Back in “the day,” I was a musician and hung out with a lot of musicians and other arty types. A lot of them had the mindset that it was noble to be poor. There was a fear Read the rest of this entry »
This is a blog post about my extended adolescence as a musician. If you’d like to HEAR some of my music, click HERE.
Last weekend, I (with a little help) cleaned out the garage.
I came upon a box of pictures, and spent a few nostalgic hours
reliving my past.
I started my Portable Empire business in 2004. From 1970
through 2005, I pursued the muse more or less professionally-
with various side-trips
as a waiter, accountaint, recording studio owner, liquor
store manager, real estate agent… but, no matter what I
was doing, I thought of myself as a musician, and spent
the weekends playing music somewhere.
I guess you could blame it on the beatles. Or the older
kids across the street. They had a garage band that
practiced- wait for it- in their parent’s garage. Right
across the street from my house.
Although I started taking piano lessons when I was 8,
I didn’t fall in love with the muse until I was ten or so.
For the next forty years, I chased that muse across three
continents and over a dozen countries.
Join me for a trip down memory lane to see just how
long you can actually extend an adolescent fantasy.
Well, maybe not you. You’re probably smarter than I am. Let’s examine how long I pulled it off.
playing a wedding at 17. I’d been playing bars
in East Texas- up and down Hwy 59, Wayside
Drive in Houston, Spencer Hwy in Pasadena,
for a couple’a years at this point.
slight detour- Laser Magic, the first laser
light-show in Texas. I was co-owner and
1978? Cactus Rose Band, Huntsville, Tx.
1970′s? Fire Creek Band, same club, different name.
In 3rd Coast Sound recording studio, 1980-ish, recording
“Queen of the Rodeo,” and “Louisiana Lady.” Those songs
were regional hits- i still get miniscule royalty checks for
them. Occasionally. Lots of radio play in places like Odessa,
Actually, there isn’t any place quite like Odessa, Texas.
Lots of airplay in regional markets that don’t report to
Recording Session at Wink Tyler’s studio. Over the years,
I played on hundreds of records- none of which you’ve
ever heard of.
I played with Hank Thompson on a flat-bed truck at a rodeo
in Snook, Texas.
He blew me off the stage- who knew he could actually play
With “Fools,” probably at the “Too Bitter” club in San Marcos, Tx.
Fools was managed by the same outlaw who managed ZZ Top,
and opened for Cheap Trick, Heart, ZZ Top, Climax Blues Band, etc.
Lots of miles. No money.
On stage at the Armadillo World Headquarters.
My favorite gig- the W.C. Clark Blues Review. Playing with
W.C. gave me the opportunity to play with a lot of my
heroes like Hubert Sumlin, the Fabulous T-Birds,
Stevie Ray Vaughn, and on and on.
We would play Antone’s on Thursday nights, and the
blues bands who were booked for the weekend would
come to town early to hang out with Clifford Antone.
They’d go into Clifford’s office, get high, and want to
jam. I wish I’d kept a record of who-all I jammed with
there… but, I spent a little time in that office, too.
This is at the Austin Opry House- we’re opening for BB King.
Booker T. Jones came out to see the WC Clark band at
the Back Stage club.
the WC Clark Blues Review.
In Houston, around 1990, at Pearl’s Cotton Club.
Playing a concert, somewhere in Houston.
Promo picture for my alter-ego, Sideways Sumlin.
Sideways has had a good career for a guy who doesn’t exist.
Google him. You’ll be amazed. I am.
I recorded one CD as Sideways Sumlin, called “Sideways
Sumlin’s Greatest Hits Volume 2.” It’s big in Japan.
1998ish. Promo pics for “Trains and Angels.” T & A was by
far my best and most popular CD. You can still find copies
on Amazon or eBay. Or eBay.de.
Recording “Trains and Angels.” That’s the late Stephen Bruton,
who was a joy to know. He’d played with Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, and many other stars.
Great player. Good guy.
David Grissom also contributed to “Trains and Angels.”
He’s played with everybody from John Cougar to the Dixie Chicks.
A class act and amazing guitar player.
Early 90′s. Gruene Hall.
This is what the last set looks like, folks.
On the radio in Monterrey, Mexico, with Andres Cantisani.
The radio station is at the University in Monterrey, which is
a modern, technologically advanced place. Blew my
BTW, Monterrey is very much a blues town.
There’s this little bar in the mountains outside Monterrey…
We were driving on a dirt road in a 4-wheel drive truck between the mountains
outside of Monterrey, and we saw this “Pepsi” sign. It marked
a little trail that led up a mountain.
Adult beverages were being consumed, so it made sense to
follow the trail, which led to the most unlikely beer-joint in
the galaxy. The guy who owned it (middle) played us old
Mexican folk songs. We played him some blues.
More adult beverages were consumed.
That night there was a full moon, and I stood on the
back bumper of the truck as we drove home through the
mountains, and that moon turned the mountains
bright silver. Gorgeous.
Monterrey- the barrio antigua. There is no roof… playing under
Cibilo Creek Country Club.
“Stau.” That means “traffic jam.”
The autobahn in Germany is a hiway where you can
drive real fast. Sometimes. It’s also a hiway where
you can spend hours not going anywhere at all.
On the way to a gig in Germany.
3,000+ happy people at the Zweibelmarkt Fest in Weimar.
This is my drummer’s bathroom.
Old East German phone booth.
German reviews. They tell me they’re good ones.
During this period of time, I was on the road a lot.
Made no money at all, but got to see the world. Recommended.
Germany, Austria, England, Scotland, Holland,
This is London. England was pretty rough on me.
After the tour, I was robbed. The “herberts nicked
my gear.” I lost 2 guitars, my passport, and all the
money from the tour.
It was an inside job. I know who did it.
Looking forward to talking to him soon.
Promo pic- Germany. Who is that guy?
Taking the blues to Germany.
The Fabrik club. Always a good time.
Outdoor show- Germany.
Playing the Zweibelmarkt Festival, in Weimar, Germany. Very historic. Goethe, Schiller, etc.
Hamming it up at Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin.
My posters on the street in Berlin.
“Unplugged” at a local bar.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
Thanks for playing.
Stay tuned for Niches 101!
FREE VIDEO: Dr. Joe Vitale explains- finally- what he means when he says “clearing.” Click HERE.
It’s the calm before the storm. 10 days until UnSeminar6.
Saturday, I joined the rest of the “Pluckin’ Idiots” for an outdoor show at historic Luckenbach, Texas.
If you’re of an age, you remember the song: “let’s go to luckenbach, texas, with Willie and Waylon and the boys…”
Luckenbach is still there. Willie and Waylon and the boys were conspicuous in their absence.
Of course, one of the joys of having a Portable Empire is the luxury of setting your own schedule. I don’t have to play music anymore. I CAN play music any time I like.
Now, it’s an opportunity to get together with some friends, entertain some people, and have a no-stress musical experience.
Luckenbach is special. The first time I went there was in the 70′s. Hondo Crouch was living there, and there was no dance hall. No tourists. Just a little shack with a wood-burning stove, and a little old gray-haired guy with a cackling laugh and a tub of beer.
My bass-playing buddy, Dave, and I piled into his Ford Pinto and drove over to Luckenbach from Kerrville, just to see what was going on.
When we got there. Hondo was there, feeding wood into the stove. And Jerry Jeff Walker was there. They had been at it a while. Dave and I started chugging beer- just to get in the same time zone as Hondo and Jerry Jeff. They were definitely amphibious, and they weren’t slowing down.
Dave had his mandolin, I had a guitar, Jerry Jeff had his guitar, and Hondo had his cackle. Tunes were sung. Jokes were told. It was magic.
It was also about 30 years ago.
Today, Luckenbach is a major tourist destination. There is a large dance-hall. An out-door stage. You can find pickin’ and grinnin’ most any day of the week, and on the weekends- especially this time of year- there will be more guitar-playing guys and gals with cowboy hats and grins than you can shake a stick at.
Well, talk about a brand. Hondo is long gone, and I have no idea who “owns” Luckenbach- but they provide the shade-trees and sell the beer. The musicians- for the most part- play for free. The crowds come from all over Texas- and all over the world- to experience the laid-back hippie/cowboy vibe.
You say: “Luckenbach,” and anybody from this part of the world knows exactly what you mean. Big oak trees, no adult supervision, a gorgeous little river that runs behind the stage with a scenic wooden bridge that leads to more private locations. Guitar music and beer.
What can you do to make your “brand” that immediately recognizable?