Oak Cliff Hoot Night

MTV, Austin City Limits and The Real World may call Austin “the live music capital of Texas,” but for a long time that claim could have been laid on the Dallas suburb of Oak Cliff. From the 1950s and on into the 70s, Oak Cliff churned out a diverse set of bands and musicians that included:

• Michael Martin Murphey
• B.W. Stevenson
• T-Bone Walker
• The Pendulums
• Jimmie Vaughan
• The Mystics
• Ray Wylie Hubbard
• Stevie Ray Vaughan
• Edie Brickell
• Rocky Athas
• Jimmie Wallace
• Seab Meador

In a rather cruel twist of fate, or irony, the majority of these musicians moved to Austin to achieve later success, but they all got their start by learning their craft and performing in Oak Cliff.

Just what is it about Oak Cliff that produced so many talented musicians?

Much of it falls to Oak Cliff’s ability to encourage and foster creativity. In “the Cliff,” you had the freedom to branch out and be yourself, without being stifled. As Molly Ivins put it, “No where is the pressure to conform greater than in north Dallas.” Oak Cliff not only tolerated “thinking outside the box,” it also encouraged it.

Today the area is undergoing a transition. Now Oak Cliff is better known for its restaurants, like Bolsa, Lucia or Hattie’s, than its music. The gentrification has caused many folks to say that Oak Cliff is “becoming cool,” which irritates long-time residents to no end. For almost every baby boomer that grew up here, Oak Cliff was always cool. You can see their postings about what it was like “back in the day” on their Facebook page, Oak Cliff Boomers. They don’t recall an Oak Cliff that was bleak or poverty-stricken, but an Oak Cliff that offered plenty for young people. And a lot of that was hearing your fellow classmates play in rock bands–or combos as they called them then–at high school dances, theaters and outdoor venues in Oak Cliff.

“I used to love to go to the Heights Theater at Westmoreland and Illinois and see a band called the Glorytones perform there,” says Jimmie Vaughan. “They later became the Mystics and had a great record, ‘Didn’t We Have a Good Time.”

The Mystics were made up of Oak Cliff residents Danny Fugate, Robert Farris, David Mitchell, Glen Strubble and Ron Jobe. After starting out as the Glorytones, they changed their name to The Mystics and won a 1966 Battle of the Bands contest that included getting a record produced on the local Spectra label. Spectra hired rockabilly legend Dale Hawkins to produce, and Ron Price contributed the very catchy “Didn’t We Have a Good Time” as their first single. Robert Farris wrote the b-side, “Now and For Always.” The record reached #1 on Dallas stations KLIF, KBOX and KFJZ and was picked it up by Dot Records for national distribution. KLIF radio started in the Cliff Towers at Lake Cliff Park in Oak Cliff (hence its call letters) and started the Top 40 trend in radio.

In the audience for many of their shows at the Heights was a young guitar player named Jimmie Vaughan. He would go on to form his first band, The Pendulums, and play for the 1966 Sunset Bisonettes Winter Dance in Oak Cliff. Jimmie had a younger brother he taught how to play the guitar. Stevie Ray Vaughan got his start playing for talent shows and high school dances at Kimball High in Oak Cliff. One of his early band mates was a guy named Steven Tobolowsky, who went on to gain fame as a character actor in films like Groundhog Day and Memento, and is now a regular on the TV show Glee.

But probably the guy who started it all was a man known early on in his career as “Oak Cliff T-Bone.” Aaron Thibeaux Walker, or T-Bone Walker as he later went by, was an Oak Cliff resident who first used the electric guitar on blues recordings. His song, “Stormy Monday,” is a standard for any aspiring blues singer. Growing up in Oak Cliff, Walker became acquainted with Blind Lemon Jefferson and later drove him to many of his gigs.

Michael Martin Murphy got his start while a student at Oak Cliff’s Adamson High School, playing talent shows and local gatherings. He wrote a hit song for the Monkees, “What Am I Doing Hanging ‘Round” and then had a hit single himself with “Geronimo’s Cadillac.” He has gone on to country music success and now performs cowboy songs and ballads. His Cowboy Christmas show is a seasonal sellout at Bass Hall in Fort Worth.

B.W. Stevenson is best known for his hit, “My Maria” which was later covered by Brooks & Dunn. He, too, was an Adamson High alumnus who had several hits of his own, but had chart success when other groups, like Three Dog Night, covered songs such as “Shambala.”

One of Stevenson’s classmates at Adamson was Ray Wylie Hubbard. In the early 70s Hubbard rode the “progressive country” wave with his hit “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother,” that was covered by Jerry Jeff Walker on his monster album, Viva Terlingua. That song has proven to be both a blessing and a curse, as it earned him fame and money, but branded itself to him so that he is required to sing it no matter where he goes.

Edie Brickell grew up in Oak Cliff but attended Booker T. Washington high school. Her hit, “What I Am,” with her band, the New Bohemians, topped the charts in 1988. She married Paul Simon and pretty much put her musical career on the back burner, but sill plays occasional gigs at the Kessler Theater in her native Oak Cliff.

But the gold standard for Oak Cliff musicians remains the Vaughan brothers, Jimmie Lee and Stevie Ray. Between the two of them they have won Grammys, appeared on television and shared the stage with the biggest acts in rock. They grew up on 2557 Glenfield, near Kiest Park, and attended Oak Cliff schools such as L.O. Donald, Stockard, Brown and Kimball.

Stevie was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 1990, cutting short a career that had really taken off. Older brother Jimmie enjoyed success at age 15 as the lead guitar player for what was the hottest band in Dallas in 1967, the Chessmen. He then went on to form The Fabulous Thunderbirds, who opened for the Rolling Stones and ZZ Top in the Cotton Bowl on Halloween night, 1982. Today he heads up his Tilt-a-Whirl Band.

It’s all coming full circle for the Oak Cliff music scene, as one of its own returns to commemorate a time when the music was shipped in boxes on vinyl and the AM radio was king. - Kirby Wornack

Antone's celebrates Oak Cliff's legacy and genius with this stellar line-up.

Denny Freeman

As an adolescent and young teen in Dallas, Texas in the late1950's, Denny Freeman heard on the radio the radical new sounds of people like Little Richard, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, and Chicago and Louisianna blues artists like Muddy waters and Slim Harpo. Freeman would go to concerts that featured folks like Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Ruth Brown, and the Clovers. In the 60's there was Jimi Hendrix and Cream, and the wonderful jazz of the time. All of it contributed to the music that Freeman would come to play. Primarily a guitar player, he has played piano and organ on his own and other folks records and gigs over the years. Jennifer Warnes has him playing piano on one track (The Well [Reprise]) on her latest release. His piano playing also appears on James Cotton and Jimmie Vaughan albums. He toured on Jimmie Vaughan's first solo outing as the piano player.
Denny has been the main writer on the songs on his four, mostly instrumental albums, and teamed up with Kathy Valentine of the GoGos and Clem Burke of Blondie, to submit music to Deborah Harry for the Blondie "No Exit" album. Deborah wrote the lyrics, and "Boom Boom in the Zoom Zoom Room" was born. He also co-wrote "BaBoom (Mama Said)" with Jimmie and Stevie Vaughan for the Vaughan Brothers' "Family Style" album.
After touring for a year and a half with Jimmie Vaughan in the mid nineties, he toured w/ Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band until late 2002, playing guitar. It was during this period that Taj' Grammy winning CD, "Shoutin' in Key" was released. "Playing with an American icon like Taj Mahal was a real honor for me. We went all over Europe and to Japan, and it seems that there are Taj fans in every nook and cranny, all over the planet."
After growing up in Dallas, going to college in north Texas, and a brief sojourn in L.A., Freeman moved to Austin, Texas in 1970. Jimmie Vaughan, Doyle Bramhall, and Stevie Vaughan soon followed. If you were a musician, a part of the sub culture, or just had long hair, Austin was the place to be in that part of the world, at that time. It wasn't so much of a music town, Freeman observes. " It was the kind of place that musicians in the early 70's found hospitable. Lots of pretty girls, cheap rent, a laid back atmosphere, those things were especially helpful, in those days." The word got around and musicians are still moving there, today, although things have changed, like everywhere else, and cheap rent is certainly a thing of the past. The main thing, though, that these folks had in common, was that they came ready to play blues. Unhappy with the direction rock was heading after the demise of Cream and Jimi Hendrix, blues was the only thing that appealed to these and a few other people. But still it was a struggle. Of course, Jimmie, w/ his Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Stevie finally found some commercial success. Freeman lived and played with Jimmie and Stevie off and on through the 70's and 80's. There just weren't many players interested in playing blues, so the pool was small. "I first heard Jimmie Vaughan play in Dallas, when he was 16, and Stevie a few years later, in Austin, when he was around 17. It was obvious, even then, that we would be hearing from these guys. It took a while, but eventually most fans of guitar, the world over, came to know about them, too. We became friends, roommates, bandmates. Stevie still owes me $30 rent."
In 1975, the world famous Antones Night Club opened up. At first, the T Birds were the house band, providing backing for the famous Chicago, and other, blues artists that were booked. In the early 80's, another house band was formed, and Freeman had guitar and piano duties, backing up blues giants like Otis Rush, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, Jr. Wells, Jimmy Rogers, Eddie Taylor, Lazy Lester, and many, many more. "It was beyond anything I could have imagined. I never thought I'd see most of these guys, much less get to play with them. Some of the shows were recorded, so I'm even on records with my heros."
In spite of Freeman's work with Austin blues bands and blues artists in L.A., where he lived from1992 until late 2004, he doesn't consider himself a "blues guy". "I'd rather think of myself as a guitar player." The compositions on his four albums display a love of three chord rock n' roll, soul jazz, blues and old school r&b and soul music. "I'll always love listening to my old blues records, and trying to play it (blues), but I don't want to be stuck in that bag. I like to go out on a limb, sometimes. I also love ballads." Clem Burke plays drums on his latest CD, "Twang Bang."
Some of Freeman's early recordings (late 80's) ended up in low budget, mostly horror films. One, "Mortuary Academy", featured Paul Bartel and Wolfman Jack. He recently was in the studio (eraly 2004), playing on the new Percy Sledge album, "Shining Through the Rain", which includes a Denny co-write (w/ Fontaine Brown), "Love Come and Rescue Me", as well as his own new project. In October (2004), he was in the studio, with C.C. Adcock, and Scott Nelson and Mike Keller, working on Doyle Bramhall's forthcoming album, "Is It News?". (Spring release)
Denny played in the Bob Dylan Band from 2005 until August 2009, and plays on the Bob Dylan album, "Modern Times". Since the autumn of 2009, Denny has been playing in Austin, Texas a lot, mostly at the Continental Club, Antones, and The Gallery, and in DFW area clubs, and is preparing to record.

Michael Holt and Trophy 500's

Michael Holt and the Trophy 500’s from Austin Texas are a dynamic mix of blues, big band swing, rock and roll influences from the 50’s and 60’s, and roots Americana. They have quickly become one of Austin’s “must see” acts giving a breath of fresh air to the local blues scene. Michael's influences are rooted deep in Texas blues history, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Pee Wee Crayton, T-Bone Walker, Freddie King, Gatemouth Brown, W.C. Clark, Jimmie Vaughn, Matthew Robinson, Lightning Hopkins and many more...

Michael has been playing and entertaining crowds for 20+ years. He has played all over the United States, overseas, and can be found playing locally in Austin Texas at The Continental Club, the Saxon Pub, and Antone's to name a few. The live show of Michael Holt and The Trophy 500's is an experience you don't want to miss!

John Gaar Band

> Southern Americana and Roots Rock. Comes at you with full-forced Southern-infused Americana Roots Rock with soul stirring vocals, signature raunchy guitars, wailing organs, killer rhythm, epic hooks, clever lyrics and superb story-telling. His distinctive sound embraces multiple eras and genres, including blues, rock, country, folk, Americana and jazz, all of which he is well-versed. The Rock and Roll Report says “for only a second solo release, John Gaar has created something in Brighter Side of Maybe that will be hard to top,” – and gave it 5 out of 5 stars.

> John Gaar and his all-star band offer a wall of sound with 3-part harmonies and intricate arrangements that you don’t see in live performances every day! Original song selections range from in-your-face vocal and music delivery that is unavoidably screaming bad-ass…to melancholy ballads with significant guitar work that approaches perfection…to songs filled with a gospel sound and organ crunch that is shoved forward by Gaar’s signature raunchy guitars.

> In 2011, the band released “Brighter Side of Maybe” to rave reviews and has been building momentum and a significant following since that promises, and has been delivering, some big opportunities!

Mike Cross

Born in Gallup, New Mexico, Mike Cross received his first guitar at the age of 10. Soon he was writing and arranging his original compositions. Mike felt most influenced by artists of the 60‚s like Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and Albert King. Mike's music eventually led him to Austin Texas in 1990, to become bassist for Rusty
Weir, and the band DUCK SOUP.

Since that time, Mike has been a vocalist for the band BIG TIME and done numerous recording sessions with such artists as Marcia Ball, Miss Lavelle White, WC Clark, Hamilton Loomis and Roscoe Beck. Mike also produced three CDs with musical partner : Joe Forlini Forlini & Cross, Wall of Desire ; Enchanted Houses ; Soulful Rescue.

Mike's latest production with partners Nico Leophonte, Phil Fernandez and Tommy Robinson is called The Bottom of the Blues which led to a tour of Europe in Autumn, 2002, for his band THE GROOVY GRAVY. Currently, Mike is a featured singer with the Antone's Blue Monday Band including guitarist Derek O'Brien, drummer Barry Frosty Smith, bassists Roscoe Beck, Chris Marah and keyboardist Riley Osborn. Mike's voice is also featured on a Gary Powell production of the Walt Disney CD Dinosaur.

Chris Ruest

Chris Ruest belongs to the impressive class of serious Texas blues guitarists in their thirties, a group that includes Johnny Moeller, Shawn Pittman, and Nick Curran. While the others may have wider name recognition, Ruest has quietly built a reputation of excellence that is spreading beyond his Dallas home base. A veteran with nearly two decades’ experience on the bandstand, Ruest’s passion for classic blues (jump, Chicago, and Gulf Coast) and roots rock forms comes through in an original voice that combines immediacy and authenticity. Dead-on songwriting and savvy selection of covers provide a platform for his unaffected, honest vocals and tough guitar.

The Connecticut native’s interest in guitar was encouraged by his father and his uncle, jazz musician Louis Mastrobattisto. Ruest began taking lessons at 15, hoping, rather typically, to emulate blues-based rock guitarists Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page, but soon discovered the artists who inspired them. Gradually his core group of touchstone artists expanded to include the likes of Hubert Sumlin, Pee Wee Crayton, Robert Nighthawk, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Pat Hare, Eddie Taylor, Freddie King, Magic Sam, Robert Lockwood, Luther Tucker, T-Bone Walker, Albert Collins, Tiny Grimes, and many others. After playing around Connecticut between the ages of 17 and 25, Ruest resolved to make music his main priority, gave up his factory job, and relocated to Texas in 1999.

After a brief stay in Austin, where he held down a night at the storied Joe’s Generic Bar, Ruest moved to Dallas at the suggestion of Brian “Hash Brown” Calway, another transplanted Northeasterner who is at the heart of the Dallas-Ft. Worth blues scene. Ruest credits his occasional gigs with Hash Brown as important steps in his development – “He taught Johnny and Jay Moeller and Paul Size and Shawn Pittman - all those guys came through him, and Nick Curran played with him for a while, and Elliot Sowell - some of the best guys came through his band” – and gained valuable experience backing singers Robin Banks and Wanda King (Freddie King’s daughter). His most indelible lessons in blues and life came from the legendary Sam Myers: “When I got to Dallas, I spent a lot of time, like three years, with him. Before he died, I started spending more time with him. I actually did a couple gigs under my name with Sam, which was awesome.” More recently, Ruest has enjoyed the mentorship of Mr. “Linda Lu” himself, the great (and elusive) performer Ray Sharpe.

Ruest’s band has opened for Bobby “Blue” Bland, Johnny Winter, Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets, and Little Charlie and the Nightcats. 2005 brought Ruest’s recording debut as a solo artist, Too Many Problems, a spirited collection that captured crisp performances in glorious, true-to-vintage sound. The notable players who appeared on that disc, including Preston Hubbard, Matt Farrell, and “Kaz” Kazanoff in addition to Curran and Hash Brown, offer testimony to the respect Ruest commands among his colleagues. Now expanding his performance schedule to a wider circuit that includesHouston, Corpus Christi, andSan Antonio, and club and festival dates outside Texas, Ruest is preparing to record a follow-up CD and to let the world share in this Dallas-Ft. Worth secret. “My goal is to play everywhere and keep playin’.” - written by tom hyslop "blues revue magazine"

With an extensive musical heritage from her family, Dallas-born Joanna Ramirez carries on the tradition as a vocalist and songwriter. From the traditional Mexican music of her grandfather to the rhythm and blues legacy of her father Joe Ramirez, Joanna passionately delivers songs in many roots styles, infused with her own love of soul music. Joanna currently performs with Twilight Trio, and is featured vocalist with Larry Lange and His Lonely Knights.

Kathy Murray

The legendary Kathy Murray needs no introduction to Austin’s musical faithful. Murray developed her vision of the blues in the formative days of the Austin blues scene, jamming with luminaries like Stevie Ray Vaughan, W.C. Clark, and members of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. A blues singer and songwriter par excellence, she first burst on the Austin music scene with her early band Kathy and the Kilowatts, wowing audiences with a tremendous live show, and sharing the stage with everyone from Albert Collins to Koko Taylor.
Murray has won the Australian Blues Association’s ‘Chain Award” for Australian Song of the Year with the Kate Meehan Band’s recording of Murray’s original song, “Call Me Mrs. Blues”. Listen/look for soulful Austin singer Toni Price's recent cover of Murray's "Bird in the Hand," a spicy blues with a hypnotic riff.
Murray is currently performing live with two projects, her full electric blues band, Kathy Murray’s Blues Groove, and with her exciting new acoustic act, Cherrywood Road. Cherrywood Road features Murray on guitar and ukulele, along with her longtime musical compadre Bill Arthur Jones on guitar, ukulele and accordion. Murray and Jones synergistically combine their talents into a one-of-a-kind Texas roots music experience.

Jeff Hayes

Bassist for rent, cheap. Also a vital member of the Austin Blues Society and blood brother for life at Antone's.

Sonny Wolf

he Sonny Wolf story started in 2000.After a few years of hanging out at jam sessions,I decided it was time to start my own band.After a few unsteady lineups,I met Andre,my bass player.Within ten minutes of playing our first gig,I knew we were going to work together for a long time.We had similar tastes in music and he had the right vibe to complement my style.We started playing the Quebec bar circuit,always playing the blues and rock-n-roll we loved.Along the way,we always had different drummers until last year when my blues brother,Jo Hell,moved to Texas.His drummer couldn't follow so I offered him the job.Martin was fully committed to the band and this lineup has been my best.Now that Martin left the band Janic joined us and the band is finally ready to leave for Texas on July 9th.We are always busy on the Quebec blues circuit and are starting to break into the Texas circuit which is a thrill for me since many of my musical influences are from Texas. .. ..

Bobby Mack

Bobby Mack is a true Texas Guitar legend from Ft. Worth, Texas. Like other such North Texas guitarists as Denny Freeman, Derek O’Brien, Jimmie and Stevie Vaughan, Bobby helped define the Austin Blues genre of the late seventies and early eighties. Bobby has shared the stage with other notables such as Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, and Otis Rush and can deliver the sound of a revved up Texas Guitar like nobody else.


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Oak Cliff Hoot Night with Denny Freeman, Michael Holt and Trophy 500's, John Gaar Band, Mike Cross, Chris Ruest, Joanna Ramire...

Wednesday, May 8 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at Antone's - NEW LOCATION

Tickets Available at the Door