Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jan Reid & Redneck Rock

The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock
By Jan Reid
Photos by Scott Nelson
New Edition-2004
400 pp., 77 b&w illus
University of Texas Press

I don't know how I missed this book when it was released back in 1974. As a student journalist, I was a Texas Monthly subscriber and a fan of Jan Reid's articles. I guess it was because I was still a college student at Southwest Texas State University and didn't enter bookstores unless it was to buy or sell back a textbook that I was required to read. It might have been that I was still a member of the music fan base that he was documenting in his book, so I was kind of living what he was writing about. Regardless, I really wasn't aware of this book until my son-in-law, Brad Knapp, loaned me a copy of the updated version that was released in 2004 (I was clueless as to that release also). So, I'm kinda catching up with what is definitely a must read for anyone hanging out anywhere near Central Texas during the late '60s through the '70s and witnessed the development of this musical history. It is also a must read for anyone with the least curiosity as to just what was going on back in the day.

The value of the book for me is the fact that as I read the chapters, in many cases, I could actually say, "Yeah, I was there that night!". Or, "Oh yeah, I still have that Willis Alan Ramsey record." Jan Reid has documented a good part of what I was doing during my leisure time--listening to some of the greatest musicians playing in our great state at the time. Of course, in many cases we had no clue of just how successful some of these folks would become, but when they did it was no surprise.

While reading Reid's book, it brought back long forgotten memories of venues such as the Soap Creek Saloon (where Doug Sahm held court), Rome Inn (where the T-Birds & Stevie Ray put it down), the Broken Spoke (where Asleep at the Wheel & Alvin Crow kicked it up), Luckenbach (where Jerry Jeff Walker hung his hat), the Armadillo World Headquarters (where I saw ZZTop play for $3) and many more. Even though San Marcos is not mentioned much in his book, venues such as the Nickle Keg Saloon, the Cheyenne Social Club and Cheatham Street Warehouse were on most of the artist's circuit route. So, when he mentions someone such as Rusty Weir, I can still see him doing his thing at the Nickle Keg almost on a weekly basis and Freda and the Firedogs (Marcia Ball) frequenting somewhere in the city at least monthly. So, I can relate to this book on a personal basis.

The real value for music fans are the plethora of interviews conducted by Reid back in the day. We get to know Michael Murphey (the original Cosmic Cowboy), Rusty Weir, Kinky Friedman, Kenneth Threadgill, Steve Fromholz, Willis Alan Ramsey, Jerry Jeff Walker, BW Stevenson and many, many more as they were in the early '70s when they were beginning to make some noise on the scene. Having witnessed that noise and reading these pages, I feel like I actually know these guys. Wonderful stuff.

The book is not just a reprint. Reid revised this edition by adding additional information to his original observations and including four additional chapters that pulls the story into the late '70s and beyond. Of particular interest to us blues fans is the Part Four section detailing the blues revival sparked by the Fabulous Thunderbirds with Kim Wilson/Jimmy Vaughan and the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble.

So, if you were there, then you have got to get your hands on a copy of this book and take a deja vu trip to back in the day. If you weren't there, then you owe it to yourself to discover a marvelous period in the history of Texas music. Thanks, Brad! Anyway--

I think you can order directly from this site:

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