“HE HAD A DEEPNESS AND SINCERITY THAT PEOPLE WERE ACUTELY AWARE OF. HE TRIED TO PUT THIS INTEGRITY INTO HIS LIFE…IT MAY SOUND LIKE A LOFTY GOAL, BUT THAT WAS WALTER.” world beyond isn’t. Walter was very internal, he didn’t say how he felt about his lack of national recognition…but he was confident of his gift.” Beyond his music, Walter Hyatt had another gift: he was an honorable man in a less-than-honorable industry. “Walter really touched people,” says his wife. “He had a deepness and sincerity that people were acutely aware of. He tried to put this integrity into his life…it may sound like a lofty goal, but that was Walter.” Walter Hyatt died at forty-six, leaving behind a ten-month-old baby girl, a young son, and an older daughterwhose graduation from Randolph Macon College he was trying to make when he died. His widow has had to retain lawyers to represent her against the airline. At the memorial, though, there was no mention of the air disaster. “I’m a little of the mind that we know nothing about why things happen in life,” said Heidi. “I have a hard time getting angry.” But anger might be an appropriate response, at least as a prelude to action. The results of the 1980s deregulation, decentralization, and the weakening of government oversight now appear in the safety records of the discount companies like ValuJet, which farmed out maintenance to shoddy sub-contractors the FFA seemed incapable of monitoring. Low ticket prices and a competitive marketplace seem to come at the expense of consumer safety. Corporate greed, union weakness, bipartisan politics and even the presidential campaign have played fast and loose with our ailing airline industry. And many of the post-Vietnam generation, once soothed by Walter Hyatt’s restorative music, continue to turn inward, allowing to flourish the conservative forces that conspired to take a talent and goodness like his away from us. Writer Sidney Brammer divides her time between New York and South Austin. A Heidi, Taylor and Walter in a family portrait. “Walter really touched people.” pened without UWB paving the way for funny-looking guys with “big hair” and broadly eclectic musical styles. Lovett’s efforts to make Hyatt’s work more widely known and appreciated have resulted in a November 19 posthumous re-release of Hyatt’s 1990 MCA solo album, King Tears “He loved that saying ‘I’m a legend in my own mind,”‘ said Heidi. “In Austin, everyone is very free about letting you know that they love your workbut the and dedicated group of followers. “They created a ‘family atmosphere,'” says Kim Miller, “and that ‘family’ showed up again and again.” Longtime fan Jane Blizzard bers seeing UWB when she was a student in 1973. “A group from my dorm, all women, walked to Shakey’s Pizza down on the drag [now the site of Antone’s] to see UWB, sometimes twice a week. They made you feel like you belonged, like it was a little club that you were part of. You saw the same people over and over. It really made the isolation and anonymity of U.T. more bearable for us. It was also a safe haven for single women to enjoy live music, without having to fend off drunks.” That devoted audience filled the Paramount to capacity at Hyatt’s memorial last month, competing for space with those who crowded in to hear an unsurpassed lineup of talent paying tribute by playing Walter’s music. The eclectic gathering of musicians suggested the breadth of Walter’s songwriting abilities and the scope of his twentyfive-year influence on the music scene. “I realize now that none of us knew all of him,” said Marcia Ball. “Backstage we’re all in awe at who keeps showing up.” “So many people I love here,” Jimmie Dale Gilmore gushed. “Makes me realize I never got around to telling Walter how much I loved him and his music.” Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel intoned that “in the last week Walter’s chords and words have been played in homes and tour buses all over this country.” Hyatt was acknowledged again and again for his influence on fellow musicians. “UWB’ s first album had a Professor Longhair song called ‘In The Night.’ I asked Walter what it was, and he proceeded to educate me all about Professor Longhair. At that moment, he essentially handed me my career,” said Marcia Ball. “He was a patron saint to so many budding musicians,” said Kim Miller. “He felt that any musician that would bother to come hear his music was worth listening to.” Lyle Lovett, perhaps Hyatt’s most ardent supporter in the industry, recalled, “The first time I saw UWB was here at the Paramount Theatre in 1980. I didn’t play my guitar for a couple of weeks after that.” Clearly, a Lyle Lovett might not have hap NOVEMBER 22, 1996 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31
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