Longtime KUT/KUTX DJ Paul Ray dies at 73

Paul Ray. 2000 photo by Sung Park / American-Statesman
Paul Ray. 2000 photo by Sung Park / American-Statesman

Paul Ray, longtime DJ at KUT and KUTX and host of the station’s beloved “Twine Time” program, died Friday, the station has confirmed. He was 73.

Ray had been ill for several months and recently had stopped doing his radio program. He died at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. His wife, Diana, survives him.

Ray, born in 1942, was renowned as a musician with Austin blues bands the Cobras and Storm after moving here in 1970 from his native Dallas, playing with others who’d moved from Dallas including brothers Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan as well as Denny Freeman.

He’d attended the University of Texas from 1960 to 1963 before returning to be part of the blues scene that eventually became centered around Antone’s. “We all kind of lived out our dream of playing in a blues band,” he told high school friends Chuck and Karen Robison in a 2014 interview.

Ray had a lifelong love with the blues and a broad range of traditional American musical genres, which he had shared with Austin audiences with great passion and authority on Saturday night’s “Twine Time” show since 1978.

In 1970s Austin, he found an audience that was open and welcoming to his musical inclinations. “Austin is kind of a place where they like the real thing more than the glitter, more than the fame,” he told the Robisons. “It’s the music, and the people who made the music.”

[Note: This story was updated to add details and quotes, and to reflect that Ray died at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center and not at home.]

 

Austin360 Artist of the Month check-in: Harvest Thieves record release

Harvest Thieves at Scoot Inn, Jan. 8, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock
Harvest Thieves at Scoot Inn, Jan. 8, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock

Last week we introduced our new Austin360 Artist of the Month series with a feature story on Harvest Thieves, whose new album “Rival” came out Jan. 8. The band celebrated with a record-release party at Scoot Inn that for a while filled the venue’s indoor room to capacity, with a line for admission forming in the outdoor courtyard.

Here’s a short video featuring portions of two songs from the band’s set: “Lancelot’s Blade,” the closing track on “Rival,” and “Little Feet,” a song from the band’s 2013 debut EP that was written by Austin songwriter Mike Schoenfeld.

The band is back in action later this month with shows Jan. 28 at Cactus Cafe and Jan. 30 at the Blackheart. Also check out the acoustic video for the album track “The Least of These” captured last week at the American-Statesman studio.

Harvest Thieves at Scoot Inn Jan. 8, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock
Harvest Thieves at Scoot Inn Jan. 8, 2016. Photo by Peter Blackstock

Songwriters Symposium includes new Hall of Fame ceremony and concert

07-31-07 Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN Steven Fromholz is a Texas singer-songwriter and current poet laureate of Texas. His songs have been covered by Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson. He recently played at the River City Grille in Marble Falls where this photo was taken overlooking Lake Marble Falls.
The late Steven Fromholz is among the inductees into the new Texas Songwriters Music Legends Hall of Fame. 2007 photo by Laura Skelding / American-Statesman

The annual Texas Songwriters Association and Austin Songwriters Group Symposium, which runs Wednesday through Sunday at the Holiday Inn Midtown, this year includes a new Music Legends Hall of Fame show on Thursday, Jan. 14, that’s open to the public.

The event begins at 8 p.m. and includes a performance by the Lost Austin Band, an assemblage of luminaries from the city’s 1970s progressive-country heyday playing favorites from that era. Tickets are $15 via the Austin Songwriters Group website or at the door.

The inaugural class of inductees includes a mix of both artists and industry figures. The full list, in alphabetical order: Roger Allen, Patterson Barrett, Bill Browder, Stephen Doster, Steven Fromholz, Ernie Gammage, Craig Hillis, Kathleen Hudson, Bob Livingston, Rich Minus, David Moerbe, Scott Newton, Gary P Nunn, Shake Russell and Mike Tolleson.

Bowie Street sign ch-ch-changed to honor David Bowie in Downtown Austin

Update, 2:30 p.m.: There’s now a change.org petition to make the name change from Bowie Street to David Bowie Street permanent. From the petition:

“I believe that, in the same vein of Willie Nelson Boulevard, Austin should rename Bowie Street to honor one of the most influential musicians of the last century.”

As previously reported, it’s safe to assume that the street’s proper name comes from Texas icon James Bowie (though the Austin History Center says that there’s no immediately available record confirming this is the case). Since news of the new sign first fell to Earth, many on social media have denounced the tribute to the “Starman” singer, saying it’s disrespectful to original Bowie.

Earlier: This might be our favorite Ziggy Stardust tribute yet. The name on the Bowie Street sign near Fifth Street has been altered to honor late British rock star David Bowie.

(Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)
(Ricardo B. Brazziell photos/American-Statesman)

The sign is located near South By Southwest’s offices in Downtown Austin. No word yet on who’s responsible for this street oddity.

Although city officials have confirmed that the sign was not officially sanctioned, they released a statement assuring fans that it could stay up until next week:

“The Austin Transportation Department has been notified that someone got creative with the street sign at Bowie and 5th Streets, changing the sign to read “David Bowie” in memory of the musician and pop-culture icon. We appreciate Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World and recognize David Bowie for all he did for the music industry and more. To this end, we will leave the sign up until Tuesday, January 19, so our community can enjoy the makeshift memorial a few days longer. At that time we will have to replace it with the real street name sign.”

However, Austin police officer Chris Irwin said whoever was responsible could be charged with theft and criminal mischief. Both are misdemeanors. The level of charge depends on how much manpower would be involved with switching the sign back, as well as the cost, Irwin said.

Officials from SXSW claim no responsibility for the sign change.  “It’s just a coincidence it’s across the street from our office at 400 (David) Bowie St.,” festival founder Roland Swenson said Wednesday morning.

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As for the street’s proper name, it’s safe to assume Bowie Street was named for James Bowie, the 19th Century Kentucky-born pioneer  who played a prominent role in the Texas Revolution and died at the Battle of the Alamo. But an initial search of Austin History Center records turned up records only dating back to 1905, none of which explicitly mention for whom the street is named, community archivist Amanda Jasso said.

Bowie died Sunday at 69 just days after the release of his latest album, “Blackstar.” Among the likely more legal tributes in Austin: Alamo Drafthouse quickly organized a series of singalongs Monday night that inspired a larger tribute planned for Saturday.

(AP Photo/Bob Child, File)
(AP Photo/Bob Child, File)

» SEE MORE PHOTOS OF DAVID BOWIE THROUGH THE YEARS «

This isn’t the most creative Aladdin Sane honor, however clever it might be. On Bowie’s birthday Jan. 8, the Cincinnati Zoo welcomed a new baby penguin named after the “Modern Love” singer.

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Alejandro Escovedo brings the spirit of Leonard Cohen to ACL Live

Alejandro Escovedo Experience: The Leonard Cohen Influence at ACL Live on January 9, 2016.  Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
Alejandro Escovedo’s “A Thousand Kisses Deep: The Leonard Cohen Influence” at ACL Live on January 9, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

By Don McLeese
Special to the Austin American-Statesman

Wherever he was, Leonard Cohen’s ears must have been burning with pleasure Saturday night as Alejandro Escovedo and a stellar, varied supporting cast paid tribute to his influence, and to the spirit of romantic poetry in music, at ACL Live.

The Canadian bard surely would have loved the young girls’ choir, serenading sweetly, “Lover, lover, lover, come back to me,” as saxophonist Elias Haslanger channeled some Sonny Rollins calypso. Cohen might have scratched his head at some of the selection, which favored the obscure over the familiar. And his ears might have been ringing as well, when the relentless guitars of Mitch Watkins (one of many Austin musicians who have toured with Cohen) and Escovedo turned “Avalanche” into a raucous rocker.

Alejandro Escovedo at ACL Live on January 9, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
Alejandro Escovedo at ACL Live on January 9, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Opening with the martial subversion of “Democracy,” Escovedo’s fourth annual birthday concert at the Moody (he turned 65 on Sunday) was best approached with an open mind and no expectations. Anyone hoping to hear his interpretive twists on Cohen staples such as “Suzanne,” “Tower of Song” or “Dance Me to the End of Love” might have been disappointed. Instead, the program titled “A Thousand Kisses Deep: The Leonard Cohen Influence” dug deep into the songbooks of both Cohen and Escovedo, illuminating the material of each through juxtaposition with the other.

Perhaps the most effective segue came when Escovedo followed former Cohen vocalist Julie Christensen’s rendition of “Anthem” (“there is a crack in everything/ that’s how the light gets in”) with his own “She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” sounding like saloon-song Sinatra at his darkest.

Julie Christensen and Robert Patrick with Alejandro Escovedo's "Leonard Cohen Experience" cast at ACL Live on January 9, 2016.  Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
Julie Christensen and Robert Patrick with Alejandro Escovedo’s “Leonard Cohen Experience” cast at ACL Live on January 9, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Actor Robert Patrick and Christensen turned “Joan of Arc” into a dramatic duet, and he later performed a monologue in which Cohen’s (too) oft-recorded “Hallelujah” briefly offered almost subliminal instrumental backing. With the superb musicianship. lighting, sound and staging providing a safety net, it was an evening that took risks and challenged listeners to make connections, in an experience that won’t likely be repeated.

“What’s happening here in this room tonight is what I love about Austin, Texas,” said a beaming Escovedo. It is also what Austin loves about Alejandro.

Former American-Statesman critic and columnist Don McLeese has been writing about Alejandro Escovedo and Austin music since 1990. He now teaches journalism at the University of Iowa.