Real and unreal stories of Austin and Texas singers, songwriters, and musicians (and some other stuff, too)
1968: the year that everything changed...
Let's quickly catalog some of the nation-shaking events of 1968 that former Newsweek and New York Times journalist Charles Kaiser relives – with the white wash of history, uh, washed off – in his 1988 book Nineteen Sixty-Eight in America: Music, Politics, Chaos, Counterculture, and the Shaping of a Generation: the war-changing Tet Offensive in Vietnam; the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy; the shocking Broadway musical Hair; and genre-bending albums from The Mothers of Invention, Simon & Garfunkle, the Byrds, the Beatles (with their eponymous "white" album), Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Band, and the Rolling Stones.
No, this isn't an Austin or Central Texas music-themed book, like most that we showcase here.
Yes, this is a living lesson in the upheaval of American culture: it's one that those of us who lived through the '60s should revisit for a reality check and one that those who are too young to remember the era will find unsettlingly relevant today. Chapters reflect their 1968 song-inspired titles and speak poignantly to significant passages of the year: Blowin' In The Wind, This Wheel's On Fire, and The Long And Winding Road, for example.
Originally published 1988 and reissued 2012 by Grove Press
Just shake your head “yes” if you're into vinyl...
Sonobeat's legacy exists largely because of passionate vinyl record collectors around the world who decided Sonobeat's stereo singles are worth chasing down. Fewer than 1,500 copies of each Sonobeat single were released, so there are precious few for collectors to, um, collect. Those singles document the diverse 1960s and '70s Austin music scene, years before Austin City Limits and South By Southwest. Although vinyl records began to disappear with the advent of compact discs and digital downloads, today vinyl is experiencing a renaissance, attracting new collectors and new releases.
If you're just starting to collect vinyl or want to enhance your analog music listening experience, here's a truly timely book, Jenna Miles' The Beginner's Guide to Vinyl. Jenna covers how vinyl records are manufactured, the terminology of vinyl, selecting and buying a turntable, and cleaning and caring for the precious vinyl singles and albums in your collection.
Whether you're into collecting Sonobeat vinyl releases or into a broad cross-section of classic used vinyl or new vinyl releases, we think you'll find Jenna's book a wealth of practical information that will enhance your experience.
Published 2017 by Adams Media
Oh, yes. We’re totally biased. Unabashedly biased.
In 2012, University of Texas undergrad Ricky Stein began writing his senior thesis in American Studies, focusing on a small Austin-based record company that made a wave or two in the late 60s and early 70s. We gave Ricky unfettered access to use Sonobeat.com as a resource and answered his questions about Sonobeat and the artists Sonobeat recorded, but his thesis was distinctly his independent and well-researched take on the Austin music scene during a critically formative period in its history. In 2013, Ricky turned his thesis into a full-length book that was published in January 2014.
Sonobeat Records: Pioneering the Austin Sound in the '60s ostensibly is a profile of Sonobeat Recording Company and its founders. But, like Sonobeat.com itself, that's just a cover for the real stories of Austin music during the '60s: those of the singers, songwriters, and musicians who populated a thriving university town and who built a laid-back, non-corporate music capital that spawned the progressive country movement of the 1970s, Austin City Limits, SXSW, and a rich and diverse night life.
Yep, we're proud of the Sonobeat story Ricky tells, but he properly paints it as a much, much bigger picture than Sonobeat itself.
Published 2014 by History Press
This Austin tale reads like a novel.
Oh, wait, it is a novel.
Barbara Light Lacy, co-author of 19th and University (2012), the first book in a quintet that's about to conclude, has a connection to Sonobeat. While an undergrad at The University of Texas, Barb befriended California band Wildfire, who had trekked to Austin for a one-shot gig... and stayed. Sonobeat recorded a demo album for the band in 1971 and 34 years later, using tape dubs she'd been carrying around all that time, Barb remastered and released the album under the title Smokin’.
Barb lived the Austin music scene during the ‘60s, so a series of historical novels set then and there was a natural for her. The Austintatious cycle follows the story of five Baby Boomers, drawn to Austin for different reasons, who live together in a house at 19th and University (a real intersection a couple of blocks off The University of Texas campus) and who, ultimately, forming a band.
Rebel Yell (2013) is the second book in the series, Maya Karma (2016) is the third, and the finale, Austintatious, is due out sometime in 2018.
19th and University is a fun, more-or-less historically accurate romp through the Austin that existed in 1968.
Published 2012-2016 by Rising Times Books
Armadillos and Austin are, somehow, synonymous.
Eventually someone would write a definitive history of one of Austin's most storied music venues of the early 1970s. Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir is that story, easily recognized if you were part of Austin's exploding music scene during the late '60s and early '70s. Armadillo co-founder Eddie Wilson (who managed psych rockers Shiva's Headband) and Austin '70s and '80s music icon Jesse Sublett (who Sonobeat recorded when he played bass in Austin’s proto-punk Nasty Habit) bring the 'Dillo to life, offering up lots of great pictures and posters to illuminate a rainbow-drenched Austin epoch.
Dedicated to Austin music photographer laureate Burton Wilson, who snapped incredible candids of solo artists and bands during the entire run of the Armadillo, this is a must-read, must-see for Austin music historians and aficionados alike.
It didn't all start with the Armadillo (its predecessor, Vulcan Gas Company, launched Austin's hippie music scene in the late '60s), but the Armadillo took Austin the extra mile it needed to become the Live Music Capital of the World. The Armadillo is a testament to what you can do with an abandoned National Guard armory and a lot of imagination.
Published 2017 by University of Texas Press
Did Shakespeare say “The first thing we do is kill all the critics”?
While we're on the subjet of Jesse Sublett (see the previous book entry), we should note he's a seminal Austin rocker, a bass player in the band Nasty Habit that Sonobeat recorded in 1975. Jesse's also a bona fide renaissance man.
In 1978 Jesse formed the Skunks, an Austin protopunk band, then later played with the Violators. Since then, he’s become an Austin icon, as a punk/New Wave influencer, coiner of the moniker “New Sincerity“ to describe an alt music movement in Austin (you can look that one up yourself), and as a best-selling author of fiction, non-fiction, and TV documentaries.
Rock Critic Murders, published in 1987, was Jesse’s first novel and introduced the character of Martin Fender (yes, yes, we get it), a bass player and part-time amateur sleuth, in a mystery-thriller set in Austin. Fender returns in two more novels, Tough Baby, also set in Austin, and Boiled in Concrete, set in Los Angeles.
In his true-life crime story Never the Same Again: A Rock ’N’ Roll Gothic, Jesse documented his girlfriend’s gruesome murder. Jesse was the prime suspect in her murder and while in custody solved the crime and absolved himself.
Published 1987 by Viking Press
Wonder where psychedelic music came from? Um, Texas.
Although there have been hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles about the 13th Floor Elevators, Austin's legendary psychedelic band, only Paul Drummond’s 2007 biography of Roky Erickson and the band tells the authoritative story. Of course, there's more to tell since the book's release, so an update is forthcoming.
Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, the Pioneers of Psychedelic Sound is as good a narrative history of any musician or band as you'll ever get. This is a true story that reads like a thriller, complete with heroes and villains, innocence and disgrace, twists and turns. Drummond served as the official Elevators archivist with unprecedented access to every living former member of the band. He thoroughly documents how the Elevators as a band came to be the cult phenomenon that it is and how its individual members came to be who they were and are. Surprises at every turn, including Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr.'s appearance as a character witness on behalf of Roky at his 1966 drug bust trial.
Disclaimer: Paul Drummond has been a friend of Sonobeat since we launched SonobeatRecords.com in 2004.
Published 2007 by Process Media
If you’re still wondering where psychedelic music came from...
Brit journalist, music critic, and poet Ben Graham documents the psychedelic music scene that began in Texas in the mid-1960s. With the meticulous research we associate with Paul Drummond's Elevators biography, Eye Mind, Graham threads through a defining era in Texas music, one in which a developing and rebellious hippie culture, a newfound freedom of expression on and around Texas college campuses – especially on the University of Texas at Austin campus – and an abundance of drugs fuel wildly experimental musical off-shoots of traditional rock.
While A Gathering of Promises – borrowing its title from the album by San Antonio's Bubble Puppy – holds up Austin's 13th Floor Elevators as the psychedelic gold standard, Graham's canvas is much broader, portraiting a generation of Texas bands – most based in Central and South Texas – who, beginning in 1966, birthed a musical metamorphosis that continues to this day.
Sonobeat recording artists Conqueroo, Shiva's Headband, the Thingies, and the Bill Miller Group, whose album, Cold Sun, was produced by Sonobeat in 1970 and '71 and has become a cult classic, all make appearances in this story.
Published 2015 by Zero Books
An Elevator's one-way descent to the sub-basement.
42 years ago, Roy Waidler hears the 13th Floor Elevators on his car radio. Hooked, he tracks down and connects with the band members, in Texas, from his home on the east coast, making long-distance friendships with Elevators guitarist Stacy Sutherland and Stacy's wife Bunni and mother Sibyl. Roy keeps letters from them in a box, intending to eventually write a bio of the band. After Bunni shoots Stacy dead in 1978 during a domestic dispute, Roy notches up his correspondence with Bunni and Sibyl, adding to his collection family photos they share with him. But when Roy divorces a few years later, his box of letters and photos disappears.
By the time Roy rediscovers the box in 2014, he's lost interest in writing the story of Stacy and the Elevators and sends the letters and photos to Vicki Ayo, who's already written books on ‘60s and ‘70s Texas bands (Boys From Houston and Boys From Houston II).
In Stacy Sutherland: Down The Rabbit Hole, Vicki interweaves interviews she collects from Stacy's friends and family with Roy's correspondence, punctuated with rare photos, and in so doing reveals the tragic descent of a remarkable person destroyed by drugs and alcohol.
Published 2015 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Quintessential weird: Austin music posters of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s
Gilbert Shelton, Jim Franklin, Kerry Awn, Micael Priest, Guy Juke, Ken Featherston, Danny Garrett, and NOXX. You've likely seen their mindbending posters if you've ever wandered through the Austin music scene. We had the pleasure of working with Gilbert Shelton and Jim Franklin, who created artwork for Sonobeat's Conqueroo single and Lee Arlano Trio album releases in the late '60s, and whose art defined Vulcan Gas Company and Armadillo World Headquarters.
Homegrown: Austin Music Posters 1967 to 1982 traces four generations of music – from psychedelic to punk – using the works of celebrated Austin artists to visually narrate a seminal 15 year span in the development of Texas music and pop-culture.
"From mind-melting psychedelia and surreal treatments of Texas iconography to inventive interpretations of rock and roll, western swing, and punk, this book offers the definitive, long-overdue survey of music poster art by legendary Texas artists." – University of Texas Press description
"A sprawling illustrated monument to Austin music and culture." – PopMatters
Published 2015 by University of Texas Press
Odd things learned from unconventional journalists...
We're not quite sure what to make of Glenn Jones. Our introduction to this Austin underground journalist was My Gone Austin, published posthumously in 2015, a stream-of-consiousness memoir covering Glenn's life in Austin from his arrival as a teen in 1965 through the last days of his battle with brain cancer. Equally enthralled and perplexed by Glenn's evocative portrait of life in Austin, we decided to try his earlier work, Clippings Book: The Rag—The Austin Sun—The Daily Texan—Rumors, Gossip, Lies & Dreams • 1966-1978 Austin, Texas • Music—Journalism—Adventures. That's a mouthful.
We can't decribe Glenn and Clippings Book better than the promotional blurb on the book's back cover: "Jones meandered a Sixties route through diverse adventure -- including writing for the radical consciousness of The Rag, the music development documented in 'Local Roots' at The Daily Texan, and The Sun's coverage of emerging musicians".
A renaissance man, Glenn was a reporter, writer, musician, artist, and folklorist, taking his BA and MA in Anthropology at The University of Texas and his PhD at Indiana University Bloomington. We really love Glenn's poignant but weird books.
Published 2013 by Lulu.com
Where the dusty road, that Sonobeat helped pave, leads...
For our money, Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin’s Progressive Country Music Scene is the definitive (albeit scholarly) history of the progressive country movement, with Austin music icon Michael Martin Murphey as its fulcrum. Though less famous than Willie and Waylon, it was Murphey who coined the term "cosmic cowboy", using it in the title of both a legendary album and legendary song.
Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks examines the figures and attitudes that helped create the scene that begat Outlaw Country and "breaks down five aspects of what became known as Progressive Country: the Pastoral imagery, cultural conflict, live recordings, the revival of Western Swing, and Music festivals." – Music Tomes, August 29, 2012
"Stimeling has done an outstanding job of exploring the social, cultural, and political implications of this important yet often misunderstood musical phenomenon. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the rich, complex, and colorful history of American music." – Dr. Gary Hartman, Director, Center for Texas Music History, Texas State University-San Marcos