Robert Plant Crowns Austin Music Awards

Fortune teller to unspool vintage Twine Time at local Grammys

Led Zeppelin oracle Robert Plant will perform on Wednesday at the Austin Music Awards in a special closing segment honoring KUTX’s late Twine Time host Paul Ray. It will be the singer’s only South by Southwest appearance.

Robert Plant at Stubb’s in 2010 (Photo by Gary Miller)

During his time as a townie, 2011-2014, Plant adopted a homegrown custom known to locals every Saturday night for decades: He tuned into Twine Time, a master class of classic soul, blues, and R&B. During a the station’s pledge drive in February 2012, the Whole Foods enthusiast famously called into the station to make a considerable donation and a request.

“Could you play ‘Steal Your Heart Away’ by Bobby Parker?”

Ray, 73, succumbed to ongoing health problems in January and thus closed the door on Twine Time, which he’d hosted since 1979. Prior to his tenure in the deejay booth, he was the charismatic, silky-voiced namesake of young blues lions Paul Ray & the Cobras, home to a boyish Stevie Ray Vaughan playing rhythm guitar opposite Denny Freeman. Ray later served as emcee of the Austin Music Awards, local equivalent of the Grammys, for a quarter-century.

Following an exclusive Paul Ray tribute at Antone’s in early March, one of its celebrants, Charlie Sexton – AMAs musical director and little black book for a second straight year – extended an invitation to his once fellow Austinite.

“When I sent the message to him and he got back to me, we talked about what had occurred with Paul and he spoke of how much Twine Time had meant to him,” said Sexton on Monday. “When I asked if he’d like to be involved in the tribute for Paul, he basically said, ‘I’ll be there.’ There were no negotiations.

“It stems naturally from how strongly he felt about Paul,” added Sexton. “Which is a wonderful thing from someone of that level.”

We can’t give away the details to Plant’s guest appearance, and even Sexton’s keeping details close to the vest, but the rock & roll icon, 67, will sing songs specifically tailored to Twine Time – one time only. Moreover, the segment fits like a glove coming out of an homage to the rebirth of Antone’s Night Club, which returned in January after nearly two years out of business. That part of the show, in addition to Sexton’s house band, stars Austin’s godfather of the blues, Jimmie Vaughan, plus the son of Antone’s first performer in the Seventies, C.J. Chenier, and great Texan southpaw singer/guitarist Barbara Lynn.

Other conceptual sets slated for the AMAs include “Freaks and Geeks” pitting cosmic Afrobeat tribe Golden Dawn Arkestra with orchestral indie rockers Mother Falcon, and composer Peter Stopschinski with violinist Jenavieve Varga performing “Wheelchair Epidemic” by Austin’s landmark punks, the Dicks. We’re also putting on a parade of Austin’s greatest fiddlers – including Warren Hood in duet with Carrie Rodriguez, plus Alvin Crow, Jason Roberts, and Erik Hokkanen – in a segment called “Blazing Bows,” which celebrates fallen western swing fiddle great Johnny Gimble alongside his son and fiddler Dick Gimble and granddaughter Emily Gimble, keyboardist/vocalist in Asleep at the Wheel.

Additionally, actress Renée Zellweger hosts a segment marking 20 years of the SIMS Foundation providing low-cost addiction and mental health care service for Austin musicians, collaborations that include Sexton and Spoon’s Britt Daniel playing David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and the former’s fellow Arc Angels co-frontman Doyle Bramhall II refashioning ZZ Top’s cover of “I Thank You.”

The AMAs uncork Wednesday, March 16, on the top floor of the Hilton’s Grand Ballroom, beginning at 7:55pm sharp. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online or at the door – if tickets remain (proceeds benefit SIMS). Those with SXSW credentials get in free, badges before wristbands. Anyone wanting a full or partial table, dinner and drinks included, at the front of the ballroom – just a smile away from Robert Plant – can inquire by phone at 512/454-5766 or email

Someone cue up “Steal Your Heart Away.”

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Robert Plant, 2015/16 Austin Music Awards, SXSW Music 2016, Led Zeppelin, Paul Ray, Twine Time, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, Denny Freeman, C.J. Chenier, Barbara Lynn, Charlie Sexton, Doyle Bramhall II, Arc Angels, Spoon, Britt Daniel, Johnny Gimble, Warren Hood, Carrie Rodriguez, Golden Dawn Arkestra

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