And, On Piano, Dick Nixon: Music and Anarchy

When then-President Richard Nixon sat down at the piano on the stage of the Grand Old Opry in 1974, he was reinforcing a conservative, polemical wall of sound to help contain several decades of transformational popular music, from blues and jazz to rock & roll. Music was the last thing on his mind.

As part of his notorious race-based “southern strategy,” Nixon led the efforts of conservative elites to co-opt American country-western music. He got the idea from George Wallace’s 1968 campaign, which Wallace had filled with country stars like Hank Snow and Hank Williams Jr.

At his Grand Old Opry gig, Nixon bragged that White House performances by Merle Haggard and others had been huge successes with his “very sophisticated audiences” because the country singers spoke to “the heart of America.” He was lying, of course. In his diary, Nixon aide Bob Haldeman confessed that the Haggard concert “was pretty much a flop because the audience had no appreciation for country/western music and there wasn’t much rapport.”

Nixon’s tricky fib and Haldeman’s confession are just more evidence of conservative elites’ cynical manipulation of lower middle class whites in the wake of the Civil Rights Act and other transformative rebellions of the 1960s. Nixon had nothing in common with Merle Haggard’s audience. Blueblood George H.W. Bush had nothing in common with Lee Greenwood’s audience when he deployed Greenwood in his 1988 campaign. That didn’t mean they couldn’t pretend.

The right-wing colonization of country music is still very much in play. Continue reading “And, On Piano, Dick Nixon: Music and Anarchy”

Buzzing on Cash

Over a week after Johnny Cash’s Birthday Bash at the Mean Eyed Cat, I still have the Man in Black buzz. And apparently, I’m not the only one.

Johnny Cash mural. Austin, TX. photo by Tim Patterson
Johnny Cash Mural. Austin, TX. photo by Tim Patterson.

Jason loves Cash. Cash shoots the bird. photo by Mary Lowry.
Jason loves Cash. Cash loves the bird. photo by Mary Lowry.

Meet me at the Mean Eyed Cat this Wednesday, March 10 at 8pm to see Damon Bramblett rock the place again. Perhaps we can convince him to do another Cash cover…

Damon Bramblett Celebrates Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash and Damon Bramblett
Johnny Cash and Damon Bramblett

Click here to listen to audio of Damon Bramblett’s show.
Johnny Cash fans turned out in force last Friday night to celebrate the life, music and birthday of the Man in Black at Austin’s only Cash theme bar, The Mean Eyed Cat.
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Zack Hruska opened the show while Lucas Hudgins and the First Cousins closed it out, both playing solid tributes.

But it was the middle man of the night, Damon Bramblett, who blew the roof off the Mean Eyed Cat.

One of the greatest living country songwriters, Bramblett has been covered by Kelly Willis, Bruce and Charlie Robison and Sarah Hickman. But no one does his songs quite as memorably as Bramblett himself, who sings them with a straightforward style and a voice as rich as his lyrics.

At the Mean Eyed Cat, he peppered his set of originals and country classics with favorites by the Man in Black, playing artful renditions of Tennessee Flat Top Box, I Walk the Line, and The Home of the Blues. The impeccable drum-style of nationally-known Lisa Pankratz and the sturdy bass of Brad Fordham rounded out Bramblett’s sound.

Damon Bramblett at the Mean Eyed Cat 2/26/10 photo by Kirk Lockhart
Damon Bramblett at the Mean Eyed Cat 2/26/10. photo by Kirk Lockhart

The bar filled to capacity and eager music fans unable to enter pressed their noses against the windows to watch and listen for as long as they could tolerate the cold. But anyone who wasn’t allowed in (or didn’t make it to the show) can listen to a quality recording at the link above.

Damon Bramblett will play The Mean Eyed Cat again on Wednesday, March 10.

Read lyrics to Damon Bramblett’s song Nobody Wants to Go to the Moon Anymore at the jump….. Continue reading “Damon Bramblett Celebrates Johnny Cash”

Texas Screenwriters Diego McGreevy and Lee Shipman Storm Hollywood

Diego McGreevy (left) and Lee Shipman
Diego McGreevy (left) and Lee Shipman

I’ve read that perhaps one in a hundred thousand aspiring screenwriters manage to break into Hollywood. Texas screenwriting partners Brian McGreevy and Lee Shipman have beat those daunting odds.

Shipman, a tall, lanky Corpus Christi native, wears signature weathered cowboy boots and emanates an effortless cool. Partying with friends, he often has a cheap beer and a bottle of good whiskey on the table before him.

McGreevy, an adopted Texan originally from Pittsburg, acts as a talkative foil to Shipman. Athletic and an omnivorous reader, he can easily riff on a wide range of topics of interest, from Jungian analysis to Batman.

The two synergistic partners met while students at UT’s Michener Center for Writers. The ultra competitive MFA program, funded by the late James Michener’s generous donation, provides ten writers a year who are accepted with three years of funding to write. Both McGreevy and Shipman graduated from the program in 2007.

While at the Michener Center, Shipman and McGreevy took fiction and screenwriting workshops together and hit it off immediately. The first script that they co-wrote together—Of Every Wickedness—was based on the story of the serial killings of African-American servant girls in the central Austin former slave colony of Clarksville. The murders, which took place from 1884-1885, terrified Clarksville’s residents and prompted the short story writer O’Henry to dub the murderer the “Servant Girl Annihilator.”

Continue reading “Texas Screenwriters Diego McGreevy and Lee Shipman Storm Hollywood”