Page Two: It's Always Twine Time
Follow the music
The radio is dead. The room is silent. Shades are drawn. The past is everywhere, like glimmering dust in the air as the setting sun tints the room. I am home. My partner is out. Margaret is married and living in San Antonio. Doug isn't playing anywhere tonight. Larry Monroe's show is no longer a place to gather and mourn.
Yes. The Stallion is gone, the Dobie closed. Raul's, Liberty Lunch, and the Cannibal Club old history. Daniel Johnston is living outside of Houston. Not even sure where Gibby is. Cursing the darkness, death has again visited our community. As it has before. As it always will.
The radio is off. The evening is dark. But this is the prelude. One can smell hope in the air as a gentle perfume. The shades are still drawn.
The radio is quiet. The curtains are flung open, Hank Ballard is on the stereo, loud, as I'm shining my dancing shoes (not that I have dancing shoes). Paul Ray was always about the music. It is out there being made right now. Drench your lives in music. Light your souls with the sweet sax blowing. Let's honor him now the way he lived, the music he made, the influence he had. Bang the drum quickly, with that big old Texas Mike Buck beat.
There is no dust, there are no shoes, no one died, it is just the long open welcoming night filled with the promise of where the music will lead. We flocked after that light, went all in seeking out the sound. We found it again and again and again. Well, the secret is that it ain't gone. But how the hell you going to find it if you don't go out looking?
Paul Ray carried the torch. He carried, sang, touched, juggled, and remade the torch, but he never came close to letting go of the pure fire that burns at the heart of rock & roll. First it had to be about the music. The gang he hung with didn't even have a clue as to how to pretend to like music they didn't. Life is too damn short. But good sweetness, the way they smiled when those playing onstage were cooking with jet fuel. The back of Antone's (at a different place in different clubs) was always the gallery. They'd be standing there listening. You could tell how serious the acts were by how dense the crowd: of course Clifford, the Vaughan brothers, Angela Strehli, Kim Wilson, Lou Ann Barton, Sarah Brown, Paul and Diana Ray, James Cotton, among others. When they took to grinning, usually gently rocking, words weren't necessary and there were no words. It was a holy time in a holy place.
Saying goodbye to Paul, we say hello to Antone's. The truth is that there is something special about music. Something spiritual about how it is made, and those who make it often seem blessed. When everything is aligned, there is something sacred happening in the place it is made. So really, we say welcome back to the Antone's as we have so long known it. Anyone could have put up a sign. Will Bridges and his team nailed the heart!
While standing next to Clifford at the club one night during a particularly cooking Doug Sahm tribute-show jam, he leaned over to me pointing up at the rafters. Jutting his finger, he pointed above the stage. "Look, look up there," he said. I looked up. I saw nothing. "No, look up there. Doug's watching. He's smiling." Looking up, well damned if he wasn't!
Telling this story at last year's Doug Sahm tribute show, I pointed up to the ceiling at the Paramount. "Tonight Doug is up there, Clifford with him. And they're smiling." They were. You could feel them everywhere in the room.
The other night when Paul Ray passed, you knew the spirit was upon the club. But really any night you can go by this place on Fifth. The stage will be rocking. If you look up in the rafters, that's where you'll see the three of them, Doug rapping, Clifford hands in his pockets, and Paul slyly grinning.
But all three listening, rapturously listening.