Saturday, March 14, 2009

An Old Guy's Random Rememberings #18


Yesterday, I was heading out to buy some material for some carpentry required for our Christmas plans, and I heard a promo for “the original Threadgill’s, Austin’s first music scene”. They lie! There is no more “original Threadgills”. It is gone, buried in the glitz of a fancy restaurant.

In the early '70s we belatedly discovered Threadgill's, which had already been an establishment for decades. Once a gas station, it still looked like one, although it looked as if the floor hadn’t been swept in thirty years.

There were no lights in the restrooms, which one had to go outside and around to the side of the building to reach. If one chose to close the door, it became very dark. My wife and her friends would never use Threadgill’s restroom. They’d go half a mile up Lamar Boulevard to my office to relieve themselves. The guys, however, would often step into water flowing across the floor and take aim, hoping to wet only the bottoms of their shoes.

In spite of the facilities, the Wednesday night jam sessions at Threadgills were a thing of beauty!  Usually about thirty to forty people would sit around on chairs, shelves, countertops, and the floor of the crowded space, drinking beer, nursing babies, and occasionally singing along, while an assortment of talented musicians would perform. The highlight of any Wednesday evening would be when Kenneth Threadgill would come out and sing his renditions of old Jimmy Rodgers songs. Although we never went to Threadgill’s except for the Wednesday evening jam sessions, it was a lively place any time.

On one occasion Julie and Chuck Joyce, two musicians from the Hootenanny Hoots, were driving around Austin and saw a small band, hippies with instruments, on the side of the road. They pulled over and invited them to come to Threadgill's. Since the show was usually in an impromptu, open-microphone style, Janis Joplin, one of the hippie musicians, shyly stepped on the stage before shouting "Silver Threads and Golden Needles." Her voice was a dull shriek that night, most reports say. Nonetheless, she became a close friend of Kenneth and Mildred. One night, in jest, she got two free Lone Star Beers from Kenneth for not singing. (This URL has apparently died since 2001. It will not work for me.  Maybe its veracity is exaggerated).  Try this one ...

We were well acquainted with the work of Chuck and Julie, and heard them many times. However, before her death, Janis Joplin had been virtually unknown to my wife and me.



Bruce said...

Nice story, Willie. Funny how the same thread of history can be seen from entirely different perspectives. I was going to what was then S.F. State College in the late 60's. Janice, and her band Big Brother and the Holding Company, were mainstays of the city's glorious rock scene. First time I saw her was in a small lounge in the middle of campus. That was followed by many more shows at the old Fillmore. Thanks for sharing your side of the thread, and prompting my memory from mine.

Willie C said...

I apologize, Bruce...I only just noticed that I had never responded to your comment. It is through the comments, as I've said before, I determine if it is worth my time to continue, or to try to determine how my 'ideas' are being received.

I got a hit this afternoon from New York, from someone googling Chuck Joyce+Threadgills.

Janice and I never made it to Threadgills at the same time...she had already made her name before we ever got the notion to go to Threadgills and make it a "regular" midweek event. I understand that she and Kenneth remained good friends until her final curtain, and of course Kenneth has been gone for many years now, since before the "fancy restaurant" that is now known as Threadgills.