Like most cities, Fort Worth has a rich musical heritage. But for whatever reason, when the national mainstream media talk about music, our lovely town of cow is barely mentioned. Even worse, a lot of yokels, especially a lot of yokels who should know better, have no idea how rich Fort Worth’s musical heritage indeed is. Exhibit A: I got into a conversation with a smart, hip young guy the other day who had never even heard of Fred’s Texas Café – and he’s lived here his whole life!
Shocked, and just a little offended, I asked some local scensters to compile a list of stuff that I could hit my buddy over the head with. (Just kidding! But not really.) What they came up with were things that deserve their own museum or Hard Rock Café – but a Hard Rock devoted exclusively to 817 music. Here’s what some fellow scenesters had to say. Some of their answers may surprise you. – Anthony Mariani
Kelly Parker’s liver
A guy at the vanguard of the Fort Worth music scene for damn near two decades, Parker established his rep as owner of the Axis (the original one), a rock club famous for hosting a Fugazi show and also for turning away Vanilla Ice, who showed up unannounced and was consequently forced to perform for a few disinterested punk-rock kids in the parking lot. After a false start with another club, Mad Hatter’s, Parker opened a huge venue, The Engine Room, on West Vickery Street, mainly to give Fort Worth alt-rock radio darlings The Toadies someplace local to play. In the 1990s, he opened The Impala, a club that, with apologies to The Aardvark and Wreck Room (R.I.P.), was the only credible rock venue in town at the time. Parker consistently brought in marquee touring bands while also reserving space onstage for burgeoning locals like Flickerstick and Spoonfed Tribe.
Parker was a famously apathetic soundman but a real fun partier. In the waning days of the Impala, he put a lot of energy into the latter. I don’t know what became of him, but there’s little doubt that the local scene would never have developed into what it is today without his cool quotient, influence, and his withered, shell-shocked liver. – Eric Griffey
Delbert McClinton’s harmonica
After all, the legendary local bluesman is often credited with showing John Lennon the harp licks that later became the intro to The Beatles’ “Love Me Do.” – Jeff Prince
Carl Pack’s crutches
Six-foot-nine-inch, one-legged bartender and musician Pack epitomizes the don’t-fuck-with-me spirit of the West Side, specifically Fred’s Texas Café, where he was a regular for years back in the day, and also the late, lamented Wreck Room, of which he was the public face. It was funny listening to people talk around his disability: “That tall bartender. You know, the one with long hair.” “Oh, you mean ‘One-Legged Carl’?” Besides being able to move faster than a biped behind the bar – and to come across it when the situation demands – Pack is lead singer of the Gideons, a longtime local punk outfit that was voted best hard-rock band by readers in the Weekly’s first Music Awards 10 years ago and that has reunited a few times recently. Since moving over to Lola’s (formerly 6th Street Live), Pack has become a calmer, gentler version of his old self but is still resolutely his own guy. – Ken Shimamoto (music critic and historian, blogger [www.stashdauber.blogspot.com], Stoogeaphilia pasha, and the author of Wreck Room Stories: True Tales From the Home of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Fort Worth As Told By the People Who Were There)
The fake ID collection at Joe’s Garage
This barn of loudness and drunkenness wasn’t just the best game in town for metal but pretty much the only game. No wonder kids – and I mean kids – came from all around to gain entrée into the legendary Camp Bowie West club, especially when a little local metal band was playing there all the time and about to blow up. Though in its forgettable eyeliner-and-spandex phase, Pantera was still, as the song says, “Goddamn Electric”: “Put your trust in whiskey, weed, and Black Sabbath / It’s goddamn electric / Fort Worth!” – Justin Press
The Bruce Lea Luxury Box at the Aardvark
All of the real rock drama, best haircuts, and close-up views of Walker Wood running lights come from the tiny raised booth in the back, named after the father of Flickerstick’s Brandin Lea. – Caroline Collier
Savvy’s black spandex pants
The garish rockers were the house band at Savvy’s Nightclub on East Lancaster Avenue during the late 1970s and early ’80s. Sidebar: Savvy played my high school prom in 1978. At the club the following year, I threw up all over a waitress’ feet after downing a flaming cocktail on top of a pitcher of beer. I was later ejected from the club for throwing a shot glass against the wall and shattering it. Ah, youth. Check out www.savvyrock.com. – Jeff Prince
Crates from Sound Warehouse and Peaches record store
A simple contraption made of wood and about the size of two milk crates, these bad boys were vital to the health of any respectable record geek’s vinyl collection. And more than being just sturdy, they were emblazoned with the cool logos of their respective entities: the blue and yellow of Sound Warehouse or the bitchin’, Allman Brothers-style, sunset-colored namesake fruit of Peaches. – Justin Press
Jhon Kahsen’s piano bench
Pianist extraordinaire Johnny Case, who “Muslimized” his name a couple of years back to protest the deaths of innocents caused by the Iraq war, has the distinction of holding down the city’s longest jazz gig: six nights a week since 1983 at Sardines Ristorante Italiano, in both its original Camp Bowie Boulevard location and its current one on North University Drive. He has inspired countless younger musicians and plays the music straighter and truer than anyone. He also has expanded his live repertoire in recent years to encompass original compositions and, on special occasions, free improvisation. Jhon/Johnny defines “local treasure.” – K.S.
One of Matt Hembree’s clones
Bassist Matt Hembree is – supposedly – one guy, but you tell me how “one” guy can play in, like, 12 bands (Goodwin, The Underground Railroad, Stoogeaphilia, Pablo and the Hemphill 7, Bindle, probably your kid brother’s band, and more) and also do some producing work and take out the trash on Monday nights. The answer: clones. If you happen to travel to Barbados or some other fantastical island paradise any time soon, be on the lookout for the real Hembree, who’s probably livin’ la vida loca while his twins are back here helping keep the local scene afloat. – A.M.
Wes Race’s shako
Kansas expat and poet Wes Race is a blues fan’s blues fan. He’s been there and done that: lived in Chicago in the ’70s, served as Hound Dog Taylor’s road manager, was present at the creation of Alligator Records, and so on. Since the ’90s, he’s been a fixture at Fort Worth blues joints, the more authentic the better, often carrying an artifact from his collection of blues memorabilia as an icebreaker or mounting the stage to declaim his poetry alongside local blues eminences like Ray Reed of the BTA Band or the late Robin Sylar. Race just finished recording a spoken-word-and-blues project with Lost Country’s Jim Colegrove at the boards. As was once said of Lord Buckley, Race is an immaculately hip aristocrat. – K.S.
One of Sumter Bruton’s guitars
Legendary bluesman Stephen Bruton’s brother grew up in his dad’s record store on South University and played in seminal bands like Robert Ealey’s Five Careless Lovers and the Juke Jumpers during the New Bluebird Nite Club’s heyday. He’s also been known to give a free guitar lesson or two from behind the counter at the store, and he’s exercised an influence on generations of music-obsessed TCU brats, pulling their coats to all that’s best in American music. – K.S.
The Black Dog Tavern’s white piano
It sat in the corner, and I never saw anyone play it, but if it could talk, it could tell some great stories about the jazz jams that happened right under its nose. – C.C.
Something of Don Edwards’
A singer performing mostly old-school cowboy songs, Edwards was a mainstay at the White Elephant for years before moseying along – to Lord knows where. The performer had a bit part in the Robert Redford movie The Horse Whisperer, and that was the last I’ve seen of him. (Then again, I don’t get out much, to the movies or anyplace else.) Maybe we could hang a pair of his cowboy boots or something. – Jeff Prince
Twisted Black’s rap sheet
Last year, around the time that major indie label Koch was about to release his latest record, Twisted Black (né Tommy Burns) was arrested for alleged drug trafficking. A wicked rapper with a steel tongue, Burns claims he was railroaded. We don’t know about all that, but his rap sheet isn’t even that long! – A.M.
Arlington Heights High School alum John Deutschendorf’s (Denver’s) specs. … Ernest Tubbs’ guitar: It had “Thanks!” painted on the back, and the C&W legend would turn it over after every song to show his appreciation for the audience. … The square piece of carpet that Bugs Henderson used to carry around to his shows and stand on while he performed. Since he didn’t wear any shoes when he played, he preferred to stand on something clean rather than a dirty stage floor.
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