Into the Mystic
It’s so cliche to make those hoary “rock & roll heaven” statements,” but Traci transcended the cosmos – some might say supernaturally – in stellar company. Also gone this weekend: Donald “Duck” Dunn from Booker T & the MGs. The most famous bassline Dunn played wasn’t even his. In the band's classic “Green Onions,” co-author Lewie Steinberg recorded the loping bass. Dunn owned it ever after.
Around 1978, Dunn toured with Levon Helm's RCO All-Stars, the entourage playing locally at the Austin Opera House. I lived, literally, across the driveway from the back of the venue, which sat beside a notorious apartment complex called The Terrace. As often happened, some of the players ended up in my living room. (You don’t think that location was a coincidence, do you?) Among them that night was Duck Dunn. Rockers were easy to entertain; Dunn was a legend.
He was also a sweetheart, smoking his pipe and sitting up with us 'til all hours of the morning before leaving with a present: a vinyl disc of James Brown Live at the Apollo Theatre. Without a record sleeve. Somehow, I had two copies and even without its cover, the music was so compelling Dunn wanted it. I gave it to him. I still have the other one. With the record sleeve.
It must have been around that same time that the first wave of punk washed over Austin. Flooded it with fury and might. I regarded the Offenders among the second wave of punk, when hardcore steamrolled over the perky sounds of New Wave in jackboots and mohawks. The Offenders didn’t care about perky or pretty, and with Tony Johnson aka Tony Offender on guitar, they slashed and burned their way into local infamy in the early Eighties.
Johnson died this weekend as well, after a long battle with cancer. His friends and family – he was married to Rabid Cat Records founder-turned-real estate queen Laura Croteau, with two children, Alex and Natalie – aren’t letting him leave without a proper farewell. A Celebration of the Life of Tony Offender takes places Sunday, May 20, 3pm at the Scoot Inn. Among the many bands playing in his honor are Churchwood, El Pathos, Sore Losers, and the Ideals. Proceeds will benefit his hospice care group. Those people never get enough thanks.
Robert Vignaud left the stage permanently on May 4, days before his 61st birthday, due to complications of liver disease. His name wasn’t well known around here, unless you had an ear for the finest Cajun music. A native of Louisiana, Vignaud played with the legendary Beausoleil; in Austin, he played with Charles Thibodeaux & the Austin Cajun Aces, the Shakers, Brian Cutean, Nash Hernandez Orchestra, Melancholy Ramblers, and Bill & Bonnie Hearne, to name a very few. He was also one of the generation of Louisiana musicians to link the old and new. His family encourages friends and fans to participate in an organ donor program. Give the gift of life.
All those grieving lost a friend, a father, a brother, a husband around Mother’s Day. Charlene Hancock lost her daughter Traci the day before. The weight of that loss on such a significant day is inconsolably sad.
“I hadn't planned to raise babies,” the matriarch of the Hancock clan confessed in 1999. “When my first child came, I just loved it. It was just one of those things. I had no plans for a baby, but I loved it.”
Charlene’s baby made her last dance a waltz across Texas to her beloved Colorado and back. Traci’s passing, like that of Robert Vignaud, Tony Johnson, and Donald Duck Dunn leaves us empty for the loss, but rich for the experience and never at a loss for music.