Thursday, March 20, 2014

40 Year Itch: Down in Groover's Paradise

I has an opportunity to visit Dallas earlier this month. My conclusion: I never again want to get closer to Dallas than a flyover in a DC 9 at night. 

    But since my college days in New Orleans, when I'd run across the Vaughan brothers, Charlie Sexton, Zeitgeist,  True Believers and the long legged pianist Marcia Ball, I've always been curious about Austin. How did this city become a cultural oasis in the heart of Texas? 

    In a recent interview during the musical onslaught that is SXSW, KSJR-FM program director and Austin taste maker Jody Denburg told David Dye of the World Cafe about the early days of Austin's "great progressive country scare" that peaked in 1974 with the releases of Doug Sahm's Groover's Paradise and Willie Nelson's Phases and Stages. Other Austin artists included Roky Erickson , Jerry Jeff Walker., Michael Murphy and Asleep at the Wheel. They were drawn to the Austin by cheap rents, clubs like The Armadillo and 50,000 college students who wanted to hear good music and drink cheap beer.

   Denburg picked the title cut from Sahm's Groover's Paradise to play because it was "written about Austin. It sums up that time in Austin. Even the cover of the record...the black and white pencil artwork from Kerry Awn sums up that era in the 70's."

    For the album, his first for Warner Brothers, Sahm recruited the Creedence Clearwater Revival rhythm  section, drummer Doug Clifford and bassist Stu Cook. Aside from the laid back, good old  Texas-style country tunes, there's a Tex Mex instrumental called "La Cacahuata" ( The Peanut). 

   But it was Willie Nelson who personified the era. His Fourth of July picnics were orgies of great music, good pot and topless chicks. Musically, Nelson wanted nothing to do with traditional country. He followed 1973's Shotgun Willie with the concept album  Phases and Stages, recorded in Muscle Shoals with R and B producer Jerry Wexler. Phases and Stages documents the break up of music star's marriage and contains the concert staple "Bloody Mary Morning".

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