Author Archives: Drew Scherger

My Experiences with Country Music

Note: This is an example of Blog Post 5.

the-little-longhorn-saloonTecate TacoMy friends and I occasionally go to The Little Longhorn Saloon on Sundays for Chicken Shit Bingo, and while that’s a lot of fun, it sometimes becomes hard to watch the band and get your drink order because of the massive amount of tourists that flock there. Nevertheless, when a group of  friends I met at UT from New York and L.A. had friends in town and wanted to do something “Texan,” I had to bring them to The Little Longhorn for “Tecate and Taco Tuesday.” This event is perfect for any college student: $2 Tecate, Free Tacos, $1 Lonestar during happy hour, and free music. While the bar didn’t feature one of their usual old school country bands, they had a blues band, Kevin & the Krawlers, who ended up being a lot of fun to listen to. When we were leaving, the girls from New York told me that they felt like Texas was like an entirely different country. I had done my job.

Another “country” experience I had this semester was watching The Last Waltz (1978) about a week ago. This is one of my Top 10 favorite movies of all time; I’ve probably seen it 50 times and for some reason I own two or three copies of it. It’s a concert documentary about a band named “The Band” and their last concert before they broke up. The Band’s music is a mix of American roots rock: bits of blues, rock and roll, and country all mixed together. It was directed by Martin Scorsese and features many musical guests such as Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, and Eric Clapton among others. This movie was huge for me because it changed my sense of genre in music and I began to appreciate what blues, country, jazz, and rock and roll all have in common.

Lastly, I went to a festival at Cedar Park a couple weeks ago. The setup was a little strange: There was a large amphitheater which hosted some of the artists, while outside there was a dozen food trucks and an outdoor stage for the rest of the artists. I was there with my friends to see three of the artists: Dr. John, Leon Russell, and Asleep at the Wheel. Dr. John’s music is a weird mix of New Orleans voodoo culture with rock and roll and R&B (he is featured in The Last Waltz as a guest). Leon Russell started out as a studio musician and worked alongside Glen Campbell before going solo and making his own rock and roll mixed with a gospel style performance.

Asleep at the Wheel is probably the most country band that was at this show. They’ve been active in various lineups since the 1970’s and have won 9 Grammys. They mainly play Western Swing and Texas Country and commonly feature electric guitar, drums, bass, piano, multiple fiddles, horns, and mandolin. I think they’re a great band to go see live because its great dance music, they’re all incredibly good musicians, and it’s a good look into the past at what Texas country music used to be. They have nostalgic value to me because my parents always played their records when I was growing up. I’ve been able to see them quite a few times while living in Austin and they were nice enough to talk to my friends and I after the last few shows of theirs that we’ve gone to. They’ll be playing April 23rd for Austin’s Earth Day Festival as well as a couple shows at Gruene Hall in mid-May.


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 5

A (Free) Night to Remember

The-Best-of-Wurstfest-2015_01In the middle of November a couple of years ago, four of my friends and I were feeling claustrophobic in Austin after midterms, so we decided to go on a day trip to New Braunfels for a German festival called “Wurstfest”. When we pulled into town, tacky lederhosen and fake German façades were everywhere, but they couldn’t mask the smell of sausage and beer. As we walked towards the food stands, several people who were leaving started giving us all of their coupons. It turned out that this was the last day of the festival. After exchanging these tickets at the food stands, we found our arms filled with free pitchers of Miller Lite and skewered knackwurst sausage. As we made our way into the beer hall to feast on our bounty, an elderly German band played the Gene Autry dancehall classic, “South of the Border.”

Right as we sat down, however, smoke began to fill the enormous hall from a nearby sausage stand. It turned out that there was a minor fire on the cooker, which was quickly extinguished. While this ended up not being a threat to anyone’s safety, the beer hall was deserted in the frenzy. After a few minutes, one of my more astute friends noted that there was plenty of beer left abandoned on the tables and nobody seemed to be returning. This good fortune added onto our previous stroke of luck left us as very rich men in this fake German village. As our stomachs filled, the band (who were apparently unfazed or maybe even uninformed about the fire) closed their set and the crowd thinned out outside of the beer hall. We realized that it was time to go.

As we were about to leave town, we decided to stop by Gruene Hall because one of our friends had never been. We parked down the block and walked up to the front door, but the bouncer told us that it was a sold out show and that we couldn’t get in. Being the thrifty college opportunists we were, we decided to walk around back to see if there was another entrance. We saw a light from the side of the building and approached it. It was an open door, and through it, stood Willie Nelson, about twenty feet away from us playing his hit, “Crazy” with his full band, and with “Trigger”, his infamous guitar, in his arms.

We were dumbfounded.

None of us ever thought we’d be able to see the Red Headed Stranger play a legendary venue like Gruene Hall. As the song went on, a cop approached us and told us that we could stay for a few more songs before he got in trouble. He also informed us that if Willie invited him to smoke in his tour bus, he wouldn’t feel professionally obligated to say no.

willieATgruenehallAs we got back in the car to go home after the show, I realized that I’d been able to cross off a long-time item on my bucket list, on accident. It was always a dream of mine to see Willie play at Gruene Hall but it was always too expensive for my friends and I or sold out too quickly. While we couldn’t buy tickets to actually go into the dance hall, I’m still grateful for that cop letting us watch the show from the musicians’ entrance, also known as “Willie’s door.”

Willie using the musicians entrance to Gruene Hall, or “Willie’s Door”


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 4, Concert, Texas

Home With the Armadillo: Jerry Jeff Walker and ¡Viva Terlingua!

jerryjeff2I first became familiar with Jerry Jeff Walker’s album, ¡Viva Terlingua!, on the fourth of July a couple of years ago. I was playing in a band at a house party in East Dallas. We heard that there was a great group playing next door so we went over to check it out. There we found a grizzled pair of old men playing early rock standards such as Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Sam the Sham and the Pharoh’s “Wooly Bully.” At the end of their set, they played a song called “London Homesick Blues.” The drunken crowd seemed to already know every word.

“I wanna go home with the Armadillo,

Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene,

The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen.”

I’d never heard the song but it was impossible not to sing along. Afterwards, my friends and I introduced ourselves to the band and talked with them for a while. The leader turned out to be Bob “Cosmic Bob” Livingston who was a founding member of Jerry Jeff Walker’s band The Lost Gonzo Band.


The next day I woke up and listened to ¡Viva Terlingua!, the album that featured “London Homesick Blues” as well as many other songs the band had played the previous night. It instantly became one of my favorite country albums I’ve ever heard.


Jerry Jeff live with Guy Clark and Dave Perkins

¡Viva Terlingua! was a live album recorded at Lukenbach, Texas on August 18th, 1973. It’s often seen as the seminal album of the progressive country scene. This offshoot of country music occurred mostly in Austin in the 70’s when country artists started embracing the hippy movement. I think this “progressive” sound comes through in the album in its laid back, party feel. At times Jerry Jeff sounds almost drunk while singing as the crowd yells out in approval. The first song on the record,“Gettin’ By” is an autobiographical account of Jerry Jeff’s carefree, hell raising lifestyle he was living as a musician.

In the next song on the album, Jerry Jeff dips into the catalog of fellow Texan and folk musician, Guy Clark with “Desperadoes Waiting For A Train”

The song is about Guy Clark’s childhood mentor growing old and slowing down. The haunting violins and intensified drumbeat late in the song give it an eerie runaway train sound.

The next song on the album is “Sangria Wine” a fun song about drinking with friends. This is followed a sad song with an upbeat tempo, “Little Bird,” and the rock influenced “Get It Out.” Following these songs is the classic “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother” written by Ray Wylie Hubbard.

“Backslider’s Wine” and “Wheel” follow “Redneck Mother” and have a more somber feel.

c504bcfc582063df91a13b4ea519332bClosing out the album is “London Homesick Blues,” written by piano player, Gary P. Nunn, which is about a country singer feeling homesick for Texas while on tour in Europe. For me, this track sums up what country music and recordings should be. The band is tight but is at the same time playing relaxed.

The repeated chorus and howls from the crowd towards the end of the song left a huge impression on me that July 4th a couple of years ago and continues to resonate with me to this day.

Here’s the version from the album, which is my favorite one, as well as a later live version.

Track Listing

1.    “Gettin’ By” – 4:01

2.    “Desperados Waiting for a Train” (Guy Clark) – 5:47

3.    “Sangria Wine” – 4:25

4.    “Little Bird” – 4:10

5.    “Get It Out” – 3:37

6.    “Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother” (Ray Wylie Hubbard) – 4:32

7.    “Backslider’s Wine” (Michael Martin Murphey) – 3:34

8.    “Wheel” – 6:00

9.    “London Homesick Blues” (Gary P. Nunn) – 7:43

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Filed under Austin, Classic Country, Live Music, Progressive Country, Texas

The Texas Groover

Doug Sahm

“You just can’t live in Texas if you don’t have a lot of soul.”-Doug Sahm

The first time I ever heard the music of Doug Sahm it was on a box set of one hit wonders of 60’s garage rock. It featured a hit from his band, The Sir Douglas Quintet. I would only find out years later that the genre busting career of Sir Doug could not be described in the allotted 2:25 seconds given to him on that box set.

Doug Sahm meeting Hank Williams at age 11

Doug Sahm (1941-1999) was a multi-instrumentalist/recording artist from San Antonio. He was drawn to music at a young age and quickly became a steel guitar prodigy.

On December 19, 1952, at eleven years old, he played on stage with Hank Williams Sr. at the Skyline Club in Austin in what would be Hank’s last show before his death two weeks later.

Next, the Grand Ole Opry offered Doug Sahm a spot, but his mother refused to let him go, wanting him to finish school instead. Doug continued to play clubs in Texas and in 1965, started his first successful band, The Sir Douglas Quintet. This mostly rock band came up with their name in an attempt to capitalize on the British Invasion despite their thick Texan accents and the fact that two of them were Hispanic. Their top hit, “She’s About a Mover” reached the U.S. Top 20.

Doug Sahm went solo in 1972 and released his first album Doug Sahm & Band in 1973, featuring many members of the Sir Douglas Quintet along with Bob Dylan, Dr. John, and the accordion playing Flaco Jimenez, “the father of Conjunto music”. In the 70’s and 80’s, Sahm went on several tours of the U.S. and Europe, gaining a significant following in Scandinavia.

He started the Tex-Mex super group, The Texas Tornados in 1989 with Augie Meyers, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jimenez. Their music mostly featured the country music of Texas and Northern Mexico. They won a Grammy for their first album Texas Tornados which hit #25 on the U.S. Country album charts.

Throughout his career, Doug Sahm also played on other people’s work, most notably appearing on Grateful Dead, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt albums.

On November 18, 1999, Doug Sahm died of a heart attack in New Mexico. Although this was a heavy loss, his band mates eventually reformed the Texas Tornados adding Doug’s son, Shawn as a member.

sahm-big-red-lonestar1The thing that draws me to Doug Sahm is his ability to create music that is in my point of view authentic while still being able to cross over genres consistently. He started out playing country as a kid and later adopted rhythm & blues, rock, and Tex-Mex eventually blending them all in his work. He said himself, “I’m a part of Willie Nelson’s world and at the same time I’m a part of the Grateful Dead’s.”

I personally discovered each of these phases separately. I heard the tejano rock of “She’s About a Mover” in middle school when I still mostly listened to rock music. I remember starting to listen to his more country oriented solo work when my friends and I were moving into our apartments in college. After a long day of moving in the August heat, we all collapsed on a couch and listened to Doug Sahm & Band. The next summer, at the end of a road trip to North Carolina one of my friends blasted a Texas Tornados album from the car outside of a run down carwash in Durham. We were exhausted from days of driving but as the last notes of “Una Mas Cerveza” wafted through the air we were reminded that it was time to head back home to Texas.


Filed under Country Rock, Texas

Time Changes Everything

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival

My roommates and I are all University of Texas students who live in a couple of old houses on a property in West Campus. Although my roommates are all from Dallas, I met them under different circumstances. I went to preschool with one, met another in little league baseball, was in a band in high school with two of them, and met the others in college.

Growing up in Dallas, we were all force-fed country music either by our parents or by the environment itself. The first song I ever remember hearing was Patsy Cline’s version of “You Belong To Me.” When I was a kid, my dad played Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison on the drive to preschool virtually every day. I hated it. If our parents weren’t playing country music, we’d hear it at school, at the baseball game, at the pool, pretty much everywhere we went. I rebelled against country’s early incursions in my life, instead, alongside my peers, opting for The Rolling Stones and other harder hitting classic rock bands. This same story parallels my roommates’ experiences growing up in Dallas. They were all brought up on Waylon and Willie but were instead drawn towards Hendrix and Clapton.

In high school however, things began to change for us. Playing in classic rock bands, we started noticing similarities in sound between country and rock music. A lot of those classic rock stars actually grew up on country music. Jimi Hendrix consistently tuned in to the Grand Ole Opry as a child. When the Rolling Stones came to America to tour in the early 70’s they stayed out on a ranch in West Texas to play out childhood fantasies playing slide guitar and sipping sweet tea on the porch, shaded from the sweltering Texas sun.

My roommates’ had this same musical epiphany. Eventually just like our musical tastes, the guys in my rock band and the bluegrass band I’d joined fell in together. We went back and embraced the music we were given as kids. We’d just as soon play Willie’s “Whiskey River” as Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” Music wasn’t really black and white anymore. The lines became blurred between Country, Blues, Rock & Roll, and Rhythm & Blues. I found this change of outlook listening to Johnny Cash’s train songs. One of my roommates found it through the bluegrass music of Bill Monroe while another through Dwight Yoakum and the Texas Tornadoes.

Country music brought us all back to our roots, which in turn led us to take a more open-minded approach to music.

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Filed under Austin, Blog Post 1