A Smoke and a Cheap Guitar
Earlier this week we roamed over to Luckenbach to soak up a little of that Texas mystique, and I thought while we’re in the neighborhood we oughta just keep goin’ about the good old days. Well, as I said, back in the 1970s Texas became the epicenter of something called the outlaw country music movement. It kinda started around 1972, right about the time Willie Nelson’s Nashville home burned down and he moved back to Austin. Later that year Nelson held his first Fourth of July festival at Dripping Springs – featuring Waylon Jennings, Tompall Glaser, Kris Kristofferson and Leon Russell – and that sort of kicked off the whole shebang.
You’d hit the usual hangouts, like the Armadillo World Headquarters and Soap Creek Saloon, and you’d see musicians sipping their beer from longneck bottles and longhairs and rednecks co-inhabiting peacefully. The music could turn a redneck into a “cosmic cowboy,” and hippies became “redneck rockers.” Michael (not yet Martin) Murphey wrote the movement’s unofficial anthem with “Cosmic Cowboy,” off his Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir album. Willis Alan Ramsey cut his one eponymous album on Leon Russell’s Shelter label in 1972 then he dropped off the face of the earth. Jerry Jeff Walker walked onstage at Castle Creek in his boxer shorts, and Gove Scrivenor played the harmonica and the autoharp and did a solo with his foot (stomping percussion). Over in Houston, Townes Van Zandt played in places like Anderson Fair and the Texas Opry House, commuting from the dilapidated trailer where he lived in Austin, while Guy Clark gave voice to his great songs.
Yeah, good times. By the late 1970s Texas would be crowded with great singer/songwriters, from Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore to Shake Russell and Jack Saunders. Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen would come along in the 1980s and this Texas sound would be set in stone. There’s still nothing like being outside on a warm Austin night, wrapping your fingers around a cold longneck and listening to someone pluck a guitar and sing. I said it before, Austin never really got over the 1970s; going there is like taking a trip back in time. Texas music is the same way, it still has that mixture of country, folk, rock and blues. As Longhorn coaching legend Darrell Royal used to say: “Dance with the one that brung you.” Down here, they do that every night.