Distributor Capped!

Followers of this column knew it was coming, but now it's official; Antone's Records has signed a distribution deal with Discovery Records and will be receiving marketing support and major distribution through the monstrous WEA (Warner/Elektra/Atlantic) network in North America and Warner Music International in Australia. This follows Arista/Texas as the second major distribution deal to be struck in the city. Antone's will remain in Austin, of course, with "A&R guidance" provided by founder Clifford Antone and CEO Harry Friedman. Discovery's Cary Baker admits that "we came along at a good time" to the floundering label, though the deal was not engineered as a rescue effort. Baker came to the table as a blues fan, and "If somebody [at Discovery] is really into something," he says, "we find a way to do it." The first wave of joint releases come on July 23 with Sue Foley'sWalk In the Sun, Guy Forsyth's Needle Gun, and the Antone's 20th Anniversary compilation. Next, in August, albums will follow from Steve James, Teddy Morgan, and Candye Kane. The Forsyth and Kane albums will be re-releases of the current Antone's albums that Baker describes as having "limited" circulation so far. The keystone of Discovery's plans is the consolidation of Antone's 20-year blues catalog with Discovery's own 50-year jazz catalog, which includes the works of Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, and Sarah Vaughan among others. The itinerary calls for the development of the blues and jazz catalogs in tandem, with a long-term goal of beginning what the label calls a "populace-targeted new recording series" to be guided by Clifford and tentatively titled the Antone's Home of the Blues Masters Series.

Whither the Spankers?

One question raised by the Antone's/Discovery deal is where that other band Guy Forsyth is in, the Asylum Street Spankers, stands. The band has been recording with Mark Rubin producing and Danny Barnes engineering ("we did use that demon electricity," reveals Christina Marrs) and Continental Records has shown interest, but there appear to be questions about whether Forsyth's contract with Antone's would allow for a Spankers release on another label. Forsyth's reply to questions on the subject is simple: "I don't know." But why make an album when you don't know if you can do anything with it? Also simple: because the many, busy members of the band were "all here." For his part, Discovery's Baker has a pretty simple response to the question of whether Discovery would be interested in the Spankers: "I don't see why not. I've heard great things [about them]."

At this time, the Spankers could use the income from an album. The band lost $3,000 in cash that was destined for their bank account when Marrs' house burned last weekend. Marrs also lost a closet full of antique clothing. Benefits are being planned for her and her housemates at this time.

Sixteen Deluxe Sells Out!

"There's no reason to celebrate yet," says Sixteen Deluxe's Jeff Copas, "but, yeah, we are going to sign to Warner Bros." The band have arranged for a deal that would allow them to continue making "weird little independent things" while recording for the major, and in fact are recording an album right now with Crust (the band) producing, which won't be on WB or Trance, home of their previous album. Instead, look for some tracks from the sessions to go to Frank Kozik's Man's Ruin label and a compilation album that Sonic Boom is working on.

Limited Exposure

Pledge-drive time at PBS comes up again in August, and as always, they won't just be dusting off the umbrellas and tote bags to attract your donations; they'll also be trotting out special programming to run between their pitches for cash. One such program will be a long-awaited Austin City Limits highlights program entitled Country Music's Finest Hour, featuring the likes of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Dwight Yoakam, Merle Haggard, Mary Chapin Carpenter, k.d. lang, Lyle Lovett... the list goes on. The performances range from 1977 (Willie's "Blue Eyes Cryin' In the Rain") up to the Nineties, but if you know ACL's previous dealings with health-conscious artists not wanting them to show clips of them in their fat, coked-out days, you know not to expect too much from the decadent early Eighties. (Hey guys, how 'bout assembling a "private stock" vid called "Country Music's Highest Hours" just for laughs!) Finest Hour will also be released as a CD around the same time, and plans call for a similar treatment for ACL's Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute show. Despite previous delays on the release of the latter program, KLRU's Laura Bond insists that "finally, somebody besides the people who were there will get to see it."

Even Moore Video News

Yes, these was video shooting going on during the Monday and Tuesday part of Ian Moore's five-day stint at the Steamboat last week, and no, it's not because manager Jan Mirkin has a thing for Bob Saget. Nope, it's just that Moore's Live at Steamboat EP got fans demanding a video to go along with it, so now there are plans to self-release a video culled from that series of shows. It will be a full-lengther of at least an hour, and with pro sound -- it was recorded live to 24-track -- but as far as a date and a title, those are still up in the air.

Wining, Dining & Signing

Antone's isn't the only busy little label in town. Freedom Records has got a new "acoustic-based" CD coming out from Loose Diamonds at the end of this month. The disc, entitled Fresco Fiasco (isn't that the name of Wesley Willis' band?) features guests Toni Price and Champ Hood, but don't look for the band to be promoting it in town right away. They'll be heading for Europe in July and won't be back to do their Austin business until August. Freedom has also picked up Kevin Carroll & the Sleestacks' Redemption Day CD for U.S. release, and has Libbi Bosworth's new one headed for stores in late July, featuring Gurf Morlix, Prairie Oyster, Gary Primich, Erik Hokkanen, Casper Rawls, and one of the Ugly Americans.

The Skins of the Pariah

No, I'm not sure exactly what that sub-heading is supposed to mean, but it sounds vaguely mystical, doesn't it? In any case, have you heard the song "Skinless" that KLBJ has been playing? Well, it's one of eight cuts by Pariah, originally recorded as demos for a second album, that the surviving members have decided to release on CD. Continued interest from their fan base prompted the idea to issue the tracks, but the members still get hit with some "hard-core memories" of their late bandmate Sims Ellison when working on the project, says guitarist Jared Tuten. Look for the CD a few months down the line.

Jazz For the Eyes

As part of the "June is Jazz Month" goings-on (personally, I always found November more jazzy, and June sort of ambient), the Wild About Music art gallery has arranged to display 12 paintings by Diana Dale that once adorned the walls of New York City's Birdland club. The paintings depict jazz masters who performed there, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billie Holiday. Considering the paintings' history -- the Charlie Parker portrait vanished when the club closed in 1966, two more were lost or stolen while on loan to another jazz club, and the remainder haven't been on public display since 1968 -- I wouldn't try to nick one unless you want to end up like Jaco Pastorius.

Mixed Notes

Willie Nelson announced that he's donating proceeds from this year's Fourth of July Picnic to drought-stricken farmers in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. He's also asking other musicians to donate "a day's work" to the cause. I don't know, Willie; that's eight hot hours of delivering pizzas you're talkin' about... So you hate the slogan "Live Music Capital of the World"? Well, get ready for this: In a note to the Texas Music Office, Betty Baker at the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau allows that "ACVB [is] changing its logo to `Experience the C.H.A.R.M. of Austin' with each letter being explained: Culture, Heritage, Art, Recreation, and Music. This new logo does not `change' the motto of Austin, but simply expands the tourism base for the bureau's marketing." Maybe they should add another "C" for all the collisions that'll be caused by anyone trying to get all that out of a bumper sticker... My, how the world has changed! Remember, it wasn't that long ago that the American-Statesman would only refer to the Butthole Surfers as the "B-H Surfers"? Well, even the Branson, Mo. Daily News (now the only Live Music Capital of the World?) says that "It definitely is our policy to spell it out since it is a [band] name." But wait! According to the latest Billboard, those cutting-edge types at MTV asked Gavin Bowden, director of the Surfers' "Pepper" video, to remove the words "rapist," "shot," and "bullet" from the song. No reason was given in the magazine, but remember, we're talking about the same neo-Puritan rock & roll network that blurs out shots of people shooting the finger. That same issue of Billboard includes a nice feature on Storyville and their upcoming Code Blue/Atlantic release A Piece of Your Soul. For those curious about Atlantic's marketing strategy for the band, the piece quotes Pat Creed, director of product development for the label, as saying that "The one thing we've learned... for bands that have regional appeal is that we really micromarket to their home market initially to get them up the charts. Then we just use that story to take it everywhere and win them over market by market." In other words, you can all start looking for Storyville postcards in the mailbox any day now... Fastball are throwing an in-store at Waterloo Records this Friday at the usual time (5pm). One assumes they've played enough AC/DC songs this week and will be performing their own stuff...

-- Contributors: Christopher Gray, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser

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