Musicians Off the Record: 1970s

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1970. Ray Price’s slick orchestrated commercial appeal peaks with the hit Kris Kristofferson number "For the Good Times." The performance wins a Grammy for Price in the category of Best Country Vocal Performance, Male.

1970. Sly and the Family Stone epitomizes politically-charged rock with the best-selling single "Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin. "Sly Stone’s influence on the decade to come is immense as he lays a foundation for the era’s funk and disco acts. It was startling for the times for a pop band to include blacks and whites, men and women, especially for the women to be instrumentalists instead of vocalists. Their #1 single "Everyday People" contributes the phrase "different strokes for different folks" heard throughout the period. "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" understandably gets little radio play (at almost six minutes, no less), but "Hot Fun in the Summertime" goes to #2.

1970. The Armadillo World Headquarters opens in Austin as a concert hall, but even more as an idea of contradiction, freewheeling lifestyles and peace between hippies and rednecks. The city and the musicians loved the claim that "Only in Austin could music bring the two together."

1970. Janis Joplin records her masterpiece LP,Pearl, before heroin use takes her life. The work showcases her unique blues stylings on "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Mercedes Benz."

1970. Kris Kristofferson’s songs get sung by Johnny Cash ("Sunday Morning Comin’ Down"), Roger Miller ("Me and Bobby McGee") and Ray Price ("For the Good Times"). He writes the score for Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie. He releases his first album self-titled.

1971. Janis Joplin’s version of "Me and Bobby McGee" goes to #1, Sammi Smith’s version of "Help Me Make it Through the Night" reaches the Top 10 and wins a Grammy as Best Country Song. That same year Kris Kristofferson re-titles his first album Me and Bobby McGee and co-stars in Cisco Pike with Gene Hackman and Harry Dean Stanton.

1971. Gilmer-born singer/drummer Don Henley forms a country-folk group in California called the Eagles. Their first release—1972’s Eagles—goes gold on the heels of two popular singles, "Take it Easy," and "Witchy Woman."

1971. Fort Worth-born Shawn Phillips tours in support of his second A&M release, Second Contribution, to critical praise. The singer-songwriter, well versed in world music and a sitar maestro, uses abstract, experimental compositions with complex phrasing to arrive at a singular sound first heard in 1965 on the folk-rock influenced I’m a Loner.

1972. Native Texans Jim Seals and Dash Crofts record their second album for Warner Brothers, Summer Breeze, which climbs to #7 on the U.S. charts with the title track reaching #6. The single "Hummingbird" also charts as high as #20.

1973. Willie Nelson notices that the young rock fans in Austin also listen to honky-tonk and take to his new performing style, as the "outlaw" movement takes hold. Shotgun Willie and Phases and Stages began to attract a new audience.

1973. The band Asleep at the Wheel, featuring Ray Benson, debuts with the album Comin’ Right at Ya. The Austin group, celebrated for tunes like "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read," "Miles and Miles of Texas," and "Route 66," is praised for the integrity with which the band keeps lit the flame of authentic country music.

Promo photo of Asleep at the Wheel in the 70sview larger

Promo photo of Asleep at the Wheel in the 70s

1973. Jerry Jeff Walker heads out to Luckenbach, Texas with the Lost Gonzo Band and records his best-selling album, ¡Viva Terlingua! which includes Guy Clark’s "Desperados Waiting for the Train" and Ray Wylie Hubbard’s "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother".

1973. ZZ Top, a blues rocking trio out of Houston (guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Frank Beard and drummer Dusty Hill), achieves superstar status with the release of their third album, Tres Hombres. Its hit track, "La Grange," is a nod to legendary John Lee Hooker's signature riff tune, "Boogie Chillen." Enthusiastic showmen, soon they embark on the Worldwide Texas Tour: Taking Texas to the People, toting a Texas-shaped stage and other signs of the state, including a buffalo, a longhorn, buzzards and rattlesnakes.

Photo of John Lee Hookerview larger

© Paul Natkin /used by permission

1973. Dobie Gray, a Brookshire native, after a decade of recording earns a Top Five hit with "Drift Away." He is an equal success as a Nashville songwriter as his tunes are covered by John Denver, George Jones, Charley Pride and Don Williams, among others.

1973. Doug Sahm and Band is released, featuring special guests Bob Dylan, Dr. John, and San Antonio accordionist Flaco Jimenez. The single "Is Anybody Going to San Antone" embodies the spirit of Austin’s new Redneck Rock scene. 1974’s Groover’s Paradise is an album that helps push Texas’ capital into the pop culture spotlight.

1973. The satirical humor side of social commentary in the songs of the day was not forgotten. Drawing in the incongruity of stereotypes, Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys introduced songs like "They Ain’t Makin’ Jews like Jesus Anymore," "We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You" and "Ride ‘em Jewboy." They also had fun with songs like "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed."

Carolyn Wonderland and Kinky Friedmanview larger

Photo of Carolyn Wonderland and Kinky Friedman at the University of Texas Instruments of Freedom Symposium 2005 © Madeline Maxwell

1973. Galveston-born Barry White’s passion-growl singing style brings him pop/soul hits like 1973’s "I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby" and "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up" and 1974’s "You're The First, The Last, My Everything" and "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe." He will earn multiple hit LPs with sales of 100 million-plus.

1973. Edgar Winter of Beaumont releases They Only Come Out at Night, highlighted by the chart-topping rock instrumental "Frankenstein."

1974. First of Willie Nelson’s 4th of July picnics is held in Dripping Springs, near Austin.

1974. Mickey Gilley tops the national country charts with the song "Roomful of Roses." Sixteen more #1 hits follow, including "True Love Ways," "That's All That Matters To Me," "A Headache Tomorrow (Or A Heartache Tonight)" and "Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time?" Gilley can have a fine honky-tonk time with his rollicking piano or syrup and whine with the classic country romantics. Gilley’s bar in Pasadena becomes the subject of "Texas Chic" and inspires the movie Urban Cowboy. Gilley records "Stand By Me" for the soundtrack.

1974. Guitarist Jimmie Vaughan and vocalist/harmonica player Kim Wilson start The Fabulous Thunderbirds and develop a gritty, roadhouse-style electric blues/R&B style. They are extraordinarily popular regionally and influence national styles, but they don't sell well nationally.

1975. Willie Nelson revolutionizes albums and progressive country music with the concept album The Red-Headed Stranger selling millions. Interestingly, he has never won a Grammy for an album. He wins his first one for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male for the ballad "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain." The Grammys seem to like his ballad stylings better than other aspects of his oeuvre.

1975. Don Henley enjoys four number one albums as a member of the Eagles, including One of These Nights. The LP’s highlights are "Lyin' Eyes" (a Grammy winner) and "Take It to the Limit." The following year’s Hotel California (Record of the Year) is among the best-selling albums ever, with Henley’s voice soaring on the title track. Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 is the best-selling album of all time and the first album to be certified platinum (one million sold) by the Recording Industry Association of America, which introduced that classification in 1976. In 1998, the Eagles are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Promo photo of The Eagles from 1972view larger

Promo photo of The Eagles from 1972

1976. Dallas natives Dan Seals and John Colley perform as England Dan & John Ford Coley and record "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight," which soars to #2 on the pop charts with two million copies sold. In July, they release their debut LP for Big Tree, Nights Are Forever.

1976. Dallas-raised Boz Scaggs, who has left the Steve Miller Band and returned to the U.S., releases Silk Degrees. While his earlier albums have attracted critical acclaim, this is his first time up the charts. Silk Degrees goes to #2, and two of the tracks are hit singles, "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle." Scaggs is also rewarded with a Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Song for "Lowdown."

1976. Wanted! The Outlaws (Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Coulter & Tompall Glaser) becomes the first platinum-selling country album.

1976. Inspired by the local music scene, Austin City Limits debuts on PBS to showcase American roots popular music.

Austin City Limits logo

Austin City Limits logo

1977. Kenny Rogers soars in popularity as "Lucille" is certified gold. The song is named Country Music Association Single of the Year and climbs up the pop chart as well. Rogers wins the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male this year and in 1979 ("The Gambler"). Teaming up with Ronnie Milsap for "Make No Mistake, She's Mine," they win the Best Country Vocal Performance, Duet in 1987. Rogers records some 40 hit albums and more than 60 hit singles. His story songs like "Coward Of The County" and "The Gambler" (both made into a TV movie) and love songs like "Lady" and "She Believes in Me" are constantly on radio. Rogers becomes an international star into the 1990s.

1977. Joe Tex, who had retreated from music to tour as a minister for the Nation of Islam for several years and live on his farm in Navasota,  releases a final chart-climber, "I Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman),"  based on a dance called the "bump."

1978. Willie Nelson teams up again with Waylon Jennings for the all-time favorite, Grammy-winning "Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys." The same year he releases an album of pop standards, Stardust, which became a surprise hit and stayed a hit for four million copies. He also wins a second Country Vocal Performance Grammy for "Georgia on My Mind."

1978. Gene Austin is voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for "My Blue Heaven," a #1 hit in the 1920s. Also in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Austin composed more than 100 songs without ever learning to read or write music. His recording of "My Blue Heaven" was the second biggest non-holiday record seller of the entire pre-1955 era.

1978. Asleep at the Wheel wins the Grammy for Best Country Instrumental for "One O'Clock Jump."

1979. The "Iceman," Albert Collins, captures his raw intensity on Ice Pickin, which wins Blues Album of the Year from the Montreux Jazz Festival and a Grammy nomination.

1979. The Electric Horseman stars Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, but Willie Nelson almost steals the show with a small part.

1979. Amarillo native John David Souther’s hit "You’re Only Lonely" evokes the spirit of Roy Orbison. Earlier songwriting collaborations with the Eagles yielded top shelf hits, "Best of My Love," "Heartache Tonight" and "New Kid in Town."