A World in Which All Worlds Fit



Don Walser at the granddaddy of South Austin live music venues, the Broken Spoke.


photograph by John Carrico



The first time Willie Nelson played the Broken Spoke, he spoke softly, lived in Nashville, and looked the part of a humble country singer: short hair, clean-shaven, a modest turtleneck and Western vest. His band was dressed to the nines. The year was 1967.

"There wasn't no long hair, no beards, nothin' like that," recalls James White, Broken Spoke proprietor and the man responsible for bringing Nelson to town via the South Lamar honky-tonk.

Thoroughly respectable, in other words, and the country gentlemen in attendance saw no reason to fuss. By the time Nelson moved to Austin in the early Seventies, however, things had changed a bit, for the country singer and the Capital City, and when he showed up for his Broken Spoke shows, he did so with long hair, sneakers on his feet, and likely a few joints in his pocket. On top of that, he brought a whole new breed of fans -- the dreaded hippies -- who descended in droves upon the old-time dancehall on Austin's south side.

"At first I was sayin' wait a minute," recalls White, himself a good ol' boy who'd not had much truck with the free-your-mind movement that was a-bornin'. "I was used to wearin' short hair. I've never really had a beard or long hair. But after a while you get to meet those people that have long hair and they're just as friendly as can be and they don't want to start no trouble. A lot of the time, the cowboys that came out here, they'd want to pick a fight with [the hippies], or laugh and kid them, but then later on the same cowboys, they grew long hair and a beard themselves. A lot of them did."

It may seem insignificant -- the history of South Austin as told through facial hair -- but it was no small development. It was a genuine meeting of the Texas minds, and accomplished what many must have thought impossible: the reconciliation of the longhair and the redneck.

"I think between Willie Nelson and places like the Broken Spoke and the Armadillo we kinda got them to sit down and enjoy country music together," posits White.

Before long, rednecks were growing out their hair, the longhairs were pulling on cowboy boots, and James White was booking such counterculture fare as Freda & the Firedogs and holding fundraisers for liberal politico Lloyd Doggett. South Austin would never be the same -- progressive, perhaps, but at least one local wag has suggested that the real reason for the success of the cultural experiment was somewhat more earthy: By the time Nelson and the longhairs rolled into the Spoke, all the big rocks in the parking lot had been picked up and thrown already. There were none left for fighting, so everybody just started gettin' along real good.

Of course, gettin' along real good is something of a tradition in South Austin, and one that extends to the present day. And the mix of folks gettin' along is not just rednecks and longhairs, but workers and slackers, punks and poets, Anglos and Latinos, bikers and busboys, geeks and freaks and more. In other words, South Austin's not just Bubbas, but Bertholds, Belindas, Bernardos, Biancas, and Billy Bobs.



photograph by John Carrico



And, of course, musicians of every stripe. In the words of Brad Reed, music coordinator at Jovita's, "South Austin grows music." Although there's no way to confirm it, local legend has it that more musicians live in the 78704 ZIP code than in any other ZIP code in Texas. They range from the rich and famous (Ray Benson, Jimmie Vaughan, and Marcia Ball all call South Austin home) to the poor and obscure (too numerous to mention) to just about everyone in between.

Why so many? Larry Telford guesses the reason is cheap Mexican food. As a sound engineer, 30-year South Austin resident, and keyboardist for such Austin stalwarts as Lee Roy Parnell, Kinky Friedman, and the Geezinslaws, he might know. Yet one suspects it's more than just cheap Mexican food. It's cheap rent, too (used to be, anyway), cultural diversity, relaxed pace, lack of pretension, funkified flavor, and the fact that just about everything a working musician might need -- from rehearsal space to recording studios to guitar shops to clubs to play in -- can be found south of the Colorado.

"It's good to wake up in the music business every morning and be able to keep south," says Telford, "and not have to cross the river in order to do your music business."

And if the cultural distinctions that separate north from south Austin are doubtless fading, there was a time when they were prominent indeed.


The Good Ol' Days: South Austin Then

There aren't too many whose South Austin musical roots go back further than Sammy Allred, Southside native, Geezinslaw Brother, and, um, plainspoken host of KVET radio's populist/pugilist morning program The Sammy & Bob Show. The 60-year-old Allred was born in Austin, and spent his lollipop days on his grandfather's 340-acre farm that once stood between what is now South Lamar, Ben White, and Manchaca boulevards. (In fact, Ben White Boulevard used to be called Allred Lane). And while he's spent periods in New York and Vegas in the years since, he's always kept a South Austin home.

The South Austin of his youth was a woolier, woodsier, and arguably more colorful place than the South Austin of today, and Allred spins tales about a cedar-choppin' side of town that was home to a cultural calendar that included such timeless diversions as whorehouses, cockfights, and hayseed wrasslin' matches.

"Rooster fighting was a big thing in my youth as a South Austin child," Allred explains. "We didn't have Nintendo yet."

There was music too, at Doug's Club, Big Gil's, S.A. Martin's Grocery, and Ken Jackson's Drive-In, as well as the citywide singalongs held at the Zilker Hillside Theatre every Thursday night. Local performers included Dr. Dan Grieder, Jesse James & the Boys, fiddlers Henry Hudson and Johnny Deison, and the proto-Geezinslaw Hungry Mountain Boys. Larger acts came through and played Palmer Auditorium and the City Coliseum; Allred recalls sneaking into a Hank Williams show at the Coliseum by carrying an empty guitar case in the back door. Ever the gentleman, Williams, not yet 30 but already courting death, took Allred into the parking lot for a chat so that co-star Minnie Pearl could have a bit of privacy.



Willie Nelson

photograph by John Carrico



Allred himself has been stagefront since 1951, when he formed the Geezinslaw Brothers with some high-school friends; the name is taken from Slick and Cecil Geezinslaw, country brothers from Snook, Texas, who figured prominently in the stories one of Allred's neighbors told. The Slaws played their country comedy act around town until 1961, when a talent scout from the Arthur Godfrey Agency caught their sets at Bergstrom Field and Gregory Gym. A week later they were signed to CBS and hauling their washtub bass around New York City, where they would stay for better than 10 years, playing for national television and radio audiences and guesting on The Ed Sullivan Show, Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, and The Jackie Gleason Show. "We were just like the Clampetts go to Manhattan," recalls Allred. "We had never been out of South Austin in our lives."

They came back to Austin whenever they could, and in 1971, with Godfrey's influence waning, they returned to Austin to stay. Their timing was good; Allred and partner Dewayne "Son" Smith got back just in time to see their sleepy, blue-collar neighborhood turn into an internationally known musical mecca, anchored by such Southside venues as the Split Rail and the famed Armadillo World Headquarters.

The Split Rail, located at the corner of Riverside and South Lamar, was a colorful place, known for its chili dogs and onion rings, asphalt floor in the dining room, and the dilapidated milktruck on blocks that served as a beer cooler. It's the thought of the Split Rail's imposing owner, known far and wide as Jerk Roy, that gets Allred chuckling.

"People would drive in for miles every morning just to watch Jerk Roy eat," recounts Allred. "He'd eat like a watermelon and three dozen tamales and then a steak and then some banana pudding."

According to Allred, Jerk Roy was a razzer of the first order, a ballfield heckler who could get visiting teams -- whatever unfortunate squad was playing the Austin Senators at old Disch Field -- so angry that they'd climb the fence to get at him. Rumor even has it that the New York Yankees offered Jerk Roy $20,000 to come razz for them, but he declined. There's also the story about the wrasslin' match/razz-off between Jerk Roy and Cecil Perkins, a South Austin rooster fighter and real estate man known as the Witch Doctor.

"Cecil Perkins didn't last 10 minutes," Allred recalls. "It wasn't even a match."

If the Split Rail boasted the meaty charms of Jerk Roy and overalled maitre d' Slappy Gilstrap, it was the Armadillo World Headquarters that rose to national prominence. Opened in 1970 in an old armory just south of the river (where Threadgill's World Headquarters now proudly sits) and run by Eddie Wilson, Mike Tolleson, and Jim Franklin, the Armadillo quickly built a reputation as a laissez-faire concert hall that held the distinct promise of Big Ricki's guacamole and music that was good and strange and different.

In addition to the "outlaw country" acts that called the hall home -- Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Steven Fromholz, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jerry Jeff Walker and such -- the Armadillo welcomed touring acts ranging from Count Basie to Bette Midler, Ravi Shankar to the Ramones. Freddie King, Commander Cody, and Frank Zappa all recorded live albums at the Armadillo, while Gary P. Nunn immortalized it in "London Homesick Blues," the song that still serves as the unofficial Austin anthem and theme for Austin City Limits.



Jovita's

photograph by John Carrico



While Eddie Wilson has said that the success of the Armadillo was based on "cold beer and cheap pot," most Armadillo veterans talk about the joint's personality. Even more than Willie's first shows at the Broken Spoke, the Armadillo brought together the hippie and chipkicker crowds for a mix that was tolerant without being timid -- Texan but not aggressively so.

"It was just a happy time then," Allred recalls. "Everybody was just raising a little hell and having fun and not really worrying about it."

Despite the legendary loyalty of its patrons, the Armadillo faced near-constant economic difficulties, and by the late Seventies could scarcely keep its doors open, saddled with a bloated staff, thinning crowds, and a less-than-reverent-respect for the bottom dollar. After a slow stagger to the finish line, the Armadillo closed its doors for good on New Year's Day, 1981.

"The Armadillo," wrote Craig Hattersly in an obituary for TheTexas Observer, "outlasted its supporters. Gone now are the ringing truths, the sense of purpose that united the Armadillo generation. Gone is the desire to scream defiance, to court martyrdom. That generation no longer frequents bars and honkytonks. It left the revolution to get back in line."

While some might have disagreed with the strength of those words at the time, there are few who would disagree now that the South Austin of that time no longer exists. Yet if veterans of that scene permit themselves the occasional bout of nostalgia for that lost bit of magic, they don't seem inclined to dwell on it. At least Sammy Allred doesn't.

"You can't go home, as they say, but also you can't stay home. Things change."

That doesn't mean it's not a bit unsettling, the pace of change, at least for the old-timers. "Heartbreaking," Allred calls it. A tour of the places-what-used-to-be will tell you as much. The old Armadillo proper is now the driveway for One Texas Center, a 13-story tower with tasteful landscaping, its very own parking garage, and tenants as distinctly modern as Motorola. The Split Rail is now a Wendy's parking lot. The legendary Soap Creek Saloon, an artist hangout famous for good music, cheap tequila, and two-handed Texas joints (originally located on Bee Caves road) is now a suburban subdivision, lined with split-level homes, manicured lawns, and Altimas and Range Rovers in the driveways.

Alexander's, once a farmhouse blues joint out on old Brodie, is now a Sonic Drive-In; $2.49 Coney and Tots specials have replaced W.C. Clark and Stevie Ray Vaughan as the order of the day. The old Austin Opry House on Academy is deserted, and across the street, where the Soap Creek found its second South Austin home, sits the upscale State House Apartment complex, complete with burgundy railings, bubbling fountains, and a sturdy iron gate surrounding the whole site.

"Upscale," Danny Young calls it, "one of my most unfavorite words in the world."

The South Austin that Young loves, from the Broken Spoke to his own Texicalli Grill down on East Oltorf, is what you might call downscale. The "Mayor of South Austin" is not much for pretension or money, two things he sees more of creeping into old South Austin. Rents are going up, cars are getting nicer, and an alarming sense of sophistication is creeping into some of the tonier apartment complexes.

But while Young, who first hit town in 1975 and raised his share of hell in the Split Rail, Armadillo, and Soap Creek, remembers the old-time-used-to-be fondly; he's more afraid of stagnation than change.

"I was raised in a town [Kingsville, Texas], that for 25 years never changed," says Young. "I like change. Change is fine, but let's make sure we keep the good stuff."

The good stuff, to Young's mind, is the stuff that is homegrown and unique to Austin, whether new or old. What he doesn't want is a repackaged Armadillo, feeding off nostalgia for a vanished Austin.

"We're gonna be resold this great concept and lifestyle we had in the next available frozen package, and look for the coffee-table book, that kind of thing," says Young. "It's gonna take some new young Turk that's running hungry to really force the ante up."

As examples of new young Turks, Mr. Mayor cites examples like Brad Reed at Jovita's, South Austinite Bradley Jaye Williams, who plays accordian behind both Los Pinkys and the Gulf Coast Playboys, and Todd Sanders, the South First artist who has made his name in neon and industrial art.

"It takes a continual fresh wash," Young observes. "New blood. Otherwise it just becomes guys like me who have been doing this for a long time and dig it, but it's what we already do. We need people who are going to do whatever their rendition is of this existence."


The Fresh Rendition: South Austin Now



South Austin Musician of the Year, Stephen Bruton

photograph by John Carrico



It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon on Jovita's back patio, site of the Second Annual St. Cecilia's Day Festival. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians, and in her honor Bradley Jaye Williams has put together a roots-rich triple bill, an accordion trifecta that favors a love of the squeezebox over any finer cultural distinctions. Among the musics on this day will be Cajun (Ponty Bone), Czech (the Dancehall Boys), and conjunto (Los Pinkys), and one has to wonder if it's St. Cecilia that likes the accordion so much or just Williams.

Not that anyone's complaining. It's awfully good music, the kind of diverse lineup that Jovita's is known for, and as the lilting and lyrical tones float out of Isidro Samilpa's pushbutton Hohner accordion, it seems the perfect way to pass a Sunday afternoon. Attendance is a little thin, but those who are here are in the spirit, soaking up the sounds of South Texas under the watchful gaze of Frida Kahlo and former U.S. Senate candidate Jose Angel Gutierrez, whose portraits stare benignly upon the back-porch proceedings. Manuel Herrera's bass rumbles through the floorboards, enchilada plates and cold beer flurry forth from the kitchen, and for now at least, everything is well and good in South Austin.

Brad Reed has worked hard to make it that way. He's the music coordinator at Jovita's, the South First Mexican food eatery that books one of the most impressive weekly lineups in town: Don Walser & the Pure Texas Band on Tuesdays, Ponty Bone every Wednesday, Cornell Hurd holds down Thursdays, and a batch of ol' regulars and up-and-comers fill the remaining slots -- Marti Brom, Sheri Frushay, the Gulf Coast Playboys, and Los Pinkys are all familiar to the Jovita's stage. Live local music six nights a week, and what's more, there's never a cover. There hasn't been since Jovita's opened its doors in 1992.

"We do what we do because we support live music," explains Mayo Pardo, Jovita's founder, father, and conscience. "And we like to do it more through action than through words. What we're trying to do is create a world in which all worlds fit. That's really our vision. And doing it through music is the best way I know."

A world in which all worlds fit seems a little high-flown at first, but it makes perfect sense at the unabashedly political, unashamedly progressive Woody Guthrie-meets-Cesar Chavez (-and-has-a-plate-of-beans) world of Jovita's. Mayo, who has lived in South Austin for 51 years, has worked to make Jovita's not just a food and music joint, but a de facto community center that hosts poetry, dance, and political fundraisers, billing itself as "Territorio Libre Since 1992."

Yet while Mayo's interests are political, particularly where it concerns the changing face of South Austin, his mood is less than severe. He points to the Emma Goldman quote that's painted on Jovita's walls: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution." True to Emma's word, Mayo is installing a dance floor at his place, well aware that even revolutionaries need to shake a tailfeather now and then.

It's bellys that are shaking down at the Saxon Pub on South Lamar, shaking with laughter as Rusty Wier is smack in the middle of one of his off-color fishin' stories, his eyes shining each time he rolls past a punchline ("Don't hand me no straight lines," he warns). Midnight has come and gone, but Wier is still playing to a packed room -- part South Austin, part Fraternity Row by the looks of it -- under the peaked roof of the Saxon. He stops to hawk his latest CD, Are We There Yet?

"If everybody in the world were to buy just one," he says, a single finger held up in the stagelights, "what a rich motherfucker I'd be."

There's more than a hint of South Austin in that bent-brim, brushy-mustachioed this-ain't-church delivery, more than a hint in that shit-eating grin that's plastered on his face, or the belt buckle the size of Matt's El Rancho and the benevolent glee with which he downs the shots of tequila that are brought to his table like clockwork. (Indeed, Wier's performance makes a strong case that tequila, and not two-for-a-dollar tallboys, is the national drink of South Austin.) It's a good time, by god, and Wier is the practiced Master of Ceremonies, having delivered his own brand of outlaw country to the Saxon regulars damn near every Thursday night for better than six years.

It's not all belt-buckle, either: Wier has a genuine South Austin pedigree. Born in Corpus Christi, he moved to Austin when he was six days old. And although he grew up south of town in Manchaca, he went to South Austin's Porter Middle and Travis High, graduating with honors in 1962.

So, Rusty, you been a Bubba all your life?

"Not yet."

Don't hand him no straight lines.

Wier is right at home at the Saxon, which has been serving up live music seven nights a week for nine years. Folks come from all over town to hear the music, but owner Joe Ables still considers the Saxon something of a neighborhood bar. Last year, they held their inaugural South by South Lamar festival, capped by the presentation of the South Austin Musician of the Year Award (Stephen Bruton won the honors). Ables calls his part of town laid-back, humorous, and hard-drinking, adding, "we're proud to be South Austin."

Proud, yes, but not parochial, although he says he has some friends who still won't cross the river; Wier himself refrains from any cross-town bird-flipping.

"Austin is Austin," he says. "We're all in this rodeo together."

Crosstown, at the Continental Club on South Congress, the rodeo is in full swing, folks pouring into the club steadily, each of them leaving at least a 10-spot at the door. The mirror ball is spinning, happy chatter rising, and the crowd is carrying on like they don't have to work tomorrow. It's the Shoeshine Charley Benefit, raising money to help the Continental's shineman, Charley Miller, pay some unforeseen medical bills. An impressive procession of artists jump up in front of the club's famous red velvet stage backdrop to sing a few for the cause: Cornell Hurd, King Soul, Jon Dee Graham, Toni Price, Leroi Brothers, Ronnie Dawson, Kelly Willis, Dale Watson, Wayne Hancock, Lou Ann Barton, and Kris McKay all put in some mike time before the night is through. A good chunk of change is hauled in to help ol' Charley out.

It's a helluva lineup, but then the folks at the Continental are used to good music: With a couple of bands every night and a celebrated string of weekday happy hour shows, the Continental is rarely without a backbeat. Regulars include Ted Roddy, Toni Price, T.D. Bell & the Blues Specialists, Alejandro Escovedo, and Junior Brown when he rolls back into town, plus a healthy helping of the usual suspects who lined up for the Charley benefit.

Not that there's always been such a tangle of roots down the Continental way. When the club first opened in 1957, it was a swank supper club, low-lit and decidedly refined, host to such subtly swingin' acts as Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. The Continental evolved into a saxophone-and-feather-boa burlesque club in the Sixties; rumor has it both Candy Barr and Bubbles Cash lowered the boom on Continental customers. There were a few more mutations -- redneck bar, blues and roots joint, punk club -- before current owner Steve Wertheimer took over in 1987, returning the Continental to its Fifties look (yep, them murals were part of the original decor) and booking retro, rockabilly, country, and swing. In the 10 years since, the Continental has gained a reputation as one of the most happenin' joints in town.

Like the proprietors of the Saxon Pub or Jovita's, Wertheimer calls the Continental a South Austin club, estimating that a good two-thirds of his clientele are from the neighborhood. Besides, he says, everybody that works there lives in the neighborhood, including himself.

"I don't think that the Continental would be here 40 years later if it were anywhere other than South Austin," adds Dianne Scott, doorwoman, pamphleteer, and all-around Queen of the Continental. "The neighborhood has supported this club for the entire 40 years it's been here."

Of course, Jovita's, the Saxon Pub, and the Continental are far from the whole story. South Austin is filled with live music, from the clubs (Ego's, the Chaparral, the Realm) to the restaurants (Green Mesquite, Shady Grove, El Borinquen, Artz Ribhouse, Guero's, Curra's, the Filling Station, Polvo's, Treehouse Grill, El Sol y la Luna) to the places in between (Threadgill's, Shaggy's, Flipnotics). In just about all of them, you'll find roots music mixed with the sly savoir faire of South Austin, a pick-'n'-grin mentality that knows things are best when they're not rushed too terribly much. Sit and stay awhile, have yourself a cold one. Take in a tune or two or four or 15. We ain't goin' nowhere. That goes double for the Broken Spoke.

With 34 years of continuous country music under its belt, it's the granddaddy of South Austin music. The Spoke has played host to such luminaries as Bob Wills, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, George Strait, Dolly Parton, and Tex Ritter, all while keeping its down-home come-one-come-all-but-don't-forget-your-dancin'-boots feel. And if we're talking tradition, it's hard to one-up proprietors James and Annetta White.

James' family first came to Texas in 1836 (to fight in the Revolution, natch), and his great-great-grandfather, John Eaton Campbell, homesteaded just south of Austin in 1850; the family ranch, which once grew to 5,000 acres, was across the old Fredericksburg Road from the Allred place, at the present-day intersection of South Lamar and 290. White's great-granddad Robert Emmett White was mayor of Austin in 1900, and come 1964, James White built the Broken Spoke not a mile from his childhood home.

In the time since, the Spoke has come to be recognized all over the world as a true Texas dance hall, built on White's formula of "cold beer, good whiskey, and good-lookin' girls to dance with," plus good music: Don Walser, the Derailers, Alvin Crow, and yes, the Geezinslaws, all hold down regular Spoke slots. While George Strait has priced himself clear out of the Spoke's range, the original longhair himself, Willie Nelson, still drops by for an occasional visit. When he does, he finds the Spoke much as he found it in 1967. White intends to keep it that way.

"I enjoy what I do," he says simply. "People let me live my dream, and that's to run the Broken Spoke."


The Tradition Continues: The More Things Change ...

Bradley Jaye Williams tells the story of a morning, not so long ago, when he got interrupted on his way to breakfast. He was walking down Live Oak, on his way to South First for a spot of grub, when a neighbor of his hollered out her front door.

"Aren't you the accordion player for Los Pinkys?"

"Yes indeed."

"Where you headin'?"

"Thought I'd go down to Little Mexico and get some breakfast."

"Oh, no no no. You're having breakfast with us."



South Austin cottage industry,
Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson

photograph by John Carrico



So Williams was treated to a home-cooked meal of papas fritas and huevos rancheros at the home of Christina Rodriguez. Right nice, Williams remembers. Then her husband John pulled out his accordion. Seems he'd played some when he was younger. Bradley squeezed a few, John squeezed a few, and before long the three neighbors were deep into an after-huevo jam session. Of course, Williams wasn't the first accordionist to live in the neighborhood.

Los Pinkys' other accordion player, Isidro Samilpa, moved to South Austin in 1943, followed shortly by local conjunto king Camilo Cantu. For the next 50 years, while fronting Los Quatro Nacionales and siding with such Eastside legends as Julio Moreno, Sonon Reyes, and Los Sandovales, Samilpa lived and raised a family in South Austin. By the time he moved to Del Valle in 1997, Williams was there to carry on the tradition, to take Samilpa's place in the impromptu breakfast jams and give further flower to those far-reaching roots.

Danny Young hasn't heard Williams' huevo story, but when he does, he'll probably love it. Despite all the change in South Austin, despite all the great old honky-tonks that have given way to franchise cheeseburgers, Young feels that the spirit of South Austin is still alive -- a spirit of community, tradition, and shared good times.

"Although the joints come and go, the essence, the music, the life that surrounds them still finds a home somewhere," says Young.

The South Austin music community, then, is greater than the venues that hold it.

"In a sense," echoes Brad Reed, "it remains the same more than it changes."

"The thing that sold me on Austin," adds Young, working his way through a non-franchise cheeseburger at the Broken Spoke. "This is the only town I've ever lived in that had this great sense of community. Like this really was our town. When I say our, I mean mine, yours, the folks sitting in the next booth, the family over there, the folks working behind the bar.

"It was our town. It wasn't some big wealthy power brokers that decided how the town was gonna go, it was, 'You got a dream? Get enough people together and make it happen.' Whether it's politics, owning the Broken Spoke, or opening up the Chronicle. It's one of the few places where that 'our town' concept [is still alive], that feeling that a group of people can make a difference."

Although South Austin may shift and evolve, grunt and grow, and lose a few pearls along the way, Young says, the spirit remains. For every Split Rail and Soap Creek that fades into memory, there's a Saxon Pub or Jovita's to take its place; for every Isidro Samilpa to move on, a Bradley Jaye Williams to move in; for every tradition lost, a new one formed. Go ahead and turn the Armadillo into Motorola University -- you still can't kill South Austin.

Or if you can, you're gonna have to do it the hard way. There's a notion, quite alive in the neighborhood, that regular folks, working hard, can make a difference in the heart of their communities. You hear it from Danny Young, you hear it from Mayo Pardo, and if you try hard enough, you can even hear it from Sammy Allred. If the latest battle is gentrification, as direct a threat to the cultural and artistic diversity of South Austin as a whole strip of Wendy's franchises, they're ready to take it on. Young calls it Jeffersonian democracy, and he describes it as such:

"You may kick our ass, but you're gonna have to kick our ass. We're not giving up."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 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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