Dancing About Architecture
A New Year and those who didn't and almost didn't make it
Dawn of the Dead
New Year's celebrations tend to invoke bacchanalia, debauchery -- the culmination and release of a year's excesses -- and as entertainers, musicians often find themselves at the center of it. Whether due to missteps brought on by lost inhibitions, or the bottled-up depressions that tend to burst out of their cages over the holiday season, it's always sad when the changing of the year's guard brings with it the inevitable fatalities. Notably, both Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams reached their expiration dates over the New Year's holiday, and this year's heavy-hearted loss is guitarist Eddy Shaver. In the early morning hours of December 31, Shaver died of what has since been officially declared an accidental heroin overdose. The 38-year-old son and bandmate of beloved Texas "five & dimer" Billie Joe Shaver was taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco after being found by his wife Irene at about 10pm on Saturday, and was pronounced dead at 2:58am Sunday. A report in the Waco Tribune-Herald quotes friends of the guitarist as saying Shaver had struggled with drug addiction in recent years, but "seemed to be on a personal upswing" at the time of his OD. In an amazing show of strength the elder Shaver, who lost both his wife and mother to cancer in 1999, performed at the Hilltop Bar & Grill in Spicewood on New Year's Eve as scheduled, joining Willie Nelson for a tribute to Eddy. The younger Shaver recorded five albums with his father and played on a myriad of others including those by notables such as Dickey Betts, Waylon Jennings, Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson, and Dwight Yoakam. Shaver, the band, had finished the now-ironically titled The Earth Rolls On, which is scheduled for a March 20 release on New West, while Eddy had just signed a solo deal with the Antone's label the Friday before his death. Band members and friends of the Shaver family have established a memorial fund in an attempt to help ease financial pressures regarding funeral and associated costs. If you'd care to donate, the address is: Billy Joe Shaver, PO Box 6695, Ft. Worth, Texas 76115 USA. Other departures: flamenco dancer and choreographer Jose Greco, 82, renowned as the greatest Spanish dancer in the world -- a recent visitor to Austin's One World Theatre -- died of heart failure. Harold Burroughs Rhodes, inventor of the electric piano, also passed away this week at age 89. Finally, for now anyway, dead at the age of 86 from natural causes (and the official first celebrity death of 2001) is actor/Martian Ray Walston, who portrayed Cameron Crowe's "Mr. Hand" in the film version of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which has gained a following despite being helmed by the world's worst director, Amy Heckerling.
Dale Watson Bounces Back
In a near-tragedy, Dale Watson ended up in the hospital following an intentional overdose of pills and alcohol during the holidays. Consumed by depression over the death of his fiancée in a car crash several months ago, Watson's downward spiral hit bottom on December 28, when he consumed a potentially lethal quantity of alcohol, Sominex, and Benadryl. Fortunately, his road manager Donnie Knutson discovered the dazed and despondent Watson in his hotel room and took him to the Brackenridge emergency room. Watson's longtime steel player Ricky Davis, who's been reassuring fans and friends at www.steelguitarforum.com, reports that no damage was done to any of Watson's vital organs and that the local country icon was transferred to the St. David's counseling center for several days and has resumed performing as of this week. Davis says Watson had described the days leading up to his overdose as being, "Like a skipping record -- every morning I'd wake up and relive the day [of his fiancée's accident]." Since leaving the counseling center, however, Davis says Watson is doing much better. "He's very positive on his outlook," says Davis, "and is really working at finding and redefining himself," adding that "the other most important reasons for his being here of course are his children." Expect to see a rejuvenated Watson at his regularly appointed gigs: Ego's on Mondays, Continental Club happy hours on Wednesdays, the Little Longhorn on Thursdays, and barbecuing and playing at the Continental Club in Houston on Sundays.
This year finds a whopping 35 Texas-based or -born artists grabbing nominations for the 43rd Annual Grammy® Awards. Among those:
Song of the Year is a battle between the Lee Ann Womack hit "I Hope You Dance" and "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child, and both are up for other awards. Womack's looking at Best Female Country Vocal Performance, Best Country Song, and Best Country Album, while Destiny's Child is nominated for Record of the Year, Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal, Best R&B Song for "Say My Name," and Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media for "Independent Women Pt. I" from Charlie's Angels. Former Eagle and Barton Springs fan Don Henley got multiple nods, too: Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Taking You Home," Best Pop Vocal Album for Inside Job, plus Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for "Workin' It." Erykah Badu is up for two awards, in the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song categories. Kirk Whalum's up for Best Pop Instrumental Album with Hymns -- In the Garden, while at the other end of the sonic spectrum is a nomination in the Best Metal Performance category for "Revolution Is My Name" by Pantera (who can kick Jethro Tull's ass any day). Johnnie Taylor is up for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Album with Gotta Get the Groove Back, while Steve Earle got the nod for Transcendental Blues in the Contemporary Folk Album category, and Willie Nelson is in for Best Traditional Blues Album for Milk Cow Blues vs. new local James Cotton and his Superharps LP. Nelson was also nominated in a category won last year by Asleep at the Wheel, Best Long Form Music Video, for the Wim Wenders -directed video companion to 1998's Teatro. Speaking of eternal Grammy attendees Asleep at the Wheel, they're aboard this year with Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal. Of his nomination for "Cherokee Maiden," from the Ride With Bob album that did so well at last year's Grammys, Ray Benson explains that the single was released after last year's deadline passed, making it eligible for this year's awards -- though he admits he wasn't aware the song had been issued thus until he heard about the nomination! He adds that despite his eight previous Grammy wins, the band will "be there with hats on" and that he's especially looking forward to the ceremonies this year. That's because if this track takes the trophy, it'll be the first Grammy winner that he actually sings on.
A little business to take care of this week: This year, as some of you have already noticed, things are a little different with the Chronicle's Musicians Register. Specifically, the Register will be an exclusively online deal in 2001, though an abbreviated "index" form will likely see print within the Chronicle's pages. For those without Internet access, however, hold tight, and in the next week or so I'll give you a list of free Net providers and locations to allow you to enter your information... Yep, South by Southwest week, March 9-18, is approaching, so I should remind you to vote in 2001 Music Poll Ballot, the results of which will be celebrated at the Austin Music Awards Wednesday, March 14, which kicks off the music portion of the festival. While I'm on the topic, here are a few more names of bands who have "responded favorably" to the conference's request to perform: Laika & the Cosmonauts, Chuck Prophet, the English Beat's Dave Wakeling, Sparklehorse, Mexico's Genitallica, and the hard-to-beat Ike Turner! Meanwhile, volunteer calls are starting up at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 208 Barton Springs Rd., for both new and returning festival volunteers. For those with free time and interest, help is needed for the music, film, and interactive conferences, so you should show up Wednesday, Jan. 17, between 5-9:30pm, or Sunday, Jan. 21, between 1-5:30pm. For more info contact the SXSW office at email@example.com or 512/467-7979... Next Thursday, the Golden Arm Trio, Brown Whörnet, and KMFA present their first "classical crossover concert" of 2001. The first half of the concert will be a performance of Prokofiev's "Fugitives," 20 short piano pieces performed by local pianist Jeff Helmer, followed by Peter Stopschinski and Graham Reynolds joining Helmer and other band members to perform improvisations based on Prokofiev's piano pieces. That's at the Armstrong Center (Austin Lyric Opera building), Barton Springs Road and Bouldin, next Thursday, Jan. 18, at 7 & 9pm. Tix are available at Thirty Three Degrees... Tonight at the Continental Club, look for the Les Amis documentary benefit. Performing will be Rebecca Cannon with Thor, Denia Ridley, Little Big Man (a local French band) , and Honky, raising funds for a documentary Cannon describes as being about "an Austin that is quickly fading away and that will never be restored"... A notice on the Web site of Surfdog/Universal Records says that the last step is being taken; the Butthole Surfers go back in the studio January 8 with producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls) "to complete the long-awaited follow-up to Electriclarryland!!!!" though again, no release date is being given. While fans continue to wonder if the Surfers will ever get another album released, a person who may or may not be Gibby Haynes explains via the Internet that, "We will find this desperate jewel of a trigger, if it takes all of life to put these dumplins on her back and send her out to the lowlands in search of the sacred knocker ticker"... Finally, you ask, what's Dallas' Vanilla Ice been up to lately? Well, he's recently put the finishing touches on a new album tentatively titled Skabz (does Bob Schneider know about this?) and is currently looking for a label for the disc, which features members of Public Enemy, Soulfly, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Insane Clown Posse. Oh, and the inspiration for Eminem also took a page out of that young white rapper's book last Wednesday. Vanilla ended up on ice, ice, baby after an altercation with his wife Laura while driving in Florida, and spent a night in the pokey in Ft. Lauderdale before being released on Thursday on $3,500 bail. According to the Associated Press, Ice placed his hand over his lady's mouth as they drove and "pulled a bit of her hair to stop her from leaping out the window of the truck." So much for all the Ice's detractors, who not only thought he'd never record again, but figured at this point in his career that he couldn't even get arrested...
-- Contributors: Christopher Gray, Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer, Margaret Moser