In 1992's Wayne's World, right after the famous "Bohemian Rhapsody" scene, Wayne orders Garth to pull his AMC Gremlin over at the guitar store, so he can gaze upon the gleaming, white Fender Stratocaster with the "No 'Stairway to Heaven'" sign next to it. It's his principal object of desire, at least until Tia Carrere comes along later. "He does this every Friday," moans Garth. "Stop torturing yourself, man!"
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
"It will be mine," breathes Wayne. "Oh, yes ... it will be mine."
Dreams like Wayne's are the bread and butter of musical-instrument manufacturers and retailers, thousands of whom converge on the Austin Convention Center this weekend for the (Inter)National Association of Music Merchants' (NAMM) 2006 Summer Session, a slightly smaller version of the trade show held every January in Anaheim, Calif. But it's a lot more than guitars: More than 500 companies will show off the latest in everything from band instruments to PA systems to stage lighting equipment, hoping to entice the retailers on hand to order their wares. Evidently, it's a sight to behold.
"When I was in Anaheim, I was blown away," says the Austin Music Office's Rose Reyes, part of the team that lobbied NAMM to move the Summer Session to Austin this year. "It's football fields full of pianos and guitars. I saw Ramon Ayala at one of the accordion booths. There [are] wacky L.A. rock stars demoing drums. It's crazy."
Selling Austin to NAMM was no problem. After outgrowing the convention center in Nashville, the Summer Session moved to Indianapolis last year, causing members to grumble that it needed to be somewhere with a better musical reputation.
"Music people know about Austin," Reyes says, crediting SXSW and the Austin City Limits Music Festival/TV show with maintaining the city's high profile. "If they don't already love Austin and are dying to get back, they're real curious about it. From that end, it was an easy sell."
"This is a huge step for Austin to be recognized as a music business [center] as well as a music capital," says Texas Music Office director Casey Monahan, also instrumental in bringing NAMM to town. "If Austin matches what [NAMM] wants, they could be here for another five years."
Although the show is closed to the public, Monahan convinced NAMM to offer local musicians and music-related businesses one- and two-day passes; as of Friday, 517 musicians and 688 businesses had taken them up on it. And what happens in the Convention Center is only part of it. For the serious schmoozing, companies have booked just about every available room in town. A select few events are open to the public: tonight's C.C. Adcock/Doyle Bramhall Sr. bill at the Continental Club, Friday's Gary Hoey show at Antone's, and the Dimebag Darrell art tribute at Emo's Lounge Friday through Sunday.
"In the old days, it was a contest to see who could have the biggest party," says Gibson guitars' entertainment relations facilitator, Don Pitts, who will roll out the red carpet for his dealers at Gibson's Penn Field showroom. "One year we did KISS and Fleetwood Mac on opening night."
"There's no telling who these companies will bring in," Pitts adds. "You could walk in one door and there'd be Eddie Van Halen playing in this little club for whatever guitar company he was endorsing at the time."
Excellent. Party time.
All this thinking about NAMM got TCB curious about the history of the guitar. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, its exact origin is unclear. The word itself is similar to both the Greek kithara and Arabic quitara, both used to denote various long-necked, lutelike instruments. One theory holds that the Moors brought early guitars with them into Spain, while another proposes the opposite: that guitars became popular in Spain because the similarities of mandolins and lutes to the Arabic oud reminded Spaniards of their only recently expelled Moorish conquerors. Either way, a gitarer played at England's Feast of Westminster in 1306, and by the Renaissance, guitars were firmly entrenched in European musical culture: Vivaldi, J.S. Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and Bartok, among a host of others, all composed works for the guitar.
The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians released its first yearly report last month, with some very encouraging numbers. Since starting in March 2005, the alliance has enrolled 450 members, raised more than $100,000 in donations, and earned a 96% approval rating. To make a donation or sign up, call 322-5177 or go to www.austinmusicianshealth.org.
The Rooftop at Houlihan's, 309 E. Third St., becomes the city's newest live-music spot tonight (Thursday) with Nick Connolly, then welcomes the Eggmen Friday, and Kissinger Saturday. In other venue news, the last warehouse in the Warehouse District, the Austin Music Hall, is getting a $5-million face-lift that will almost double its capacity to 42,000 square feet. More next week.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest broke every box-office record on the books last weekend, heralding a banner week for the Jolly Garogers. Besides warming up for the Alamo South's midnight Pirates premiere, the Garogers played a record third time on Fox 7 News in the Morning and were featured on American Public Media's Weekend America radio show (weekendamerica.publicradio.org/programs/index_20060708.html). The local swashbucklers open for L.A. hair-metal holdover Traci Gunns Friday at the Back Room.
Hoping for a repeat of its sold-out A Flock of Seagulls bonanza, Elysium welcomes suave New Wavers ABC ("Be Near Me," "When Smokey Sings") on Aug. 23. Fun fact: Their hometown of Sheffield, England, also spawned Human League, Pulp, Def Leppard, and Arctic Monkeys.
The Texas Sapphires open for Jason Ringenberg, of Jason & the Scorchers fame, July 21 at the Hole in the Wall, the night before Ringenberg plays selections from his new children's album, A Day at the Farm With Farmer Jason at Ruta Maya... Old five-and-dimers Ray Wylie Hubbard and Billy Joe Shaver twang up Antone's anniversary Wednesday... The French may hate President Bush, but they both love country music: Austin's Jeff Hughes & Chaparral, Jesse Dayton, and Brennen Leigh play the Festival de Country Music in Mirande, Gascony, this weekend... Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming Glamour magazine pictorial shot at the Broken Spoke.
Ginger Shults, longtime vice-president of the American Federation of Musicians' Austin chapter, passed away June 28 after a long battle with cancer. The Harrison, Ark., native, 55, moved to Austin in 1992 and was married to Los Jazz Vatos and Texas Tornados drummer Ernie Durawa, who survives her, alongside her mother, brother, and two aunts. "She was a wonderful person and was dedicated to helping musicians," said friend Nancy Coplin. A memorial for Shults will be held at 8pm Monday at Sunrise Community Church, 4430 Manchaca Rd....
Arranger, composer, and producer Arif Mardin, who helped concoct the soulful "Atlantic sound" in the mid-1960s, succumbed to pancreatic cancer June 25 at his New York City home. He was 74. Among the myriad albums Mardin, who won 12 Grammys, produced were 1973's Doug Sahm and Band (he also played piano) and Norah Jones' 2002 breakthrough Come Away With Me... Finally, shine on you crazy diamond: Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett died Monday at age 60. The piper has officially closed the gates of dawn.