The Austin Chronicle


By Christopher Gray, May 28, 2004, Music

Out of the Past

The Texas Music Museum's current home might not be the Bullock-esque architectural palace the state's musical legacy deserves, but it's steeped in history nonetheless. The museum presently shares quarters with the East Austin Economic Development Corporation and some APD administrative offices in the Marvin C. Griffin Building at 1009 E. 11th, the original site of Anderson High School. (Due south is Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Pastor Griffin has served since 1969.) The museum only has enough space to display one or two exhibits at a time, and right now its walls are adorned with "Great Tejana Singers" and "The History and Development of Conjunto Music." The exhibits trace the evolution of South Texas' native sounds from pioneers like Bruno Villareal (the first Tejano accordionist to be recorded) and Lydia Mendoza through Selena and 2000 Grammy winners Los Palominos. The 50 or so performers are spotlighted via photos, old LPs and 45s, and brief, albeit revealing, bios. Narciso Martinez, for instance, turned the polka into conjunto's predominant style; Mingo Saldivar replaced Flaco Jimenez in Los Caminantes when Jimenez joined the army; and Chelo Silva sold more records than any female singer in Texas and Mexico during the 1950s. The exhibits run through July 16, but don't expect a guided tour: The museum's all-volunteer staff works mostly after hours and weekends. Call 472-8891 for more information.

The Taxman Cometh

The state's never-ending search to finance its public schools without blatantly raising income or property taxes could wind up taking money from local musicians' pockets. The House's finance bill, which died last week with the rest of the special session, included a provision charging an extra $1 per head for live entertainment – professional sports, cultural performances, and live music. After the session imploded, Gov. Rick Perry appointed a committee to investigate revenue sources, and the entertainment tax is "still very much on the table," says Elyse Yates, who's starting a group called Texas Music Votes to raise awareness. One dollar a head might not sound like much, but Yates uses brother Colin Gilmore's recent Saturday-night Jovita's gig to show it adds up. With a "pretty good crowd" paying $5 each, the band netted $340, or $68 per member. Factoring in the tax – and assuming Jovita's keeps its cover at $5, which, for various clerical reasons, it probably would – that number drops to $300 and $60. If Gilmore plays 10 gigs a month, his band would be out the sizable sum of $400. "My feeling is they have their eyes on Simon & Garfunkel at $175 a head, or the Spurs and Rockets, and they're accidentally getting Colin Gilmore," says Yates. As Perry could call the legislature back into session at any time – and has to eventually – this one's a long way from over.

... And Justice for Joel

In many ways, popular doorman/stage manager "Handsome" Joel Svatek was the heart of Red River, as demonstrated by the many "IHJ" tattoos, buttons, and murals that pepper neighborhood clubs and clubgoers. Svatek, 33, died last January from injuries suffered when his car was struck from the rear by an SUV driven by Thomas Wandersee. Wandersee was charged with intoxication manslaughter and last week received a trial date for the week of July 26. At the 20-minute pretrial hearing, Wandersee's attorney elected not to challenge the results of a blood test previously conducted on his client. Besides the investigating officers, a cabdriver and passenger present at the scene are expected to testify at the trial. Joel's mother, Katherine Ward, said Monday she expected the proceedings to last about a week and that Joel's legion of Red River friends have been invaluable: "I don't know how I would have gotten through this without them." Intoxication manslaughter is a second-degree felony, with a maximum penalty of $10,000 and/or two to 20 years in prison.

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