1969: Yesterday Once More

A look back at Austin and the world fifty years ago

Let's jump back 50 years. Entering 1969, Austin, Texas-based Sonobeat Records has just finished its most productive year, releasing eleven 45 RPM stereo singles and its first album. And, as 1968 closes out and 1969 begins, Sonobeat is concluding negotiations with Los Angeles-based Liberty Records for the national release of Sonobeat's Johnny Winter album, The Progressive Blues Experiment. The deal with Liberty is finalized in early January, and the proceeds pay off Sonobeat's 1968 studio and equipment expansion and fund a new year of Sonobeat's recording and release operations.

In 1969, Austin's music scene is hoppin', with many precursors to a new kind of country music – the "outlaw" movement – that will be arriving in another year or two. Although the nation and the world are in turmoil, a music explosion that begins in the mid-'60s continues to bring us back together.

Memorandum by Plymouth Rock
Sonobeat's first stereo 45 RPM single of 1969 doesn't hit record stores until November
Perhaps the biggest world news of 1969 is America's moon landing; Apollo 11's moon landing module safely takes Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon's surface
1969 in and around Austin

Austin's population hits 244,074, growing 4.1% from 1968.

Money matters:
   • The inflation rate is 5.46%.
   • Average household income hits $8,550.
   • Gasoline averages 35¢ per gallon (up only a penny from the 1968 average).
   • Buy a new Toyota Corona for $1,950.
   • A movie ticket averages $1.42 (amazingly, only about $9.75 in 2019 dollars).
   • The minimum wage rises to $1.30 an hour, up 15¢ from the 1968 minimum.
   • The average price of a new home hovers around $15,550 with rentals about $135 a month.
   • H.E.B. has Maxwell House coffee for 59¢ a pound, bananas for 9¢ a pound, Banquet TV dinners for 39¢ each, and sliced bacon for 55¢ a pound.
   • Austin appliance chain Bettis offers a Magnavox color TV swivel console for $479.50.

Capital Cable, a community antenna TV service, finally expands to households in East Austin; in 1969, there are no "cable program services" like HBO, Showtime, CNN, Disney Channel, and ESPN; instead, since Austin has only three over-the-air TV channels – 7 (KTBC-TV, splitting its programming between ABC and CBS shows), 9 (KLRN, The University of Texas' educational channel and NET/PBS affiliate), and 42 (KHFI-TV, NBC) – Capital Cable offers Austinites access to all the over-the-air TV channels and networks from both Austin and San Antonio, including Spanish International Network.

The Texas legislature embarks on a profound expansion of the University of Texas system, establishing the UT Medical School at Houston, the UT Dental School at San Antonio, UT Dallas, UT Permian Basin (the only university named after a geological formation), and UT San Antonio; henceforth, the main campus in Austin will be known as The University of Texas at Austin instead of simply The University of Texas.

The University of Texas campus (the "Forty Acres") is expanding: the J.T. Patterson Laboratories Building opens in April; construction begins on the LBJ Presidential Library, the first such library to be housed on any college campus, and the East Campus Library and Research Building; major upgrades to Memorial Stadium begin.

The University of Texas Longhorn varsity football team lead by head coach Darrell Royal and quarterback James Street, starts 1969 off with a big win, defeating the Tennessee Volunteers (36-13) at the New Year's Day Cotton Bowl game in Dallas, Texas; by the end of the '69 football season in December '69, the Texas Longhorns are ranked #1 in the Associated Press poll and seal the deal with a dramatic fourth quarter victory over #2-ranked Arkansas, an epic match-up that becomes known as the "Game of the Century" and is chronicled in the documentary The Big Shootout.

You couldn't wait to read your favorite color comics in the Sunday Austin American-Statesman newspaper (20¢ at the newsstand): Blondie, Peanuts, Li'l Abner, B.C., Beetle Bailey, Little Orphan Annie, Yogi Bear, Andy Capp, Mickey Finn, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Buz Sawyer, The Jackson Twins, Priscilla's Pop, Steve Canyon, Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, Mickey Mouse, Penny, Grin and Bear It, and Berry's World; and, of course, the Sunday comics pages also include Hints From Heloise for mom and dad.

Construction of the first section of the MoPac Expressway – from Enfield Road to Northland Drive – is greenlighted in March at a cost of $800,000 (about $5,500,000 in 2019 dollars, quite a bargain); MoPac straddles the old Missouri Pacific railway tracks running north-south through west Austin.

8-track tape cartridges are all the rage. Even Sonobeat's Johnny Winter album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, gets an 8-track cartridge release.

The City of Austin's Recreation Department puts on its annual summer musical at the Zilker Hillside Playhouse: in 1969, it's The Music Man.

Austin is the capital of Texas and, therefore, the seat of the Texas legislature; in 1969, the state's financial crisis – created and compounded by dissent between the state's legislative and executive branches – is voted the number one "Texas" story of the year by statewide newspaper editors.

Favorite Austin music venues

Action, The (5500 North Lamar)
Body Shop, The (3201 Interregionsl Highway [IH 35]) Broken Spoke (3201 South Lamar)
Cactus Club (415 Barton Springs Road)
Chart Room, The (1605 Interregional Highway [IH 35])
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)
Hilltop Inn (old Highway 183)
I L Club (1124 East 11th)
Jade Room, The (1501 San Jacinto)
Nero's Nook (629 West Ben White Boulevard)
New Orleans Club, The (12th and Red River)
Pleasure Dome, The (222 East 6th)
Red Lion (207 West 6th)
Skyline Ballroom (11306 North Lamar)
Speed Museum (formerly Chequered Flag) (1411 Lavaca)
Split Rail Inn (217 South Lamar)
Sportsmans Inn (Fredricksburg Highway)
Swingers Club (831 West Houston)
Velvatone Lounge (817 East 53-1/2)
Vulcan Gas Company (316 Congress Avenue)

As the world turns...

The world's most iconic band, The Beatles, caps a banner year with the September release of its Abbey Road album; back in January, the band performs its final live concert – atop the roof of the Apple Records building in London – that will be featured in the Let It Be documentary, and in March John Lennon and Yoko Oko marry and then hold a week-long "Bed In for Peace" in Amsterdam.

Five major pop music festivals draw record crowds and make history: in July, it's the Atlanta International Pop Festival featuring Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Canned Heat, Led Zepplin, and a dozen other major musical acts; in August, it's the Woodstock Festival in upstate New York, attracting around 500,000 attendees and featuring 35 acts including Ravi Shankar, Joan Baez, Santana, The Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, The Band, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and Jimi Hendrix; in August, it's the Wight Festival (yes, on the Isle of Wight in the U.K.) that features Bob Dylan, The Who, Joe Cocker, The Moody Blues, and 16 other acts; the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in Livermore, California, that attracts around 300,000 and features The Rolling Stones, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Notably, the Altamont Festival ends in violence (attributed in part to the Festival's use of Hell's Angels as its principal security force); and, finally, not to be outdone, Dallas, Texas, hosts the Texas International Pop Festival two weeks after Woodstock. The three-day Texas International Pop Festival attracts between 120,000 and 150,000 each day and features a star-studded cast of musical acts: Canned Heat, Chicago (then called Chicago Transit Authority), James Cotton Blues Band, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, Grand Funk Railroad, The Incredible String Band, Janis Joplin, B.B. King, Freddie King, Led Zeppelin, Herbie Mann, Nazz, Rotary Connection, Sam and Dave, Santana, John Sebastian, Shiva's Headband, Sly and the Family Stone, Space Opera, Spirit, Sweetwater, Ten Years After, Tony Joe White, and Johnny Winter.

William F. Buckley Jr.'s The Firing Line political talk show premieres on NET (National Educational Television, the predecessor to PBS, which will launch later in 1969).

Richard Nixon is inaugurated America's 37th president on January 20th; fulfilling a campaign promise, Nixon begins withdrawing U.S. troops from Vietnam later in the year but U.S.'s total withdrawal won't happen until 1973.

The final episode of the original Star Trek TV series airs in early June; Leonard Nimoy ("Spock") segues to the fall '69 season of Mission Impossible as master of disguise "Paris".

On July 20th, the lunar landing module of the Apollo 11 mission lands on the moon's surface, carrying Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin; the next day, Armstrong is the first earthling to step on lunar soil, iconically saying to the world "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" (he meant to say "That's one small step for a man..." but flubbed his pre-scripted line); Aldrin joins Armstrong on the lunar surface, noting that the sight is one of "magnificent desolation"; the Apollo 11 moon landing overshadows the November Apollo 12 mission, in which Charles Conrad Jr., Alan Bean, and Richard Gordon Jr. also set foot on the lunar surface.

Public Broadcasting System (PBS) replaces National Educational Television (NET) and launches Sesame Street.

Charles Manson and his "family" of followers murder actress Sharon Tate, supermarket empresario Leno LaBianca and his wife, and five others in the Hollywood hills and other Los Angeles locations.

Hurricane Camille ravages Cuba and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast, killing 259 people in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York, installs the first automated teller machine (ATM) in the U.S.

Notable losses in 1969: Judy Garland, Sharon Tate, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Boris Karloff, Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, and beat generation writer Jack Kerouac.

Among future celebrities born in 1969 are movie and TV stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, Jack Black, Peter Dinklage, Jason Bateman, Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Anniston, and Christian Slater; football star Brett Favre; rappers J-Zee, Ice Cube, and Sean Combs; and singers Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, and Bobby Brown.

Some of 1969's best and most popular

Best Picture of 1969 (Oscars®): Midnight Cowboy, the first and only X-rated film to win the top honor

Outstanding Drama Series for the 1968-'69 season (Emmys®): NET Playhouse, the first series outside the big-3 national commercial networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) to win top honors; NET (National Educational Television) is PBS' predecessor

Outstanding Comedy Series for the 1968-'69 season (Emmys®): Get Smart wins for the second consecutive season; the series, which lampoons the secret agent genre, is the creation of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry and stars Don Adams (who also wins the best actor Emmy for comedy series for the second year in a row) and Barbara Feldon

Outstanding Musical or Variety Series for the 1968-'69 season (Emmys®): Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, featuring an all-star ensemble cast including Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Henry Gibson, Goldie Hahn, Larry Hovis, Arte Johnson, Pigmeat Markham, Jo Anne Worley, and announcer Gary Owens

Top Hot 100 Single of the Year (Billboard Magazine): Sugar, Sugar • The Archies (a fictional band appearing in The Archie Show, a Saturday morning animated series based on the popular Archie comic books)

Record of the Year (Grammys®): Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In • The Fifth Dimension

Album of the Year (Grammys®): Blood, Sweat and Tears • Blood, Sweat and Tears

Best New Artist of the Year (Grammys®): Crosby, Stills and Nash

Best Song of the Year (Grammys®): Games People Play • written and recorded by Joe South

Best-Selling Books: The Godfather, Portnoy's Complaint, The Andromeda Strain, and Slaughterhouse Five top the fiction bestseller lists; The Peter Principle tops the non-fiction bestseller lists

Fashion trends: For women, denim jumpers, gingham shirtdresses, and dresses or skirts over pants become all the rage; for men, bell bottom trousers, cadet sweaters, brandy blazers, and turtleneck shirts are cool

Hottest new car introduced in 1969: Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Hottest toys: Hot Wheels and Matchbox miniature cars, Tyco train sets (which displace Lionel sets that are popular in the '50s and early '60s), walkie talkies, and Barbie and Ken doll sets

Favorite newborn boy's name: Michael, which took the top spot beginning in 1961, still holds it in 1969

Favorite newborn girl's name: Lisa holds the top spot for the third year running

Sonobeat in '69

Sonobeat releases four singles and makes its first album sale to a national label.

The singles (chronologically):
   Plymouth RockMemorandum b/w Just a Start
   James Polk and The BrothersStick-To-It-Tive-Ness b/w The Robot
   Vince MarianiPulsar b/w Boots
   Lee Arlano TrioSchool Daze b/w Meditation

The album: Johnny WinterThe Progressive Blues Experiment, produced by Sonobeat and released nationally on Liberty Records' Imperial label

Zilker Hillside Theater
The annual summer musical at Zilker Hillside Theater in 1969 is The Music Man
Dick Tracy
One of America's favorite comic strips in 1969
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid movie poster
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid is the biggest box office winner in 1969, taking in $102,308,889 in the U.S. (or $702,608,385 in 2019 dollars); this is a remarkable achievement, given that the film's production budget is only $6,000,000
1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Introduced in 1969, Pontiac's sleek and stylish Firebird Trans Am becomes America's favorite new car