Margaret Moser Tribute: Leader of the Pack
The importance of being Margaret Moser as told to 23 of her peers, mentors & protégés
“One man’s life touches so many others, when he’s not there, it leaves an awfully big hole.”
So teaches us the angel Clarence in 1946 Christmas parable It’s a Wonderful Life. Standing outside at Mohawk on Sunday, June 4 – hours after returning from a San Antonio rendezvous with Margaret Moser, who had entered hospice care that Friday – I reeled off the top of my head two dozen journalists alone she considered close peers, mentors, and protégés.
“In May 1976, I quit a straight job to clean offices and answer phones at the Austin Sun,” Moser emailed last week. “I bullshitted my way into interviewing Spirit for an authorless column called ‘Backstage,’ and I repeated this until I ended up with the column. I kept it for a while, but there’s not a lot of long-form writing of mine until an interim paper, 1978-ish, between the Sun and Chron called Rumors, based out of San Marcos.
“That’s where I break in with Stevie and Lou Ann, Antone’s, and I think the Sex Pistols.”
Between the start of the Chronicle in 1981 and hanging up her press laminate 33 years later (revisit “Margaret Moser Retires,” May 16, 2014), this paper’s most popular and populist voice cut a radical swath through culture both high and low, and every facet of music in between. Born out of education and advocacy – to Willard Cummings Moser, B.A., M.A., B.D., Ph.D. and Phyllis Jackson Stegall, B.A., M.A. – and alpha to three younger brothers (Scott, Stephen, and Bill), the Chicago-born, Gulf Coast-bred, famously uncollegiate lifetime scribe and Austin Music Awards chieftain documented the Texas state capital in print, onstage, for TV and film. Margaret made media, and media made Margaret – mutual beneficiaries.
As I fruitlessly tried to concentrate on Hurray for the Riff Raff activist Alynda Segarra, the Bronx-born Puerto Rican singer called to mind AMA go-to Alejandro Escovedo. What would he say about Margaret Moser’s importance to Austin music and beyond? Or Lucinda Williams, Roky Erickson, Jimmie Vaughan?
Suddenly, that chorus drowned out anything coming from the Mohawk P.A.
Forty-plus witnesses speaking to four decades of dedicated scholarship could’ve been Top 40s of civic leaders, business owners, barbacks, doorkeeps, SXSW volunteers. Save for the sole two recipients of the AMA’s Margaret Moser Award, all interviewed are musicians. Our celebrant dedicated her life to them and so many more, and in doing so, Margaret Moser, 63, helped stake the Austin music scene as surely as Clarence saves George Bailey.