A week ago Friday, I'd gotten the word that the cantankerous old Yank Tim Schuller, whose scrawl I read as a teen in Guitar Player and Living Blues before I got to work with him briefly at Peaches Records & Tapes at Cole and Fitzhugh in Big D when I first arrived in Texas, had passed suddenly. I remembered lots of extremely dissolute nights at his apartment (the Prescott Palace) in Oak Lawn, soakin' suds, playing guitars, and listening to him tell stories about growing up in Cleveland and going to Kent State, moving to Chicago with his drummer pal Mot Dutko, meeting and playing with Robert Jr. Lockwood and John Brim.
After we stopped seeing each other regularly, I continued reading Schuller in Buddy Magazine, Southwest Blues, Blues Access, and the Dallas Observer. When I was in a blues band that was hosting a food bank benefit back in '98, he encouraged me to look up poet and Uber blues fan Wes Race, and actually made the trip out to Fort Worth with his lady for the occasion. Schuller was a Mencken-esque sage, possessed of a great acerbic wit. He'll be missed by those who knew him and anyone who shared his passionate appreciation for the music and read his scrawl.
Then a week later, the guitarist Bugs Henderson, whom I'd seen at Mother Blues on Lemmon Avenue and the Palladium on Northwest Highway back in the day, died of recently-diagnosed cancer. Henderson had played in Mouse and the Traps of Nuggets "A Public Execution" fame (the best 1965 Dylan cop ever waxed by a Texan), honed his chops playing at the legendary Cellar in Fort Worth (not the one on Berry Street that exists today, but the more famous one downtown where JFK's security detail spent the evening before his assassination, earning the spot a mention in the Warren Report), and led his own bands for decades, becoming a regular visitor to the Fort's McDavid Studio in recent years.
When we walked into Dada, where another local legend, John "Beard" Brewer, still works the door, I looked up over the sound booth and saw Frankie Campagna's Gretsch on display in a glass case. The last time we'd been to Dada, back in 2009, we'd seen Frankie's band Spector 45 -- hot young greaser punks -- open for the Nervebreakers. We'd seen them a couple of years earlier at the Wreck Room when they were just starting out, and they'd come a long way. Last year, both he and his bassplayer Adam Carter committed suicide. I can't imagine the pain those boys' families went through. It didn't make sense, but then, so much of life just doesn't. I muttered "Sorry, kid," as I looked up at his axe.
We always arrive everywhere much too early, so we walked down the street to Mama Mia's (not affiliated with the one in Fort Worth, I don't think) and wound up eating a whole pizza because it cost the same as four slices would have. They throw a righteous pie there, too. When we walked back to Dada, there were more people and the opening band, the Sutcliffes, had started. (I guess they start shows _on time_ in Big D.)
Walking back to the merch table, I saw rock Uberfan and Eight Track Museum curator (see below) Bucks Burnett, who was the shipping/receiving dude at Peaches when I worked there and wound up running the 8-track department ("so I really haven't come that far in 30 years"). These days, he's still running record stores -- most famously in a corner of Dallas vintage clothing store Dolly Python, where Garuda bassist Brian Green also sells vintage toys; also in Retro Revolution at Greenville and Lovers, and some tee-tiny town that's two block's long, "but I'm never actually _in_ any of 'em." Bucks just signed paper for a New York location, where, he says, "I'll never be either." In between now and then, he's run the Mr. Ed fan club (which he started as "an excuse to talk to Monty Python over the phone"), managed Tiny Tim, promoted the massively unsuccessful "Mr. Ed rock festival" Edstock, and served as former Small Faces/Faces bassist Ronnie Lane's butler.
My sweetie brought cash for swag, so I scored a copy of Mac's great book All the Rage (now back in print and a riotous read) and a couple of CDs, on Bucks' recommendation: Here Comes Trouble, a reish of Mac's solo debut Troublemaker that's filled out with some stuff he recorded later, and Spiritual Boy, the Bump Band's Ronnie Lane tribute, a couple of songs from which we heard Mac play during his set. Bucks pointed out that Troublemaker has "a New Barbarians sound," and I discovered that he also remembers seeing Keef Richards tossing his cups onstage when the NBs (the band nominally led by Ronnie Wood that also featured Mac, Bobby Keys, Stanley Clark, and Zigaboo Modeliste) played the Tarrant County Convention Center in '79 (a story I've been accused of fabricating) -- "so we're _vomit brothers_!"
Mac carries around some ghosts of his own -- besides Lane, there's Small Faces frontman Steve Marriott, and Kim, his wife of 33 years, who died tragically in a 2006 car accident, and is the subject of his lovely song "Never Say Never" -- but it'd be impossible to imagine a more upful and life-affirming performance than the one he gave to around 40 people at Dada. He's the most engaging performer you could hope to encounter (sample stage patter: "If I ever walk into a pub wearing a black shirt, people mistake me for a pint"), and his Bump Band, made up of the most archetypal looking Austin music dudes imaginable, actually captures the loose-limbed swagger of the Faces -- a tough act to cop (to these feedback-scorched ears, Terry Anderson, the rockin' pride of Bunn, NC, had done the best job I'd heard until last night).
I think the drummer must have been a sub for regular Don Harvey, the way guitarist "Scrappy" Jud Newcomb was cuing him throughout the night, but he locked it in the pocket just fine with bassist Jon Notarthomas (who said he used to back "folkie singer-songwriter chicks" before hooking up with Mac). Newcomb's mastered Ronnie Wood's chunky, choppy chording style, and he tops it off with slithery steel-sounding lines that are all his own. An estimable foursome, these guys.
I had the best vantage point in the house, with a clear view of Mac's Wurlitzer electric piano and Hammond B-3 organ, which he plays standing up, so while my sweetie shot pictures, I settled in to watch the man work. His pianner style is out of Jerry Lee Lewis and Otis Spann, while his organ playing is strictly from Booker T, and he sings in a genial rasp that's ragged but right, enough to make me wonder why they needed Mick Hucknall to front the Faces reunion (although I saw him puffing on an inhaler midset).
We got to hear Mac sing "Get Yourself Together" from the Small Faces, and "You're So Rude" and "Cindy Incidentally" from the Faces catalog; "Been A Long Time" from Mac's Rise and Shine album was a particular standout, and he finished with Ronnie Lane's "Kuschty Rye" (with Bucks waving his arms up front). The set included a lot of new material from an album that Mac and his band are in the middle of recording, and the new stuff sounds every bit as strong and vital as his back catalog. We look forward to hearing it when it's released, and will continue plotting a trip to Austin to catch a Lucky Lounge stand.
ADDENDUM: My sweetie posted some of her pics of the show here. Check 'em out and leave her a comment why doncha?