Margaret Moser Tribute: John Cale
Velvet Underground co-founder on first meet: “Up walks a petite blonde with all the swagger of someone 10 feet tall”
as sent to Ed Ward, Fri., June 30, 2017
The early days of my love affair with Austin – those days when my band and I roamed the hinterlands of Oklahoma DRIVING WEST in an Econoline van packed with sleepy, angry musicians and their gear – we still had NYC in our back pockets. This Welsh boy, now familiar with the 24-hour mania of NYC, was off to explore the other U.S., the one you weren’t sure would accept you or your brand of art rock/punk.
My music wasn’t blues. It wasn’t anything particularly associated with the Southwest. Better learn their ways, but more importantly, understand what not to say or do when you’re the intruder. Mind your manners – learn your place.
Driving exhausted and hung over from one Southern state to the next, we never lost that arrogant veneer that nothing could happen to us. We were resplendent in the cloak that New Yorkers everywhere wear. You didn’t need to carry a gun to make that point. Once, after a show, we were invited by some locals to stop by their farm on our way out of town. The promise of a party with all its expectations!
Instead, I was gifted a genuine World War II Luger! Ahhh, this is the South!
At a large wooden hall called the Armadillo, the headline had been “God Comes to the Armadillo” – so different from anything the VU had encountered. Gleefully wincing at the marquee, up walks a petite blonde with all the swagger of someone 10 feet tall. She grabs hold and says she’s “Margaret” and she’s there to welcome my band to the venue. In that moment, I understood I’d found someone who knew the score and was there to make sure we didn’t trip up too badly. We checked into a small hotel nearby and drank ourselves to sleep. The following morning, I awoke to a ruckus coming from the pool.
I walked outside, there was Margaret with her gin & tonic in hand at poolside loudly laying into someone in the water. Her friend sat in a chair nearby, but neither were interested in swimming. I tucked into a six-pack and was goaded to get in the water. Rather than do that, I sidled up behind Margaret and gently pushed her into the pool.
Being fully dressed, she was not happy and spluttered at me while her friend stood up and called me various names before helping Margaret out of the pool and into her room nearby. As the door closed, I heard her tell Margaret that I’d better not try that with her, because she had something in her handbag I could chew on. Margaret told me later it was a Charter Arms .38 – a favorite means of dissuasion with Texas ladies.
Throughout the ensuing years, I proudly witnessed Margaret’s intense passion for cultivating a true family of her wayward artists as we all passed through her backyard year in and year out. If ever there’s anything to learn about true loyalty and a die-hard love of life, she’s the master. Her name is synonymous with so much of the Austin music landscape – stories upon stories of countless musicians seeking refuge and advice – but mostly it’s her unfailing generosity and kindness.
From day one, she’s worn her heart on her sleeve and displayed mad love for me and everyone who dared dream of being a part of the Austin creative community. Never shy, always ready to box with anyone purporting injustices, she made nurturing her true religion, and that’s an indelible mark, never to be removed.