San Antonio, Autumn 1966. I'm entering eighth grade, a newly minted 12-year-old transplanted from my beloved New Orleans. My solace is music, and my comforter is the Sears Silvertone AM radio on my bedside as it blares "55 K-T-S-A!"
The gray plastic box becomes my lifeline, shaping my malleable tastes and marking me forever. Summer 1967. I am what I hear. New Orleans Top 40 shuffled the Beatles with locals like Irma Thomas. In San Antonio, the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" and Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley PTA" fall between the Sir Douglas Quintet's "The Rains Came," Rene Y Rene's "La Mucho," and Sunny & the Sunliners' "Talk to Me." Regional artists like Dallas' Jon & Robin ("Do It Again"), Houston's Archie Bell & the Drells ("Tighten Up"), and Corpus Christi's Zakary Thaks ("Look Around") add to this model of cultural and racial integration. Winter 1968. Unrecorded local bands like the Lemon Rhindstone, the Water Brothers, and Virgil Foxx compete with Sweet Smoke ("Morning Dew"), Homer ("I Never Cared For You"), and the Chayns ("Night Time") for live audiences. Clubs sound exotic, alluring: the Mind's Eye, the Mystic Moor, the PusiKat. Now 14, I discover the world beyond home, church, and school. KTSA's AM rival KONO creates "The Underground," broadcasting FM-style album tracks Sunday nights. Frank Zappa is suddenly cooler than the Monkees. That Christmas, I smoke pot for the first time, in a car with a boy, with the radio on. Hendrix sings, "Ya got me floatin'." I float away and never return.