Twenty Years Ago Today

The 2001/2002 Austin Music Awards

Ray Benson
Ray Benson (Photo By John Carrico)

"Set the Way Back Machine, Sherman."

"Where are we going today Mr. Peabody?"

"We're headed for 1983. March. Austin, Texas. We're going to see what participants in this year's Austin Music Awards were doing the night of the very first such soiree ..."

Okay, okay. One time-travel piece per publication per, uh, century is probably more than anyone should be asked to endure. And if you caught any part of the "Gloria"-thon that sent Liberty Lunch into the history books, then a trip back 20 years to the first ever Austin Music Awards, despite the novelty of time travel, is a bit gratuitous as well. Apparently, that night's show concluded with a 30-minute version of Van Morrison's three-chord mantra.

Champ Hood
Champ Hood (Photo By John Carrico)

Yes, it's been 20 years since the first Austin Music Awards show (the poll actually predates the performances by a couple of years). Yes, you are that old. Worse, if you were to take a two-decade jaunt in the Way Back Machine to look for local teen hardcore sensations the Snobs -- this year's opening band -- you'd be wasting Mr. Peabody and Sherman's time.

For one, it's doubtful that drummer-to-be Bill Vanduynne's parents would be taking their 2-year-old to Club Foot. That's about as close as you'd get, though, since the rest of the punk prodigies in the band are currently a mere 14 years old. Guitarist Duncan Knappen readily acknowledges he doesn't have a single memory from the Reagan administration. When asked about the Awards Show being older than three-quarters of his band, he replied, "Yeah, that seems kind of strange." Indeed.

Of course things were a little different for another drummer, Terri Lord, of this year's second act, Supergirls. How so? Not only was Lord at that first AMA show, she took home the prize for best drummer. No foolin'. Lord, then with the Jitters, bested a bunch of people you'd be hard-pressed to remember. In fact, even she's hard-pressed to remember.

"I remember that David Gauge was on the list, because he was in the Standing Waves," offers Lord. "And what's his name? He wins a lot -- the Stevie Ray drummer. He might have been on there. Oh, you know who I bet was on there was T-Birds drummer Mike Buck."

Actually, that's a "no" on Gauge, "no" on "what's his name" (Chris Layton), and the Fabulous Thunderbirds' drummer did finish eighth, but it was Fran Cristina, not Buck (he was in the LeRoi Brothers). In her defense, Lord won the year before when there was just a poll and no show, so maybe there's some obfuscation of the two years. She does, however, correctly remember what happened next: "I got best drummer in '81 and '82, then I just kind of flew off the radar screen."

Sixpence None the Richer
Sixpence None the Richer (Photo By John Carrico)

This year Lord will be playing with Gretchen Phillips and Darcee Douglas of the aptly named super trio Lord Douglas Phillips. They will be joined by veteran scenester "Supergirls" Patrice Pike, Nancy Scott, Dottie Farrell, and Kris Patterson in bringing some 21st-century feminine empowerment.

Twenty years ago, falling somewhere between Knappen and Lord, is Spoon's Britt Daniel. He wasn't in diapers, but neither was he in bands. "I might have had a bass then," he speculates. "My first instrument was an electric bass. I think I got that when I was in either seventh or eighth grade, so that might have been what I had. I would just play along to MTV. I could play along to one or two U2 songs, which I found to be a real accomplishment."

Daniel lets slip a little nostalgia.

"MTV was a bit more progressive than it is now," he sighs. "They'd show 'London Calling,' so I'd see British stuff. If it was big in England, that meant to me it was probably cool."

Thankfully, the influence of Kajagoogoo was minimal, and Daniel and Spoon have gone on to create some of the best post-alternarock Austin has foisted on the listening public. It's funny that the Clash and MTV would collide in Daniel's preteen Temple, Texas, existence, because in the AMA poll of 20 years ago, MTV finished second in the balloting for "Best Thing to Happen to Austin Music in 1982." The Clash, meanwhile, managed a sixth-place spot for Best Concert, four back of Gang of Four and one spot ahead of the Stray Cats.

Spoon (Photo By Todd V. Wolfson)

As Daniel was dabbling in bass and Anglophilia up north, south of Austin, in New Braunfels, Sixpence None the Richer's Leah Nash was living, for lack of a better term, an ordinary life. "Well I'm 25 now," she offers, "so I was just being 5." It's not quite the most vivid of recollections, but a happy one nonetheless. "I had a good childhood, so I guess I was in the midst of enjoying that." That millions of fans have since enjoyed the quintet's lush, sincere pop via radio hits "Kiss Me" and La's cover "There She Goes," seems appropriate.

Two decades ago, Champ Hood was in his early 30s, kicking around Austin with Walter Hyatt and David Ball in Uncle Walt's Band, third-place finishers in the Best Bluegrass Band category of the 1982 music poll. Unfortunately, four months ago, Hood lost a very private battle with lung cancer and Austin lost one of its prized possessions.

As a guitarist and fiddle player, Hood was the Townes Van Zandt of sidemen. And everyone he played with was better for it. His son, Warren, currently with the South Austin Jug Band, will host a Champ Hood Tribute. As he puts it, "We're going to try to get as many people as we can that he played with onstage in 25 minutes." Rest assured that's likely to be an impressive list of people that extends beyond just the Hippie Hour and Threadgills Troubadour players. One very special guest in particular will no doubt make the highlight reel.

Fortunately, back in 1982, Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson changed his way of livin'. "In '82, I was quitting drugs," notes Benson. "So actually, the first part of '82, I was still into drugs. But I got married, got straight, and my son was born at the end of 1983." Thanks to that, he and his Western swing institution are still around to play their own salute, which will include special guest stars Johnny Gimble, one of the premiere of all country fiddlers, and Jimmie Vaughan, the same in the blues genre, only with a guitar. Nice way to wrap up the 2001-02 AMAs.

In fact, that's the whole point here. Rather than eulogize the departed, as in the case of the Champ Hood Tribute, the "Salute to Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel" is not only to celebrate Ray, but also to have him as part of the festivities. And while it might be a reminder that he's inching closer toward the back nine of his career -- with nine Grammies to show for it -- Benson is nothing but grateful.

"I am really touched," he answers genuinely. "Touched in the head and touched in the heart. It should be really cool, and I know we've got some really cool surprises in store for everybody. I made a couple of phone calls and was just amazed at how giving people are." end story

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