An Organic History of Austin Music

Here I am catching the house photographer snapping a photo of crowd at rare assignment in Dallas at the Granada Theater

Introduction

When I began writing about live music in Austin four years ago, my goal was to implement was I was learning about content marketing and social business into promoting content of value to my readers. I simply needed a vehicle to test all the new tools and strategy of social media.  I did not envision a book evolving from this exercise. In fact, after reading several Austin music blogs, I was convinced it was unlikely I would attract much attention with my work. A few writers stood out to me. It was their particular style that attracted my attention. If anything is true about Austin, it is that people here project authentic, charismatic, sometimes eccentric traits that Austin encourages. Writers here are the same. Tolly Mosely is charming and witty. Zack Teibloom is both insightful and extremely funny. Richard Gonzales is so prolific, I was convinced his blog was manned by a team of writers. How would I get ANYONE to notice what I was writing? These people wrote well and had large audiences. Who would care about another music blogger?

My plan was to write at least one post a week for a national news site, Examiner.com.  279 posts later, this has become "my secret" to building an audience - publishing regularly. It helps that my content is of value to my audience. I write about Austin bands folks may not have heard of. Weekly previews of upcoming shows soon became a staple of my work. Soon, folks began asking me what was happening over the coming weekend. What should they go see? You can imagine my surprise. I had begun building an interested, participatory audience.

As I met various industry folks, musicians and fans, stories about how Austin came to be the "Live Music Capital of the World" slowly revealed themselves. Folks spoke of legendary venues, Liberty Lunch, The Armadillo World Headquarters and Antone's Nightclub. Only Antone's remains, but the spirit of Austin music has persisted. The folks influencing the live music scene in the Crescent City have evolved from people like, Clifford Antone and Eddie Wilson to Louis Black and Charles Attal. I met a man running for judge whose band once won the city's Battle of the Bands in the early 1950s. I saw Mark McKinnon who now runs a powerful international public relations firm in town, speak of attending the University of Texas with Louis Black who helped build The Austin Chronicle and South by Southwest Film, Music and Interactive Festival (SXSW) into Central Texas juggernauts. I saw Clifford Antone "working"as a host at Guero's Restaurant to satisfy a court-ordered, part-time employment requirement after being released from prison. I began to wonder how all these stories fit together.

A narrative began to emerge of how a small, liberal college town in the middle of a conservative agrarian state, became a center for musicians, artists, filmmakers, actors, painters and craftsmen. The tradition began with German-born artist, Elizabet Ney who established Austin as a cultural center of Texas in the late 1800's building a studio called Formosa in the Hyde Park neighborhood. History prompts one to ask, why Austin attracts creative elements? In a rough, Western state known for a volatile history, why did Central Texas draw such people to it? How does that tradition still exist now? What is so unique about Austin that this collage of different forms of artists have gathered here?

This book will attempt to answer those questions and weave a history of present day artists' endeavors together with the rich history of Central Texas' artists of the past. Hopefully this narrative will be compelling and contain anecdotes, interviews, sound bites and even video links that help give you, kind reader, a clear picture of Austin's music past and a vision of what the future holds for the Texas town that has grown into an international destination for musicians and music fans around the world.

In the comment section below, share your own knowledge of Austin's musical history and offer suggestions on what is compelling to you as a music fan and reader. Who do you consider a player in Austin music and why? Offer your own theory of why Austin attracts artists. This blog/book will serve as a destination to talk about these and related issues surrounding the local music scene.

So... welcome, kind reader. Write a comment below, share this page with your music-loving friends, offer constructive advice, subscribe to this blog as I will be publishing chapters periodically. Help me determine the true history and nature of the music scene in this great city of Austin, Texas.

Cheers,
Greg

P.S. Follow me on social media and chat with me about the book. On Twitter use the hash: #AustinMusicbook. http://about.me/gregackerman