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Austin music scene lost too many this decade

Michael Corcoran
Alvin Patterson

Every time I thumb through my pocket-sized phone/address book, I'm reminded of who — and what — we've lost in the past decade. Right there on the first page of my little black book is the name and cell phone number of Clifford Antone, the passionate blues fan who did much more than listen and in the process established Austin as Chicago South. When Clifford died of a heart attack in May 2006, the entire music community went into mourning.

The town also went zombielike in August 2008 when Texicalli Grille owner and rubboard player Danny Roy Young, the nicest, friendliest, most spiritually aligned guy you could ever meet, died suddenly. Like Antone, Young was one of those guys made for Austin, and vice versa.

In the B's are Martin Banks, the L.C. Anderson High graduate who went on to play trumpet in the Motown revue and in the house band of the Apollo Theater. He died in August 2004, but not before returning home and mentoring countless young jazz musicians. Then there's Stephen Bruton, who fought a heroic battle with cancer before succumbing in May of this year. It's bittersweet to see Bruton win several posthumous awards for the film score he co-wrote with T-Bone Burnett for "Crazy Heart." Bruton cherished his film work and would've been ecstatic about the accolades, so we can hope he's somehow aware.

Some of the deceased in my phone book I knew mainly through work, such as Ginger Shults (who died June 2006), who fought so hard for musicians as their union rep. T.J. "Tiny" McFarland (died September 2005), discovered Don Walser and Kimmie Rhodes, plus he had the distinction of being the first and last person to play drums at the Armadillo World Headquarters. T.J. was a link between the historic and the new.

Former L.C. Anderson band director Alvin Patterson (died June 2007) was in my book because he was an enthusiastic source for East Austin history, having played with Kenny Dorham, Gil Askey and other greats. Even at age 84, he died too soon.

Champ Hood (died November 2001), Don Walser (died September 2006), Jesse Taylor (died March 2006) and Mambo John Treanor (died August 2001) were musicians I greatly admired and felt lucky I'd gotten to know them. They played the clubs to make a living, but they never seemed to do it for the money.

The tireless artist advocate, attorney Cindi Lazzari (died January 2007), was someone I could call with legal questions for stories, but we became great friends. You'd lose track of time talking to Cindi. It's so great that her legacy lives on in the Cindi Lazzari Artist Advocate Award, given each year to the person, like Lazzari, whose work creates a more level playing field for musicians, who have been systematically been robbed by pens.

The past year has been especially hard on the local music community. Guitarist Paul Skelton (Cornell Hurd Band) died in February. In May, just a couple days before Bruton died, we lost Randall "Poodie" Locke, the larger-than-life character who was Willie Nelson's stage manager for 35 years. Creative Opportunity Orchestra founder Tina Marsh succumbed to cancer in June. Austin-raised fiddler Amy Farris died in Los Angeles in September. The next month took Rusty Wier, whose contribution to Austin music predates the cosmic cowboy movement; Jon Pettis of Bankrupt and the Borrowers, who died in a fire just as his band was starting to take off; and Health Alliance for Austin Musicians founder Robin Shivers. Graphic artist Bill Narum, a true, full-range visionary who is best known for designing those classic ZZ Top album covers, yet he'd done so much more, died in November.

In this decade we also lost Randy "Biscuit" Turner (d. August 2005), who lives on in the Fun Fun Fun Fest, named after one of the songs he sang for the Big Boys.

The good, they die, and make us realize just how precious is each waking day.