Real and unreal stories of Austin and Texas singers, songwriters, and musicians (and some other stuff, too)
1969: The Year Everything Changed... a lot
There are seminal years in modern world history, but 1969 is a particularly watershed year. A catalog of monumental moments includes the trial of Bobby Kennedy's killer Sirhan Sirhan, Led Zepplin's first album, the Beatles' rooftop concert, the Boeing 747's maiden voyage, the inauguration of Richard Nixon and death of former president Dwight Eisenhower, the first manned moon landing, student protests and strikes at Cornell University and Harvard, the first heart transplant, the shock of Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider on the big screen, Hurricane Camille wrecking the Mississippi coast, the Newport Pop Festival and Woodstock, the Manson family murder spree in LA, and on and on...
Dividing his account of the episodes shaping America in 1969: The Year Everything Changed into the four seasons, literary agent and editor Ron Kirkpatrick connects the dots among seemingly disparate people and events. Beginning with Winter's Children and continuing through Autumn Apocolypse, the story of America in cultural, social, and political upheaval unwinds in a vivid tapestry.
Kudos to Kirkpatrick for undertaking a massive account of a year littered with unforgettable "happenings".
New edition published 2019 by Skyhorse Publishing
“I want to go home with the Armadillo.” Yep, I sure do.
From 1967 to 1969, Sonobeat recorded a lot of its single releases, as well as dozens of unreleased material, at Austin's first hippie dance hall, The Vulcan Gas Company. But when the Vulcan closed in 1970, some of its original founders built an even sturdier successor: Austin's Armadillo World Headquarters, now an Austin legend. Given the title of Gary P. Nunn's book, it would be fair to assume it's the story of the Armadillo. But it's really a love story about the Austin music scene that Gary (who Sonobeat recorded in Austin rock bands Genesee and Georgetown Medical Band) lived and breathed during the '60s and '70s, when he and his buddies booted up Austin's "Cosmic Cowboy" music scene.
Gary, a founding father of the progressive country movement that made Austin world famous, notably wrote London Homesick Blues, the theme song for America's longest running music-based TV show, Austin City Limits. It's from Gary's unique perspective as a senior ambassador for Austin's music community that he can cast authoritative light on how the Capital City morphed into the "Live Music Capital of the World".
This is the Austin music story you've been looking for.
Published 2018 by Geenleaf Book Group
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 SonobeatRecords.com as a resource and answered his questions about Sonobeat and the artists we recorded, but his thesis is 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 published in 2014.
Sonobeat Records: Pioneering the Austin Sound in the '60s ostensibly is a profile of Sonobeat Recording Company and its founders. But, like SonobeatRecords.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 quartet that concludes with Austintatious, has a connection to Sonobeat. While an undergrad at The University of Texas, Barb befriends California band Wildfire, who've trekked to Austin for a one-shot gig... and stay. Sonobeat recorded a demo album for the band late in '70 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 quartet 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, form a band.
Austintacious, published in April 2018, closes out the cycle that also includes Rebel Yell (2013) and Maya Karma (2016).
The Austintacious quartet of novels are a blast, each a more-or-less historically accurate romp through the Austin that existed in the late '60s.
Published 2012-2018 by Amazon Digital Services
Armadillos and Austin are, somehow, synonymous.
Eventually someone would write a definitive history of one of Austin's most storied music venues of the 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, The 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 subject of Jesse Sublett (see the previous book), we should note he's a seminal Austin rocker, bass player in the band Nasty Habit that Sonobeat recorded in 1975, and a bona fide renaissance man.
In 1978 Jesse formed the Skunks, an Austin proto-punk 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 in the works.
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 Erickson 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 campus – and an abundance of drugs fuel wildly experimental musical off-shoots from 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 The Conqueroo, Shiva's Headband, The Thingies, and 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.
Fifty 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 The 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 these 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 progressive country, 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. Turns out "Cosmic Cowboy" best describes the Austin-forged progressive country scene.
Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks examines the figures and attitudes that spawned the outlaw country movement 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