One, Two, Tres, Cuatro: Carjacked for Christmas
Ruby Jane and her mother are carjacked, plus other holiday tales of need
"Look, I have two children. I've been shot at," the Houston pawnshop owner said to JoBelle Smith, explaining why he didn't look for the license plate of the men who tried to sell her daughter's stolen equipment just hours earlier. "I've shot people. In this store. I don't get involved."
Smith's anger and frustration at the past week's events were evident when we spoke on the phone this week about her daughter. "Ruby Jane's homesick in Austin," she said. "I've been in Houston with her guitarist, going through Dumpsters looking for her violin."
Rewind to last Thursday, Dec. 8, around midnight outside Houston, when local teen fiddler and singer-songwriter Ruby Jane and her mother pulled up outside a gated community. As Smith rolled down the car window to enter the security code for admittance, a man appeared, stuck a gun through the window, and demanded the vehicle. The two were robbed of everything – their Chevy Blazer, purses, IDs, jewelry, cell phones, Christmas gifts, clothing, and $50,000 worth of Ruby Jane's musical equipment, including a 12-string guitar, a mandolin, and her custom violin.
Ruby Jane had been performing at Dosey Doe Coffee, a venue on I-45 near Spring. She and her mother were on their way back to stay with friends in the Woodlands when the carjacking took place. Because she played solo, she had all her instruments and equipment with her. Left by the road in the dark and stranded without resources, the two walked until they found a convenience store and were able to call for help.
On Friday, the guitar turned up behind a pawn shop in southeast Houston, miles away from the scene of the crime and likely abandoned by the carjackass when it couldn't be sold because it was already reported stolen. That spurred JoBelle Smith into action. Though hope for Ruby Jane's custom violin is about as dim as hope of the car being recovered, Smith is actively posting on Facebook about recovery of the instruments.
Originally from Mississippi, Ruby Jane Smith is the youngest fiddler ever invited to play the Grand Ole Opry, and she relocated here at age 14 to pursue her musical career. Soon enough, she was under the tutelage of Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson and playing with the Willie Nelson Family Band, not to mention performing on festival stages from Austin City Limits to Lollapalooza. Like Sarah Jarosz and Sahara Smith, Ruby Jane is employing her youth as a time to grow and learn; only at 17 did she begin plans to record via a Kickstarter fund drive, which has less than a month left and is more than halfway to its $10,000 goal. www.kickstarter.com/projects/rubyjane/ruby-jane-to-record-new-music.
This is such a shitty thing to happen on so many levels. The lives and personal security of two women were threatened. A car was jacked. People were robbed. A teenage girl's work and efforts have been compromised. And thousands of dollars of musical equipment vanished into the night. A benefit is being arranged for the fiddler on Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Victory Grill, 7-10pm. Scheduled to performed is WhoDo, featuring Ruby Jane and author Lawrence Wright.
Dog lovers and Iggy Pop lovers can also dig into their pockets to support Austin Pets Alive! on Saturday at the 29th Street Ballroom. Dogs rule my life, so the notion of supporting this cause is appealing, especially the chance to imagine one of my Chihuahuas as winner of its Mr. or Ms. "I Wanna Be Your Dog" pageant. The evening starts at 8pm with free food from Frank, the chance to win a couple of South by Southwest wristbands, a silent auction, free doggie cupcakes from Sugar Mama's Bakeshop, and the music of Iggy Pop & the Stooges performed by members of Flesh Lights, John Wesley Coleman, Sweat Lodge, and more, along with host Mike Wiebe of the Riverboat Gamblers. Chaperoned pets are welcome.
That generous spirit is the guiding light for Sunday as well, including the first of a benefit series titled "In the Name of the Dame" for the Texana Dames' Traci Lamar Hancock, who's currently undergoing treatment for recurring ovarian cancer. The show Sunday at Jovita's features Ponty Bone & the Squeezetones, Extreme Heat, Larry Lange & His Lonely Knights, the Uranium Savages, and Greezy Wheels, with music from 1:30 to 6:30pm.
Somewhere above, halos are being polished for local booker Nancy Coplin and Greezy Wheels' Cleve Hattersley. Those two are helping steer Traci's fundraising efforts, as well as the Texana Dames' annual Christmas Eve concert for the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar at the Palmer Events Center. On display for that, of course, is a loose configuration of the Hancock's Supernatural Family Band, the mother ship of the Texana Dames (see "Roadside Playboys and Texana Dames," Dec. 31, 2004), who have provided the ACB's traditional Christmas Eve music for more than 20 years.
"Why don't you just name this column 'One, Two, Tres, Retro?'" snarked my hipster friend at the Chronicle's holiday party last weekend. He's 30 years younger than me and was planning a wild night out at Mohawk and Beauty Bar as opposed to my evening at home.
Mumbling something about Sam the Sham's "Woolly Bully," it was agreed for the thousandth time that yes, 12TC isn't as cool as when Chris Gray wrote the "TCB" column, and it is well-known I like shows that guarantee me home in time to watch KVUE's Mark Murray do the weather. Further, it was agreed that there would be no shortage of thoughtful, perhaps even wistful reveries, sentimental commentary, and vintage photos, since my generation appears to be dying off in cold, hard numbers.
Since I don't seem to be able to complete this column without some requisite reference to someone passed – Willie Nelson's bassist Bee Spears died last week too (see "Nelson Bassist Bee Spears Dies," Earache! Music blog, Dec. 12) – take a look at Caricaturama Showdown 3000! Last week's subject was Stevie Ray Vaughan. All the artists get SRV's boxer's nose right, but only a few got the chubby cheeks, the broad upper lip, and the grown-up Cupid's-bow mouth. Many get the teeth wrong, yet the results are funny, strange, right on, thoughtful, whimsical, bizarre, and thoroughly entertaining.