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Over time, our "Best of Austin" issues have become an ongoing catalog of all things Austin, truly capturing the city and conveying a deep sense of place.

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Driving into work this morning, I listened John Aielli on KUT-FM. A few members of the Cornell Hurd Band (a 10-piece that is one of the truly great Austin bands) were plugging a forthcoming show at Jovita's that will celebrate a band milestone. One night a week at that restaurant, as I understood it, they take outrageous titles and make up songs for them. One of the band's guitarists, Paul Skelton (the most underrated guitarist in a guitar town), comes up with the titles, and Blackie White writes the lyrics. Hurd was there with White and Danny Young, widely acknowledged as the mayor of South Austin, band member, and proprietor of Texicalli Grille.

Aielli asked about South Austin, as it was mentioned in a song. Cornell Hurd spoke, urging Danny to tackle the question, but first he told how he knew this was the city for him after just showing up to play the Armadillo World Headquarters (opening for the Bellamy Brothers). Hurd prompted Danny, who launched into a heartwarming, tear-inducing, poetic evocation of the beauty of that community. Danny also talked about how, early on, he knew this was home.

It was apparent that Aielli didn't really know Danny, because afterward he was obviously impressed, noting how the speech was extemporaneous. Anyone who knew Young would know it would be redundant to comment on the eloquence of his speech. Young spouts poetry all day long, and getting him started is a lot easier than stopping him.

My first night in Austin, in 1974, leaning back at the bar of the old Soap Creek Saloon, I also knew this was where I was supposed to be. Knew it deep down and just right, knew it by the sense of place I'd never felt before. It was that certain. I left for a while but was back within a year and a half, and have never left again.

It used to be that I felt uncomfortable with "Best of Austin" issues. They seemed artificial, an arbitrary rating that was more exclusive than inclusive. They seemed necessary in a number of ways, the reasons to do one outweighing those not to publish. Still, the first years were conflicted.

The very body of "Best of" issues, year after year, combined with the availability of old issues online, has changed that feeling. Over time, these issues have really captured Austin, given a deep sense of the place I moved to 25 or so years ago. Rather than any "Best of" issue defining a specific moment, they are an ongoing catalog of all things Austin. Each new version of the "Best of" issue is designed to supplement the previous issues; it doesn't supplant them. "Best of" is an ongoing honorific, not a competition title.

Much of the staff is involved in this effort. Kate Messer is the captain of the team, which includes staff, readers/voters, freelancers, and proofreaders -- all with strong support from interns. There are other managers and staff involved. To name everyone who takes responsibility in this effort would take too much space and would note neither the retail advertising nor classifieds staff, who are crucial to the health and success of this venture.

The preparation takes months, with some of the most exhausting work, the proofing and fact-checking, running through until the end. Even as flats were finished, they were double-checked. Now, we turn it over to you.

Enjoy, argue, supplement, agree -- this issue is partially authored by you, and we're expecting letters. The discussion is an adjunct of the issue.

Although editorially I intervene, though not that often, for the most part I try to distance my involvement in the selections. Voting in the "Best of" poll as a reader or a critic gives you a commitment to its results. My enthusiasm for Austin would swamp the results, so for the most part, I shut up.

But for the past few years, I've taken a bit of this space to tip my hat to Austin morning radio. Kevin Connor and Marnie Sutton on KGSR-FM, followed by Brian Beck; Dale Dudley and Bob Fonseca on KLBJ-FM; Trina & Drew on 101X; Sammy Allred and Barbecue Bob Cole on KVET-FM; and John Aielli on KUT-FM. These are only the shows I listen to; there are more. Nowhere else in the country can you hear so much local music live on the radio almost every day, which this year's "Best of" issue acknowledges, but this is also fun radio. I find listening to radio folks as entertaining when I disagree with them as when I agree, especially when it's funny. I listen to the whole range of these folks.

Sometimes, to promote different events, I appear on some of these shows. I usually do them in a block. The rest of the day, folks tell me they've heard me on the radio. I'm always surprised to hear on which station they heard it. An architect and a lawyer, on whom I would have bet KGSR, listened to KLBJ-FM; with a punk and a streetwise hipster, I'm expecting the latter station, but it turns out to be the former. 101X had listeners I hadn't expected -- not only fans, but parents whose kids obsessively listen to the station. This is my salute to radio. Thanks for making those long, morning carpool drives so much fun.


The Truth About Charlie, Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme's (The Silence of the Lambs) new film, will be screened at the Paramount Theatre on Oct. 9, sponsored by the Austin Film Festival and the Austin Film Society. Demme will be there to introduce the film and conduct a question-and-answer session afterward: $15 for an orchestra seat -- which includes the party afterward, $10 for a mezzanine or balcony seat. The event benefits both AFF and AFS, with members of both getting a discounted ticket. Tickets are available through Star Tickets or at the Paramount.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

John Aielli, KUT, Cornell Hurd Band, Jovita's, Paul Skelton, Blackie White, Danny Young, Mayor of South Austin, South Austin, Austin music, Texas music, Texicalli Grille, Armadillo World Headquarters, Bellamy Brothers, Austin nostalgia, Soap Creek Saloon, Best of Austin, Austin Chronicle staff, Kate Messer, Kevin Connor

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