Of all the vaunted singer-songwriters who serenaded the Lone Star State with a rock-tinged country-and-folk sound when Austin was putting down its Live-Music-Capital-of-the-World roots in the 1970s, it is Jerry Jeff Walker who perhaps best wears the mantel of troubadour. Part Jack Kerouac, part Woody Guthrie, and part French Quarter busker, he is a music-poet in the truest sense. Even though he performs less frequently these days, Jerry Jeff still tells stories and sings songs that interpret the human condition with insight and soul. He reminds us why life is worth living.
Austin may tout itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” but San Antonio is undeniably the “Ukulele Capital of Texas”—and at no time is this more evident than in April, during the annual Texas Uke Fest. The three-day event is one of several national festivals (and the only one in Texas) that celebrates the diminutive instrument. Each year, about 150 people travel to Lions Field recreation center near Brackenridge Park to sign up for a busy schedule of ukulele workshops and performances. Having recently inherited a ukulele, I decided to join their ranks.
That special tone produced by vibrations racing across oak floors, encouraging toe-tapping and two-stepping. The social intimacy of seats pulled up around a stage like an electrically warmed campfire. The taste of cool refreshments and the low murmur of conversation that complement topnotch musical artists performing in an intimate room. Famously, Austin and environs are home to more than 150 choices for live music. Not all are packed along Sixth Street or in the nearby Warehouse or Red River districts. In fact, many of the finest are far away from the party din of downtown streets.
The phrase “Texas music” evokes myriad images: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Buddy Holly, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Bob Wills and Willie Nelson, Freddie Fender and Selena—but Leopold Stokowski, best known to Americans as the conductor in Walt Disney’s Fantasia?
Texans of every age still belt out “Beautiful Texas,” the ’30s-vintage song written by the Light Crust Doughboys’ colorful sponsor, former Governor W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel. And “San Antonio Rose,” penned by the first Doughboy, the renowned Bob Wills, remains in many a shower tenor’s repertoire. But, to the longest playing Western Swing band anywhere, these two classics are simply two brushstrokes on the Doughboys’ seven-decade mural of Texas music.