Book Review: A Gathering of Promises

UK POV on Texas's psychedelic birth

<i>A Gathering of Promises</i>

A Gathering of Promises

by Ben Graham
Zero Books, 389 pp., $29.95 (paper)

The subtitle should tell it all: "The Battle for Texas' Psychedelic Music, From the 13th Floor Elevators to the Black Angels and Beyond." And yet, the last few pages aside, not much of the millennial, reverb- and fuzz-drenched set appear in this well-researched tome. Nor is A Gathering of Promises the story of the Elevators, a feat accomplished in fine style by Paul Drummond with 2007's Eye Mind. Native son Roky Erickson and his group play a pivotal role in this history, but the tale British journalist Ben Graham relates broadens out richly. Beginning in early-Sixties Austin, a group of bohemians, drug enthusiasts, and folk music scholars attending UT gravitated to a seedy apartment complex called the Ghetto. They included Powell St. John, Elevators songwriter and original leader of Conqueroo; Chet Helms, who helped kickstart San Francisco's celebrated hippie scene; and underground comix stars-to-be Gilbert Shelton and Jack Jackson (Jaxon). Passing through: Billy Lee Brammer, spiraling downward from The Gay Place, and Janis Joplin, searching for her voice. The seeds (and stems) sown would root, grow, and draw in and nurture adventurous rockers across the state, such as Houston's young Billy Gibbons. Once they all assimilated into greater society, Texas' anti-establishment set introduced subversion into the mainstream.

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13th Floor Elevators, Janis Joplin, Roky Erickson, Chet Helms, Powell St. John

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