The Ralph Michaels Elevators Collection

Ralph opens up his 50-year-old archives with treasures from Austin's psychedelic past
Ralph Y. Michaels clips local newspaper articles about the 13th Floor Elevators; this blurb from the March 17, 1966, issue of The Austin Statesman, by Nightbeat columnist Jim Langdon, mentions the Elevators' March 16th performance at the New Orleans Club
A rare and pristeen copy of the Elevators' IA single May The Circle Be Unbroken, written by Roky Erickson, from Ralph Y. Michaels' personal collection; the single's flip side is a rare Elevators cover (they mostly record their own original material), this one of I'm Gonna Love You Too, first recorded by Buddy Holly in 1958
Ralph's Elevators colleciton includes the poster for a 1967 Elevators and Conqueroo concert at the Doris Miller Auditorium in Austin

The New Orleans Club • March 1966

It's now March 1966 in Austin, Texas, and the college town's home-grown national sensations, the 13th Floor Elevators, are preparing for a tour of Houston and Dallas. Among their final shows in Austin before going on the road, the Elevators perform at New Orleans Old World Night Club. They'll be back in May, after successful engagements throughout north and south Texas, but it's at this March 16th gig that photographer and avid Austin radio and rock music fan Ralph Y. Michaels takes a set of trippy photos that captures both the energy of the Elevators on the tiny New Orleans Club stage and the equally energetic reaction of the youthful crowd in attendance.

The New Orleans Club recordings

Ralph is back at the New Orleans Club in summer 1966 for an Elevators return engagement, following a successful set of gigs in the Dallas area. Thinking this may be the last time he sees the Elevators live, and sitting at the back of the New Orleans Club's small dance floor, he holds a portable audiocassette recorder up high and uses a flashlight to monitor the recording level. Ralph tells us he "sweats-out not being caught" making the recordings.

Although the recordings are distorted and muddy, Ralph can't be faulted: he's at the back of the room, the band and crowd are loud, the New Orleans Club's PA system is primative, and Ralph's handheld audiocassette recorder isn't professional gear. Despite all that, Ralph succeeds in capturing the vital, raw sounds of the Elevators at one of the band's favorite Austin venues, the New Orleans Club. Here are the first two excerpts from that New Orleans Club performance. Watch this space...

More Ralph Y. Michaels Elevators photos

In case you missed them, head back now to the first page of our Ralph Y. Michaels Elevators photos, where we present candids from the Elevators at Swingers Club in Austin and at the fundraising benefit performance for Texas fiddler Teodar Jackson at the Austin Methodist Center. You'll find out who Ralph is and how he came to document an epic era in Austin music.

The Elevators in Austin • 1966

Sonobeat and the 13th Floor Elevators

Sonobeat itself has a bit of history with the Elevators, starting with the fact that 'vators front man Roky Erickson and Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Jr. are classmates at William B. Travis High School in Austin. Then, as a deejay at Austin's KAZZ-FM, Bill, under his on-air pseudonym Rim Kelley, plays singles by Roky's first band, The Spades, and is probably the first in the world to broadcast the Elevators' first single, You're Gonna Miss Me, on Austin's short-lived Contact label, issued before the Elevators sign with Houston's International Artists. The connection between the Elevators and Sonobeat is over here...

Sonobeat and the 13th Floor Elevators

The crowd at New Orleans Old World Night Club in Austin is ready to hear the 13th Floor Elevators perform; note the New Orleans Club's infamous corrugated metal room (March 1966)
courtesy Ralph Y. Michaels
Roky Erickson fronts the 13th Floor Elevators from the tiny stage area at New Orleans Old World Night Club in Austin (March 1966)
courtesy Ralph Y. Michaels
John Ike Walton on drums at the 13th Floor Elevators performance at New Orleans Old World Night Club in Austin (March 1966)
courtesy Ralph Y. Michaels
This shot of the New Orleans Club taken from the back of the room demonstrates just how small the venue actually is; whenever the 13th Floor Elevators play the New Orleans Club, the room's packed to capacity (March 1966)
courtesy Ralph Y. Michaels
The Elevators' John Ike Walton (drums), Stacy Sutherland (left, lead guitar), and Benny Thurman (top, bass guitar) on the tiny stage at New Orleans Old World Night Club in Austin (March 1966)
courtesy Ralph Y. Michaels