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Off the Record

Johnny Depp hits the Continental Club; Eric Johnson crashes the Texas Music Hall of Fame

By Austin Powell, Fri., Oct. 28, 2011

Pirates of the Continental: Johnny Depp and Billy Gibbons
Pirates of the Continental: Johnny Depp and Billy Gibbons
Photo courtesy of Andy Langer

Backdoor Love Affair

Afterparties for ZZ Top's first annual La Grange Fest at the Backyard and the local premiere of Johnny Depp's The Rum Diary at the Austin Film Festival – plus spillover from the music portion of the Texas Book Festival, probably – all crammed into the Continental Club late Saturday. In another terribly kept secret, the actor joined Bill Carter & the Blame for a quickly sold-out gig and extension of P, the twosome's one-off collaboration with Gibby Haynes, which debuted at the 1993 Austin Music Awards. "Other than feeling invisible (and not for the first time, but that's okay), it was mostly fun," recounts guitarist and longtime Bob Dylan sideman Denny Freeman, who was also joined by Louisiana's C.C. Adcock. "It wasn't that different from a regular Bill Carter gig for me," Freeman adds. "Our gigs always have unexpected songs, unplanned moments, slightly different lineups." Billy Gibbons' two-song appearance wasn't planned. He was sitting upstairs in the gallery with Mike Flanigin before two security guards created enough room for him to make it to the stage. "It was a circus," relays Gibbons' local escort and close friend Andy Langer. According to Music Editor Raoul Hernandez, however, the real must-see set took place at the Backyard. "In almost two decades of live ZZ Top worship, I'd never witnessed such a primal performance from the band." Read more at austinchronicle.com/earache.

Miles and Miles of Texas

Judging from the guest list at the private opening party at GSD&M last Wednesday, the Texas Music Hall of Fame has some serious contenders for its inaugural class next fall: Ray Benson, Joe Ely, Kathy Valentine, Marcia Ball, and a surprisingly thin Paul Wall. "Eric Johnson shouldn't be here," joked Director of Operations Debbie Gardner. "He didn't RSVP." Inspired in part by the Chronicle's Austin Music Awards, the new institution will induct five performers (plus ties) and one nonperformer each year, and plans to launch an accompanying tour. While the usual suspects sit on the board – Terry Lickona, Rose Reyes, Casey Monahan – the inclusion of Country Music Association CEO Steve Moore, Live Nation's Danny Eaton, and Dallas Mavericks President Donnie Nelson lend some insight into the massive scale of the operation. "We are ever mindful of the fact that this is the Texas Music Hall of Fame," said Executive Director Ed Fair. "It's very likely that annual induction ceremonies will take place in different cities throughout the state."

Gene Kurtz (1942-2011)

Gene Kurtz
Gene Kurtz
Photo by Winker

The bassist nicknamed the Last Man Standing by Dale Watson has been laid to rest. Gene Kurtz, 69, succumbed to cancer Sunday, confirmed his longtime girlfriend Dell Edwards. Inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame at the Texas Legacy Music Awards in his native San Antonio last month, Kurtz was best known for co-writing Roy Head's iconic 1965 hit "Treat Her Right," a rumbling rhythm and soul staple in the rock canon that's been covered by everyone from Otis Redding to Bruce Springsteen. An early sideman with Augie Meyers in Denny Ezba & the Goldens, the rest of Kurtz's résumé was just as impressive: He worked with Bo Diddley, Pat Boone, and Edgar Winter, along with several local projects. "He was pretty much the consummate musician, the perfect road warrior, and a gentleman," says Watson. "Even near the end, when you saw him in that uncomfortable stage, he had humor, wit, and wisdom. He was a beautiful man."

I Walked With a Zombie

Jesse Dayton (l)and Malcolm McDowell on the set of Zombex
Jesse Dayton (l)and Malcolm McDowell on the set of Zombex

"Stay tuned for the release of the most disturbing R-rated zombie movie since 28 Days Later," writes local honky-tonk stalwart Jesse Dayton from Los Angeles, where he's editing Zombex, his debut feature film, with horror legend Ed Marx. The pharmaceutical horror romp stars Malcolm McDowell, Sid Haig, and Corey Feldman, with cameos from John Doe and Fun Fun Fun Fest headliner Tom Araya of Slayer. Dayton's Halloween II alter ego band, Captain Clegg & the Night Creatures, is finishing up the soundtrack, which puts the film's completion date near Thanksgiving. There's plenty more in the works for Dayton, including a tribute album to Kinky Friedman. "I'm goin' to South America next year to direct a vampire movie," he says. "You won't believe the cast."

Random Play

Keith Landers, better known as Johnny Dee, died on Oct. 17, after a dialysis appointment. As the leader of Lone Star rock revue the Rocket 88s, Johnny Dee was the ultimate showman and the spokesman for the anti-littering PSA campaign, Don't Mess With Texas. He was 60.

Local shoegazers Ringo Deathstarr have been tapped as support for the Smashing Pumpkins' European run in November, coinciding with new EP Shadow (Club AC30), which features Trail of Dead's Jason Reece on the title track. "It will be 10-inch vinyl and will smell like Japanese cherry blossom," reports guitarist Elliot Frazier.

Quiet Company's getting pretty good at playing themselves. The brooding pop romantics landed walk-on roles in Someone To Watch Over Me and another currently untitled 2012 film.

End of an Ear just finished another expansion. "Luckily we got it all nice and pretty before Robert Plant stopped by," joked owner Dan Plunkett.

Gary Clark Jr. had his own bout with rock royalty earlier this month, joining Eric Clapton in São Paulo, Brazil, for an encore of "Crossroads." The local bluesman also cut an acoustic session for Rolling Stone while The New York Times hailed his CMJ showcase as "simply incendiary."

Shearwater has completed its highly anticipated debut for Sub Pop, tentatively due in early 2012 and to be followed by a tour with Sharon Van Etten. "If the last record was sailing into the distance," says principal Jonathan Meiburg, "this one is coming right for you."

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