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Joe Ely
Soap Creek Saloon
January 5 - 6, 1979
11” X 17” (27.94cm X 43.18cm)

The only poster that I ever did for Soap Creek Saloon was made possible by a dispensation by Carlyn Majewski. Kerry Awn was and is the artist of record for that fabled venue, and no other had ever done their posters. The club was being evicted from its home in the hills south of Bee Caves Rd., and so I made it the subject of this bill every bit as much as Joe was. That’s it depicted left of the Lubbock musician, while behind him a snatch of west Texas sky peeks out. A snuggling full moon nudges against the building and music notes seep upwards into the starry night while the saloon’s fabled juke box erupts from the caliche parking lot in front. Below the date is a running stream of frames that I lifted from a contact sheet of photos Butch Hancock (Spinoza) took of Joe in Groucho drag. The other figure in the second frame is DeForest White, aka Guy Juke, another poster artist. It’s all presented as a kind of trailer for a bogus film. The tag line at the bottom indicates it was created at the legendary Sheauxnough Studios, an art lair home to both me and De.


The only poster that I ever did for Soap Creek Saloon, began with the bad news that the venerable “Honky-tonk in the Hills” was being forced out of its rustic and remote location in the wooded hills off Bee Caves Road to the west of town. I desperately desired to do at least one bill before it left. George and Carolyn Majewski were the proprietors and when I approached Carlyn she initially declined, citing the exclusive arrangement that they had with Kerry Fitzgerald, aka Kerry Awn. Kerry had produced signature calendars for the club and would continue to do so in new locations at the old Skyline Club in north Austin and later at Academy and Congress, south of the fiver. After assuring her that I merely wanted to do this one bill as homage to the venue, she agreed to let me do it. Also, I offered to do it free of charge. And what you see here is the result.

Joe Ely’s career was just beginning when he did this gig at Soap Creek. The image that you see here is that of a very young and recent expatriate from Lubbock. Austin in the 1970s provided a haven and refuge for all the counter-culture types and artists who found no acceptance or outright hostility to their presence in communities across the state that culturally and socially were very traditional and typically, very intolerant of those who deviated from the norm. It seemed as though every city and region across the Lone Star State had an embassy or consulate here, and Lubbock was a prime example of this. Two of Joe’s colleagues who had been with him in Lubbock’s Flatlanders, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore were shortly to follow. Over the years they would establish their own musical reputations, with all three destined to reincarnate back into that band after the century passed. These performances in early 1979, were with Joe’s original band and featured guitarist Jesse 'Guitar' Taylor and the incredible petal-steel of Lloyd Maines, destined to be the father of Natalie Maines, of Dixie Chicks fame. All of that belonged to another millennium and a much-different Austin when the new band from Lubbock took the stage for their first Austin gig on that cold clear night in 1979 to delineate the new direction that the “progressive Country” sound, pioneered in this city, was to take. It was a powerful show, with Doug Sahm joining Joe after midnight, joined by Augie Meyers a bit later. The jam went on until 3 am.

Before it was Soap Creek Saloon, the rustic single-story board-and-batten building was the home of the Rolling Hills Country Club, a short-lived venue that had sought to transform itself from a wooded beer joint into a showcase for the Austin sound of the 70s. That it was to become, though not until the Majewskis made it happen under the Soap Creek banner. In the later years of that decade, the capitol city of Texas was still a small city, with the musical and counter-cultural communities a small town within it. Bee Caves Road was then a rural lane cutting through the cedar breaks, providing a bypass around Oak Hill to Lake Travis and Hwy 71; from its reaches a winding unpaved road snaked away to this secluded road house. In rainy weather it became a soup of mud and limestone, deeply rutted and often impassable. Alchemies of sound were performed there and it stands as a founding venue and one of the seminal sources of Austin’s musical treasure.

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