A while back I read an article that claimed one’s music taste and choices caps out at what they dug around age 17. I incredulously tossed aside the data in the article because it certainly did not apply to me. Long ago, I resigned myself to the fact that I’m an abnormal, obsessive music consumer. I find kindred spirits in people like Mattson Rainer, Shayne Hollinger, Eddie Trunk, Matt Pinfield, Tom Mooney, and William Miller from Almost Famous among others.
We don’t just listen. It’s more than that to us. It’s a lifestyle and a dedication. Sometimes to our detriment.
I found a home here at Galleywinter when I was barely legal to drink. This place gave me a forum to expound my opinions and stuff I dug. To be certain, I still love most of the stuff I did at 17, but I find new stuff I dig all the time. Again, I realize that’s not the norm. Classic Rock is a successful format for a reason.
I grew up in a household where music was present, but not necessarily a focus. Born in the 70s, raised in the 80’s, and discovered life in the 90s, stumbled into adulthood in the 00’s, living in the 10’s, anticipating the 20’s. One of my earliest musical memories is riding down Lake Shore Dr in Waco where a large hill summits before descending toward Lake Waco as John Anderson’s “Swingin'” blared from the stereo of my dad’s ’78 Chevy. I remember asking “Daddy, play it again.” Alas, it was coming over the airwaves of KJNE 102.5 and not the cassette deck.
Cassettes were my first format. I had a Fisher-Price cassette player that was gifted to me on my 5th birthday. It had a microphone jack and you could record yourself. I was a full service karaoke party before I even knew what that was. The first two tapes I remember listening to incessantly were Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA and the USA for Africa “We Are the World” single. I had not yet discerned taste. I was 5.
Prevalent on our living room television each night was Ralph Emery’s Nashville Now. A talk-show, throwback hayride radio show delivered in front of the cameras and a live audience at the old Opry Land. You might see Waylon or Cash…or you might see a corny singing group brought over from the theme park when Roger Miller got too loaded to make his appearance. Some nights, you would see all three. Plus, Shotgun Red. What made the show great was the banter. Emery had a laidback, conversational style that was a precursor to the modern podcast . It was the first inclination I had that music was more than just the stuff we listened to in the car or back patio. These were actual human beings who led interesting lives. We took a family vacation to Tennessee around this time and visited Opry Land, the Ryman and the like, but sadly no taping was taking place. We did manage to stop at a little house in Memphis on the way back. I wasn’t exactly sure who Elvis was beyond “Hound Dog”, but I knew he was important. I remember wearing flip flops as we walked through locations such as the Jungle Room; I slipped my sandals off for a quick barefoot squeeze of the shag carpet. I was going to take a piece of this guy with me. More on that guy and house to come.
Around this time in my life, two forces started shaping my burgeoning musical taste. My older sister with MTV and my grandparents annual pilgrimage to Branson, MO. I’ve written many times before about the massive impact MTV and my sister’s requisite 1980’s music had on me. I plopped down in front of the TV on long summer days and my babysitters had names like Bowie, Jackson and Sting. I remember thinking David Lee Roth was the pinnacle of cool and that Dire Straits made the best cartoons. Duran Duran must like jungles. Michael Jackson could solve gang crises with dance. Alternatively, the long roadtrips to Branson were met with the cornpone likes of Boxcar Willie, Shoji Tabuchi and Mel Tillis. My spectrum was wide. And I loved it all. If it had a good melody, I was all in. Be it an Ozark Jamboree or a flamboyant, genre-bending new wave rock sample. I wanted it all.
I soon realized, not everyone enjoyed music the same as me. I could go from one of my grandparents old Ray Charles vinyls (played on one of those use tabletop monstrosities in their den) to Motley Crue and follow that up with George Strait without missing a beat. Other people, even those my age, were already rigid in their likes. “I only listen to country.” “I only listen to 97.5 (Waco’s Top 40 station)” and my favorite, “Rap is crap.” Hip-Hop was in its early forms and it may have been LL Cool J or Run DMC that first hooked me, but by the time I saw/heard Beastie Boys I was over the moon for it. I remember kids trading pirated (recorded from the radio) copies of License to Ill in the bathrooms of my elementary school. I now had an additional genre to throw into the mix.
And so my adolescence coalesced until I reached my early teen years. Country with the parents, MTV in my room, my large stereo scanning the dial. My Fisher-Price had been upgraded to a large state of the art stereo system (which I still own). For my 11th birthday I was given two cd’s: Alan Jackson – Here in the Real World; Bell Biv Devoe – Poison. That was the start of a collection that would grow to over 1,000 cds over the next decade. And the disparity would always remain that broad. For every Garth or Doug Supernaw, there would be a C&C Music Factory or Eazy E. I would play Sega Genesis Madden for dozens of hours…all while game sound was muted so I could listen to music.
I started seeing more major concerts during this time. I was able to take in George Strait, Alan Jackson, Garth, Reba, Diamond Rio, Wynona, Charlie Daniels Band, Hank Williams Jr, Marshall Tucker Band, and The Beach Boys. Live music was now in my blood. I had to figure out how to get to more.
Around the same time, my grandfather had gifted me a weather radio. I could dial in places as far as Nashville, Chicago and Kansas City. It was my first introduction to people like Howard Stern, Don Imus and sports talk. Needless to say, I was an empty vessel being filled by noise (good and bad) from waking to snoozing. And, sometimes while asleep.
As I continued through my teens, the Grunge movement happened. I still remember where I was when I first saw Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. It’s been overly lauded in a reverential Baby Boomer like manner with regard to its impact, but there is no doubt that it was monumental and a definite dividing line for my generation. I was the tail end of Gen X, blurring the line to millenial. Some sociologists call those of us born between 1976 and 1984 Xennials. I’ll take X. Music changed, MTV changed, culture changed. The stakes were higher and more vital than ever. My friends and I laughed along with Beavis and Butthead as Mike Judge meticulously took the piss out of every band around us. My tastes were still firmly rooted in the omnipresent beast of 90’s country, but my peers were turning me on to everything from Stone Temple Pilots and Pantera to Snoop Dogg and Master P. I definitely veered more to metalhead during this phase. Metallica, Pantera, AC/DC, Sepultura, KISS, Megadeth, Ozzy.
I scratched that live music fix I’d acrued by trips to see AC/DC, Metallica, KISS and Aerosmith. I was at Starplex the night Phil OD’d. I vehemently defended Load-era Metallica (and I will still die on that hill). I still needed more live music.
Around the time of high school graduation was the time of boy bands and nu metal. I detested the former and was a complete mark for the latter. Kid Rock was my favorite flavor of the day. I was able to see him live in early ’99 before he blew up. He was on a bill with Limp Bizkit and Staind in Austin. It was mesmerizing and he may be a punchline to some now, but that night 20 years ago in Austin he put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I witnessed talent, drive, marketing and luck gel right in front of my eyes. A few months later he had a diamond selling record. I still needed more live music.
Cue the Texas Music scene. I grew up listening to the likes of Jerry Jeff, Gary P and Rusty Wier. Late in my high school days, a buddy of mine convinced me to go see a “local country band that’s pretty good.” That band turned out to be a very young Pat Green. He didn’t have it quite figured out yet, but there was something there. I wasn’t ready to take it in quite yet and he wasn’t quite ready to deliver. We both needed some seasoning. My seasoning came with a move to San Marcos for college and his seasoning came from the highways. Once I was ready to embrace it, it had everything I’d packaged together for all those years. The country of my roots, the drive of my rock and the swag of my rap. Plus, he was singing about stuff I could relate to. It was like I’d found a home. I remember going to some festivals during this time and having some of the older 70’s Texas Music holdovers looking down their noses at those of us in our Pat Green and Cory Morrow shirts. It was the same attitude many now spill toward Koe Wetzel. I was told things like “Pat isn’t real Texas Music.” “Walt writes his best songs.” I didn’t care. He was my Pied Piper. While cd’s would still be en vogue for another decade, this was the prime of Kazaa/Limewire. And the at the time blazing speeds of the SWT dorm internet would bring us “Pat Green – Everclear” (sic) in just 30 minutes or so. One night, I returned from Gruene Hall with a carload of buddies, and as any hardcore music fan is wont to do, I’d loaded my ’97 Monte Carlo with pounds of CaseLogic cases holding a large majority of my 1,000 cds. Alphabetized and with cd jacket in the sleeve of course. Alas, the next morning I awoke to find my cases gone. Someone had broken into my car. Years and years of music collection and memories gone. After my anger subsided, I came to a calm knowing that music would always live in my heart. Then, I hit Hastings clearance racks trying to build up the gaps in my newly inadequate collection.
My music fandom had never known bounds and was quenchless in its thirst. I always had to know who wrote the songs, who produced the record, where did they record it, what inspired it etc. Those early internet days, while searching for some info on Pat, led me to a place called Tore Up From the Floor Up. A rudimentary GeoCities type community that was talking about things like the Sunday side of a road trip weekend. It was full of characters named Hogleg, Tank, Woodrow and ThreeCurl. Soon enough, that community was rechristened and rebranded into Galleywinter.com. The place where all the outlaws hide…but girls were allowed. If I wasn’t in class or at work (sometimes at one of those places), I was logged in to Galleywinter. Sharing music opinions and nonsense. The breadth of useless musical trivia I had acquired had never been appreciated before. These guys and gals dubbed me “Encyclopedia Bradtannica” and it was loads of fun. It still is.
The music kept growing from there. During college, I sat down and finally forced myself to learn how to play guitar. Using a book and the knowledge of one of my best friends Justin Dickey, I soon became pretty decent. Our heroes were writing songs, why shouldn’t we? We set about writing songs and soon had about 10 that weren’t completely awful. Dickey wrote one about Waco called “Suicide Town” that gained some steam and I had one called “Livin’ Fast” that became a hit among our friend group. We played out live a handful of times, but mainly stuck to the living rooms and campfires. And thus, another dimension was added to my music fandom.
I began to meet many of the performers in the burgeoning Texas Music scene of the late 90’s and early 00’s. They began asking me for help with things like writing bios, slinging merch, web design, booking shows and even management. By the time I moved back to Waco, I was booking/managing Kristen Kelly…and we all rode that rocket to Nashville and up the charts with “Ex Old Man”. On one of those trips to Nashville, I got to stop back by the big house in Memphis. This time, I was fully aware of the greatness of Elvis. No flip-flops this time. But, we did pick up a chick from London named Georgie who we bonded with over a love of music. Funny how that works. I even got to play big time music manager, just like I’d learned about in books and movies on that trip. I “took meetings” and set up a showcase. Worked out pretty well for Kristen. The rest of us just enjoyed the ride.
Throughout it all, I never stopped loving my musical building blocks. I just kept adding to it. A dash of Hayes Carll over here, a dab of Kanye over there, top it off with some Foo Fighters. My home base was now Texas Music. But, the great thing about that is that the breadth of influence in Texas means everything that built me was welcome. There was no “that’s too country”, “that’s too rock” etc. If it was good and had heart, it was good enough.
From cassettes to cds to Limewire to iTunes to Spotify, I’ve lived it all. I wrote this entirely far too self-indulgent article to detail my love of music through all the seasons of life. As I enter this next season, I eagerly anticipate what’s to come. Each of you could write your own story that may read similar to this one in parts. Music is life. Life is ever changing. We all roll on. Music at 40 is the same as music at 4. I look for things that make me want to listen to it again. “Swingin'” indeed. I can’t wait to write the reprise retrospective at age 80.
-It’s RIVER JAM week! See you in New Braunfels.
Friday July 12 at Cheatham St – Kevin Galloway/Coby Wier
Saturday July 13 at Billy’s Ice – Statesboro Revue/Sundae Drivers
Sunday July 14 at Lone Star Floathouse – just about every great songwriter we could think of.
-The baseball all-star game remains my favorite of the genre.
-Just returned from my latest run in Vegas. It was uber successful. Didn’t lose too much money, saw Aerosmith, lived to tell about it. Avoid Eric the dealer on the Roulette table at Planet Hollywood. He doesn’t have a sense of humor.
-Been able to undertake several GOATs lately. The aforementioned Aerosmith, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Buffett, Jason Isbell. Working on an article about the degrees of songwriting success and everyone’s personal barometer.
-Topo Chico has become the number one consumed beverage at our house.
-Count me among those who find the USWNT better and more interesting than the USMNT.
-This month’s recommended album: Randy/Wade – HMBWT Live. The boys let the tape run on a night in Dallas a couple years ago and the result is what you’d expect. A free-wheeling trip through their stories and songs that allows you to recreate one of their shows anytime you wish. Sidenote–check out the latest releases from Josh Grider/Drew Kennedy, Koe Wetzel and Shane Smith & the Saints if you have not done so. What are you waiting for?
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain