More From the Joneses
More music scene oral history from the Joneses
By Margaret Moser, Fri., June 18, 2010
"This one," museum President Clay Shorkey announces, beaming with the pride of a first-time science fair winner, "is Dr. Hepcat's piano, Lavada Durst."
Mention of Austin-born Durst (1913-1995), one of the first black deejays in U.S., prompts an exclamation from Dr. Beulah Agnes Curry Jones.
"My word! "That's fantastic!"
"Before he passed, I fixed his lawnmower for him," Jimmie Jones nods. "But I remember his radio program when it first started."
So began the interview with the Joneses in a room filled with portraits of musicians from across Austin's musical borders. Jimmie later waved his hand around and said, "I know all these people."
Here are more tidbits from the conversation with the Joneses.
Agnes Jones: After we moved from Red River, we moved to the projects. You had to have character references to be eligible, I remember my parents saying. You enjoyed it, delighted in saying you lived in the projects. One thing I remember a lot is that Mrs. Azie Taylor Morton, who was the first African-American woman treasurer of the United States, had an aunt who lived directly across from each other.
Later in life I met her and told her, "My mother and father and I lived across from your aunt."
She said, "Rosewood Projects."
I said, "That's right."
Lavada Durst & Dr. Hepcat
Jimmie Jones: Lavada Durst, he might have been the first people here to have a radio program. He would say something that got mixed up, "My tongue got over my eyetooth and I couldn't see what I was saying." It would tickle me. Maybe there weren't TVs then, because you'd be right by your radio when he came on. Like when Joe Louis was fighting, everybody would be by the radio.
Agnes Jones: Midnight Ramble, that was the name of his show on Sunday night. When you went back to school on Monday morning, that was the talk. "Did you hear?" "What did you think about such-and-such?"
The Girls From H-T
Agnes: Did we mention the Seventh Street club, the Black Cat?
Jimmie: That Seventh Street club, Charles my cousin had that club too, and James [Polk] played there too. And that club was close to Huston-Tillotson.
My aunt was the dean of women there, and when the girls would go to the club, Aunt Lottie would go down there looking for them. When she'd come in the door, they'd crawl under the table. She told Charlie: "I'm gonna have you arrested. These girls don't have any business in here. If you let them in, I'm gonna have the man come get you." But the girls from H-T, they loved Charlie's Seventh Street club.
Agnes: Polk played Sunday afternoon jam sessions there. There was a wonderful atmosphere. But as he says, his aunt, Lottie Caraway Jones, was married to his uncle Bill Jones. Sometimes I would be there and see this happen. Miss Caraway would come in suddenly – empty seats. You knew people had just been sitting there, but they were underneath the table.
Dad Jones & the Spañada Club
AJ: Later on, next to Charlie's Playhouse, Dad Jones – his real name was Willie B. but everyone called him Dad, including his family – had the Spañada Club. He had a jukebox that was unimaginable, nothing but jazz. And when the East Texas All-Stars played at his other clubs at 12th and Chicon, that's all you heard, jazz. Never too loud, never too soft, just good straight from the soul jazz. He afforded many, many blacks here in Austin a chance to hear the best jazz this side of the Pecos River.
JJ: He allowed James Polk to play in that club; he just wasn't allowed to play blues. He had to play jazz.
Have you ever walked into a club during the day and it seemed like a weight was lifted off your shoulders when you walked in? The Spañada Club was like that when you walked in, then this nice music. The man who brought the records for the jukebox, he would meet him and try out music: "No, I don't want that one on there; I want this one." You'd put a coin in the machine; you didn't even have to pick. A good one would come up.
Dad was not a musician, he was a connoisseur. People that listen to jazz 10, 12 hours a day, they can whistle those tunes along with the sax player. That always fascinated me, how he could whistle along with the records. His daughter Kim Jones plays piano for the church and guitar with another group in town.
Bobby Blue Bland came here to the Victory. He was still in the military. You ever hear of Miss Valley? He kind of adopted her. When he came here he would stay at her house. We were always so glad whenever he came to town. Back then, Ike & Tina Turner would come here and perform at the Victory. There were so many name groups then. It surprises me I don't see any groups on the Eastside anymore.
AJ: The Spañada Club, you'd have thought Louis Shanks [furniture store] did the interior. Dad Jones had a lot of class.
JJ: A lot of class. Lift your spirits just walking in there. He was from down here in the Post Oaks, on the other side of Manor. That's where my family's from. That's where he's from, but you'd never know it. He could cook real good, and he'd invite five or 10 people to go over there and eat. And [Agnes] would be at the head of the line.
AJ: [swats Jimmie playfully]
JJ: No, I was at the head of the line. But we'd go there to eat, and he would play his jazz records. You never heard any blues.