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Megan Thee Stallion pulled double duty on Saturday Night Live this week (Oct. 15), hosting for the first time and performing “Anxiety,” “NDA” and “Plan B” from her latest album, Traumazine. Stallion brought plenty of Hot Girl humor to the show, starring in sketches such as a fitness instructor determined to supersize her clients’ butts and a nurse glamming up basic patients.
In another sketch, she appeared in an infomercial for a spoof of Sarah Maclachlan’s SPCA ads. Stallion solicited cash for “St. Andrew’s Center for Shivering Girls” to put single women who get cold easily in broken-in men’s sweatshirts.
Stallion spent much of her monologue flexing recent achievements, but made time to test out her British accent in a plea to Bridgerton’s casting director. She also gave a shout-out to her site BadBiitchesHaveBadDaysToo.com, a mental health platform that features links to various online therapy sites.
In his new memoir, Me and Paul: Untold Stories of a Fabled Friendship, out Sept. 20, Willie Nelson details some of the early days of his music career and shares raw moments regarding his mental health — and how close friend Paul English was always there to help.
Nelson first connected with English at a small Texas radio station in 1955, and their friendship lasted until English’s death in early 2020. Nelson says that in the early 1960s, living in a trailer park in Nashville, he felt hopeless about his music career and ultimately attempted to end his life. Though he felt welcome within the Nashville music community, he felt stuck waiting for his moment to shine. “My problem was seeing how so many of its members were making a living making music,” he writes, “while I wasn’t. Not a dime.”
To combat this sadness, he admitted to drinking often and getting into fights until eventually his depression overtook him. “My early days in Nashville were a definite low point. I’m not one to easily fall prey to depression, but depression had me in its grips,” he admits. “Throwing back bourbon on a freezing cold night at Tootsie’s, I thought about an old song I’d heard Lightin’ Hopkins cut back at Gold Studios in Houston. He sang about feeling so bad until he lay his head on some lonesome railroad line and let it ease his troubled mind. So why not?”
In fact, Nelson went to lie down on a busy street in the center of Nashville. But no cars came by, and he eventually returned to the bar for another drink.
The next day, English showed up at Nelson’s trailer to pay his friend a visit while en route from Louisville to Memphis. He took Nelson for lunch and a walk to lift his spirits and encouraged Nelson to go out and celebrate the success of simply being in Nashville. “It was good being with someone who seemed to believe in me more than I believed in myself,” he wrote. “He really believed in a rosy future at a time when I couldn’t afford to buy my wife a dozen roses.”
Jerry Jeff Walker died in 2020 at the age of 78, but in Luckenbach legends never die. And to make sure nobody ever forgets what Walker meant to Luckenbach — and what Luckenbach meant to Walker — a new bronze sculpture was unveiled Oct. 8 in Walker’s honor, depicting the songwriter sitting beside Luckenbach founder Hondo Crouch, whose vision has allowed Luckenbach to remain a destination spot nearly 50 years after Walker’s seminal Viva! Terlingua, and 45 years after Waylon Jennings had a No. 1 hit with “Luckenbach TX.”
The sculpture sits beside the legendary Luckenbach post office/gift shop under a shade tree. It was the work of Philadelphia-based sculptor Clete Shields, who’s also the artist behind the 8-foot bronze statue of Willie Nelson, which resides outside the Moody Theater in Austin where Austin City Limits is taped.
Steve Earle was on site for the unveiling, completing the circle as someone who was mentored by Walker, and who just released a tribute album to him called (appropriately) Jerry Jeff. Walker’s son and performer, Django Walker, was also on site as entertainment and de facto master of ceremonies on the night. During the ceremony, Walker, William Beckmann, Jamie Lin Wilson and Channing Wilson sang a moving version of “Desperados Waiting For a Train,” a Guy Clark song that Walker recorded on Viva! Terlingua.
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Clarkson’s Cryptic Emoji
Kelly Clarkson had people talking with a recent Instagram post. The singer and talk show host created a stir Oct. 11 when she posted a single emoji on social media: the peace sign. She gave no explanation to what it might mean, so her fans got to sleuthing.
The post was met with comments like “KELLY WHAT ARE YOU DOING” and “stay calm … breathe … what does this mean?!?!” Others speculated about what her mysterious message meant, with comments like “New music?!?!?!? 😍😍😍” and “collab??”
A bit of investigation found that Clarkson tagged Chance the Rapper in her post. Chance posted the same image then tagged Blake Shelton, who in turn tagged former One Direction star Niall Horan. This group of four celebrities could only mean one thing, right?
Fans weren’t left hanging for long. The official Instagram account for The Voice confirmed the news fans were beginning to suspect: Clarkson is returning to The Voice for season 23, and she will be joined by Chance, Shelton and Horan. Shelton later posted that this will be his final season on the show.
There comes a time in every person’s life when they must look around at their many possessions and declare, “This all needs to live somewhere else.” For Asleep at the Wheel founder Ray Benson, the 10-time Grammy-winning master of Western swing — with a 50-plus-year career in music — that time is now.
A live auction of hundreds of items from Benson’s personal collection took place Oct. 15 at the Burley Auction Gallery in New Braunfels.
It was a feast for fans of Asleep at the Wheel, Benson and Texas outlaw country music. The 279-lot sale represented a remarkable cross section of his iconic career, everything from dozens of posters (lots of Asleep at the Wheel gigs and Wille Nelson’s Fourth of July picnics) and guitar picks to beautiful guitars and vintage T-shirts from many, many shows.
A whole mess of clothing Benson wore onstage was up for sale, including custom boots and custom pearl-snap shirts. It was buyer beware on those if someone planned to bid on any: Benson is well over 6-feet tall and wears a size 16 shoe.
One could even bid on Benson’s 1954 Studebaker Commander (the car that Benson drove to Austin for the first time in the early 1970s), his 1955 Chevy Bel Air and his 1969 Harley Davidson motorcycle, the latter of which has been living at the Wittliff Museum at Texas State University in San Marcos for two years.
“I just ran out of room, and I have a lot of really cool stuff,” Benson says. “We’re going to be able to give some money to the Texas Dancehall Preservation, and the rest is going into this bus’s gas tank.”
Kacey’s Congressional Swipe
Never one to shy away from controversy, Kacey Musgraves, during her performance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival Oct. 9, took a dig at U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
While performing her song “High Horse,” Musgraves put a new spin on the pre-chorus, singing: “Everyone knows someone who kills the buzz every time they open up their mouth — Ted Cruz! I said what I said.”
The disco-influenced song, from her 2018 Grammy-winning album Golden Hour, tells off someone who is “classic in the wrong way” and thinks they are above everyone else. Musgraves, a native of Golden, Texas, was cheered by the ACL crowd after the dis.
The singer also took a shot at the U.S. Supreme Court, telling the audience, “F the Supreme Court, honestly. We’re in a weird time, but we’ve got each other. There’s a light. I promise.”
Musgraves has never been uncomfortable sharing her political opinions, often calling out legislators for standing in the way of equality. After Alabama passed restrictive abortion legislation in 2019, she tweeted, “Sooo, what’s gonna happen when one of those Alabama senators knocks up one of his mistresses?”
Back in 2018, Pat Green said he was done recording albums. “At this stage of my career, being independent,” he said, “putting out 12 songs really doesn’t do much good for anybody — anybody who’s not going to sell 100,000 records.”
But the pandemic changed things. When touring shut down, Green got bored sitting at home, and his family was pretty tired of him being there, too. “My wife threatened to burn the chair I was sitting in if I didn’t get out of it,” he recalls.
He also was concerned about the musicians in his band, since not being able to play live shows meant they had no income coming in. So he rented a house in Austin with a studio, and they all moved in together for a while to write and record. They never left the house, he says: “We had the guys in hazmat suits dropping off food.”
As dark as things were, Green didn’t want his COVID album to be … well, a COVID album. “When we sat down to do it, I said, ‘We’re not going to put a negative record out,’” he says. “Because I’m prone to getting in a hole. That’s one of the pitfalls of being expressive for a living. I’m in tune with my emotions to my own detriment. So making something positive took some effort.”
The album, Miles and Miles of You — hailed by Texas Music as one of the year’s best albums — is laced with love songs, but also includes the rollicking “If It Don’t Have a Honky Tonk” and the more personal “April 5th,” an ode to the birthday Green shared for much of his life with his granddad. “The four fans of ours who were born on April 5 … they’re really gonna love that song,” he jokes.
Green says working on Miles and Miles of You rekindled his love of songwriting. “I’ve got the bug again,” he says. “I’m sick with it now: I was writing last night — the house was empty, so I was just sitting there singing and playing guitar. It’s so wonderfully private to sit and write a song by yourself.”
The Austin City Limits Music Festival has been around since 2002 but has featured a limited number of Hispanic and Latinx acts despite those communities representing more than 40 percent of Texas’s population.
The festival’s diversity efforts improved this year, and Lesly Reynaga, an Austin musician and Mexico native, made history at ACL Oct. 15 as the first act to perform with a full mariachi band — accompanied by Mariachi Paredes from the University of Texas.
It’s a moment of pride for Reynaga, who recalls how important la musica was in her family. “We just gathered around wherever we were,” Reynaga says. “Music was always involved.”
“A lot of people ask, ‘When did your music career start?’” Reynaga adds. “I could argue it started when I was 4 years old, and my grandma taught me ‘Atotonilco,’ a song named after a Mexican town.”
In high school, she moved from Mexico to McAllen, where she had her introduction to formal instruction with mariachi music. Her journey ultimately landed her at the University of Texas.
“I’ve always tried to honor both sides of my identity,” Reynaga says. “I take a lot of pride in both of my backgrounds and cultures — that’s something that just comes through in my music.”
Down in the Flood
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s greatest guitar moment? Enter Guitar World magazine to weigh in. In its latest issue, the publication lists Vaughan’s “10 Greatest Guitar Moments,” with Vaughan’s recording of “Texas Flood,” from the album by the same name, ranked as his very finest.
Recorded with his band, Double Trouble — bassist Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton — the magazine says the musicians didn’t walk into Jackson Browne’s Down Town Studio in Los Angeles in late 1982 with highfalutin plans about recording their monster debut album. In fact, their sites were set much lower.
“We were just making a tape,” Layton says. “We hoped maybe we were making a demo that would actually be listened to by a real record company.” Browne had offered them 72 hours of free time, and the group recorded 10 songs over its last two days at the studio.
The last tune to be tracked was “Texas Flood,” an obscure slow-blues tune recorded in 1958 by Texas bluesman Larry Davis (with Fenton Robinson on guitar) that had been a staple of Vaughan’s live shows for years.
Vaughan’s version, which borrowed heavily from Davis’ arrangement and singing style, was recorded in a single take — live — just as the clock ran out. According to Joe Nick Patoski and Bill Crawford’s Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire, there were only two overdubs, both covering mistakes made when Vaughan broke strings.
“Listening to Vaughan’s ferocious Albert King–on-steroids two-string bends,” the magazine notes, “it’s a miracle another three or four E and/or B strings didn’t self-destruct every few bars.” The stark, five-and-a-half-minute recording is a composite of everything that made Vaughan great, from the note choices to the intensity to his ability to learn from, yet build upon, the groundwork laid by his influences.
Whenever he performs, 26-year-old Don Louis knows people will hear his music. He just never expected them to see his heart. “Your character stands for what you do when nobody else is looking,” Louis says. “There just happened to be somebody who saw me doing what I normally do.”
Louis performs all over Texas, often in places like Deep Ellum in Dallas. Typically, after making a few bucks, he takes the money and runs to the nearest homeless person. Louis either gives them what he’s earned or uses it to buy them food. He does it regularly. “Too often, people walk by and see someone who deserves to have love shown to them, but they don’t show love,” Louis says. “Why are we not showing love to one another? Why are we looking down on one another?”
Louis says he wasn’t always so generous. But a few years ago, he decided he didn’t like that about himself and would at least try to change. He started small, giving a few dollars or a bottle of water.
He’s been performing for only two years. He’s made hundreds with his street-side shows, and he’s given almost all of it away. “It’s not to make me happy,” Louis says. “It’s because this is what I’m called to do. I’m called to come out here and serve.”
He says you don’t need to have much to pour into others. Even just a dollar can create a big ripple. “It’s free to be kind,” Louis says. “When you show more love where it’s supposed to be given, other places get watered.”