Reeling in the Years with Ray and Rusty

It’s Saturday night before Valentine’s Day and I’m spending it with the man I’ve spent more Saturday nights with than all my husbands and boyfriends combined. He’s been married all these years so it’s been a little dicey, but we’ve managed just fine. We even got his wife to let me “borrow” him for a very public annual event for about twenty-five years, and since I was often married or attached, it looked perfectly innocent.

And in that corny kind of Same Time, Next Year way, there was always that moment when he and I would stand together in front of hundreds of people once a year. No one knew about those Saturday nights, those precious hours after dinner and before midnight. During the two years I lived in Hawaii, my friend E.A. acted as go-between and would record him sending “messages” to me, because his voice is so divine. Sometimes we even spent Tuesday and Wednesday evenings together. And to think it all started on a small, left-of-the-dial radio station in Austin, Texas.

Yes, I mean Paul Ray and Twine Time on KUT. I was a fan of the show when Bill Bentley started it way back when. I was also a charter member of Ray’s Cobra Club, the ragtag gang of fans of his old-school big band blues croon and ungodly fine knowledge of rhythm & blues. So when Ray took over for Bentley, it was like preaching to the choir. By the late 1970s, Ray's Twine Time was full-custom gospel to a town with one of the hottest rising blues scenes in the world.

Having made the move from 45s to CDs, Ray’s distinctive baritone has accompanied the best and worst times of my life over the years. In my younger days, it was my getting-gussied-up music. In later years, it was my ritual music for Saturday night dinners.

That annual public event was, of course, the Austin Music Awards. Paul Ray was my stand-up guy, my right-hand man, my confidante and sounding board for most of the years we did the show. When I think about what goes into the guts of putting that show together, Paul Ray as the emcee was always the soul.

Now, have I mentioned the man I’ve spent more weekday mornings with, from 9am to noon?

Speaking of the Music Awards, Hall of Famer Rusty Wier is a little further down the same cancer road as my brother Stephen, which is to say not as well as we’d like. Rusty holds a very special place in my heart because he’s such a loner, always done things his own way and on his own time. He’s also one of the most remarkable songwriters around; the song that always accompanies me mentally when returning to Austin isn’t that damn “London Homesick Blues,” it’s “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance.”

The Saxon Pub is honoring Rusty Wier on Saturday, the most compelling reason to hear his soulful roots sound that can only be called Rusticana. If you can’t be there, his website accepts donations for treatment of his liver and colon cancer here. The prayers you can donate for free.

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Paul Ray, Rusty Wier

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