Memphis. I love it and I hate it,” said our driver as he took us into a part of town tourists never see. Three years ago at Folk Alliance we signed up for the outreach program to play a set at wherever they wanted us to – a school, old folks home, hospital, whatever. We played at a homeless veterans’ shelter. These guys weren’t sure what to think of us, two white cowboy looking dudes. But I guess attendance was mandatory to listen to us. Let’s say they did not appear enthusiastic about the entertainment they were expecting. We started with “Every Day I Have The Blues” and everything changed. We were okay. We spoke their language. Man, I’m really missing being at Folk Alliance this year. Lefsetz writing about it, well, it’s making me sorry we didn’t go this year. Sure, it’s a total clusterfuck. Sure, you’re playing your showcases in one of the “lesser” rooms at 2:10am, and everybody just left because the guy before you has a bigger following even though he’s one of a crap-ton of Sensitive Singer Songwriters at the conference, and nobody knows who the hell you are, and you know you don’t really fit in here in any way shape or form, you’re a 55 year old West Texas country boy by way of Austin and your pickin’ buddy is even older and looks like he’s not feeling very well, but goddammit if your shit that sounds like Bill Monroe playing a duet with Slim Harpo isn’t folk music then what the fuck is, and you’re starting your songs, trying to “get it up again” even though you’ve played this goddamn song 5 times, or is it 6, already today, and there’s nobody, literally, in the room. But you’ve only got 20 minutes and you’ve got to be spectacular, people or not. Maybe somebody comes in, maybe they don’t. It doesn’t matter. You’re there, you’re putting yourself out there, giving it your all, hoping that someone hears you and then maybe says some good things about you to someone else, or maybe they write something about you on a blog that a gazillion people read. Or hell, maybe some pretty girl will flirt with you, like that ever happens, they’re all looking for Ben fucking Kweller or someone who is definitely not a portly 55 year old West Texas country boy. But yeah, you’re playing your songs, you’re having fun, and people start digging it because you don’t fit and and aren’t yet another Sensitive Singer Songwriter, and the blues are fucking cool even if they are been played by a couple of old West Texas farts who on any other night of the year would be sound asleep, and the blues are especially right and proper here in this town at this hour. Yeah, I miss it.
Esteban Jordan passed away last week from liver cancer. There was nobody like him. I first heard Steve Jordan on Horizontes on KUT back in the early 1980s. They played “El Kranke” – a long repetitious tune that likely had it’s own specific dance steps. It wasn’t like anything I’d heard so I started listening to more. I bought albums. Some stuff was a little out there, likely fueled by El Polvito. Here’s a nice NPR piece on Esteban, done about a year ago: When we did the Harvest Moon & Tunes Festival in Fort Davis I wanted to get Esteban to come play, but he was not available. I don’t mean he was booked or otherwise engaged – I simply couldn’t find him. I called all over South Texas, to radio stations and his record label. I was told he probably wouldn’t be interested in coming out to West Texas. I was never able to actually talk to him or any representative to see if he would do it. That would’ve been cool. (We booked Santiago Jimenez, Jr. for the event that year. Don’t tell him he was our second choice…) As you listen to John Burnett’s interview, and consider that my story above is probably more common than not, you realize that Esteban himself was probably his own greatest barrier to being a true big star, financially secure & internationally renown. He’d been ripped off & taken advantage of, sure, but it’s apparent the resulting distrust also kept hm from exploiting opportunities presented to him. Like giving millions of listeners “just a taste” of his new album. Another one of the greats gone. Le vaya bien, Esteban.
How do YOU like to be updated and contacted? They say to contact your fans and biz people in the same way you yourself like to be contacted, but everyone is different. Personally I don’t mind a semi-regular email in my inbox (which, like yours I’m sure, is overflowing with stuff you have to wade through to choose what you want to read and what to discard). It’s easy enough to hit delete on a band update email that I don’t want to read this time but maybe next time I will. But one person’s “I want this” is another person’s “I don’t want this today” is another person’s “Why the *&^! are you spamming me?” People often say “Let us know when you are playing in my town” and we want to do that. But even one email per month can seem a little pushy to me, and sometimes we add shows at the last minute. Sure, people can look on our website but that’s the ultimate in proactive fan action; I sure don’t think to look on a band’s web site regularly. There are other options like Facebook updates, MySpace (does anyone really use MySpace any more?), and Twitter, but again, not everyone uses that. So what do YOU like? What is your comfort zone as far as updates, news, show announcements and stuff? Let us know in the comments.
Often start-up companies in the tech industry will roll out services labeled as “beta” for potential users (future customers) to try, give feedback, troubleshoot and generally refine prior to full deployment, whether that service in its non-beta form is still free, paid or ad-supported. There is nothing wrong with this of course but people need to be aware of the pitfalls that may loom on down the road: The service may disappear – possibly taking all your data with it The service may be flaky – possibly taking all your data with it… The company may decide to charge prices that you feel are not substantiated by the value of the service – this is the most common It seem some companies use the “beta” label to lure customers in, get them dependent or at least comfortable with the services, often with a large amount of data and configuration input over the course of months or years, and then announce the service is out of beta and the paid price for the service is more than you feel is reasonable. You are left with the choice of abandoning the service or paying more than you want. For the last year we have been using a free “beta” service called ArtistData to provide the “Upcoming Shows” feed you see on the right side of the page. This service is a good one and very useful to musicians and artists. It syncs shows with MySpace, Facebook and other online calendars and much more. Unlike some companies ArtistData has always said the service will be paid, in some form at some price point, in the future – there was no “bait & switch.” They solicited financial support from users who felt the product had real value for them during the beta – I gladly made a donation, along with feedback as to what I felt the service was worth to me, what I would be willing to pay on a monthly basis, once it came out of beta. Today the company announced that the service has gone into its paid status. To their credit they have left some of the core functionality free and created an a la carte store for services as well as service bundles to try and fit the needs of their users. The problem is for the services currently in our account it’s yet another monthly fee that exceeds the price point I feel is reasonable: $120 to over $300 per year. Granted I need to look at the services we are actually using regularly and see if we can get by on a few a la carte offerings, but if not, well, we are back to square one. I don’t fault ArtistData at all for the way they have done this – in my opinion they have handled it in a straightforward, considerate and forthright manner. I fully knew that there was a possibility I wouldn’t like the pricing and made the decision to invest my time and energy anyway. Still I wish the pricing was closer to what I had hoped it would be. I wonder how many users will jump ship at $10/mo. who would have stayed at $5-6/mo… So next time you sign up for a free service labeled as “beta” or without a clear pricing stated on down the line, understand you might be helping create someone’s business model at your expense, now and later. There is no free lunch. Unless you are an attorney.
t was one of those magical moments that leaves you awestruck over the magnitude and simplicity of life here on earth, in the wilds of West Texas. I was taking the dogs out for their nightly pee before turning in. It’s yet another one of those crystal clear, but a rare perfectly still, night here in the Davis Mountains. The sliver of moon has long passed below the horizon and the stars are so bright and close it’s like each one is shining directly down on you. Both dogs give a few perfunctory barks to let everyone know they are on the job. It started about a mile up the canyon. A dozen or so coyotes all break into yapping and howling in unison, their cries echoing down the canyon to us. It was beautiful. Even the dogs stopped to listen to the call of the wild. Then as if a conductor had raised his left hand in cue, another group of coyotes about a mile away down the canyon on the mountainside starts their own chorus. Standing there outside on my back porch I had one chorus coming from my left, the other from my right; an orchestra in stereo. How I wished I would have had a recorder that could have captured it. And then it was over. Just as abruptly and quickly as it started, both groups just — stopped. And then it was just me, the dogs, and the stars.
If you are a radio programmer, station manager, DJ, whatever, and would like the Border Blasters to do a radio promo spot for your station or show just drop us a line via email and let us know what you would like us to say. We (or I) will send you a spot right away, probably just voice but you can add a music back easy enough.
Cities are easy. Easy to get what you need – food, hardware, movies, whatever. Not so easy to get around in though. But it’s comfortable. We stay in a nice house in a nice quiet neighborhood. There are great people to meet and enjoy here. Places to play, things to see and do. But home on the ranch is just more interesting. The birds, the animals – good and bad, the plants, the “stuff” we have to do just to live there, like making sure we have water in the tanks, pumping water if we need it, making sure we have gas in the tanks, monitoring the electricity from the PV system. The stars at night. Always the stars. It’s the overriding feature of our home. There is always something to do, just living.
It’s one of those overly beautiful nights here in the Davis Mountains. Cool breezes blowing around, in the screen door on the bedroom balcony (why did I wait so many years before putting one on?!), ringing the big wind chimes in the garden. Puffy clouds floating low over the mountains illuminated by the full moon above. Earlier this evening I just sat on the front steps with an after dinner cup of coffee and watched it get dark. I heard an animal noise I’ve not heard before down the canyon a bit. Sounded like a big cat and probably was – a lion or a bobcat. So many animal noises we hear on a regular basis: the coyotes are a continual presence, owls, whipporwills and killdear, other night birds I don’t know, javelina chattering their teeth – that’s an odd one. But nothing stirs the spirit like the elks’ bugle. It’s the call of the wild.
In Austin for SWRFA. At Threadgill’s this evening for the kick-off gathering. George Ensle told me that Keith Carper passed away last night. Multiple health problems I gathered. Man, another one gone. Keith was the bassist on our CD “Blast From The Past” and he played with many great musicians, notably Tish Hinojosa for years. His discography was extensive and prestigious. We were lucky he liked playing with us and to have him on the CD. Listen to his bass breaks on “Rocky Road Blues” and “Got To Be With You Tonight”. Way too many good people are leaving us.
I put up a Facebook page this morning as a rallying place for people, such as myself, who are concerned with KUT cutting the schedules of Larry Monroe and Paul Ray back to almost nothing. As I was doing so I reflected on what KUT has meant to me, how important it has been to me throughout my life. KUT played a major role in my development as a human being, for better or worse (I’d like to think for the better). I’m not positive but I think KUT might have been the only FM station in Austin in the 60s. It was certainly the only one I cared to try and listen to. FM radios weren’t even that common. I didn’t have one but there was one on the Nutone intercom system that was in our house (that nobody used except me to listen to the radio…). I would go to the base station, tune in KUT and come back to my room to listen. I heard Abbie Hoffman give speeches live from the Student Union, broadcast unedited on KUT. I think he used a number of the Seven Dirty Words in those speeches. I was impressed. I heard the blues – real blues – for the first time on KUT. I remember it specifically: Leadbelly playing “Midnight Special”. It changed my life. I was 12. I used to fall asleep every night with KUT playing on the intercom and I was always awakened by their sign-off at midnight using Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner”. I once won a copy of Johnny Winter’s “Progressive Blues Experiment” (recorded at the Vulcan Gas Co.) from being the first caller to one of the shows on KUT. My mom had to drive me down to the station to pick up the album (which I still have) and the guy was surprised I was just a kid. Later, as I became a musician, KUT played an even more important role in my life. It was a place to be heard, to make fans, to reinforce validity to our musical efforts. We used to “storm the studio” on Folkways. Fairly often. Just kind of showed up and Dave Obermann or Dan Foster would let us play a few tunes live with one or two mics. We did a “Live Set” when we released our cassette tape (pre-CD folks!). KUT continues to be a vital component in my life. They have been incredibly supportive, instrumental in fact, in the launch of KRTS Marfa Public Radio. I dare say KRTS couldn’t have launched were it not for KUT and we still have close ties. The Border Blasters get a lot of support from Folkways, and Phil Music. We did a “Live From Studio 1A” not too long ago with Tom Pittman thanks to Kevin Conner and Kory Cook. I’ve never met Larry Monroe but I guarantee he’s a friend of mine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened in rapt appreciation to him weave songs together in ways that not only make each song better because of what was before and after, but that created a certain feeling – precious & fleeting. That is the magic of a true DJ that can never synthesized or programmed from afar. And Larry is one of the best of the best. Paul Ray always gives me just what I need when I need it. At Folk Alliance this year (our first time) we played 8 times in 3 days. And I love folk music, don’t get me wrong, but when I went back to the hotel room in between performances and schmoozing the first thing I did was turn up “Twine Time” on my laptop as loud as it would go. KUT may not have cut “Twine Time” or “Blue Monday” but at some point that would seem to be the logical conclusion. Or, after all, if an artist doesn’t have a viable outlet for their craft what choice do they have but to look elsewhere? This is bad for KUT, bad for KUT’s listeners, bad for Austin, bad for Music. I urge you to join the Facebook page to show our support for Larry and Paul: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=112566211435&ref=nf and to let KUT know of their mistake in this. Friends don’t let friends do dumb things.
[I received this from Cleve and Mary Hattersley of Greezy Wheels, via Gary Oliver. Don’t let Austin erode any further!] ===== From: Cleve Hattersley Sent: Thursday, July 23, 2009 8:48:59 AM Subject: Urgent – Help Save Austin’s Community Public Radio! Urgent! Howdy Friends, Fans, Students, Teachers, Associates and Concerned Community Members, I’m blind copying everyone, so that privacy can be maintained (for the moment), but trust that this is going out to EVERYONE I know and everyone THEY know. And it’s not just me speaking. We are already a large and rapidly growing group of angry people that includes large individual and corporate sponsors, entertainment icons, members of the media, legal advisors, and political, community and civic leaders. I am writing in anger. I just want y’all to know this before I start. I’m pissed because someone has taken away my public radio station, or at least the part of that radio station that I consider mine, the part that speaks to my heart and the hearts of those around me. KUT has eviscerated the schedules of Paul Ray and Larry Monroe, not just two of my most beloved on-air representatives, but two of my favorite human beings. And not only has KUT taken away almost all their programming, they’ve replaced it with a show taped in California. California! Lee Cooke, our former mayor, has met on our behalf with the person responsible for this decision. He is one Stewart Vanderwilt. Stewart has actually been at the station ten years and should know this was a decision that should never have been made. Lee gave this viewpoint to Stewart: the community – especially the one that pays for the station – needs to have a say in who they want on the air. Stewart listened to his suggestions, but did not appear to be convinced. Stewart believes the station is heading in the right direction. It seems he has based his decision on the ratings of KUT’s programs. What everyone needs to know is that these “ratings” are, in fact, conducted within a random cross-section of the entire local market and include people who may never listen to or maybe never even heard of KUT. Even the folks at Arbitron admit the ratings are a random sampling – we asked. Larry and Paul have each been on KUT for over twenty-five years because the community wants them on the air, and I guarantee you not a single voice has ever been raised to get them off the air, either. The moment the story becomes about ratings points, the ‘community’ in community public radio is lost. This is about who we chose to express our views and convey our feelings, who represents us in music and commentary. Yes, we want to be connected to the world, and we want to be a part of NPR, but this is a unique village that deserves its unique voices on its unique radio station. Stewart needs to be reminded that eighty to eighty-five percent of KUT’s operating capital comes from the Austin community, that there is a solemn compact between KUT – whether written or merely understood – binding this station as OUR community public radio station, and that you, as citizens of our fair city, have the power to make good things happen here. I don’t know about you, but I want Larry Monroe and Paul Ray reinstated to their full program schedules. I want this, because, when I turn on the radio, I want to hear what my DJ is playing, no matter which DJ it is, or what he or she is playing at that moment. I live in Austin. I want to hear what Austin’s saying to me. I don’t want to hear what’s groovy in California. And I want them returned to their full schedules with no format restrictions. I want the choices of songs played on KUT in the hands of the individual DJs who have earned our trust with their taste for years, rather than in the hands of a music committee. As soon as “formats” are introduced to public radio, freedom of expression is doomed. I’d like each and everyone of you who cares about this to help me. We need to meet, and that means everyone who wants to come. As soon as I know how many are coming, I’ll find the right place, and we’ll make a date. It’ll be in the next ten to fifteen days. First, contact me at this email address! I need volunteers to help with several things, including event planning, phone banking, and production. I need you rock star friends to pony up a date for performance – we’re gonna have several. And I need legal help. There is a precedence of legal remedy – WDET in Detroit sued successfully in a similar circumstance. THEN: Withhold your contributions! The quickest way to achieve a good result! Blog it big! Make this message viral! Send it to everyone you know. Ask them to do the same. Reach out to sponsors and contributors for support! Ask them to withhold their contributions. Send emails, cards and letters to KUT! Do not stop! If we gather together as a good village should, and enough pressure is applied, perhaps Stewart will cave and we won’t have to pull out the heavy artillery. If he doesn’t: WE WILL FULLY BOYCOTT KUT AT FUNDRAISING TIME! TALK TO ME PEOPLE! Cleve Hattersley Greezy Wheels Part Of This Community
Alex and I are making good progress adding the various modules and components to the new Border Blasters World HQ. Please bear with us as some parts are not implemented or not completely functional. But please do explore the site and let us know what you think. Be sure to sign up at the FanZone for exclusive, unreleased MP3s.
I’m really excited about the new web site. Many thanks to Alex for all his good work on this. I’ve been wanting to write in my blog lately. Of course now that it’s online I don’t have anything to say. Looking forward to Kerrville Folk Festival next weekend!
Okay, I’m liking this Drupal thing so far as a content management system. Now I just need to learn the basics of the design part of it to make it look right. Any suggestions?
I first saw the inside of a real radio station when I was a teenager – I guess I was 13 or 14, late 60’s or early 70’s. A friend of my mom’s lived just outside of Austin near Buda (at that time it was outside of Austin) and R. Miller Hicks had just constructed the tower and studio next door for what might have been the first commercial FM station in Austin: KRMH-FM, (aka: “Karma-FM” – a lot of folks thought the call letters were for the hippy rock music being played but they were, in fact, Hicks’s initials). It was that rare pioneer in radio at the time of being an “album-oriented” station. Until then you heard the Top 40 single version of any song on KNOW (AM-1490). Of course FM was a revelation. It sounded clean and clear. The DJs were laid-back (read: maybe stoned) and didn’t shout – they spoke to you, they played songs that went together, they created a soundtrack. Before KRMH the only alternative to Top-40 AM (KNOW), AM Country (KVET) or AM News (KLBJ) was KUT-FM, the station at University of Texas at Austin. Low powered, broad spectrum, lots o’ talk but musical shows that formed the basis for my tastes to this day. They introduced me to the blues. The only FM radio we had in our house was attached to a Nu-Tone intercom system and I’d go upstairs and tune it to KUT then go back down to my room and turn the intercom on. Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Freddie King came out of that tinny speaker, along with Country Joe and the Fish, Jefferson Airplane, Bubble Puppy, Led Zeppelin. Every night at midnight they would sign off with Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner. Anyway, every once in a while we would go out to this lady’s house at Buda and spend the evening; mom and she would play cards and visit. They had a pecan orchard. Her husband invented the pecan tree shaking machine. If it got late we would stay the night rather than drive back into town. One night when we were going to stay the night I decided to boldly go over to the station. It was about 10:30pm. There was a lone DJ there, nobody else. He was, what looked to me at the time, an “old hippie” – though he was probably in his late 20’s/early 30’s. He was smoking a joint by the back door when I walked up, a long 16 minute cut like “Whipping Post” was playing through the cracked door so he had time for his smoke. This was not a big deal. He didn’t try to hide it or stop, he asked me if I wanted a hit. He invited me into the studio while he worked, showed me the turntables and commercial carts, how you queued a track for play. He let me do it a few times listening through the headphones for the first notes. I spent a few hours there mesmerized by the magic being created, fetching albums from the stacks – Deep Purple, Yes, Moody Blues, Allman Brothers, Procol Harum – and talking music. It was so damn cool, being in a real rock-n-roll radio station. Hearing the music we chose – heck, some of it I chose! – going out all over central Texas. I was just a kid. I was hooked.