Restaging an Austin Music Awards Cover, 40 Years Later

David C. Fox's photo shoot proves 1982/83 winners are still gigging

The March 4, 1983, Chronicle cover featuring winners of the 1982/1983 Music Awards. Find the key (featuring a few mystery guests and misidentifications) below. (Photo by David C. Fox)

The 2023 edition, re-created on Feb. 18. Back: Courtney Audain, Van Wilks, Steve Carter, Carmen Ramírez (red glasses, representing father Tomás Ramírez). Middle: Bruce Spellman, Claude McCan (scarf), Dave White, Kent Winking (gray sweater), Keith Winking. Front: Jesse Sublett, Mike Shea, Dickie Lee Erwin (cowboy hat), Eric Graham. (Photo by David C. Fox)

Earlier this month, an unexpected message appeared in the inboxes of a select group of Austin musicians: “You are receiving this email because you appeared in an Austin Chronicle cover photo of the 1982/83 Austin Music Award winners. David C. Fox was the photographer. That’s me.”

Fox, an early Chronicle contributor and dedicated documentarian of Austin’s live music scene, sent out the transmission in hopes of celebrating the cover story’s 40th anniversary. With a list of 63 names and a dream, he set out upon the ambitious quest to restage the photograph at its original Seaholm Power Plant location. For Jesse Sublett, founding member of seminal Austin punk groups the Violators and the Skunks, the timing of Fox’s project was auspicious – just days earlier, he’d moved back to Austin from L.A. with wife Lois Richwine.

Responding via email, Sublett noted that many on the thread were busy during the shoot with musical gigs: “I’ll be there, barring any unforeseen hindrance. Glad to hear that our colleagues are busy on a Saturday night, early or late.”

Fox’s vision came to fruition on a windy early evening on Saturday, Feb. 18, when past awardees congregated underneath Seaholm’s unmistakable art deco sign alongside family and old friends. Thirteen of the original photographed musicians attended the meetup, representing and reminiscing from bands like Extreme Heat (1983’s Best Funk), Van Wilks Band (Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal), and the Devils (Best None of the Above).

Sadly, no women winners were able to attend, as the cover notably included Angela Strehli front and center, as well as Sarah Brown (bassist in the LeRoi Brothers), Terri Lord (drummer in the Jitters), Patricia McMillan (sawhorse in Chinanine), and Rene Mesritz and Myra Spector of Best Soft Rock/Easy Listening pick Cheezmo. Carmen Ramírez stood in for her dad Tomás Ramírez, saxophonist of ’83 winners Cheezmo and Beto y los Fairlanes, who is currently in rehabilitation following a stroke. Known as the Jazzmanian Devil, he has played with Jerry Jeff Walker, Christopher Cross, and many more alongside a regular gig at the Elephant Room.

In the decades since gracing the Chronicle’s cover, almost all of the evening’s participants have continued to play music, either professionally or recreationally. Dr. Keith Winking, who played trumpet in R&B eightpiece Ernie Sky & the K Tels, now teaches music at Texas State.

“A lot of musicians are moving to San Marcos because they can’t afford to live in Austin,” said Winking. “I feel so lucky that I was able to make a living from music here during those days. It didn’t matter if you only made 5 bucks in tips – everything was so cheap!”

Since helping his former band Pressure pick up a Best Reggae win, bassist Courtney Audain has toured with island groovers Papa Mali & the Instigators and Grammy-nominated rock group Timbuk 3. Nowadays, he focuses his creative efforts on writing a funk-inspired science-fiction novel in addition to playing music.

“It was a beautiful time in Austin,” he remembers of 1983. “You could go out any night of the week and find a good show.

“Even though I’m not playing live anymore, I’ll always continue to write and get ideas out of my head. That need doesn’t go away.”

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