I’m listening to a lot of radio, WWOZ in New Orleans, Lightning 100 in Nashville, and of course, the greatest radio station in the world 92.1 KNBT. Also listening to plenty of John Prine this week, sadly. Since it’s just me, I haven’t filed for any government help. I still get a draw (money) from BMG Music as part of my publishing deal and I am eternally grateful for that at the moment. I’ve had some friends get the virus and most are well on their way to a full recovery. I’m doing live streams every Monday from my backyard at 8pm so be sure to tune in.

 

Catie Offerman, singer, songwriter, musician, Nashville, TN.

Catie is a singer, songwriter from New Braunfels who now lives in Nashville. “I’m back home in New Braunfels staying with my family. I wasn’t doing any full-time touring at the moment, but several private gigs were cancelled. I’m just trying to stay creative in general. I’ve been doing some writing via Zoom with people I normally write with back in Nashville. I’ve also been writing funny little quarantine songs by myself just to keep myself sane and still able to laugh! I’m also enjoying relaxing and spending quality time with my parents. It’s been a while since we’ve had that. We’ve also been cooking up a storm! I’ve been listening to a lot of Ray Price. It’s my dad’s favorite station on Pandora, and there’s something about listening to good ole classic country in Texas that naturally puts you in a better mood. So far, I’m not having to seek any government assistance, thankfully. I’m still employed by Universal Publishing in Nashville. I don’t have a full-time touring band yet. I’m in the middle of signing a record deal, so it’ll be happening more in the next year. So far, we are all healthy and well thankfully, doing our best to stay in and stay positive!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live Streaming Concert Calendar

Almost every musician is doing some sort of virtual live streaming concert. As information becomes available, I’ll list those that maintain a regular schedule for their events. Events are listed alphabetically. To watch these shows, log onto their Facebook pages. Please tip the musicians if you can afford to at PayPal or Venmo.

 

Band of Heathens – Tuesday night Supper Club – Tuesday nights at 7:30pm

 

Brett Cline – Facebook Concerts at BCMusic Live – Thursday nights at 7pm

 

Carolyn Wonderland – Live From Wonderland – Wednesday nights at 8pm

 

Cody Canada – Facebook Concerts – Wednesday nights at 8:30pm

 

Drew Kennedy – Live in the Backyard – Monday nights at 8pm

 

Garth Brooks – Inside Studio G – Facebook Concert – Monday nights at 7pm

 

Max & Heather Stallings – We Ain’t Drinking Alone – Wednesday nights at 7pm

 

Reckless Kelly – Music From The Mountains – Sunday nights at 7pm

 

Wade Bowen – Wade’s World – Friday nights at 8pm

 

Zack Walther Band – Walther Wednesdays – Wednesday nights at 7pm

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