the great Gonzo – Jerry Jeff Walker
Day 36 – May 13th – Mother’s Day
“You can go to hell, and I’ll go to Texas” – Davey Crockett
Pat has made a reservation for all of us to enjoy a Mother’s Day brunch at North Italian. This afternoon we will leave for New Braunfels, Gruene (pronounced green) where we have tickets to the oldest dance hall in Texas to see the legendary Jerry Jeff Walker. Dowie and Cara will be doing their own thing as they need a rest from the oldies.
We got to North Italian just on 11:30. Nice establishment. I have gone for the traditional breakfast dish Nonna’s Casserole, torn bread, Italian sausage, all baked in a red sauce with two fried eggs on top. Delicious. All of us commented on how good the food was.
I had to get my photo taken under the Willie Nelson Boulevard sign. You must like a city that names a boulevard after a pot-smoking country singer and that the boulevard runs off a street named after a saint (San Alamo). Willie Nelson is pretty much a Saint according to the good citizens of Texas. I saw a large mural of Willie with the notation of ‘Willie for President’, surely, he would be better than the buffoon currently holding the title of POTUS.
The drive over to Gruene takes a little over an hour. We had to stop for Pat as she had a hankering (Texas talk) for a Starbucks coffee. Gruene was founded by German immigrants around 1845. Cotton was the cash crop for these settlers. The Historic District has been saved and it was put on the National Register of Historic Places in the mid 70’s. It truly is a beautiful part of the country. Old buildings retain their charm and the antique store is more like a museum. You could spend hours browsing the wares. The Gruene General Store is also worth a look.
We sat down for a cold beer (Fat Goat) at the Grape Vine as country singer Bo Porter played some tunes in the outdoor garden.
The Jerry Jeff Walker show does not start until 8 with doors at 7. Pat has given us a head’s up as there is limited seating in the hall and a line generally forms to get in an hour or so before the doors open officially. There has been a band playing an afternoon session and most of the crowd has left, it was a good opportunity to got into the hall and have a look at the photo history and enjoy a Lone Star beer (the National Beer of Texas). The walls are adorned with a who’s who of singers and bands. Most are in the Country style but there is also a cross-section of genres that have performed at this most famous venue. B.B.King has played here as (to my surprise) our own Kasey Chambers. I seem to recall that our Patron Saint of WOW Mr Chris Wilson telling me that his lovely lady Sarah Carroll had also been on the hallowed stage. Wendy got a message from Fras and Jan, they are in Seattle, Washington on their way to Canada. Al. Trish and Bernie are in Memphis, Tennessee.
We left the hall around 5ish to line-up to come back in. Sounds crazy but that is how you do it. If you were still in the hall you would be kicked out at 6:45 for set-up. Civilised in any case as you can always go and by a beer to wait in line. The doors opened right on time at 7PM. There was no pushing or shoving as we made an orderly entrance and got a pretty good seat on the bench like pews with long tables to lean on. There is also theatre type seating available. The show (A Red Neck Mother’s Day) is sold out. The Hall has a capacity for 800 punters.
It is damn warm in the hall. The sides of the building are open (covered with chicken wire). No A.C. of course but there are some twelve huge ceiling fans doing their best to create a breeze. The Lone Star’s are going down well. Jerry Jeff just walked through the Hall and got a standing ovation. He is a little like the Pope down here in Gruene, Texas.
By 7:50 there is a buzz in the air. The crowd is a mixture of old and young, maybe more are old. They are all fans. Many people are wearing Jerry Jeff T-shirts that go back decades.
The band kicked off right on time. Jerry is looking his age (76) but still sprightly with a mischievous smile and a twinkle in his eye. His first words to the audience, ‘put those damn cell phones down’. His second words that brought a roar from the crowd, ‘okay buckaroos’.
He told us that his voice will be a little ravaged somewhat by cancer of the throat. ‘I had some surgery and they radiated it, not that I didn’t fuck up my throat over the years’.
Yep, his voice is a little rough, but no one cares. He put on a show that went for near on two hours. His band is hot. His well- known hit, ‘Mr Bojangles’ was the second song of the night. ‘I like the feeling when I’m lost in song’, so do I, Jerry Jeff. He likes to talk a bit and is humorous and likes to take the mickey out of himself. He pulled up one longish intro by saying ‘I’m turning into Rambling Jack’, meaning Rambling Jack Elliott, another old warrior of the road. He did a great version of ‘L.A. Freeway’. Most of the time the band (guitar, bass) sit on stools. A few songs get raucous and they all get up to jam like young men.
The stage had been a little dim and Jerry asked why the lights that were in front of him were not on. When they got turned on to a crowd cheer he said, ‘well that is the radio part of the show over’. The whole crowd joined in on ‘Up Against the Wall Redneck’, especially the chorus :
‘And it’s up against the wall, redneck mother
Mother who has raised her son so well
He’s thirty-four drinkin’ in a honky tonk
Kickin’ hippies’ asses and raisin’ hell’
Jerry just kept picking songs that he wanted to play, and the band held on for dear life. ‘These guys are good as I just keep playing shit they don’t know’. You gotta like a song that has a line that goes, ‘I like my woman a little on the trashy side’. Got to hear the classic song ‘I love Sangria Wine’.
What a great night we had. My music life has just taken another shot of joy. I am so glad that Pat emailed us many months back to ask, ‘Do you know/like Jerry Jeff Walker as he is in Gruene when we are in Austin’?