Whither the Armadillo? And Where From? By Craig Hattersley “Just what Austin needs, another parking lot. But I guess that’s the way things are going.” Charlie Daniels, interviewed on KLBJ-FM before his last concert at Armadillo World Headquarters, Dec. 8, 1980. South Austin After a decade of defying the clock and the ledger sheet, Armadillo World Headquarters, last vestige of olde Austin, will drift into history with the start of the new year. Shrine to the hippie entrepreneur, the Armadillo dies as it lived in seedy splendour. Austin, a metropolis on the move, has paid scant heed to the impending closing of the giant Craig Hattersley came to Austin in 1971 from New York, where he worked at the Fillmore East and the Village Voice. He became the first bouncer at the Armadillo and worked there five years. Now he writes, fixes cars, and attends university. a silent minority with memories laments its passing. The ‘Dillo stumbled on financially long enough to provide a hang-out, attract national attention, and assure local musicians and artists a place in the sun. Its closing ends an era. The era began, as was proper, in the sixties. Austin was still a small town, rents were low, life was good. There was a lot of music, the kind that would, in a few years, mark the city as a special place. But clubs where the counterculture community could hear the music were scarce. The best was the Vulcan Gas Co., where you could tune in to music by the likes of Conqueroo, the 13th Floor Elevators and Shivas Headband. Hippie night life revolved around the club. Even before Willie Nelson rode into town and made official the Austin Music Scene, every other freak in town played guitar and rehearsed with a garage band in hopes of someday sharing a bill at the Vulcan. Local bands rocked out at every party and vied for openings in the Vulcan or the few receptive clubs around town. The Broken Spoke, a kicker honky-tonk, didn’t care much for the psychedelic set. The Vulcan aired home-grown music on into early 1970, when it succumbed to Austin’s most virulent club plague -insufficient funds. It was in the fall of that year that the ‘Dillo opened for business to fill the vacuum. Eddie Wilson, former manager of Shivas Headband, Bryan Rohan, an attorney familiar with San Francisco psychedelia, Austin lawyer Mike Tollison, and Spencer Perskin, patriarch of Shivas, rented the hall with part of $5,000 from a Capitol Records’ advance to Shivas, a modest beginning, to say the least. But modesty suited the community of hippie supporters. That proved to be a fortuitous arrangement, because try as they might, the Armadillo never did look 100 percent respectable. Given the implacability of the building, even bare suitability was applaudable. High, cinder-block walls enclosed a cold, concrete-slab floor. Minuscule vent-windows provided a breath or two of fresh air, but at nose-bleed elevations. Steel beams supported the arching, corrugated-tin roof. The parking lot, with 6 DECEMBER 26, 1980
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