And we all shine on

March 8, 2020

Last night I attended the 22nd annual Townes Van Zandt Memorial Tribute in Austin, Texas

I knew Townes back in the middle-hippie ages in Austin. He was one of the persons who gravitated repeatedly to Uncle Seymour Washington’s home in the Clarksville section of Austin in the 70’s. read more here.

Another legendary Austin musician Butch Hancock was the host of this intimate event of just over 100 folks.

I sat next to two fellas in their 30’s (?) from Alberta, Canada. They had come all the way to Austin, in spite of the scary Coronavirus, to hear more of Townes’ music in one of the cities he regularly played. My brother and I proceeded to give them anecdotes and sidebars regarding Townes and other shenanigans in the Vulcan Gas Company/Armadillo days. I swear those two beautiful Canadians said they were “pleased and honored to have met us.”

The rest of the story is another old love of mine was one of the story-telling singers. Wally Stopher aka Oat Willie surprised me. This post is dedicated to him:

Dear friend, I saw you last night, and you saw me. But it seems we didn’t recognize each other. I was there with my brother for Townes’ tribute. I heard you sing for the first time in 40+ years. God dang! We’re still alive and well. Much love to you and many memories.

Then on the way home I heard John Lennon with some apropos lyrics

Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead
What in the world you thinking of
Laughing in the face of love
What on earth you tryin’ to do
It’s up to you, yeah you

 


Surely, Duane Allman Sitteth at the Right Hand of Eric Clapton.

September 1, 2010

The other day, I selected my well-worn “Allman Brothers Greatest Hits” CD for my ride into work.  This disc resides permanently in my car’s player alongside rotating Joe Ely, Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton to name a few.  Even though I have probably listened to the songs on this album (yes, it’s OK to still say “album”) a thousand times; each time I fall in love all over again.

The Allman Brothers Band music is a Southern-blues/rock fest, with sweet guitar melodies, and a beat you can dance to.  As Duane Allman and Dickey Betts work their guitar strings in heavenly harmony and Greg Allman sings to the pounding piano, I’m dancing in my seat.  Dickey Betts is considered “one of the most influential electric guitarists of all time.”  Duane Allman, a guitar deity, played with Eric Clapton and many other rhythm and blues artists before his too-soon death in a motorcycle accident.  I often wonder what marvelous works of guitar art he would have continued creating had he lived.

I remember the first time I heard “Blue Sky.”  I was half-asleep in my boyfriend’s bamboo surrounded house.  Young and free, content in love, I absorbed and indelibly imprinted on my heart what is probably the most beautiful piece of electric guitar harmony ever.  “You’re my blue sky, you’re my sunny day.  Lord, you make me high when you turn your love my way.”  “Blue Sky” is soulfully joyous; an electric guitar masterpiece; almost magical in its perfection.  It gives me goosebumps and brings me to tears.  And, I believe as this anonymous comment on a fan page states, “I think he (Dickey) wrote it for God.”

I’ve asked my family members to play “Blue Sky” at my funeral; hoping I have many more years to listen to it “live.”  Check out the Allman Brothers  if you have not before–satisfaction guaranteed.

P.S.  I just downloaded “Blue Sky” for my phone’s ringtone!!!


Race Relations

July 16, 2010
Uncle Seymour Washington-The Walking Blacksmith

Uncle Seymour Washington-The Walking Blacksmith

Updated December 29, 2016: Found two old pictures, one of Townes and Rex, and one of me and my baby son Jack Berry at Unk’s place. 

The other day, I was wondering just what constitutes “family” anymore? It seems that in one or two short generations, the definition of family changed from a mom, a dad, and 2.2 kids to include ex-husbands, your kids, his or her kids and your kids together. Does a relative have to be blood or marriage related? Last Thanksgiving, I had dinner with my sister’s ex-husband’s daughter from his first marriage and her children. Can’t that be family, too? And now, on June 26, 2015, I add a family of two dads or two moms to the possibilities.

This post is a very late tribute to Uncle Seymour Washington, affectionately called Unk. No, not my “real” uncle, but a treasure of a man who adopted, like family, a whole lot of folks in Austin during a time in the late 60’s-mid 70’s.

A retired blacksmith, Unk had worked on many ranches in South Texas including the famous King Ranch. He was a simple but wise, peaceful, Christian man who opened his front yard and home to a motley crew of people–hippies, musicians, elderly neighbors, and more. I’m not sure how it all started. I am sure he did not understand many of us, but accepted us into his life and his heart with kindness and some of the best smoked chicken and sausage I ever ate.

Unk came by his home in the Clarksville area of Austin, just off West Lynn, by way of his ancestors. Clarksville was land originally deeded to freed plantation slaves after the Civil War. Most of the people who lived there were actually descendants of those slaves. The streets were unpaved and many did not have indoor plumbing.

townes-and-me0001-2Unk’s front yard consisted of a few wooden benches under a tree, a big wash tub for icing down the beer, a really big Bar-B-Q smoker, and an outhouse. There was frequently something cooking, guitars playing, kids chasing each other and the dogs–we were all feeling the love. Unk would hang out with us until he got tired or it just got too rowdy and then he would go in his little house and take a nap. His neighbors didn’t know what to think about all these white kids hanging around, but they finally warmed up and joined the gatherings when they saw we were helping take care of Unk.

townes-and-me0001-3

Townes Van Zandt & Rex Bell

Besides musicians like Joe Ely and Jessie “Guitar” Taylor, Townes Van Zandt always came by when he was playing in or around Austin. Heartworn Highways, a music documentary, includes the late, great Townes sitting in the Uncle Seymour’s kitchen singing “Waitin’ Around to Die” tears running down Unk‘s face.

When Unk passed, his “adopted” family, along with his one nephew, packed the Sweet Home Baptist Church for his funeral.

So, what is family? I like to think it is the human family, but, I am not sure we have all caught on to that yet. I miss Unk, I miss those days; but as humans, we keep on creating our own unique family relations. How’s yours?

If you were a friend of Unk’s, please leave a comment.

Also read my blog post “And we all shine on” about a March 2020 Townes Van Zandt Tribute in Austin. Flashbacks and fun.