Asleep At The Wheel
Antone’s
March 1, 1980
11” x 17” (27.9cm x 43.18cm)

One of the most popular of my music bills, this poster marks the occasion of the Wheel’s first gig at Antone’s. Significantly, it came shortly after the club relocated from its original location at Sixth and Brazos downtown, to the Great Northern Blvd location in the suburbs of Austin. It would be here that the venue would see a concerted effort over the next couple of years to incorporate both local progressive country groups and the more traditional Nashville establishment acts into the “Home of the Blues”. This piece promoted what was to become Austin’s premier country-swing band, at the time recently relocated here from West Virginia. Following the norm as a two-color piece, this poster is constituted from a pen-and-ink base image with a hand-cut rubylith overlay to provide the vermillion background color. What is significant here is the wagon wheel image centered where Ray’s hand and the ascender of the W meet. The wheel is subtracted from the color; without the overlay, it would not be seen. In only one other poster – Stevie Ray Vaughan’s birthday celebration poster that I would do a year later – is this technique similarly employed.

  

Ray Benson, the lead guitarist and vocalist of Asleep at the Wheel, is a very long drink of water, standing at about 6’5” It seems as though he had to hunker down here in order to fit into the frame of this bill. However, he and his band fit in perfectly at the new Antone’s location. When it originally opened five years before, Antone's was reverently dedicated to the blues by Clifford Antone; and I can’t recall anything but the blues being played at the original location. At that time the Austin music scene was almost exclusively Progressive Country, with a strong bent toward the singer-songwriter variety as exemplified by musicians like Jerry Jeff Walker, Willis Allen Ramsey, Townes Van Zandt, and Michael (Martin) Murphy. A couple of years before, all of this crystallized with the arrival of Willie Nelson. He had quit the Nashville country establishment to return to his native Texas and the sound transcendent of Country music that was coming out of Austin. His initial performance at the Armadillo World Headquarters in 1972 was a land mark occasion, formalizing the sound and beckoning disciples to it. Clubs like Castle Creek, the Split Rail, Soap Creek Saloon, the Alliance Wagon Yard, and The Texas Opry House sprang up, meccas to this music and contributing greatly to Austin’s growing music scene. Eventually the city’s reputation would draw in this band from West Virginia as well.

By the middle of the decade Progressive Country dominated the music scene here and garnered reputation as a place of musical alchemy, amalgamating such disparate musical forms as folk, traditional Country, and 70s rock into an original and dynamic musical form that became a cultural anomaly, definitive of the music flowing from the capitol of Texas. In the teeth of this Antone’s set up a blues shop on Sixth Street, then a skid row. With reverence and somewhat defiant of that establishment, in 1975 this orthodox blues chapel was set up among the PC cathedrals. With the passing of the decade that dynamic changed. By 1980 progressive Country had dispersed with centers in California, Georgia and Alabama among others, diluting its exclusive Austin connection. The Armadillo had closed on New Years Day 1981, with the Texas Opry House taking up the slack as the top-dog venue. By this time a significant blues community had sprung up around Antone’s and was growing in diversity and sophistication, spurning new blues clubs. Oil money was pouring in, and transforming a college town rapidly into a city; soon downtown development and the incipient formation of an entertainment district on Sixth forced Antone’s to a new location far north of downtown. This change in location precipitated a change in character, where establishment Country acts increasingly found a home in the blues house. Besides the Nashville acts, Antone’s opened its doors to the local progressive Country talent as well. It was a change of booking, not attitude; Clifford had always respected this music and as their venues dwindled he brought them into his club. And so it was with Asleep at the Wheel.

This gig inaugurated that trend and many celebrated singer-songwriters were attendant that night. Bob Livingston and John Inmon of the Lost Gonzo Band were there, as was Townes Van Zandt, and Blaze Foley. But perhaps the most notable musician in the audience that night was Doug Sahm. The San Antonio native had been making music all his life, and building on his local successes, he and his band had gained national fame and success in the 1960s by adopting a quasi-British persona as the Sir Douglas Quintet. Their hit Mendocino spoke to a connection with San Francisco and its signature psychedelic sound of the late 60s. It all fell out in the early 70s as Sahm returned to his roots in Texas and began another re-invention of himself. As both a component and driving force in Austin music, he was in the audience that night. He and Clifford became fast friends and he became a part of the fabric of the club. And this show was when that all began.



Purchase this poster online

View your shopping cart