In case you haven’t seen it, there are quite a few articles about the Woodson’s various projects and collection in the most recent issue of News from Fondren. They include information on the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) archive, the Reginald Moore Convict Leasing research collection, the Shepherd School digitization project, the Houston Folk Music Archive’s Homecoming concert, and the Wilson Collection of Historical Cartography and Geography.
The family of Peter Gardner had a large trove of over 100 reel-to-reels that they wanted to digitize. We worked with them to send the reels to The Media Preserve and now the music on the reels is alive once again.
A little background on Peter Gardner. He arrived in Houston in 1963 with his then wife and musical partner Isabelle. She now goes by Isabelle Ganz, expect an oral history from her in the coming months. The Gardners traveled the U.S. and Europe performing unique arrangements of traditional folk songs from all over the world. In 1963, Peter became the Director of Adult Activities at the Jewish Community Center. He started the radio program “The Sampler” on KRBE in 1965, which he recorded in his home. Peter also hosted pickin’ parties there in the mid-1960s, which is where Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt met.
The reels themselves shine a light on the early days of Houston’s folk scene and also provide a glimpse into the programming at the JCC. Live performers include Frank Davis, Kay (K.T.) Oslin, Ed Badeaux, Carolyn Terry, Sara Wiggins, John Lomax, Jr., Jerry Jeff Walker, perhaps the first recording of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and other surprising discoveries like The Gospel Mellowtones.
It will be a few months until the items are reading room ready, but we wanted to give everyone a sneak peek of what is to come.
The Houston Folk Music Archive has a couple of new oral histories that have been indexed and are ready for viewing.
The second is from Houston folk band Wheatfield. They talk about the band’s formation, becoming a regional powerhouse band, their lives post-Wheatfield, and the reformation of the band.
If you are interested in watching more oral histories about Houston’s folk music scene, you can find more here.
The Woodson now has a new addition to our Story Maps. We’ve used Esri’s ArcGIS software in conjunction with their Story Map application to create a map that follows the growth and decline of Houston’s folk music scene. Included are photographs of venues, posters, video clips of people describing the places, and some live audio.
Over the past few months, we’ve processed a number of collections for the archive. Here’s a run down of the new collections.
This collection contains digitized video, correspondence, and a master list of performers including performance dates.
The Little Ol’ Show That Comes on After Monty Python aired on KPRC from 1975 to 1980. It was the brainchild of Bruce Bryant, whose friend and long term production partner, Jim Barham, provided film shorts. The show aired on Saturday nights between Monty Python and the station’s sign-off.
The show featured film shorts, comedy bits, clips from classic films, and in-studio performances. The performers include but are not limited to Townes Van Zandt, Wheatfield, Hoyt Axton, Vince Bell, Ry Cooder, Frank Davis, Richard Dobson, George Ensle, Danny Everitt, Blaze Foley, Nanci Griffith, Eric Taylor, Emmy Lou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Don McLean, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Reed, Shake Russell, Dana Cooper, Doug Sahm, Don Sanders, and John Vandiver.
This collection contains news clippings, photographs, audio, video, and memorabilia collected or created by Bruce Bryant. The video highlights work by Shake Russell, Dana Cooper, John Vandiver, and Don Sanders.
Born in Austin on November 10, 1942, Bruce Bryant moved to Houston in 1965 to work for KPRC. During his time with the local NBC affiliate, he directed the Larry Kane Show in 1971. He went on to create and direct “The Little Ol’ Show That Comes on After Monty Python,” which featured a hippie/experimental sensibility and showcased local and regional musicians. This series aired from 1975 to 1980.
He also opened The Sweetheart of Texas Concert Hall and Saloon with Charlie Hargrave in 1974. It showcased regional Texas singer-songwriters, as well as some national acts. The venue closed in 1975.
Bryant eventually went on to direct live events, telethons, TV specials, documentaries on Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Anderson Fair Retail Restaurant. He now directs opera productions for television and live opera simulcasts.
This collection consists of correspondence, fliers, business records, audio, and digital images charting the life and career of Bianca DeLeon. There is correspondence and audio from songwriter Fred Koller.
Growing up in and around Houston, as a teenager, Bianca DeLeon began performing in local Houston clubs in the late 1960s to early 1970s and became friends with others in the Houston folk music scene including Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Rex Bell. She moved with Van Zandt to Nashville. Over the next few years, she travelled between Nashville and Santa Cruz, California.
In the 1980s, in Santa Cruz, she formed the band the Mudflaps and started a logging company. After the 1989 earthquake, because of environmental regulations, she stopped logging and set up a fishing business. During this time, she maintained her connection to the Texas music scene continuing her connection to Townes Van Zandt and becoming friends with David Rodriguez.
In the late 1990s, she moved back to Texas and restarted her music career in Austin. She has released five albums, “Outlaws and Lovers” (2001), “Live: From Hell to Helsinki” (2002), “The Long Slow Decline of Carmelita” (2004), “Love, Guns and Money” (2011) and “Dangerous Endeavor.” She tours throughout Texas and overseas.
This collection mainly consists of live recordings of shows at Anderson Fair Retail Restaurant.
Bob Johnston (October 28, 1947 – May 24, 2012) worked as a volunteer at Anderson Fair Retail Restaurants. For almost three decades, he recorded shows at the venue. He helped start Camp Stupid at the Kerrville Folk Festival. Earlier in his life, Johnston attended Rice University in 1965. He went on to serve in the Vietnam War.
About Anderson Fair Retail Restaurant, taken from Wikipedia:
“Anderson Fair is one of the oldest folk and acoustic music venues in continuous operation in the United States. Located in the Montrose area of Houston, TX, it has been called an ‘incubator’ of musical talent for the folk scene, especially during the folk music heyday of the 1960s-1980s. Notable performers who credit Anderson Fair as an important part of their careers include Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Robert Earl Keen, Lucinda Williams and many more.
Anderson Fair was founded as a restaurant in 1969 by partners Marvin Anderson and Grey Fair. In the early days, patrons would flock to the Fair for a lunchtime meal such as spaghetti or tacos. The club was housed in the Montrose area of Houston which was, at that time, an enclave for artists, free-thinkers, and war protestors. As a result, it was not long before the Fair became a gathering place for musicians and artists from the community to come together and talk politics. By 1973, the crowd that frequented the barn-like building on Grant Street began to turn the lunch club’s main focus towards live music. Gradually, the venue grew into a destination for singer-songwriters who were willing to perform for an attentive, albeit discerning, audience.”
–https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anderson_Fair_Retail_Restaurant, page written by our student archivist Claudia Middleton.
This collection consists of digital audio files and images documenting the Houston folk scene of the 1970s-1980.
Born and raised in Houston, Franci Files began hanging out at Sand Mountain Coffee House in the late 1960s. She befriended members of the community including Guy and Susanna Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Don Sanders, and Vince Bell.
A few years later after graduating from college, she became one of the co-owners of Anderson Fair Retail Restaurant. As one of the crew, she organized and handled food preparation, specifically the spaghetti lunches.
As the 1980s approached, Franci Files married Stephen Jarrard and began to explore her own musical career. She teamed up with her husband as a duo, performed in the band Terry and the Telephones, and lent vocals to Richard Dobson’s second album, “The Big Taste.”
Ready for a change, in the early 1980s, Franci and Stephen Jarrard relocated to the Austin-area. They continued to explore their music. Franci Jarrard started to play the accordion and performed with Richard Dobson when he played in Texas. In the 1990s, Stephen and Franci participated in the strolling trios Europa Trio with Javier Chaparro and Troika with Ann Mesrobian.
This collection consists of photographs, audio, news clippings, and poster/fliers documenting the Houston career of Rich Layton.
Growing up in Houston, Rich Layton fronted a junior high garage band, attended Lightnin’ Hopkins’ concerts at the Jewish Community Center and was heavily influenced by the various musical styles the bayou city had to offer. Ready for another Lone Star music adventure, he headed to Austin for college and earned a degree in Radio, Film and Television from the University of Texas.
While in Austin, he began playing harmonica with then-girlfriend Lucinda Williams. Lu convinced him to move back to Houston to join the burgeoning music scene at Anderson Fair Retail Restaurant in Montrose, where he became the house harmonica player.
In 1979, Rich joined Rock Romano to form “Dr. Rockit,” the city’s legendary rockin’ blues party band. Adding the Sisters of Mercy, the band played regularly in Houston, throughout Texas and along the Gulf Coast in the early to mid 1980s. Throughout this time, he continued to play with other performers in the area and beyond, including Buckwheat Zydeco, Rocky Hill and Alan Haynes. In 1984, he was named one of five Texas Harmonica Tornados by “Buddy Magazine.”
In 1996, Rich moved to Portland and broke into the NW music scene. In 2003, he formed Rich Layton and The Troublemakers. The band has released two albums to date – “Chop Shop Pit Stop” and “Tough Town.”
You can find a complete list of all of the collections in our archive, as well as new oral histories via the Houston Folk Music Archive research guide.
Over the past few months, we have been adding to existing collections and finished processing new collections. Here’s a run down of some of our new materials.
Jack Saunders grew up in a military family that lived all across the U.S. After an eye-opening trip to Dallas, he relocated there to join its music community in 1971. Disapointed that the scene had moved on, he quickly relocated to Austin.
In 1976, at the behest of Rick Gordon, he moved to Houston. There he joined a wide range of bands from Taxi Dancer to The Revolvers to The Senders. In 1982, he joined The Shake Russell Band. That partnership with Russell continued for a more than a decade. After The Shake Russell Band broke-up in 1989, Saunders and Russell became a duo until 1996.
After they parted ways, Saunders embarked on a solo career. He followed that up with opening White Cat Studios in 1999.
Saunders currently plays at venues around Houston, most notably McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, works on recording projects for local and regional musicians, and does side man work with a variety of regional and touring artists.
His collection includes photographs, newspaper clippings, fliers, posters, and a wealth of live music from various stages of his career.
Lynn Langham grew up in Texas and spent her teen years in Freeport, Texas. At an early age, she gravitated to music learning first the piano and then the guitar. When she began college at the University of Texas, she started playing clubs in Austin and moved on to playing in Houston, Dallas, and Denton.
While in Houston, she became a part of the music community at Anderson Fair Retail Restaurant. On a daily basis, songwriters shared their work and motivated and challenged each other to improve as writers, players, and performers. She appears on the 12″ LP “Through the Dark Nightly,” which featured players from the venue.
At the request of a friend, she spent time in New York. She played at the famed Bitter End and other clubs in the area. Before ultimately relocating to Los Angeles, she briefly returned to Houston to continue her career.
After a long break from the music business and performing, she began recording again in Los Angeles. Moving to Nashville in 1989, she received a recording contract with Capital Nashville and began writing songs for a publishing company, Hayes Street Music. Although the album deal eventually fell through, she continued working for Hayes Street. While the writing scene has changed in Nashville, she continues to write and tours with her partner Doug Gill.
Her work has been recorded by Wynona Judd, Trisha Yearwood, and Carolyn Hester. The song “Old Yellow Moon,” which she co-wrote with Hank DeVito, is the title cut of the Grammy winning 2014 Americana Album of the Year by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell.
Langham’s collection has a large amount of lyrics and photographs.
Sara Hickman grew up in Houston, Texas and attended the famed High School for the Performing and Visual Arts [HSPVA] in the late 1970s. For college, she moved away from Houston to attend North Texas State University (University of North Texas) and graduated with a BA in painting in 1986. After graduation, she relocated to Dallas and embarked on her musical career, playing at venues like Uncle Calvin’s, Club Dada, and Poor David’s Pub.
After recording and promoting her first album “Equal Scary People,” Hickman signed with Elektra. While with the major label, she re-released that album and put out a new one, “Shortstop.” Due to a variety of factors, she parted ways with the company in 1993.
Since her third album masters were Elektra property, she raised money from family, friends, and fans to buy back her masters and went on to release her fourth album, “Necessary Angels.” Around the same time, she formed the trio Domestic Science Club with Robin Macy, formerly of the Dixie Chicks, and Patty Lege, which ended up putting out two albums.
In 1995, she left Dallas for Austin and has lived there ever since. She released 15 more albums over the next 20 years, including four children’s albums. In 2010, the Texas State Commission on the Arts named her the Official Texas State Musician.
Since her days at HSPVA, Sara has devoted her time to a myriad of charitable activities including Habitat for Humanity, House the Homeless, Race for the Cure, and the Uganda Fistula Foundation. While she retired from music in 2017, she still continues her charity work and does vocal work for national commercials.
Hickman’s collection spans the breadth of her career and documents her life through photographs, lyrics, charity work, music, and even fan mail.
2017 was an incredibly busy year for the Woodson. It included completing an inventory of all of our rare books, creating new online and physical exhibits, growing our fine arts and Jewish history collections, exhibiting the history of Camp Logan, placing the KTRU Rice Radio archive online, co-hosting the Houston Folk Music Archive Celebration with the Friends of Fondren Library, participating in the Oh Project collection, and helping our Fondren Fellow discover and map the hidden bits of information in our Civil War diaries.
Here’s some of what’s coming up in 2018:
- We’re continuing our participation in the OSSArcFlow project to improve our digital preservation workflows and discoverability.
- We’re going to be the home base for the Harvey Memories Project. This multi-institutional group will working to document the stories, images, audio, and video related to Hurricane Harvey. We will be taking the lead in digitally preserving any donated items.
- We will be making new collections available for research from Audrey Jones Beck, Brochstein, Inc., and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston [CAMH].
- We’ve continued to work with the Chao Center and are expecting new additions and improvements to the Houston Asian American Archive website.
- Starting last year, we began working on our legacy media backlog. Over the past few months, the old floppies and zip disks have been preserved. Soon, our finding aids will contain descriptions of the files contained on that media.
As we complete some of the projects above and add new ones, we’ll update you on the results. Here’s to a great 2018.
We’re happy to announce the new online exhibit for the Houston Folk Music Archive. It features a history of the scene, mini-exhibits on musicians, bands, music venues, and others. Each mini-exhibit contains a biography or history, images, and/or an oral history.
The online exhibit also has a map of music venues where folk musicians played. It even includes a timeline where you can track the folk scene’s rise and fall.
A big thank you to Claudia Middleton, our student archivist, for all of her scanning, metadata work, and for creating the map.
We have uploaded another batch of oral histories. These will all be included in our upcoming Houston Folk Music Archive online exhibit.
David John Scribner
He speaks about his life and his time hosting the “Chicken Skin Music” program on KTRU.
The Grammy winner discusses her long career in the music industry and her experiences as a singer-songwriter in Houston, New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville.
He talks about his time playing at the most famed folk clubs in Houston.
He talks about his time doing sound for a variety of performers in the city.
He discusses playing with local bands, joining The Shake Russell Band, his duo with Shake Russell, and his recording studio White Cat.
He describes how he came to folk music and his recording projects.
He tells about his life growing up in Missouri and his careers in Houston and Nashville.
We’re also working on other oral histories by Don Sanders, Lynn Langham, Isabelle Ganz, Sara Hickman, and Franci Jarrard and Lyse Moore.