Some recollections about Antone's Home of the blues.
It was always fun and easy, for those of us that moved down to Austin, to berate Dallas. But, I have to admit that my musical education, for which I feel very grateful, came from being in Dallas in my early years. The radio stations there, and the local music, the early history, the pawn shops with three 45's for a dollar, the concerts at nice auditoriums and some not so nice, venues, all those and other ingredients, all mixed together, created a city that was hip to important musical developments. In my youth, KLIF, an important radio station that became a model for other "Top 40" stations, all over the country, was just one. That's where i heard the new teenage music, being called rock and roll. This music, that of Elvis, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Ray Charles, all that, was beginning to be heard all over the country, seemingly almost overnight. It didn't exist, and then, w/ a vengeance, it did..(A strange phenomenon, like other episodes in history, strange, powerful things, events, and people, appearing all at once, like the American Revolution, Memphis and Sun Records), .... But other stations, and other sources, provided middle class white kids, and anyone else who had ears to hear, with another sound, a little less commercial, but just as exciting..the Blues. Once our young ears became enthralled by these new sounds, blues and rock and roll became intertwined. At least for many of us. We could tell the difference, and we could see that they were cousins. It was all mixed up, and we liked it..
I got to hear a lot of these folks, back then, but not all, and some seemed so otherworldly, that I never expected to see them live, ever, anywhere. But I didn't know that fifteen or twenty years later, Clifford Antone would open up a night club in Austin, Texas, dedicated to the music of these people. So, I not only got to see and hear them, but I got to play with so many of them. Too many to even remember. And many of them would be unknown to most folks unless they were some kind of blues freak. But, several of us from all over did become blues freaks, and we could barely contain our excitement at the thought of these guys and girls, coming to town.
Some of the well known and more obscure, yet important ones, to me, were "Little" Johnny Taylor, Otis Rush, Eddie Taylor, "Lazy" Lester, Wayne Bennett, David "Fathead" Newman, Albert King, Albert Collins, Jimmy Reed, Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton, Buddy Guy, Jr. Wells, John Lee Hooker, Freddy King, Johnny Littlejohn,
Irma Thomas, Jr. Walker, Roy Head, Clifton Chenier, Rufus Thomas, Luther Tucker, and so many others that I can't remember, right now. I got to back up, in the house band, not all, but most of these folks.
I was in a band called Paul Ray and the Cobras, in 1975, when Antones first opened, and we began playing there regularly, on Sunday nights. Stevie Vaughan was in the band at the time. The opening of the club coincided w/ the forming of Jimmie Vaughan's band, the Fabulous Thunderbirds. They played there all the time, and were actually the first "house band". The club kept having to change locations, and in the 80's, was located on Guadelupe, just north of U.T. By then the T-Birds were gone much of the time, on the road, and it became necessary to form a new house band, because many of the folks Clifford liked to book would come to town without a band, sometimes, at his insistence. He wanted us to back them up. There were a few rotating members, but one lineup was Derek O'Brien, Mel Brown (from Bobby "Blue" Bland's band) and me, on guitar, w/ sometimes Mel playing Hammond organ or me playing piano, if there were too many guitars, Sarah Brown on bass, George Rains on drums, Kaz Kazanoff and Joe Sublett on Sax. Jimmie Vaughan and sometimes Stevie, if they were in town, would also play guitar, and Pat Whitefield on bass, and a few others on drums, from time to time..We were all pretty checked out on the music that was to be played, and it usually went very well. Rufus Thomas was pretty gripey at a rehearsal, the day of the show, and maybe a couple of Chicago guys were at first skeptical about some middle class white kids down in Austin, Texas, being able to keep up, but we usually proved our worth, and justified Clifford's faith in us.
There were too many mind blowing nights to remember, as I said, but a few standouts for me, would be...playing with Otis Rush, Snooks Eaglin, "Little" Johnny Taylor, Eddie Taylor, Ted Taylor, Albert Collins, Jr. Wells. I got to record some tracks with James Cotton and Hubert Sumlin, and I played on the 10th Anniversary Live Album, with several of these guys. Probably some other recordings, too. And Doug Salm played there a lot, also, in one or two of his incarnations, and I got to play and record with him.
So, over the years, until things started to thin out at the end of the '80's, my friends and I got to see, hear, meet, and play with some of our most important idols. Not even a dream come true, because I never thought I'd ever play with these folks, and we even recorded with several of them. It's not all over, yet, but time takes it's toll, and there's not so much action, any more. But, on July 14, during the anniversary month at Antones, I'll get to see hear, and play with, my friend, the great Hubert Sumlin, who provided so much magic in the Howlin' Wolf records, one more time. Thank you, Clifford............