Monday, May 6, 2013
The Rambling Remembrances of Ranger Randell’s Days at KNON
Thanks to Randell for this new contribution 8/5/13
KNON Community Radio’s Officially Unofficial Country-Folk Program History: The Rambling Remembrances of Ranger Randell’s Days at KNON
By Ranger Randell Fields
I was a KNON DJ on the Texas Folk Music Show from September 1984 to April 1986 and on the Rock Creek Ranch/Super Roper Redneck Revue from April 1986 to April 1992. In 1983, I listened, supported and volunteered at KNON prior to becoming a DJ. My family, life and professional job necessitated a well-documented calendar. So, prior to digital calendars, I lived by the good ole Month-At-A-Glance spiral bound calendar books. I have maintained a collection of those calendars since 1980 up to current day. Most of the details, facts or fragmented remembrances found in this posting came from the events and activities found in these calendars. These calendars are like my old journals providing a chronology of events from my past experiences as a KNON volunteer. The notes on special dates reveal opportunities and activities that I was fortunate enough to be a part of because of my volunteer work at KNON Community Radio. Please accept the use of “I”, as told in the first person, but not as a “claim to fame” or “look what I did” delivery of these stories. These times and experiences are very special to me. I hope to get plenty of feedback from this first posting that will help clarify the facts and the fragmented remembrances. Part 1 covers my days, with Royce James, as hosts of the Texas Folk Music Show and our relationship with KNON’s Country City Limits/Super Roper Redneck Revue shows and DJs. Part 2, 1986 to 1992, will cover my days as one of the Super Roper Redneck Revue Djs.
Part 1: 1983 to 1986
On July 30, 1983, KNON 90.9 FM hit the Dallas airwaves! Wow, what a cool thing for an old radio head. I’ve been a fan of radio since the 1950s and 60s, when I was a kid growing up in Jack County, Texas. I read about KNON coming to Dallas after KCHU had suspended operations. Even in those early days, I knew KNON was something unique and special. But at the time, I had no idea how much it would shape my love of music, my friendships, my family and my life.
In the beginning days of KNON Community Radio, Sonny Rawls, Station Staff Manager and DJ, was playing folk and country music in the afternoons. He often played whole album sides. The station’s record collection was probably less than a couple of hundred albums across all genres. Playing album sides helped stretch the music offerings, and gave Sonny some time for needed rest, as he could often be found napping in the hot studio while an album side played.
“Groovy” Joe Poovey’s country music program, Country City Limits, ran between 5 and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. He first discovered KNON in the late summer of 1983—within the first three weeks of the station’s existence while he was punching buttons on the car radio on his way home. Groovy Joe had a background in recording and broadcasting country and rockabilly music. He quickly became a fan of Sonny Rawls’s KNON show, and he would often call in requests and discuss the music and the development of the radio station. Sonny invited Groovy Joe to sit in on a “Backyard Board Meeting” of KNON (it was too hot to hold the meeting inside) and a few days later Board President Domingo Rios offered Groovy Joe his first on-air gig at KNON.
Groovy Joe worked in the trucking industry and his work schedule affected his ability to be at the station every Monday through Friday. Hence, another fan, Roy Ashley, became the Friday substitute for the 5 to 7 p.m. block. By November 1983, Roy had moved from a substitute to a having his own Friday show. Roy named his Friday program the Super Roper Redneck Revue. He brought a breadth of knowledge and experience with traditional Texas Honky Tonk Music to the programming. Roy also possessed broadcasting and recording skills that were invaluable to KNON in those early days.
In the fall of 1983 I heard Roy Ashley’s show for the first time and was instantly hooked on his Super Roper Redneck Revue. I listened for weeks, and then began calling in requests and sharing my own county music stories with Roy. Eventually, he invited me to come down to the station and tell my Willie Nelson “hate” story. I first saw Willie perform live in 1964 when I was a kid when my mom and dad took me to the Big D Jamboree at Ed McLemore’s Dallas Sportatorium. Willie wore a black business suit with a skinny black tie and greased-back, black short hair. He stood with a microphone in hand and sang his great songs like a nightclub singer in a spotlight. As a 14-year-old will do, I complained to my mom that I’d rather see Ray Price, George Jones, Lefty Frizzell or Webb Pierce because they dressed in those cool, bright-colored Nudie suits (Nudie Cohn, suit designer) and sang songs that told stories that I liked. As I recounted on Roy’s radio show, 10 years after that show at the Sportatorium, Willie’s style caught up to mine. In 1973 my mom gave me the Shotgun Willie album for my twenty-first birthday. I had been living in Austin the first half of 1973, growing hair and going to the Armadillo World Headquarters. A new Willie was back in Austin in 1973 and I loved what he was doing then for sure. Retelling that story was my first on-air experience at KNON.
As fate would have it, my corporate job in a downtown bank would change my relationship with KNON from avid fan to long-running DJ. In 1983 I was working at Republic Bank in downtown Dallas. I soon learned that my new manager Royce James and I shared a love of Texas music. We became KNON disciples. We would visit the station at lunch and after work. We would answer the phones and pull records for DJs. We would spread the word about KNON to all friends and family.
By early 1984, the program blocks at KNON had settled a bit. The late afternoon blocks supported Folk and Country Music. Folk programs were on 2:30 to 5:00 p.m. and Country programs were on 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. These two complementary genres of music attracted many of the same listener/supporters, including Royce and me. One of our favorite KNON programs was John Moore’s Texas Folk Music Show. John, a long-time friend of Michael Martin Murphey, offered a blend of new and old Texas “Folk” Music—the kind of Texas Music known to a whole generation of country music fans as “Progressive Country,” “Cosmic Cowboy,” or “Outlaw” Country Music. He often played the more mellow cuts from an album, as opposed to the rowdy redneck rock type tunes from the same Cosmic Cowboy artists.
Royce and I supported John Moore and his Texas Folk Music Show well in to 1984, and often substituted for John. John eventually left KNON and Sonny Rawls offered the program to me. I asked Royce to co-host, and we went on the air starting in September 1984. As a DJ team, I brought a strong singer/songwriter and country and western music background and Royce brought a strong background in Texas Folk music. We agreed to let the Texas Music Folk Music Show become a show that featured all kinds of Texas musicians. So, we came up with the tag “Texas Folk Music is Music by Texas Folks!” We played folk, country, rock and blues music and musicians from all over Texas. Our show was recorded on Sunday nights, at either Royce’s or my home, and delivered to the station for Monday morning airings. Programming changes at the
station moved the Folk Shows from afternoons to mornings in the mid-1980s. Being bank employees, Royce and I would only do the show live on Monday bank holidays.
In 1984 or 1985 I first met Jim “The Singing Treeman” Brisson, a local singer and songwriter who, at the time, was bartender and building manager of the Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum. In fact, Jim lived in the caretaker’s apartment attached to the Hall. Jim, who was a regular listener to the Texas Folk Music Show, is a tree trimming wizard and a damn good songwriter with a unique style of singing and playing. One day he called me up at the station to tell me about the Songwriter’s Sanctuary, an organized local singer-songwriter performance held every Saturday night at the Hall. Royce and I played many of the local singer-songwriters that performed at the Songwriter’s Sanctuary. Jim provided us a cassette tape with two or three songs, one of which was a song called “That Ole Guitar.” That song became a Texas Folk Music Show favorite. Jim also introduced me—and KNON—to the Hall’s Board Members, Bob Hardy, the Songwriter’s Sanctuary organizer, and his crew who ran this singer-songwriter performance event. This introduction led to what is, to this day, a great community relationship. This relationship grew and offered many opportunities for the Hall and KNON to work together. It was a true community effort: a historic community meeting hall and a community radio station. Dallas and North Texas were envied for this radio station. The station’s listener-followers created a community of like-minded music appreciators who are fortunate to have an asset such as KNON.
Jim Brisson’s efforts at the Hall were aided by two other key individuals, James Stewart, then President of the Hall, and Carl McCurdy, a long-time Hall member. In early 1985, Jim called me and said he would like to talk to me about how he and I could work together to help two non-profit organizations work together to, as he put it, “help them both survive.” As is the case with a lot of non-profit organizations, the SOHH was having difficulty with repair and tax expenses. KNON as a non-profit organization has to depend on the support of listener pledges and program underwriting. Jim’s idea was to have KNON and the Sons of Hermann Hall work together on live music performances like the Songwriter’s Sanctuary. The Hall would take the bar revenue and KNON would take the door revenue. I had the idea to call these shows “A Texas Music Celebration.” The shows would feature the local and regional musicians from all programs and genres that we played at KNON. The Texas Music Celebrations were scheduled for the first Saturday of each month.
At the same time that KNON was developing its relationship with the Sons of Hermann Hall, KNON continued to cultivate a landscape for the growth of several Texas Musicians and their music. Relationships made and built with musicians you meet as a radio host are the greatest payoff for volunteering and working at a non-profit community radio station. Those relationships provide the opportunity to “be up close and personal” with artist like Robert Earl Keen. Robert won the New Folk Award at the Kerrville Folk Festival in 1983. Royce picked up Robert Earl’s first record, No Kinda Dancer (Workshop Records), at the 1984 Kerrville Folk Festival. In September 1984 Royce and I played the song “Swervin’ In My Lane” from that album for the first time in the DFW area, and it created phenomenal listener reaction. Soon after, all the Country City Limits/Super Roper Redneck DJs began playing it. KNON introduced Robert Earl Keen, Jr. (as he was known in those days) to North Texas.
Royce and I attended the Fourteenth Annual Kerrville Folk Festival in May 1985. I met Robert Earl back stage at the festival and asked him if he would perform at the first Texas Music Celebration Benefit Concert for KNON. Robert was aware of the airplay he had been getting in Dallas and said it sounded like a good idea. Over the next several months Robert and I exchanged phone calls. Robert was supportive of KNON and was willing to give up some of his performance fee but he wanted to capitalize on being in Dallas. He was able to negotiate a paying gig with David Card of Poor David’s Pub. We decided to share Robert’s Dallas Premiere between Poor David’s Pub and KNON’s Texas Music Celebration Benefit Concert on Saturday, October 5, 1985. I have a live recording of Robert’s performance from the Hall that night, and he remarks just after I introduced him to the crowd, “It’s pretty strange for the Star to play first.” That first Texas Music Celebration offered five acts for five bucks, with Robert Earl sharing the bill with Ray Lewis, Lost Highway (including KNON DJ’s Craig Taylor and Nancy “Shaggy” Moore) and Julie Stone and The Texas Travelers.
Robert Earl played first, around eight o’clock that evening. When he was finished at the Hall I drove him to Poor David’s Pub for his set there, which started sometime around ten. I stayed with Robert at Poor David’s and sold merchandise for him. At that time, that meant selling vinyl LP’s and cassette tapes of No Kinda Dancer and a few early original Robert Keen! t-shirts. Robert Earl’s performances that night in Dallas sparked a firestorm of interest. Robert’s fans bought all his LPs, cassette tapes and t-shirts and he was overwhelmed and very appreciative of the crowd’s support and enthusiasm. This was the start of a long and admirable relationship between Robert Earl and his North Texas fans. The Texas Music fans of North Texas would demand heavy doses of Robert Earl Keen, Jr. over the next three years thanks primarily to the support he received from KNON and the Hall. Robert Earl’s career blossomed over the next three years and he eventually made the decision to record his second, The Live Album, at the Hall in January of 1988. Robert, Royce and I had a great time and built a relationship that endures to this day. My daughter, Summer, was a flower girl in Robert’s wedding in June of 1986.
Royce and I, as the Texas Folk Music Show DJs, along with the other KNON DJs, nurtured Robert Earl’s growth. Roy Ashley, Dave Young, Pat Avery, David Card and K-Man did the same for Clay Blaker and the Texas Honky Tonk Band. Bryan Duckworth, Robert Earl’s old elementary school friend and band member, played fiddle in Clay’s band prior to playing and making several albums with Robert Earl. Clay’s notoriety grew like a Texas wildfire in that time period. His Sooner or Later album was in the making during those early years of the eighties and was released in 1986. We all heavily fertilized the North Texas airwaves with Texas Folk and Texas Honky-Tonk from both Robert Earl and Clay. All the future KNON DJs would hoe the same rows. They would play a lot of Robert Earl and Clay music well into the 1990s and 2000s. KNON provided musically-rich airwaves and an abundance of great music that can be described by the old bumper sticker, “Here On Earth As It Is In Texas”. Texas Music is a heavenly thing!
Royce and I became good friends with Roy Ashley, Dave Young, Pat Avery and all the other SRRR DJs over the next couple of years. We all had music stories and record collections to share. Dave worked with Roy in events promotion and Pat worked at old Republic Bank where Royce and I worked. We all converged on KNON and built some great friendships. The breadth of music and musicians among this bunch of DJs was broadly varied and the mix of music and musicians was demonstrated in the programs each of these DJs hosted. Royce and I commonly shared an interest in folk and song-writer music. Roy and Dave shared an interest in honky-tonk and western swing music. Pat Avery, Roy Reeves, Kelly “K-Man” Cutler, Trevor Fought and other key KNON DJs, shared their choices of folk, sing-songwriter, honky-tonk and western swing music paired with their interest in bluegrass and boogie-woogie music. We all became a posse of like-mind, yet individually driven, radio and music supporters who would have many exciting and extraordinary opportunities because of our KNON brotherhood.
Similar to KNON’s kinship to the Sons of Hermann Hall is the station’s relationship with the Kerrville Folk Festival. That relationship grew out of a mutual appreciation for musicians who live to write, sing and perform in a less commercial arena. The artists’ lineup at the Kerrville Folk Festival each year mirrors the program play lists of many of the Folk and Texas Music shows at KNON. KNON and Kerrville’s relationship is invaluable. Royce and I, and other KNON DJs, have attended the festival many times, including a run Royce and I had of ten straight festivals between 1985 and 1995. Each time someone from KNON would attend the festival, they returned with new music. The music continues to link KNON and the Kerrville Folk Festival in the broader Texas Music Community.
In fact, the heart and soul of KNON can be found behind the wheel, on road trips to hear Texas musicians. One such trip took place in October 1984, in the early days of my involvement with KNON. Royce and I joined the volunteer staff of disc jockeys at KNON in just enough time to receive invitations to a benefit concert for runaway kids in Austin, Texas. This benefit featured all of the Cosmic Cowboys of the 1970s Texas Outlaw Country Music Movement. Most of those musicians performed annually at the Kerrville Folk Festival. The lineup included Steve Fromholz as emcee, B.W. Stevenson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rusty Wier, Rick Cardwell, Bobby Bridger, The Geezinslaws, Gary P. Nunn and a Lost Gonzo Band reunion featuring Jerry Jeff Walker, Michael Martin Murphey and Willie Nelson.
Early that Friday, October 5th, I traveled to Austin with Ray Wylie and his band in a van. Needless to say this was an experience of a lifetime for such a Texas Music fan. I visited backstage at the show, as a guest of Ray Wylie’s, from midday until late in the afternoon before any performances had begun. Early that evening, Royce, his wife Barbara, and my wife Cindy, and I met up for one heck of a music night and weekend in Austin.
It was that weekend in Austin when KNON made its mark as an outlet for Texas Country/Folk Music in the 1980s. I interviewed B.W. Stevenson, Rusty Wier, Gary P. Nunn, Steven Fromholz, Rick Cardwell, and, of course, Ray Wylie. Royce photographed the entire event—interviews, performances and all. KNON’s credibility increased substantially over the next few months with all these “First Generation” Cosmic Cowboys’ introduction to KNON and its unique place in the radio markets. Those musicians began to spread the word to other Texas Musicians and Texas Music fans and, eventually, requests, correspondence, and record services increased immensely.
The surfacing of the “New Traditionalist” Musicians (an early 1980’s term defining George Strait, Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakum, k.d. lang and others) in major-market country music also helped substantiate KNON. Some major-market country radio stations refused to play these musicians because they were “too country” for their listeners. KNON played them in rotation with Texas Country Music and it worked for their listeners. Around the same time, KNON began to expose the music of the “Second Generation” Cosmic Cowboys and Cowgirls from Texas, including folks such as Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Darden Smith, The Austin Lounge Lizards and others. Royce and I mixed the old with the new from both “generations” and created a program that was unique in the Dallas radio market. “Songs On The Radio” by Shake Russell and Dana Cooper was the theme song Royce suggested for our version of the Texas Folk Music Show in September 1984. In 1986, we changed the theme song to Gary P. Nunn’s “What I Like About Texas” in support of the Texas Sesquicentennial. It was a cool time in Texas to be hosting a Texas Music show.
With KNON’s increased popularity came additional support from the community. In 1984 the station secured its first significant underwriting contract—$500.00 monthly—from Half-Price Books & Records, for the Texas Folk Music Show. We also secured underwriting contracts with Exterior Landscape Management and Ugly Duckling Car Rental and Sales. The Half-Price Books & Records contract came about due to Cindy Fields, my wife, and her working relationship with Ann Tait. Ann was married to Neil Tait, one of the upper management guys in the early days at Half-Price Books & Records, who loved KNON and Texas Music. Cindy and Ann hooked up Neil and me and we worked out the contract. Half-Price Books & Records underwriting announcements were played periodically during the Texas Folk Music Show for the duration of that contract. Those underwriting contracts afforded the Texas Folk Music Show a “beg free” pledge drive. Since the show was underwritten, the station’s management exempted it from groveling. Royce, who worked in banking services at Republic Bank, also introduced KNON management to bank drafts as a means to get pledges. Those early years of hard work and finding creative ways to raise money helped us build a thriving community radio station that benefitted music lovers like us and many up-and-coming artists.
By 1985 little KNON was beginning to make some big noise in the Texas music and radio market. The folk and country music offerings of KNON in the early days were offered not just by the DJs hosting the Texas Folk Music Show and Country City Limits, but also on shows like Folkgrass hosted by Robin Shackett, Pat Avery and Roy Reeves. The station offered The Saloon hosted by Jim Baum and Best of Poor David’s hosted by club owner David Card. Even Celtic Crossroads included Texas Music by local and regional artists. Phil York, a true asset to KNON in the early days, hosted Texas Toast on Saturday nights, playing a great mix of Texas Music of all types. Phil produced Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger album in Garland, Texas in about 1974. Craig “Niteman” Taylor hosted Niteman Calling and Nancy “Shaggy” Moore hosted The Pajama Party on Saturday nights. Listeners would hear a great and varied mix of Texas Music on these programs as well. Shaggy’s radio show and her efforts were recognized in a lengthy article in Texas Monthly magazine in May of 1985.
The Texas Folk Music Show was in high cotton in 1985 and 86. During those years, I substituted on the Super Roper Redneck Revue shows as often as I could. This gave me the opportunity to play a large portion of my personal music collection (mainly vinyl) that did not fit the “Folk” music format. As a Redneck Revue DJ, I mixed more cowboy music and west-coast country rock music into sets. I could not do that on a show focusing on just “Texas Music”. I have long been a fan of both original Cowboy & Western Music and country rock bands like Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers, CSN&Y, The Byrds and songwriters like David Blue, Tom Rush and Bob Dylan. My subbing led to a great new opportunity at KNON.
One day in April of 1986 KNON’s Program Director Craig Taylor called me and asked me to stop by his office next time I was at the station. He said he had an opportunity for me he wanted to discuss. This opportunity turned out to be a double blasted blessing. Craig was working on the program schedule (he moved Jim Sarvar, Western Swing DJ, to mornings only) and offered me the Tuesday afternoon Super Roper Redneck Revue time slot. He wanted to add more country rock, rockabilly and cowboy music to the western-swing-heavy timeslot. Then Craig pulled out Steve Earle’s brand new vinyl LP, Guitar Town! He said he thought I would appreciate this LP. In April 1986 I debuted the song “Guitar Town” on KNON, and adopted it as the theme song for my Rock Creek Ranch version of the Super Roper Redneck Revue. At the beginning of each of those Tuesday or Thursday shows from April of 1986 to April of 1992, after playing the opening theme of “Guitar Town,” I opened with the lines “This is Ranger Randell from the Rock Creek Ranch, which is a spread along a mostly dry Brazos out west in Jack County where the dirt turns red and so do the necks!” Over the years, I did add some other introductory songs including a part to the theme song to The Lone Ranger television show and the Austin Lounge Lizards song “We Are In Control.” The Austin Lounge Lizards song was used as my personal protest against the station’s decision to include “News” prior to the Super Roper Redneck Revue shows. From The Lone Ranger television show, I played the theme song that started with “The William Tell Overture” and then went into the opening narration of “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear….” The addition of The Lone Ranger theme music related to and reinforced the “Cowboy ‘n Western” music that I wanted to always be a part of the Rock Creek Ranch. It worked very well and caused the listeners to call and request all kinds of “Cowboy” and “Western” songs. The mix of country rock and Cowboy ‘n Western songs along with all the great Texas Outlaw Music made the Rock Creek Ranch unique but not alien to the Super Roper Redneck Revue format, which featured a lot of western swing and Texas Dance Hall music. Mark Mundy, the current Friday Texas Renegade Radio Show DJ, uses the full “William Tell Overture” as his theme. I wonder where he got that idea.
When I made that move to the Super Roper Redneck Revue in April of 1986, I left Royce at the helm of the Texas Folk Music Show. We talked about a replacement for me based on the need to have two consistent voices for the show. This was important, based on the need to meet the commitments of the Texas Folk Music Show and KNON. Having a backup DJ ensured consistency for the format and the fans. We decided to offer Dottie Webb the role as my replacement on the Texas Folk Music Show based on her support of our version of the show and KNON. Dottie had been sending us tapes and pledges for the several months. Dottie accepted the opportunity and she started hosting with Royce in April or May of 1986.
Throughout those years of the mid-80s, Roy Ashley, Royce James and all the other “Redneck Radio” disc jockeys and I were playing the music of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rusty Wier, Robert Earl Keen and Riders In The Sky. Consequently, Robert Earl, on one of his visits to the KNON studio, dubbed us all “Radio Rangers” playing “Super Roper Redneck Music”. All the “R’s” on the radio created the “Radio Rangers” phenomenon. Thanks Robert Earl. An icon was born! The “Ranger” tag stuck and the next thing I knew I had one of those shiny silver tour jackets that were popular in the eighties with the words “Ranger Randell” on the left side over my heart. Roy Ashley had a relationship with a promotional products company in Dallas that made our KNON t-shirts, bumper stickers; drink koozies and other items. Those folks made the KNON Super Roper Redneck Revue tour jackets for all the DJ’s in that block of programming time.
A bunch of Radio Rangers has to have a strong leader so Roy Ashley was dubbed “Commander Roy” and he brought strong, focused leadership to the Super Roper Redneck Posse of DJs. Roy is a big Commander Cody fan so I thought “Commander”—that would be the perfect moniker for Roy! He wore the title proudly and supported and served KNON in numerous areas of its earlier broadcasting development. Following the creation of those jackets and the “Ranger” monikers, Dottie elected to use the pseudonym of “Ranger Rita” for her on-air personality. She made this choice based on her favorite Guy Clark song. You guessed it, “Rita Ballou.” So Ranger Royce and Ranger Rita continued on hosting the Texas Folk Music Show until December of 1986 when Ranger Royce made the decision to stop hosting. Ranger Rita was now in charge of the show and would soon rise to higher ranks at KNON, eventually joining the office staff. She maintained that role for several years and brought an extraordinary amount of discipline to the entire KNON organization—especially the physical cleanliness and orderliness of the radio station offices and studio.
On December 26, 1985 Ranger Royce James and I, along with our wives, attended a double-bill performance by Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett at Poor David’s Pub. After the concert Lyle gave Ranger Royce a cassette tape that contained songs that would later become the songs on Lyle’s first two albums, Lyle Lovett and Pontiac. The cassette was not labeled with any song names. Royce and I played the cassette tape for a few weeks on the Texas Folk Music Show and introduced the songs by calling the songs whatever sounded like the obvious song names. For example, we played a song that we named Redneck Woman, only to find out Lyle named the song Give Back My Heart when the album was released. Little ole KNON benefited by being the first radio station in North Texas to play more Lyle Lovett music than any other radio station would ever play.
One afternoon in June 1986 I arrived at the KNON studio to do the Rock Creek Ranch show and found Lyle Lovett, James “Jimmy” Gilmer, (Lyle’s percussionist) and a photographer friend of Lyle’s waiting in Lyle’s truck outside the studio. Lyle was in town and stopped by for a studio visit and performance. That old studio was not very well air conditioned so, once we went back inside, we left the window open. Lyle and I sat in the very small broadcast room (more like a closet) and talked about his upcoming album Pontiac. Lyle said he wanted to play a new song he had just written and recorded. Just as he was about to start the song a siren sound came through the window. Lyle commented, “Randell I think they’re coming to get us.” Then he broke into his now-famous “If I Had A Boat.” This was the first time the song had ever been played on the radio. This was just one of many KNON “firsts” to come that year and all the years to come. Mark Tuton, one of the station’s blues show DJs, was in the studio with me that day. He and I knew we had just experienced a very special moment. KNON listeners demonstrated their appreciation for Lyle and his new song by the lighting up the switchboard with phone call after phone call that afternoon. I recorded my shows, so that performance was captured and the live studio recording version of that song would be played for years to come at KNON.
Meanwhile, back at the Texas Folk Music Show, KNON was playing more and more local and regional singer/songwriters and planning to feature some of these folks in the Texas Music Celebration shows. After the success of our kickoff concert, we produced two more Texas Music Celebration shows in 1985. On November 23, Texas Music Celebration #2 featured Johnny Tanner, Mesa, The Rockin’ Rilers and Lisa Rhodes and The Roar. And on December 7, Texas Music Celebration #3 featured Ty Haynes, Danny Collier, The Lost Highway and The Rockin’ Rilers. The benefit concert shows at the Hall continued with Texas Music Celebration #4: Folk & Bluegrass on January 4, 1986, featuring Steve Rhodes, Royce’s nephew and musical partner Blake Morris, Jim “The Singing Treeman” Brisson, Steve Valentine and Rick Yost, Emilie Aronson, Mark McCord and Ten Degrees featuring Brad Davis. On February 1, 1986, Texas Music Celebration #5: Rock-A-Thon wowed the KNON listeners with Side Effex, Lightinin’, The Tribe, Bluebloods, The Walker Sisters, The Lost Highways, Eddie Beethoven and Arockarocka. All of these performers were from the Dallas/Fort Worth area except Eddie Beethoven, who came from Lubbock to play. Eddie was a good friend of Blake Morris and Steve Rhodes, and he volunteered to come play Dallas because of their encouragement. Eddie and Joe Ely wrote the song “Cool Rockin’ Loretta” that Joe included on his album High-Rez.
The Texas Music Celebrations continued to succeed in 1986, with four more shows taking place before they were brought to stop by KNON management. On March 1, 1986 Texas Music Celebration #6: A Songwriter Spectacular offered “Groovy” Joe Poovey and Julie Stone, Jim “The Singing Treeman” Brisson, Danny Collier, John Lord, Johnny Tanner, Craig O. Taylor, Randy Smith and Robert Earl Keen, Jr., one more time for KNON’s benefit. On April 5, 1986, Texas Music Celebration #7: Blues Bash featured Ann Armstrong and Steve Hughes, The WeeBads (including Hash Brown—another KNON DJ), The Shifters, The Robert Wisdom Band, and the J.B. Strut Blues Band from Fort Worth. Texas Music Celebration #8: Tejano Jam was organized and produced by Simon “The Diamond” Molina and the Tejano KNON DJ’s. This show featured Big D & The Fear, DJ Lil’ Johnny and the KNON Tejano Crew. On June 7, 1986, Texas Music Celebration #9 was the last one offered to the KNON listening audience and the North Texas music fans. This show was co-produced with our buddies Roy Ashley and Dave Young. Roy and Dave, who worked in the professional video business, had produced and directed a video for Jerry Jeff Walker’s song “She Knows Her Daddy Sings.” Texas Music Celebration #9 offered the premiere of the video, which was shot at Texas Lil’s Diamond A Ranch in Argyle, Texas. Ray Wylie Hubbard was the featured music performer for the evening, which ended up being a free show for the KNON listeners. Jeff Murray, then KNON Station Manager, put a halt to the Texas Music Celebration by insisting the City of Dallas had yanked KNON’s benefit permits. So that last Texas Music Celebration was a gift to the KNON listening audience. The Texas Music Celebration proceeds helped KNON immensely in those beginning years. I wish we could have continued on to make them even bigger and better. But that never happened on a monthly basis.
I was not going to give up this notion of producing more KNON Texas Music Celebration Shows. So I recapped all the expenses and earnings generated by the first series of Texas Music Celebration shows, October 1985 to June 1986, and met with Jeff Murray to determine if—and how— we could do more shows based on the earnings we generated for the radio station. Jeff could not deny the shows were a good thing for KNON and he agreed to let me produce shows on a quarterly basis. So the KNON Texas Music Celebration did make a return in October of 1986. The October 1986 show featured the Lost Highway (KNON DJs, Craig Taylor and Nancy “Shaggy” Moore’s band), Reverend Horton Heat, Special Blend (KNON DJs, Kelly Cutler’s band), David Halley and Darden Smith. The other quarterly KNON Texas Music Celebration Shows were offered in January, April, August and October 1987.
Those early Texas Music Celebration shows helped us branch out into producing more local live music events. In 1985 several KNON DJs, including Roy Ashley, Dave Young, Simon “The Diamond” Molina, Craig Taylor and I became part of the Texas Sesquicentennial Music Festival Committee. We started meeting at Fair Park that October to plan performances for the 150th Texas State Birthday in 1986. Those performances would be held at the historic Fair Park Band Shell during the Texas State Fair. Roy, Dave and I produced a twin bill of original Texas Swing Music featuring Leon Rausch and The Texas Panthers, and Clay Blaker and The Texas Honky Tonk Band. Leon is one of the original members of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, and Clay is noted for his extraordinary songwriting and for being a true Texas Honky Tonk Music aficionado. George Strait recorded several of Clay’s tunes over the years, which earned Clay several gold records. Leon still performs despite approaching the age of eighty. Unfortunately Clay left the music business sometime around 2001 to retire to the Caribbean. Clay and Leon and their music were—and still are— played heavily during the Super Roper Redneck Revue shows at KNON.
Those were bountiful years for KNON and all of us DJs ridin’ posse with the “Super Ropers” and the Texas Folk DJs. The opportunity to be a KNON DJ changed my life. All the stories told up to this point cover just a little less than three years of my total eight years as a volunteer and KNON DJ. The next five years’ stories will be told in Part 2. So, stay tuned!
Peace & Happy Musical Trails!