Playback: Chicken Shit Bingo Splits
Chicken Shit Bingo franchises, Obama music photo–ops, Austin Music Industry Award winners, and RIP John Morthland
How you spend your Sunday is your business. Some folks go to church, some go to brunch, and others like to crowd around a chicken-wire cage with a ticket in hand, hoping a hen drops a wet one on their number. Welcome to Chicken Shit Bingo, a curious local tradition, where you bet on bird turds while eating free hot dogs and listening to country music.
Country crooner Dale Watson, who'd witnessed the poultry parallel of a traditional "cow drop" in California, hatched the event locally in 2000 at the Little Longhorn Saloon.
"We really thought it would be a novelty thing, maybe good for a couple months and wear off," Watson admits. "Of course that was 16 years ago."
Recently, some Austinites have had their feathers ruffled by Watson flying the coop, leaving the Burnet Road saloon and starting a competing Chicken Shit Bingo at C-Boy's Heart & Soul on South Congress. Watson confirms he's sold his share of the North Austin tavern: "It was becoming more of a family business, so I said, 'Y'all got this' and let it go," says the singer, who also holds a Chicken Shit Bingo at his Big T Roadhouse in St. Hedwig.
As a result, for the past two Sundays, there's been rival Chicken Shit Bingos in Austin – North vs. South.
"Oh there's room for two Chicken Shit Bingos in Austin," he declares. "South Austin and North Austin are like two different cities nowadays. Trying to get people to cross the river is hard. The main comment we've gotten at C-Boy's was people saying, 'I've always wanted to go to this. Now it's close to my house, so I can.'"
Little Longhorn co-owner Terry Gaona emphasizes her bar's original brand, reiterating the club's status as the true home of CSB.
"The Little Longhorn is the original home of Chicken Shit Sundays. That's what everyone knows it by, and you can't take that away from such a beautiful bar," says Gaona, who's related to Watson and purchased the Longhorn from iconic owner Ginny Kalmbach. "We're trying to keep a tradition alive, and we are ecstatic to have the blessing of Ginny."
Actually, Watson's got Kalmbach hosting the C-Boy's event and, while both sides downplay any competition, there's obvious oneupmanship at work. Each has its assets and distinctions: Little Longhorn has the kitschy location, a stable of performers including the Jason Roberts Band, and two chickens: Ginny and Batman. C-Boy's boasts Watson, Kalmbach, three chickens – Little Ginny, Loretta, and Patsy – and, according to Watson, a slight food variation: "Since Steve Wertheimer owns C-Boy's, the hot dogs had to be kosher."
Next week, Dale records his C-Boy's performance for an upcoming Live at Chicken Shit Sunday disc. Later this year, he's taking CSB on the road for a national tour with half of each bingo pot going to charity.
"I got my chicken shit bus, my chicken shit band, and my chicken shit music," he laughed. "I'm gonna have some chicken shit fun."
Obama's Top Music Destinations
Air Force One swoops into Austin Friday, delivering South by Southwest's most important headliner ever. President Barack Obama kicks off the SXSW Interactive conference on Friday with a keynote conversation, then sticks around for a DNC fundraiser at the Austin Music Hall. When the Commander-in-Chief visited Austin in 2014, he skipped the line at Franklin Barbecue, upping the brisket haven's already sky-high reputation. What if this time, Barry-0 catches the spirit of SXSW and enjoys some Austin music tourism? Here are my recommendations:
Willie Nelson's Bus
There's no higher honor in Austin music than blazing a fat J on the tour bus of country music's Dalai Lama, in town this weekend to open Rodeo Austin on Saturday. Some Maui Waui for the two men with Hawaii connections? Obama has intimated that federal marijuana reform isn't one of his end-of-term priorities, but maybe Nelson can change his mind.
Jeremiah the Innocent Photo-Op
Imagine the retweets Obama's @POTUS account will get when a picture of him standing in front of Daniel Johnston's iconic "Hi, How Are You?" mural gets posted. And like Twisted Willie, the muralist will be in town this weekend (see "Music Listings," p.70). #MyAdministrationRecentlyProposedA $500MillionInvestmentToIncrease AccessToMentalHealthCare
Broken Spoke Two-Step Lessons
Obama's showcased his dance moves on Ellen, but his only hope in turning Texas blue comes after learning the regional moves. I suspect he probably looks good in a pearl snap shirt and cowboy hat.
Pose for a Tim Kerr Painting
The Big Boys guitarist and DIY artist has continued to use civil rights icons as subject matter in his unique portraits, often painted on non-traditional palettes with non-realistic colors. We'd love to see a purple-skinned likeness of America's first black president on a skateboard deck.
Obama's Spotify playlists spin soul, jazz, and hip-hop, specifically Al Green, John Coltrane, and Talib Kweli. Let's send him to the local record retailer best serving those tastes. Surely there's a hi-fi player in the White House.
John Morthland 1947-2016
Music writer emeritus John Morthland was found dead from natural causes in his home in Austin on Tuesday. His career began in the Sixties when he was the first American journalist to interview the Rolling Stones. He went on to write for Rolling Stone, edit Creem, and author The Best of Country Music. A Chicago native, he was instrumental in shaping SXSW as the conference's first music panel discussion organizer and later wrote for Texas Monthly. Morthland also served as literary executor for the estate of his deceased friend Lester Bangs. He was 68.
Music Industry Awards Get Results
The community came together on Monday night to honor the behind-the-scenes heroes at the Austin Music Industry Awards. We laughed with Mayor Steve Adler, who ribbed the losers ("This confirms your deepest fears of inadequacy"), cried with Continental Club gatekeeper Dianne Scott during her touching acceptance speech, and took pleasure in the irony of one of Austin's oldest clubs – Antone's – winning Best New Club. You voted, we merely counted. Here are your 2016 Industry Award recipients:
Radio Station: KUTX
Radio Music Program: Twine Time, Paul Ray, KUTX
Radio Personality: Paul Ray, KUTX
Record Store: Waterloo Records
Music Store: Strait Music
Instrument Repair: Strait Music
Specialty Instrument: Tommy's Drum Shop
Equipment Rental: Rock N Roll Rentals
Recording Studio: 512 Studios
Producer: A.J. Vallejo
Record Label: Modern Outsider
Music Writer: Kevin Curtin
Music Photographer: David Brendan Hall
Poster: King Kong tour poster by Bob Schneider
Album Art: King Kong, Bob Schneider
New Club: Antone's
Live Music Venue: Strange Brew
Best Venue to Play: Strange Brew
Booker: Kacy Crowley (Strange Brew)
Club Sound: Strange Brew
Club Lighting: Empire Control Room & Garage
Venue Outside Austin City Limits: Gruene Hall
Best Residency: Bob Schneider/Lonelyland at Saxon Pub
Music Support Nonprofit: Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM)
Music Business Hall of Fame: Steve Wertheimer
AMP Unsung Hero: Dianne Scott
AMP Esme Barerra Award: Saul Paul