Facing page: Big Joe Williams, 1968 Left: Doug Kershaw, 1971 Below: Mance Lipscomhe, Bill Neely, and Taj Mahal, 1971 Bottom: Kenneth Threadgill, 1971 Storyville, or the appearance of the Follies at the Moulin Rouge. It was music made at the crest of a tidal wave of political and cultural revolution. Looking back at the famous Armadillo World Headquarters and the almost-famousVulcan Gas Company, it’s easy to see now that something important was going on. Yet it’s remarkable how few photos of that period exist. At the time people were so busy doing it that they didn’t bother to record what they were doing. Burton Wilson’s new book of photographs and accompanying . text is the defining document of the era. These days everyone remembers the Armadillo, but when it was still around it had to struggle to stay in business. If the multitudes who now claim to have been there are to be believed, Austin’s population would have been the size of Tokyo. But that’s always the case: When something historical takes place, afterward almost everyone claims to have been part of the action, even if the phenomenon was considered extreme in its day. Ever notice how few people denigrate Martin Luther King, Jr. today? Yet during the Selma marches he was one of the least popular men in white Texas. In a strange way the Armadillo was equally radical. There, hippies grooved to the sounds of the great black bluesmen. But in that era, in a dozen country-and-western joints in Austin, those same black bluesman couldn’t get in the door. The Armadillo’s musical style was everything from acid rock to Willie’s progressive country. The only requirement? That it be good. And good for dancing. For several hundred years Anglo culture had done “steps” to music. On the Armadillo dance floor there were no steps. Just shake your booty in some free-form psychedelic improvisation. At the Armadillo the rigidity 12/21/01 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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