1968: Yesterday Once More

A look back at Austin and the world fifty years ago

Let's jump back 50 years. Entering 1968, plucky Austin, Texas, record company startup Sonobeat is eight months old and already has four 45 RPM stereo single releases to its credit, two featuring top Austin rock bands. 1968 will be a banner year for Sonobeat: it will release eleven 45 RPM stereo singles and its first LP and make a major label connection with the sale of its Johnny Winter album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, to Liberty Records. Austin's music scene begins to accelerate, with indications here and there of the "outlaw country" movement that will overtake Austin in the early 1970s. Although the nation and the world are in a mess, a music explosion that began in the mid-'60s works to bring us back together.

I've Got Time by The Conqueroo
Sonobeat's first stereo 45 RPM single of 1968 hits record stores the week of April 8th
Zilker Hillside Theater
The year of the stamps: most retail merchants give customers savings stamps for purchases, like this gas station; when you've collected enough stamps, you redeem them for household goods and small appliances
In and around Austin

Austin's population hits 234,375, growing 4.6% from 1967; coincidentally, this closely tracks the 1968 U.S. inflation rate.

Average household income is $7,850. Gasoline is 34¢ a gallon (but you get S&H Green, Texas Gold, or Plaid savings stamps at most gas stations, which you paste into booklets until you have enough to redeem for a variety of household goods and small appliances). A movie ticket is $1.50 (amazingly, only about $10.60 in 2018 dollars). The minimum wage rises to $1.60 an hour, and the Dow Jones average ends the year at 943 (as we enter 2018, the Dow is pushing 25,000). The average price of a new home hovers around $14,950 with rentals about $130 a month.

Austin's eclectic KAZZ-FM closes early in January '68, having been purchased by KOKE-AM, and all KAZZ employees are pink slipped. Because Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley have worked at KAZZ, they've been able to borrow KAZZ's profession tape decks and microphones to launch Sonobeat Records but now will have to find alternate sources for recording equipment.

McDonalds introduces the Big Mac, a bargain at 49¢; the Big Mac gives many favorite Austin burger joints – The Night Hawk, Holiday House, 2-J, and Dirty Martin's – a new competitor for perpetually broke University of Texas students.

The City of Austin's Recreation Department puts on its annual summer musical at the Zilker Hillside Playhouse: in 1968, it's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

IBM begins begins building its Selectric typewriter manufacturing plant on North Lamar. This foreshadows the tech boom that Austin will see two decades later.

Crockett High School opens at 5601 Manchaca Road in South Austin.

Under head coach Darrell Royal, The University of Texas varsity football team wins the Cotton Bowl Classic against Tennessee to cap out a 9-1-1 season and end the year ranked number 3 on the AP college football poll.

Favorite Austin music venues

Broken Spoke (3201 South Lamar)

Chequered Flag (1411 Lavaca)

Club Caravan at the Villa Capri Hotel (2360 North Interregional Highway [IH 35])

Club Seville, The, at the Crest Inn (1st and Congress Avenue)

Downtowner Club, The (11th and San Jacinto)

11th Door, The (11th and Red River)

I L Club (1124 East 11th)

Jade Room, The (1501 San Jacinto)

Match Box, The (2513 San Antonio)

New Orleans Club, The (12th and Red River)

Pleasure Dome, The (222 East 6th)

Red Lion (207 West 6th)

Split Rail (217 South Lamar)

Swingers Club (831 West Houston)

Velvatone Lounge (817 East 53-1/2)

Vulcan Gas Company (316 Congress Avenue)

As the world turns...

CBS (yes, the TV network) buys Fender Guitars for $13,000,000.

Sketch comedy series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In premieres on NBC, making instant stars of series regulars Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, Arte Johnson, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Jo Anne Worley, Henry Gibson, Larry Hovis, Richard Dawson, and Moosie Drier.

Late January brings demoralizing news from the Vietnam war front: communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops launch a series of deadly surprise attacks – known as the Tet Offensive (Tet is the Vietnamese New Year holiday) – on South Vietnam and the U.S. and allied troops fighting alongside the South Vietnamese troops. U.S. soldiers massacre entire families in My Lai, Vietnam. Later in the year President Lyndon B. Johnson halts U.S. bombings of North Vietnam.

The Winter Olympics – played in Grenoble, France – are the first to be televised in color.

Although it won't make its first commercial flight until early in 1969, in 1968 Boeing introduces the 747 jumbo jet, which will become the airline industry's workhorse for the next 50 years.

America's Apollo 8 circles the moon, becoming the first manned spacecraft to do so.

On April 4th, U.S. civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated by James Earl Ray, triggering riots throughout the U.S.

On June 5th, Robert F. Kennedy, U.S. president John F. Kennedy's younger brother, is shot by Sirhan Sirhan following a Los Angeles presidential primary victory speech and dies the following day.

Baseball legend Hank Aaron hits his 500th career home run.

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, better known as just Hair, opens on Broadway, shocking many with its (brief) on-stage nudity; its anthemic songs, such as Aquarius, fuel anti-Vietnam War protests and love-in movements.

The future of personal computing is born with the founding of Intel Corporation in Santa Clara, California; Santa Clara eventually will be celebrated as the center of Silicon Valley, named because so many high tech startups whose products use silicon-based semiconductor chips populate the area in the years that follow.

The Beatles break from long-time label EMI (Capitol Records in the U.S.) to launch Apple Records; among the first Apple releases is the Beatles' double-disc "white album" (which has no actual title but is generally referred to as The Beatles), which receives mixed reviews when released but now is considered an enduring classic.

U.S. president John F. Kennedy's widow, Jacqueline, shocks the world by marrying Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

The Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, Missouri, and the Aswan Dam in Egypt are completed.

Republican Richard Nixon beats democrat Hubert Humphrey in America's 1968 presidential election. Earlier in the year, liberal Pierre Trudeau wins Canada's federal election, defeating conservative Robert Stanfield to become prime minister of Canada. Today, his oldest son, Justin Trudeau, holds the same office.

Among future celebrities born in 1968 are Celine Dion, Will Smith, Hugh Jackman, Owen Wilson, LL Cool J, Molly Ringwald, Naomi Watts, Sarah McLachlan, Kristin Chenoweth, Mark McGuinn, Kenny Chesney, and Tony Hawk.

Some of the year's best and most popular

Best Picture of 1968 (Oscars®): Oliver!, the musical extravaganza based on the the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, which also picks up the Best Director award for Carol Reed

Outstanding Drama Series for the 1967-'68 season (Emmys®): Mission: Impossible, a secret agent series with a twist, takes top honors in the drama category for the second straight year

Outstanding Comedy Series for the 1967-'68 season (Emmys®): Get Smart, lampooning the secret agent genre, created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry and starring Don Adams (who also wins the best actor Emmy for comedy series) and Barbara Feldman

Top Hot 100 Single of the Year (Billboard Magazine): Hey Jude • The Beatles

Record of the Year (Grammys®): Mrs. Robinson • Simon & Garfunkel

Album of the Year (Grammys®): By The Time I Get To Phoenix • Glen Campbell

Best New Artist of the Year (Grammys®): Jose Feliciano (his cover of The Doors' Light My Fire makes him an instant star)

Best Song of the Year (Grammys®): Little Green Apples • written by Bobby Russell and popularized by Roger Miller

Fashion trends: for women, anything "mod" from London boutiques, above-the-knee print dresses, culottes, straight-leg pants, and, for the adventurous, see-through blouses; for men, checkered sports jackets, mock turtlenecks, tapered plain front slacks.

Most popular car: Chevrolet Camaro

Most popular toys: spyder bikes, spirograph art sets, talking Barbies, Matchbox cars, and, of course, Game of Twister

Favorite newborn boy's name: Michael, which took the top spot beginning in 1961, still holds it in 1968

Favorite newborn girls' name: Lisa holds the top spot for the second year running

Sonobeat in '68

Sonobeat releases the most singles – eleven – of any year of its operation, releases its first album, and makes a sale to a national label; all Sonobeat singles are released in stereo

The singles (chronologically):
   I've Got TimeThe Conqueroo
   Mass ConfusionThe Thingies
   Watch Out!Lavender Hill Express
   Comin' Home BabyThe Afro-Caravan
   Rollin' and Tumblin'Winter
   Can't Win For Losing • Ronnie and the West Winds
   This Is My SongBach-Yen
   Outside My WindowLavender Hill Express
   Civil DisobedienceRay Campi Establishment
   About To Be WomanJim Chesnut
   YesterdayFran Nelson

The album: Jazz To The Third PowerThe Lee Arlano Trio

The national sale: The Progressive Blues ExperimentJohnny Winter • sold to Liberty Records in December 1968 and released nationally in March 1969 on Liberty's Imperial label

Zilker Hillside Theater
The 1968 summer musical at Zilker Hillside Theater is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
2001: A Space Odyssey movie poster
2001: A Space Odyssey is the biggest box office winner in 1968, taking in $56,950,000 in the U.S. (or $403,672,400 in 2018 dollars).
Chevy Camaro
The Chevy Camero makes its first appearance in September 1967 and by 1968 becomes the top-selling car in the U.S.