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Lost Gonzo Band
with Jerry Jeff Walker and Ray Wylie Hubbard
Benefit of the Doubt: a Reunion
Armadillo World Headquarters

February 7, 1980

11" x 17" (27.9cm x 43.18cm)

This poster was a pure pleasure to do –- the Lost Gonzo Band is my all-time favorite Austin band. Many people have asked me what the idea was behind this piece. Well the concept just sort of emerged full-blown as I gazed at the cover of The Lost Gonzo Band, their first album. On it, a wild-eyed and agitated horse cavorts before a flat landscape, upon which spins a tornado. Now that I have derived that ball, I’ll run with it. The four horses represent the four members of the band -- Gary P. Nunn, Bob Livingston, John Inmon, and Paul Pearcy. Bob’s is the horse coming head-on with a rose in its teeth, Gary’s the horse to the left, now veering away on a path somewhat separate from the others – the one of John’s on the right, while Paul’s horse fills the drummer’s position behind. And the tornado? Perhaps it’s that beneficent doubt they mentioned dropping down for reunion. Or maybe it’s a Texas tornado – musical, not meteorological in nature, that’s descending from the abyss. Humming at first, then singing as it twines down, it’s a raw howl when the meets the ground. A great and thick plume is thrown up, locking itself around the column in a counter-spin clutch. It’s what drives the four before it and what fills the air with the sound they make. It is the beating heart of their world, which is why it’s shaped like one.


In my opinion one of the greatest and least-appreciated bands to ever come out of Austin, The Lost Gonzo Band is my personal favorite. So I guess it was only natural that I was chosen to do the poster when the Gonzos got their own gig at Armadillo World Headquarters. They had played for years behind Jerry Jeff Walker and a world-class band. In the early 1970s, Jerry Jeff was doing some pretty credible song writing and the Gonzos were giving them not only the breath of life but distinct personalities of their own. But the Gonzos were being buried behind Jerry Jeff and finally were able to get creative freedom away from him and on their own. In 1973 they recorded their first album for MCA. After that they were loose and on their way.

And on their way down a very uneven road. Began by Bob Livingston around about 1970, he quickly drew together John Inmon, one of Austin’s finest lead guitarists, Paul Pearcy, the band’s founding and intermittent drummer/backbone. The capstone was adding Gary P. Nunn, a stellar musician and songwriter from Oklahoma, with a sweet-as-honey, smooth-as-glass voice with a strong country push and back-edge behind it. These four would form the essence of the band for the next 13 years and three albums. On their first album, The Lost Gonzo Band, they added the keyboards of Kelley Dunne, and the sax of Tomas Ramirez, with Donny Dolan replacing Paul in one of his sabbaticals. Around 1976 they signed with Jerry Jeff’s management company, Free Flow Productions, a move later viewed in 20/20 hindsight as not all that fortuitous. Things were okay for a while as they rode the Cosmic Cowboy wave; they were getting a lot of recognition and critical praise, while honing out a distinct Gonzo sound. They put out a second album, Thrills a year later but with little push promotion, it passed from the market unnoticed. But as that wave moved into its fall and then its winter, the gigs and venues started to dry up. Jerry Jeff’s creativity had peaked before mid-decade but his name was still gold, so the Gonzos returned to being his band again, and while finances were increased, the Lost Gonzo Band once again disappeared behind Jackie Jack. Things just kept getting worse. They had signed a 3-record deal with MCA, but all the touring with Jerry Jeff prevented much needed development time, much less booking a studio for the third LP. Suspicion began to grow when they finally went in to record the third album in 1976, and interminable changes began to deplete the recording funds. Later that year, Gary P. confronted Free Flow honcho Michael Brovsky and the whole thing blew straight up. The Gonzos left Free Flow and Gary P. left the Gonzos.

The third album, Signs of Life, was finally cut in 1978, accomplished with all the original players on board. Gary P. was coaxed back with the carrot of finally getting to put London Homesick Blues on a Gonzo record.

Though it was probably and primarily a business decision, Austin City Limits had joined the PBS lineup and was a huge success, and London Homesick Blues was its theme song and anthem. By 1978 practically everyone in the nation knew the tune. Nonetheless this album too went nowhere. Again there were rumbling about lack of support, lack of promotion, and just a general channeling of energy away from Gonzo project and into Jerry Jeff projects. Before the decade was over, Gary P. was gone again, and this time essentially for good. And with him at long last, finally went the Gonzos. Certain percentages of the band get together from time-to-time and I love to hear the music. It was a great run while it lasted.

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