Off the Record

Music news

The Story of an Artist

Off the Record
Illustration by Daniel Johnston

Following the success of Jeff Feuerzeig's documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, not to mention Infernal Bridegroom Productions' rock opera, Speeding Motorcycle, there's now talk of a possible Daniel Johnston biopic. "It seems inevitable," discloses Johnston's brother and co-manager, Dick, through e-mail. The storied artist and musician, who recently returned from an MTV taping in Canada, also plans to put out a new full-length with his band, Danny & the Nightmares, titled Death of Satan, through his family label and publishing company, Eternal Yip Eye. "We've been working on it for about a year now," says Daniel from his home in Waller. A vinyl single of the same name, backed with "Monster Mash," is currently available on Spain's Munster Records, while Misc. Music, the local label launched by Aliens' guitarist Blake Sandberg (see "Texas Platters," p.66), features Danny & the Nightmares' "Red Hot Sex" on its new 28-song sampler. The imprint hopes to put out two other vinyl releases with Johnston: a split single with Jad Fair and a split of covers performed by Aliens, which were originally recorded at Kramer's Noise New York studio for Second Shimmy's I Killed the Monster tribute. Unfortunately, Johnston will not appear at Emo's on Monday, where he was billed as Danny & Satan Jr., due to conflicting arrangements. Fair, Aliens, Lazar Wolf, and Damage Pants will perform as scheduled.

'Uncle' John Turner, 1944-2007

Off the Record
Photo by Mary Sledd

"Uncle" John Turner, the Austin bluesman who kept time for, among others, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, and Lightnin' Hopkins died last Thursday morning due to complications related to hepatitis C. Turner, 62, was born in Port Arthur, where he first met guitarist Johnny Winter. With friend Tommy Shannon on bass, the threepiece made blues history ("The Power of Three," April 13), cutting three seminal LPs, The Progressive Blues Experiment, Johnny Winter, and Second Winter, and taking the stage at Woodstock in 1969. Follow­ing the Winter trio's split, Turner moved to Austin in 1970, forming Krackerjack with Shannon and the immortal Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar. For the past two decades, the skinsman has remained active in the local blues scene, backing Alan Haynes, Erin James, and Appa Perry's Blues Power, along with his own eponymous trio. Last November, Turner reunited with Winter and Shannon one last time at La Zona Rosa, playing together for the first time in more than 20 years. Both guitarist and bassist were scheduled to perform at the Aug. 1 benefit and tribute concert at Antone's, whose proceeds will be used to offset final arrangements and medical costs. The beat carries on Sunday at Threadgill's World Headquarters, beginning at 6pm, as friends and fans gather to celebrate Turner's life through stories and song.

This Bird Has Flown

Off the Record

Taking its name and ethos from an arcane Bob Dylan tune, Abandoned Love Records searches for under-the-radar indie rock gems. The bedroom label, founded by multi-instrumentalist and former Morning Spy frontman Jon Rooney, has quietly established its nest in South Austin after migrating from San Francisco in 2005. Last year, the imprint put out the Lovely Sparrows' excellent EP, Pulling Up Floors, Pouring on (New) Paint, after catching the local group's in-store performance at End of an Ear, as well as handmade and numbered releases from four-track pop projects like Arizona's Grumpy Bear and Dean Wells' the Captain Shafts. "I see staying small as an advantage," says Rooney, who lists local labels like Peek-a-Boo and C-Side Records as influences. "There are enough people that love the intimacy of this type of music for the label to sustain itself, and my only real goal at this point is to keep it going." Abandoned Love's latest release is Rooney's own Virgin of the Birds project, Mixed Choir, a seven-song EP of nasally folk-pop akin to the Decemberists' The Crane Wife. The Birds take flight next on KVRX's Local Live Sunday night at 10pm.

Random Play

The music industry's shift in emphasis toward the business of touring was reflected in the most-talked-about new products on display at the 2007 Summer NAMM trade show this past weekend at the Austin Convention Center. Notable products at the conference, which featured 340 manufacturers and was expected to generate $14 million for Austin, included Stage Ninja's retractable guitar-cable systems and Musician's Extension Cord, with power sources every five feet and built-in circuit breakers; Voyage-air Guitar's collapsible instruments; and the Timbaland Special Edition MiKo, an all-in-one portable studio produced by Austin's Open Labs.

Nominations are now being accepted for the new Austin Music Memorial, which will be unveiled next March along with the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts. Up to 10 inductees will be honored with a commemorative plaque on the City Terrace on Town Lake. Complete eligibility requirements and nomination instructions are available at Unknown artists, meanwhile, are competing for a slot on the Dell stage at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, along with two hotel rooms in Downtown Austin as part of the Sound and the Jury competition. Rock the vote for your favorite locals daily until Aug. 20 at

Joe Ely will be presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performing at the sixth annual Americana Honors & Awards show, set for Nov. 1 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The Flatlander is also nominated for Artist of the Year, along with Todd Snider, Lucinda Williams, and Patty Griffin.

Where the Music Matters

Ghostland Observatory sends an SOS at SXSW to Seattle.
Ghostland Observatory sends an SOS at SXSW to Seattle. (Photo by Felicia Graham)

As the debate over Internet radio royalty rates rages ("Paying the Piper Online," News, July 6), Seattle's KEXP 90.3FM is investing more and more into Austin's music scene. The influential radio outlet, a National Public Radio member-station that went on air in 1972, has broadcast live from the Austin City Limits studios during South by Southwest for the past two years, including appearances from the Stooges, Ghostland Observatory, and Okkervil River, while locals the Black Angels, Moonlight Towers, and Li'l Cap'n Travis were also featured on the station's showcase. Like many SXSW patrons, KEXP never left after the March music extravaganza, staying on to co-sponsor Mohawk's weekly residency, which hosts Ghosthustler (Aug. 7 & 21) and Shapes Have Fangs (Aug. 28) this month. "Austin's in our Top 10 cities for listener membership," says KEXP's Kevin Cole. "We wanted to be working on a closer level [locally] to help us discover new music to filter toward our audience." Back at headquarters, the station airs an in-studio set from Dale Watson on Friday at 6pm. In the past year, more than 400 groups have stopped by the sound booth, resulting in the August release of Live at KEXP: Volume Three, a 17-band compilation that includes contributions from Ghostland Observatory and the Black Angels. "Both of those bands have played on air for us at least four times," Cole says. "They're always welcome here."

Music news

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Uncle John Turner, Daniel Johnston, Aliens, Abandoned Love Records, KEXP, NAMM

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