Tag: Music

Peter Bacon Hales

peterbaconhaleBorn in 1950, Peter Bacon Hales, like many of the contributors to the Austin Sun, was in his early twenties when he made his first contribution to the Austin Sun.

Peter began his education at The Hopkins Grammar School, which is a co-educational, private day school, located in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1660, Hopkins School is the seventh-oldest educational institution in the United States and the second-oldest secondary school in continuous operation in North America. From there, Peter went on to earn his BA at Haverford College, before moving to Austin to attended the University of Texas where he pursued his M.A. in Photography and American Studies and his Ph.D. American Civilization.

Picking up the guitar at the age of 12, Peter has played in a variety of bands, including Jealous Mourning Singers, Bim Easton Band, John Kromer Blues Band, Tammany, Bite Me the Band, Ancient Mojo Peoples.

His interested in photography in his early twenties led to a work at the UPI New York Wire Desk, and an Individual Artist’s Fellowship at the Illinois Arts Council. He contributed his photography skills to the Austin Sun as well. He continues to show his photos in various art and historical museums in the U.S. and abroad as well as in various books, magazines, newspapers, academic journals, both as “art” and as documentation.

From his early days, as the music and architectural critic for the Austin Sun, Peter has enjoyed writing for many newspapers, magazines and journals. He was an editor and principal contributor to Darkroom Photography Magazine and other academic journals, including Artjournal, The Art Bulletin, Reviews in American History, The Journal of Urban History, American Studies, and the Bulletin of the Allen Art Museum among others.

Peter is the author of several books including Atomic Spaces: Living on the Manhattan Project‎, The Perfect City‎, A Certain Slant of Light: The Contemporary American Landscape‎, William Henry Jackson and the Transformation of the American Landscape‎, ‎and Silver Cities: Photographing American Urbanization.

In 1980, Peter became the Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies at California State University Fullerton. Later that year, he moved to Chicago where he took a position as the Associate Professor in the History of Architecture and Art Department at the University of Illinois, Chicago. In 1988, he began his current position as Professor of the Art History Department at The University of Illinois, Chicago. He has also been a Visiting Professor at Northwestern University, and is currently a Visiting Artist at Columbia College, Chicago.

Joe Gracey – Making a New Road

Joe GraceyJoe Gracey was one of the writers of the Austin Sun Music Column beginning around 1975. And, like other music columnist for the Sun, Gracey had a generous background in the music industry, from the early age of 12 years old.

Joe Gracey was born at an early age in Ft. Worth, Texas (“Where the West Begins”) on November 14, 1950. He began playing in garage bands at 12, had a pirate radio station at 13, and was working in commercial radio at 15. In high school he played rock & roll bass in pickup bands with other Ft. Worth guys like T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton. (Bruton’s parents owned the great record store where all Ft. Worth musicians hung out and got their real educations.) At 14 he hung around the recording studios where T-Bone and Major Bill Smith were working, and was bitten by the recording bug. He got a 2-track machine and began taping anything that would sit still long enough.

He worked in Top 40 radio from 1965 to 1972 in Ft. Worth and Austin. In 1969 he became music director at KXOL-FM under Program Director/songwriter Lawton Williams (“Fraulein”) who had installed a “Countrypolitan” format at the urging of Chet Atkins. It was during this time that Gracey was exposed to the music of Willie Nelson and the whole range of great country music of the 50’s and 60’s. This format was an early attempt to bring country music to an urban, more female, younger audience.

While earning a degree in American Studies from the University of Texas, Gracey began working in FM free-form radio. Here he became the first rock DJ to play Willie Nelson’s music when Atlantic Records sent him the first pre-release copy of the Shotgun Willie album. He was also the radio advertising producer and voice of the Armadillo World Headquarters. In 1972 Gracey, Armadillo head honcho Eddie Wilson, Willie Nelson, and others concocted the idea of a “progressive country” radio format and approached the management of KOKE-FM with it. However, KOKE-FM decided to hire a different Program Director and Gracey later joined the station, to become its highest-rated disc jockey. In 1974 KOKE-FM received the “Trendsetter of the Year” award from Billboard Magazine for its Progressive Country format. In 1975 Gracey assumed the Program Director’s role, and stayed there until 1977.

It was during this period (1972-1975) that Gracey was the rock music columnist for the Austin American-Statesman. In this role, he urged his readers to pay attention to progressive country artists like Willie and Waylon (he called Willie ‘the Dylan of country writers’) and in one column he challenged the local television media to offer an outlet to the burgeoning Austin music scene. The gauntlet was taken up by Bill Arhos, the manager of KLRU-TV, who hired him to be the talent coordinator for the first season of Austin City Limits. In this capacity, Gracey put together the reunion of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys (who went on to have a successful second career), the pairing of Ry Cooder with Flaco Jimenez, and the first network television exposure for Clifton Chenier, Townes Van Zandt, Asleep at the Wheel, and Marcia Ball.

After he left the Statesman, he continued to write articles for Picking Up the Tempo, in which he explored Conjunto music, Black Creole, Western Swing, and various aspects of Texan culture. It was at this time that Gracey wrote a music column for The Austin Sun.

In 1977 Gracey left KOKE-FM and began to work with Alvin Crow, doing radio and media promotion. It was also at this time that he began to think about a musical career of his own, opening for Alvin with his brother Bill as “The Gracey Brothers” on the road for two years. Legendary Nashville producer and label owner Jack Clement and Gracey had become friends and Clement was discussing recording Joe for his label.

In 1978 Gracey discovered he had cancer and had surgery to remove his larynx. Because of his association with Jack Clement, Gracey had become more interested in recording (again) and had begun to consider producing and engineering. In 1978 he set up Electric Graceyland Studios and Jackalope/Rude Records.

In 1977, Gracey was stricken with oral cancer and underwent a series of painful surgeries at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston that would cost him the ability to speak and sing, but saved his life. He married, had a family and built a career producing and playing music. He was cancer-free until 2009, when a small lesion appeared in his mouth and was successfully treated, again at M.D. Anderson.

Then he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of the esophagus in January, a development “that pretty much throwed me from my hoss,” as he wrote in his “Letter from Graceyland” blog. “But as I have said before, you do what you must do to survive.”

In an Aug. 29 American-Statesman profile of Gracey, Smith talked about his friend’s determination: “When we were on the road with the band and we took a wrong turn someplace, he never wanted to turn back. He would always say, ‘Let’s just go on. Make a new road.'”

In late September, Gracey and Rhodes took a break from his chemotherapy and radiation treatments to spend time at their second home in France, a renovated former stable, visiting with family and friends and watching the fall wine harvest. Tests showed his cancer had retreated.

“He drove again for the first time in a year,” Rhodes wrote in an email. “He bought a grill and made fajitas for friends who came to visit from Spain. He had a good time. He won.”

He produced many Austin acts at Electric Graceyland, including Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Skunks, Diamond Joe Siddons, Harvey “Tex” Thomas, and R.C. Banks. In 1979 T.J. McFarland brought him a girl who wanted to be a singer and had written a few songs who turned out to be Kimmie Rhodes.

This magical association led to the production of many Kimmie Rhodes albums, a major publishing deal, and a marriage. Kimmie and Joe had a daughter, Jole Morgan Goodnight Gracey, and Kimmie has two sons Gabe and Jeremie Rhodes. Gabe, played guitar in their band.

In addition to Kimmie’s records, Joe Gracey had worked on hundreds of recording projects since 1979, including Alejandro Escovedo w/Rank & File, Joe King Carrasco, Butch Hancock, Butch’s Dixie’s Bar and Bus Stop TV show, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Freda and the Firedogs, Alvin Crow, The Leroi Brothers, Wes McGhee, Calvin Russell, Fred de Fred, Dick Rivers, Jean Louis Mahjun, Arkey Blue, Sue Foley, Asleep at the Wheel, Ray Campi, John Emory, Live at the Continental, The Hole in the Wall Anniversary CD, The Skunks, a Willie Nelson enhanced CD-ROM for Microsoft, and many others.

His recent recording projects include Willie Nelson and Ray Price’s new Lost Highway CD, “Run that by Me One More Time”, as well as new Kimmie Rhodes “Picture in a Frame” CD, a new Calvin Russell CD, mixes of a Willie & Merle Haggard TV special, the Willie Nelson’s “Me and the Drummer” CD, and Willie Nelson’s album for Island Records, “Spirit”. His most recent venture was with Willie is www.lucktexas.com, where MP3 files of the Kimmie/Willie recordings for “Picture in a Frame” can be purchased and downloaded.

Joe’s recipe for Tex-Mex Enchiladas appeared in Saveur magazine, followed by a Saveur “Fare” article on Joe and Kimmie’s henhouse adventures. He currently has several more articles and features waiting to be published by Saveur. Joe and Kimmie also enjoyed teaching cooking classes at Central Market, working together on cookbooks, and pursuing their culinary adventures all around the world.

In his book, “The Incredible Rise of Redneck Rock,” author Jan Reid called Gracey a visionary who “played a compelling mix of Texas musicians, the Allman Brothers, Hank Williams Jr.” from a playlist that “was brash, seamless and almost all Southern: Listen up here, this was the direction country music was going, and Nashville better listen up and pay attention.”

Recently, Gracey fell ill again and the couple flew back to Houston and the hospital. On Thursday morning, November 17, 2011, Gracey passed away in Houston, Texas, finally succumbing to the disease that took his voice decades ago.

Gracey, husband of Kimmie Rhodes, father, disc jockey who brought progressive country music to the forefront and the first to play Willie Nelson on the radio, KOKE Radio program director, talent coordinator for Austin City Limits, music producer, writer (Austin American Statesman where he was the rock music columnist, and the Austin Sun) the voice for Armadillo World Headquarters radio ads, music producer and engineer, bass guitar player, chef, author and one class act of a human being, had turned 61 on Monday.

“To me, his heart resonated to the ears of Austin,” said his longtime friend, Austin attorney and musician Bobby Earl Smith. “He could make you feel like he was playing that song for you.”

Survivors include his wife, his daughter Jole, and stepsons Gabe and Jeremie Rhodes.

Bill Bentley

Bill Bentley - Sonic Boomers
Bill Bentley – Sonic Boomers

Bill Bentley was the first Music Columnist for the Austin Sun. And, while he may not have planned it, he is responsible for giving Austin the incredible talent of Margaret Moser, the second Music Columnist for the Sun.

Bentley was born in Houston in 1950, the son of Houston Post newspaper cartoonist Bud Bentley. Later, he would follow his father in the newspaper business, first as a typesetting and later as a journalist. But, we digress as Bentley’s first love was music.

Bentley grew up off Westheimer near what is now the Galleria. As with millions of his fellow boomers, he was transfixed by Elvis’s historic 1956 performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Bentley remembers that his mother would always buy him an Elvis single every time he would go with her to Henke’s on Westheimer.

Growing up in Houston was a perfect place to see some of the biggest acts of the time. Like many young men his age, he first fell in love with the music of Elvis Presley,

The Houston Post, where his father worked was on Dowling Street in the Wards, and when he would go with his mom to pick up his dad, he could hear the music billowing out of the clubs from Albert Collins, Pete Mayes, and Johnny Copeland. On the way home, they would take West Gray where they would often see Lightnin’ Hopkins picking in front of one of the ice houses.

During family trips to nearby Galveston, Bentley remembers seeing the fez-sporting eccentric street poet, Bongo Joe, who set his free-form lyrics to beats on a homemade drum kit made of discarded oil drums. “He used to play on the Seawall right in front of the gift shops near the Galvez Hotel,” Bentley says. “That’s what got me hooked on drums — I became a drummer from seeing Bongo Joe. Everything lit up, I could just see that this was the music, right there in front of me, that really got inside of me.”

His family encouraged his interest by buying him a set of drums, which he lost no time in learning to play well enough to join several bands, playing high school dances and private parties around Houston.

When Bentley was all of 12 years old, his brother took him to see James Brown at the Paladium Ballroom which was then on Southmore. Brown had one of he biggest bands at the time, with a dozen individuals on stage and three drummers. “I got to go to a nightclub, and it was just, you know, James Brown full-tilt. That was right after “Live at the Apollo” had come out. So that was the eye-opener in terms of live music.”

But, never to be tied down to just one type of music, Bentley found himself enjoying a wide variety of Houston music. The 1960s saw several changes in the music scene and Bentley flowed with the times. Bentley describes the Houston from 1962 to 1968 as about as good a music town as you could find anywhere. Oh, the shows he saw: the Everly Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis at the Coliseum with (ha ha) Ray Stevens opening; Bobby “Blue” Bland at the Cinder Club; Juke Boy Bonner in Fifth Ward jukes; Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson in a long engagement in a dive off Almeda called the Mark IV; B.J. Thomas and Roy Head battling it out in Van’s Ballroom.

He soon found himself enjoying the emerging counterculture and especially a local Austin band, who were playing in the Houston clubs – The 13th Floor Elevators.

By 1968, Bentley was enrolled in Southwestern University in Georgetown. Of course, the sidewalks rolled up in Georgetown at 6:00 p.m. and Bentley found himself making the drive into Austin to catch the music scene. It was at the Vulcan Gas Company that he reconnected with the 13th Floor Elevators, which were pretty much the house band at the Vulcan. His time at Georgetown was short-lived, when one night after a show at the Vulcan, the police followed him back to his dorm room, where they kicked in the door and busted the freshman for pot.

Bentley left Georgetown, returning to Houston to attend the University of Houston and went to work at the Houston Post as a typesetter, while awaiting trial. After receiving 5-years probation, a severe penalty at the time for first time possession of a very small amount of pot, Bentley returned to Austin to attend the University of Texas. While attending UT, Bentley worked as a typesetter at the Daily Texan and majored in psychology. It was while getting his degree that he found himself working at Austin State Mental Hospital. Eventually Bentley received his Bachelor of Arts degree from UT Austin. He is also a graduate of the Paralegal Program at Southwest Texas State University.

One day, he noticed an ad on one of the UT bulletin boards seeking a drummer and soon found himself in Lea Ann & Bizarros band. It was the beginning of a new life for Bentley, who otherwise would have ended up as a psychologist or god-forbid – a pasty skinned hitting the keys of a linotype in the backroom of some small town newspaper.

But, as much as the Bizarros drummer gig helped to change his life, it was a chance meeting with Austin Sun founders Jeff Nightbyrd and Michael Eakin in 1974 that would propel him to bigger and better things. The duo asked Bentley to become the music reviewer for their new venture – The Austin Sun. Of course, Nightbyrd had an ulterior motive when he found out that Bentley was a typesetter.

Bentley lasted as typesetter for only two issues and became the full time music columnist, giving the typesetting gig over to Sarah Clark. Bentley had found his calling in writing the music column for the Austin Sun and much like the publication his writing took on the gutsy, sometimes irreverent style of the magazine. After attending the “Gimme Back My Bullets” tour of Lynyrd Skynyrd one evening, Bentley didn’t find them to his liking. He couldn’t find anything nice to say about the show and when pressured by Nightbyrd for his column, Bentley reached across the desk, took a small scrap of paper and pen and wrote:

Lynyrd Skynyrd Review – Please, somebody give ‘em back!

Nightbyrd loved it and it went to press!

When the Sun closed it’s doors in 1979, Bentley hung around Austin for a while, working as a freelance writer for the Austin American-Statesman and at KLRN (the predecessor of KLRU). He also started the Twine Time Rhythm and Blues Showcase at KUT, eventually turning the show over to Paul Ray. Bentley started a new band with Speedy Sparks and two up and coming, albeit very young brothers – Charlie and Will Sexton.

Later that year, he got a call from Nightbyrd who had moved to Los Angeles to edit the L.A. Weekly. Nightbyrd offered him the position of Music Editor at the new publication. To make things more interesting, Bentley also began to book bands for a local venue – Club Lingerie, which gave him an opportunity to bring Texas bands out to Los Angeles, furthering endearing him with both the Austin and Los Angeles music scene. This led to a position as publicist at the trendy Slash Records label.

When Warner Brothers bought the label, Bentley was kept on, but with the new title of Creative Editorial Writer. Eventually, Bentley would work his way up to Senior Vice President at Warner Bros.

When asked about his greatest achievement, Bentley is quick to point to his tributes, such as Roky Erickson’s, Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, and More Oar: A Tribute to Skip Spence.

Today, Bentley is President and Executive Editor at Sonic Boomers, a music company devoted to the fast-emerging baby boomer market. Sonic Boomers is dedicated to cultural discovery. Concentrating on music and books, it has gathered some of the best writers from the past 40 years for that pursuit.

Monday through Friday at Sonic Boomers Online there are daily links to relevant news for the Boomer audience, as well as a different song spotlighted from the entire history of recorded music. Each Friday, new album, DVD and book reviews are published, along with feature stories, interviews, and a highlighted article from the archives of rock ‘n roll history. Sonic Boomers is a place to find out about where we were and where we are going, for those who continue to enjoy the ride.

A long way from listening to Elvis Presley on the radio to sitting in a high rise office in Los Angeles working with Elvis Costello. Bentley has worked with many giants in the music industry – Barenaked Ladies, Green Day, Los Lobos, Lou Reed, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Blasters, Wilco and dozens of others.

Bill Bentley lives and works in Los Angeles, California.


Z. Z. Top’s Billy Gibbon’s was both a childhood friend and schoolmate of Bentley

James “Big Boy” Medlin is a contributing writer at Sonic Boomers Online.

Bentley worked at Austin State Mental Hospital while his friend Roky Erickson was a ward of that institution.

In 1990 Sire Records/Warner Bros. Records released a tribute album, Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye produced by then WB executive Bill Bentley.

Margaret Moser

Margaret Moser - Music Columnist
Margaret Moser – Music Columnist

Margaret Moser was the Music Reviewer at the Austin Sun. Few would argue that Margaret was responsible for as many readers of the Sun as all the other journalist combine. After all, Austin was all about music and the music scene at the time. We were just becoming the Live Music Capital of the World and she was there to write about it.

But, Margaret didn’t start out as the music editor. That honor went first to Bill Bentley. Margaret arrived in Austin from San Antonio in 1973, but it was not until 1976 that she worked her way into becoming the music editor at the Sun, and it wasn’t easy according to Margaret, who says her first job at the Sun was cleaning the bathroom and answering the telephone, although it was never clear whether the two were done simultaneously.

Margaret’s writing in the Sun made her the matriarch of he Austin music scene and a pioneer in Texas journalism. She was right at home writing about punk as she was with country and folk. She was a mainstay at most of the live music clubs and traveling road shows which visited the city. She was also a performer with her own band of wild girls, “The Texas Blondes.” Later, Moser also performed with Dino Lee as a back-up vocalist.

She was responsible for the city embracing a wide variety of music through her weekly columns. Punks learned about blues music, rockers learned about progressive country and everybody became stronger for her writings. It was perhaps through her writings that the city politicians realized the potential for making Austin more open to live music. She was most at home writing about the blues scene and particularly enjoyed the newly opened Antone’s where she could be found most nights, when not covering the punk movement at Raul’s or at Club Foot.

It was Moser, who came up with the idea for the Austin Sun Music Awards, which legitimized the burgeoning Austin music scene and gave credit to many musicians who were struggling to find work in music while holding daytime jobs at Thundercloud Subs or in construction trades. Later, as the lead Music Columnist for the Austin Chronicle, she hosted The Chronicle’s Austin Music Awards.

After the Sun folded, Moser worked first at Rumours, but that publication was short lived and in the spring of 1981, she went to work at the Austin Chronicle as a writer.

She continues to drive Austin music with her columns and through authoring several books, “Rock Stars Do the Dumbest Things” and “Movie Stars Do the Dumbest Things,” as well as the Austin guidebook for the Edges series

Along the way, she has inspired musicians to be all that they could be, made superstars blush, and left a trail in ink that will guide future scholars and music fans alike.

Margaret continues to live and work in Austin, Texas.