Disasters in U.S. schools: March 18, 1937, New London, Texas, gas explosion

March 18, 2019

Most high school history students don’t know about it.  Most high school history students in Texas don’t know about it.

New London School, New London, Texas, before the 1937 disaster. Photo from the New London Museum

New London School, New London, Texas, before the 1937 disaster. Photo from the New London Museum

I wonder, sometimes, how many Texans remember at all.

I wonder, too, if there are lessons to be learned from the New London tragedy, while the nation debates what to do to prevent recurrences of school shootings.

No one in New London, Texas, bore ill-will towards children, or schools, or other New Londoners. Some good came of the disaster, but as we’ve seen, with animosity towards schools and school safety in Texas today, and a lackadaisical approach to dangerous substance control and accident prevention in West, Texas, and other places, lessons learned were not learned well.

The deadliest disaster ever to hit a public school in the U.S. struck on March 18, 1937, when a natural gas explosion destroyed the new school building at New London, Texas, killing about 300 people — 79 years ago today.

The remains of the London School after the exp...

The remains of the London School after the explosion of March 18, 1937. Mother Frances Hospital archives

Noise from the blast alerted the town, and many people in the oilfields for many miles.  Telephone and telegraph communication got word out.  Oil companies dismissed their employees, with their tools, to assist rescue and recovery efforts.  Notably, 20-year-old Walter Cronkite came to town to report the news for a wire service.

Investigation determined that a leak in a newly-installed tap into the waste gas pipe coming from nearby oil fields probably allowed natural gas to accumulate under the building.  A spark from a sander started a fire in gas-filled air, and that in turn exploded the cavern under the school.  School officials approved the tap to the waste gas line to save money.  (Hello, Flint, Michigan!) Natural gas is odorless.  One result of the disaster was a Texas law requiring all utility natural gas to be odorized with ethyl mercaptan.

Though the Great Depression still gripped the nation, wealth flowed in New London from oil extraction from nearby oil fields.  The  school district completed construction on a new building in 1939, just two years later — with a pink granite memorial cenotaph in front.

Today, disasters produce a wealth of litigation, tort suits trying to get money to make the injured whole, and to sting those at fault to change to prevent later disasters.  In 1937 official work cut off such lawsuits.

Three days after the explosion, inquiries were held to determine the cause of the disaster. The state of Texas and the Bureau of Mines sent experts to the scene. Hearings were conducted. From these investigations, researchers learned that until January 18, 1937, the school had received its gas from the United Gas Company. To save gas expenses of $300 a month, plumbers, with the knowledge and approval of the school board and superintendent, had tapped a residue gas line of Parade Gasoline Company. School officials saw nothing wrong because the use of “green” or “wet” gas was a frequent money-saving practice for homes, schools, and churches in the oilfield. The researchers concluded that gas had escaped from a faulty connection and accumulated beneath the building. Green gas has no smell; no one knew it was accumulating beneath the building, although on other days there had been evidence of leaking gas. No school officials were found liable.

These findings brought a hostile reaction from many parents. More than seventy lawsuits were filed for damages. Few cases came to trial, however, and those that did were dismissed by district judge Robert T. Brown for lack of evidence. Public pressure forced the resignation of the superintendent, who had lost a son in the explosion. The most important result of the disaster was the passage of a state odorization law, which required that distinctive malodorants be mixed in all gas for commercial and industrial use so that people could be warned by the smell. The thirty surviving seniors at New London finished their year in temporary buildings while a new school was built on nearly the same site. The builders focused primarily on safety and secondarily on their desire to inspire students to a higher education. A cenotaph of Texas pink granite, designed by Donald S. Nelson, architect, and Herring Coe, sculptor, was erected in front of the new school in 1939.  (Texas Handbook of History, Online, from the Texas State Historical Association)

Of about 500 students, more than 50% of them died.  Once the new school and memorial were built, and the law passed requiring utilities to odorize natural gas so leaks could be detected earlier, survivors and rescuers rather shut down telling the history.  A 1977 reunion of survivors was the first in 40 years.

New London School shortly after the March 18, 1937, explosion. Photo from the New London Museum.

New London School shortly after the March 18, 1937, explosion. Photo from the New London Museum.

Because of that scarring silence, the story slipped from the pages of most history books.

Trinity Mother Frances Hospital treated the victims; a 2012 film from the hospital offers one of the best short histories of the events available today.

New London, and the New London Museum, work to remember the dead and honor them.  Work continues on a film about the disaster, perhaps for release in 2013:

Now, more than 75 years later, the London Museum, across the highway from where the original school was destroyed, keeps alive the memory of much of a generation who died on that terrible day.

This video was produced by Michael Brown Productions of Arlington, TX as a prelude to a feature documentary on the explosion and its aftermath which is planned for
the spring of 2013.  . . .


What are the lessons of the New London Disaster?  We learned to remember safety, when dealing with natural gas.  A solution was found to alert people to the presence of otherwise-odorless, explosive gases, a solution now required by law throughout the U.S.  Natural gas explosions decreased in number, and in damages and deaths.  Wealthy schools districts, cutting corners, can create unintended, even disastrous and deadly consequences.  Quick rebuilding covers the wounds, but does not heal them.

Remembering history takes work; history not remembered through the work of witnesses, victims and survivors, is quickly forgotten — to the detriment of history, and to the pain of the witnesses, victims and survivors.

New, New London School and granite cenotaph memorial to the victims of the 1937 explosion

New, New London School and granite cenotaph memorial to the victims of the 1937 explosion. Photo from Texas Bob Travels.


Houston’s KHOU-TV produced a short feature on the explosion in 2007:

This is an encore post.
Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

True story: Yellow Rose of Texas saved Texas at the Battle of San Jacinto

April 21, 2015

This is mostly an encore post, for the 179th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto.

After suffering crushing defeats in previous battles, and while many Texian rebels were running away from Santa Anna’s massive army — the largest and best trained in North America — Sam Houston’s ragtag band of rebels got the drop on Santa Anna at San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836. Most accounts say the routing of Santa Anna’s fighting machine took just 18 minutes.

San Jacinto Day is April 21. Texas history classes at Texas middle schools should be leading ceremonies marking the occasion — but probably won’t since it’s coming near the end of the state-mandated testing which stops education cold, in March.

Surrender of Santa Anna, Texas State Preservation Board

Surrender of Santa Anna, painting by William Henry Huddle (1890); property of Texas State Preservation Board. The painting depicts Santa Anna being brought before a wounded Sam Houston, to surrender.

San Jacinto Monument brochure, with photo of monument

The San Jacinto Monument is 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument

How could Houston’s group have been so effective against a general who modeled himself after Napoleon, with a large, well-running army? In the 1950s a story came out that Santa Anna was distracted from battle. Even as he aged he regarded himself as a great ladies’ man — and it was a woman who detained the Mexican general in his tent, until it was too late to do anything but steal an enlisted man’s uniform and run.

That woman was mulatto, a “yellow rose,” and about whom the song, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was written, according story pieced together in the 1950s.

Could such a story be true? Many historians in the 1950s scoffed at the idea. (More below the fold.) Read the rest of this entry »

Orchestra of New Spain, performance calendar for 2013-2014

September 11, 2013

Some e-mail is more worthy of sharing than others.

You’re in the Dallas area, and you’re not familiar with the Orchestra of New Spain?  We do have several very good musical organizations around town bending towards the classical, apart from the big professional companies — including the Dallas Wind Symphony, the Arlington Master Chorale, the Turtle Creek Chorale, the Dallas Bach Society — so that finding a place to listen should NOT be a problem.

But I keep running into people who don’t know about these groups.

I got the schedule for the coming year from the Orchestra of New Spain — you really should go see them, and listen.  They’re good, and these events are fun.


Dear friends and subscribers,
The 2013-14 Season of the Orchestra of New Spain begins on October 10 in the City Performance Hall, Dallas Arts District. The season brochure is on its way and will arrive in your mailbox in a few days. While awaiting it’s arrival please peruse our offerings below, or in more detail at:
Thanks to all of you who are already subscribers. If you haven’t made your move you may consider this prime time to subscribe, and enjoy premium seating, even assured seating for some of our intimate events.
To subscribe, or renew your subscription, please visit us online, mail a check, or call the office.
And NOW, the
25th Season of the Orchestra of New Spain
Thur, Oct 10, 8 pm, City Performance Hall
Latino-Barroco Fusion Ensemble
Fri, Nov 8, 6:30 pm, North Dallas Home of Margo & Jim Keyes
Home and Garden concert
Fri, Nov 22, 7 pm, Christ the King Catholic Church, Preston & Colgate
Requiem for a lost leader
Sun, Dec15, 5 pm, Christ the King Catholic Church, Preston & Colgate
Christmas at Christ the King
          Sun, Jan 19, 6 pm, The Annual Courcelle Dinner
          TBA (not included in subscription)
Sat, Feb 8, 6:30 pm, Meadows museum
Sorolla, Falla, Lorca and Flamenco: preview
Fri, Feb 14 & Sat, Feb 15, 7:30 pm, City Performance Hall
The Rise of Flamenco: Lorca, Falla, Sorolla
Sat, Mar 29, 7pm, Zion Lutheran Church, Lovers Lane
Villa y Corte – Town and Court
Thur, May 15, 6:30, place TBA
Home and Garden concert
(If you have not received our brochure in the past or suspect you are not on our snail mail list, please request you brochure by mail the moment you read this, and before they are mailed next week!)
Orchestra of New Spain
One can learn a lot about the great, lesser-known performance spaces around Dallas just following this bunch.  Who knows when that will come in handy?

Willie Nelson Blvd.

August 12, 2012


Willie Nelson Blvd, Austin, Texas - IMGP2228 photo by Ed Darrell (please attribute)

Waiting for the bats in Austin, and I looked up to find I was on Willie Nelson Boulevard!

A star on the sidewalk in Hollywood is nice, I suppose.  But how many recording or film artists get streets named after them in the capital city of their home state?

And, can you list that as a good reference on your sentencing report on a possession charge?

Details, from the Austin American-Statesman:

2nd Street renamed for Willie Nelson

By Sarah Coppola | Thursday, May 27, 2010, 10:55 AM

Part of Second Street will now bear the honorary name Willie Nelson Boulevard.

The City Council approved the change this morning as a tribute to the singer, who has lived in the Austin area nearly 40 years and sold more than 50 million records.

The city will install Willie Nelson Boulevard signs this summer at every block along Second Street from Trinity Street to San Antonio Street. The formal name, mailing addresses and street signs for Second Street will stay the same, but residents and businesses along the street will be able to receive mail using the Willie Nelson Boulevard address, said Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who proposed the idea.

A nonprofit group, Capital Area Statues, is raising money to put a full-size statue of Nelson on Second Street, in front of the new Austin City Limits studio. That nonprofit commissioned the sculpture and unveiled a smaller version of it earlier this month.

More Willie Nelson

Robert Johnson’s centennial, May 8: Memorial to the blues

May 8, 2011

May 8, 2011, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of bluesman Robert Johnson.

Robert Johnson, hat and guitar
Robert Johnson — one of two known photographs of the Delta blues legend

In a fitting tribute to Johnson and an important coming-of-age coming-to-senses moment, First Presbyterian Church in downtown Dallas announced plans to save the old Brunswick Records Building at 508 Park Avenue, a site where Johnson recorded songs in 1937 that changed the blues, changed recording, and left us a legacy of Johnson to study from his short life.

(On at least one day of those 1937 recordings, Johnson could have brushed shoulders with the Light Crust Doughboys, the Texas Swing legends, who were recording in the same building.  The Doughboys set their own pace and gave birth to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.  Two of Texas’s greatest music legends, in the same building on the same day, both just stepping on the platform of the train to immortality.)

Saving 508 Park Avenue vexed Dallas for a couple of decades.  First, blues is not the music of Dallas cognescenti, though the world class musicians in town including Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Jaap van Zweden tend to support the eclectic music scence and honoring musicians of all genres (and Texas is loaded with different music genres).  Second, while Park Avenue may have been a bustling business district adjunct once, Dallas’s city center suffered 50 years of decline after school desegregation.  Parts of downtown and Uptown begin to look prosperous again, but the southern peninsula of the city, away from the now-packed-with-performance venues Arts District, a freeway and ten blocks away from Uptown, with its back up against another freeway, part of Interstate 30 and the famous Dallas Mixmaster.

508 Park Avenue, Dallas, Robert Johnson's early recording site, photo by Justin Terveen for the Dallas Observer in 2011
508 Park Avenue, Dallas, Robert Johnson’s early recording site, photo by Justin Terveen for the Dallas Observer, 2011

Plus, the building is directly across the street from the Stewpot, a kitchen operated by First Presbyterian Church to serve Dallas large and unfortunately thriving homeless population.

Who wants to renovate an abandoned building that has homeless people as scenery for the better part of the day?

Big news this week:  508 Park Avenue was sold to First Presbyterian, who have plans to save the building (and recording studio!), add a performance amphitheatre at one end of the block, and a park at the other.  This is people-friendly development well ahead of its time — there is not a resident population in that part of the city to support such a venue — yet.

Last summer, it was the neighbors, First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, who made an offer to buy 508 Park Avenue and the adjacent building and empty lot. But the deal was contingent on the city allowing the church, which also operates the Stewpot, to tear down an unrelated building next door, at 1900 Young, and replace it with an outdoor amphitheater for church socials and concerts. The Landmark Commission went into last Monday’s meeting with angels on one shoulder and devils on the other: The commission’s task force suggested approval; city staff, denial. The latter would have sent 508 Park Avenue back into purgatory.

But Landmark OK’d the plan, and the church says it will restore 508 Park Avenue to its former glory, inside and out—including the construction of a real recording studio where Johnson once sat and played “Hell Hound on My Trail.”

The church promises: It has musicians lined up to participate, but it can’t yet reveal who. The church promises: 508 Park Avenue will be resurrected.

One hell of a birthday gift for a man who supposedly sold his soul to the Devil.

The second authenticated photo of blues legend Robert Johnson
The second authenticated photo of blues legend Robert Johnson

So, on Robert Johnson’s 100th birthday (assuming he wasn’t really born in 1912 . . . another mystery for another time, perhaps), the news is that the legendary bluesman who burned out like a shooting star helped save one of the few examples of art deco building decoration in Dallas, when a group of Christians who help the homeless, decided to step in an update their downtown Dallas campus.

Every step of the way, it’s an unlikely story.  Truth is, in this case, much, much stranger than fiction.

Ovation Music released to YouTube the video of Eric Clapton playing and singing “Me and the Devil,” at 508 Park Avenue, in the same room where Robert Johnson sang for a record early on.  Johnson recorded the song at that same location on Sunday, June 20, 1937.

508 Park Avenue, Dallas, is already a memorial to Robert Johnson, to the blues, and to the city where these early blues hits were made.  The struggle remains to make the memorial accessible, and not threatened with destruction.

More, resources: 

Quote of the moment: Doug Sahm on Texas music

April 14, 2011

Doug Sahm, Magnet Magazine photo

Doug Sahm, 1941-1999, Magnet Magazine photo

“I’m a part of Willie Nelson’s world and I love it, but at the same time, I’m part of the Grateful Dead’s world. One night I might be playing twin fiddles at the Broken Spoke and the next night I’ll be down at Antone’s playing blues. In that way Texas is a paradise, because all that music is here.”

Doug Sahm, 1975

Tip of the old scrub brush to Un Perla, Por Favor.

Big balls in Cowtown . . .

February 7, 2011

”]Farm trucks at the Worthington, Ft Worth Stock Show 2011 - Import 01-22-2011 029Photographer error makes these less than perfect — but I still like them.  Panorama shots in very bad light of four enormous farm pickups, parked in the valet parking area usually reserved for the Jaguars, Mercedes and occasional Bentley, at the Worthington Hotel in Fort Worth.  Stockmen come to Fort Worth every January and February for the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show — these are the Caddillacs and Lincolns and Mercedes of the big-money farm set.


”]Trucks at the Worthington, during the Ft. Worth Stock Show 2011 - Import 01-22-2011 030None of these trucks was as small as a Ford F-250.  These are duellies, crew-cab monsters.


When I saw them I immediately heard Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys singing:

Big balls’ in Cowtown!  We’ll all go down.
Big balls’ in Cowtown!  We’ll dance around.

I wish the sound on this clip were better, featuring several of the original Texas Playboys performing in 1999 (Bob died in 1974):

Listen to Asleep at the Wheel’s true-to-Bob’s-spirit version, featuring Johnny Gimbel, one of the Texas Playboys:

If you can afford to gas one of those rigs, you can afford to dance a bit.

Tuba Christmas in Dallas, today at noon

December 24, 2010

Tuba Christmas!  Today, in Dallas!

DALLAS – FRIDAY, DECEMBER 24 – TIME: 12:00 noon [2010]
LOCATION: Thanks-Giving Square, corner of Bryan, Ervay & Pacific Streets, Downtown
NOTE: Local sponsorship provided by Brook Mays Music, McKay Music, Mr.E’s Music and Houghton Music.

It’s cold and looking like rain — dress warmly.

Tuba Christmas, by Stephen Ferris, stephenferris-art.com

Tuba Christmas, by Stephen Ferris. You can own this print: stephenferris-art.com; click on the picture to go to his gallery

Tip of the old scrub brush for the artwork to Donald Miller.  Yes, that Donald Miller.

[Donald Miller said, at his blog, way back in 2008:

*Stephen Ferris’ artwork, “Tuba Christmas” is significant because it is a painting of the Portland site. The tent, under which the tubas are organized, is a staple. And the man in the hat is Dr. John Richards, who played in the Oregon Symphony for many years. He actually wears that hat each year because he also drives a submarine.]

Reason enough to vote Bill White, Texas Governor: Robert Earl Keen fan

October 22, 2010

Every major newspaper in Texas endorsed Bill White for governor, over incumbent Republican Rick Perry.  For the rest of us, Robert Earl Keen’s endorsement should be reason enough, no?


Robert Earl Keen and a Texas highway - Keen endorsed Bill White for governor of Texas

Robert Earl Keen, in this publicity photo standing on a Texas highway, endorsed Bill White for Governor of Texas -- no doubt to keep the Texas road going on forever.


Release from Bill White’s campaign:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bill White bands together with Robert Earl Keen

White, Keen ask students to vote for Bill White

DENTON — On Friday, Bill White and Robert Earl Keen, legendary Texan singer and songwriter, will roll into Denton, Nacogdoches, College Station and San Marcos for special early vote concerts. The concerts are free and open to the public on a first come basis.

To see a list of where the concerts will be, visit: http://www.billwhitefortexas.com/blog/001712.php

“College students have a huge stake in the governor’s race,” Garry Jones, Students for Bill White Director, said. “For many of us, Rick Perry is the only governor that we’ve ever known, and we don’t like what we’ve seen. College tuition rates have jumped by 93 percent under Perry’s reign, and we understand that our teachers are being forced to teach us how to take multiple choice tests and not prepare us for college or careers.”

“Texas students are lucky that we have a candidate who will put our needs first,” continued Jones. “Someone who will be more concerned with fighting for our future here in Texas than battling the federal government to raise a national profile. That candidate is Bill White!”

Robert Earl Keen is one of Texas A&M’s most famous graduates. Last weekend, the Bryan-College Station Eagle, endorsed Bill White. The editorial board wrote:

“[W]hy any loyal Aggie would vote for Rick Perry is beyond us . . .  Ten years of Rick Perry as governor are more than enough. It is time for a change and Bill White is that change. He is a strong fiscal conservative who proved as mayor of Houston that it is possible to do more with less. We’ve had the less. Now it is time for the more.”

Early voting started Oct. 18 and continues through Friday, Oct. 29. To find a polling location near you, visit http://www.billwhitefortexas.com/ev/


New music station fires up in Dallas today

November 9, 2009

KXT-FM hits the airwaves at 7 a.m. Central Time, in Dallas today.  91.7 on the FM band.

KXT is a sister station to public broadcasting KERA-FM, 90.1.  In the past 20 years KERA’s outstanding music programming slowly gave way to talk and news — good talk and great news, but the music suffered.

In response to member requests, North Texas Public Broadcasting decided to launch a separate station for music.

KXT is a new radio station found at 91.7 FM in North Texas, and at kxt.org worldwide. It’s an incredible selection of acoustic, alt-country, indie rock, alternative and world music, hand-picked just for you – the real music fan.

KXT features between 9 and 11 hours of local programming each weekday, bringing you an eclectic variety of artists and genres, including a number of performers from North Texas and elsewhere in the Lone Star State.

Gini Mascorro will host the KXT Morning Show, Monday through Friday from 7 to 11 a.m. Joe Kozera will take listeners home weekdays with the KXT Afternoon Show from 3-6pm and the KXT Evening Show from 6-8pm.

90.1 at Night with host Paul Slavens, which appeared on KERA-FM for a number of years, has moved to KXT and is now known as The Paul Slavens Show.

National shows appearing regularly on KXT include Acoustic Café, American Routes, Mountain Stage, Putumayo Music Hour, Sound Opinions, The Thistle & Shamrock, UnderCurrents and World Café.

KXT should be a boon to Texas music, to live music, and to music generally.

You can listen to KXT live on the internet, or pick up podcasts.

Dallas still lacks serious rock and roll broadcasting, being mostly a city in the shadow of Clear Channel music censorship.   One step at a time.  KXT is a great big step.  Or maybe more accurately, KXT is a great, big step.

Help broadcast the news about the broadcast music:

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Typewriter of the moment: Alan Lomax, folk music historian, 1942

October 18, 2009

Alan Lomax at the typewriter, 1942 - Library of Congress photo

Alan Lomax at the typewriter, 1942, using the "hunt and peck method" of typing - Library of Congress photo

Who was Alan Lomax?  Have you really never heard of him before?

Lomax collected folk music, on wire recorders, on tape recorders, in written form, and any other way he could, on farms, at festivals, in jails, at concerts, in churches, on street corners — anywhere people make music.  He did it his entire life.  He collected music in the United States, across the Caribbean, in Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Spain and Italy.

Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Lillie Mae Ledford and an obscured Sonny Terry, New York, 1944 (Library of Congress Collection - photographer unknown)

Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Lillie Mae Ledford and an obscured Sonny Terry, New York, 1944 (Library of Congress Collection - photographer unknown)

Almost all of that collection is in the Library of Congress’s unsurpassed American Folklife collection, from which dozens of recordings have been issued.

Born in 1915, Alan Lomax began collecting folk music for the Library of Congress with his father [John Lomax] at the age of 18. He continued his whole life in the pursuit of recording traditional cultures, believing that all cultures should be recorded and presented to the public. His life’s work, represented by seventy years’ worth of documentation, will now be housed under one roof at the Library, a place for which the Lomax family has always had strong connections and great affection.

Were that all, it would be an outstanding record of accomplishment.  Lomax was much more central to the folk revivals in the both England and the U.S. in the 1950s and 19602, though, and in truth it seemed he had a hand in everything dealing with folk music in the English-speaking world and then some.  Carl Sagan used Lomax as a consultant to help choose the music to be placed on the disc sent into space with the exploring satellite Voyager, “the Voyager Golden Record.”

Have you listened to and loved Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo,” and the famous passage, “Hoedown?”  How about Miles Davis, with the Gil Evans-produced “Sketches of Spain?”  [Thank you, Avis Ortner.]  Then you know the work of Alan Lomax, as Wikipedia explains:

  • The famous “Hoedown” in Aaron Copland‘s 1942 ballet Rodeo was taken note for note from Ruth Crawford Seeger‘s piano transcription of the square-dance tune, “Bonypart” (“Bonaparte’s Retreat”), taken from a recording of W. M. Stepp’s fiddle version, originally recorded in Appalachia for the Library of Congress by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax in 1937. Seeger’s transcription was published in Our Singing Country (1941) by John A. and Alan Lomax and Ruth Crawford Seeger.
  • Miles Davis‘s 1959 Sketches of Spain album adapts the melodies “Alborada de vigo” and “Saeta” from Alan Lomax’s Columbia World Library album Spain.

Lomax died in 2002.

Other resources:

“To Hear Your Banjo Play” featuring Pete Seeger, written and produced by Alan Lomax.
Trailer for the PBS P.O.V. film, “The Song Hunter,” by Rogier Kappers

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “POV – Lomax the Songhunter | PBS“, posted with vodpod

Sing out!

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Chess games of the rich and famous: Willie Nelson

October 11, 2009

Willie Nelson playing chess on the band bus - Texas School of Music Collection

Willie Nelson playing chess on the band bus - Texas School of Music Collection

Did Willie ever play Ray Charles in chess?  Did anyone get a photo of the game?

Patoski’s bio on Willie Nelson wins TCU Texas Book Award

April 12, 2009

As Joe Nick Patoski put it on his blog, and I have been remiss in failing to mention, Patoski’s book on Willie Nelson won the TCU Texas Book Award.  The book is Willie Nelson, an epic life.

Friends and neighbors, please click on the letter and it’ll make it big enough so you can actually read what it says.

Woo hoo and Yee haw!

Good news!  Now, can we get Willie’s houses in Fort Worth noted on some tour?


50 years since the music died: Buddy Holly

February 4, 2009

Buddy Holly died 50 years ago, February 3.  NPR gives the basics:

Morning Edition, February 3, 2009 – Fifty years after his death at 22, rock ‘n’ roll founding father Buddy Holly is still cool. On Feb. 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, along with J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens, died in a plane crash while touring the Midwest. Holly would have been 72 by now — and probably still rocking and rolling. Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Elvis Costello have all paid tribute to Holly as a major influence.

But the music itself wasn’t his only contribution. Holly was among the first artists to use the studio as an instrument: He spent days crafting songs and experimenting with techniques that were still new in the recording business.

History is an odd business.  Holly’s old hometown is Lubbock, Texas.  Lubbock, itself in an odd, welcomed Prairie Renaissance, features a Rock and Roll Museum and a set of Buddy Holly glasses that would dwarf the Colossus at Rhodes.  But his family is at odds with the city on the use of his name on local streets and promotional materials.

Sculpture of Buddy Hollys glasses, at the Buddy Holly Center, Lubbock - Roundamerica.com

Sculpture of Buddy Holly's glasses, at the Buddy Holly Center, Lubbock - Roundamerica.com

Waylon Jennings, probably the most famous survivor in Holly’s old band, died in 2002 (on February 13).  Who is left to study Holly and his work, to keep the flame of historic remembrance alive?

Typewriter of the moment: Willie Nelson

December 29, 2008

Willie Nelsons guitar, Trigger, a Martin N-20 nylon stringed acoustic

Willie Nelson's guitar, Trigger, a Martin N-20 nylon stringed acoustic

Okay, so it’s not exactly a typewriter.  So sue me.

It’s the closest thing to Willie Nelson’s typewriter we’re likely to find, I think.  It’s certainly analogous to a typewriter, for Nelson.

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