Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Junior moment

By Al Tays

The Sanctuary condones
quitting your job and
driving across the
country like Al Tays,
especially if you get
to see Junior Brown
somewhere along the way.
Mrs. Assistant Music Blogger and yours truly have been semi-crazy about Junior Brown since we stumbled upon him on Austin City Limits while channel-surfing one haze-filled late-1980s night in Fort Lauderdale. We had no idea who this goofy-looking guy with a Blues Brothers suit and a Quickdraw McGraw cowboy hat was, and we SURE as heck didn't know what that double-necked guitar-like contraption was that he was playing, but DAMN, was he ever playing it!

Some research revealed that his name was Jamieson "Junior" Brown, he was from Indiana but had moved to Austin and become a guitar legend. Actually, he became a "guit-steel" legend, as that was the name he had given to his fusion of the neck and pickups from a Fender Bullet electric guitar and a lap-steel guitar.

We bought his CDs and fell in love with his blend of twangy-country witty lyrics ("you're wanted by the po-lice and my wife thinks you're dead") and greased-lightning fretboard work. When you listened to Junior, you weren't just listening to Junior. Through the riffs in his various medleys, you were listening to Hendrix, Page, Clapton, et al. When I moved to California, one of the first things I did was take my car out onto the Pacific Coast Highway, put the top down and crank up the volume on Junior's ode to the Ventures, "Surf Medley." I told friends that the karma was so intense, my head almost exploded.

We had a chance to see Junior once. He was opening for the Mavericks at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. We were running late, but weren't worried, because no concert ever starts on time, right? Wrong. Apparently the ones in casinos do, because when we walked in a half-hour late, Junior was already gone.

A second chance presented itself last week. We were moving back to Florida from LA, driving across the country. As luck would have it, Junior was playing in Austin, at the place he got his start, the Continental Club, on the night we were scheduled to stay in that city. We drove 10 hard hours from Las Cruces, NM, hoping we wouldn't get shut out again. We were just a few minutes late, but Junior and his band were delayed, so we didn't miss a thing. We stood at the bar, maybe 20 unobstructed feet from the stage, drinking the Continental's homemade ginger ale (and a Lone Star beer, just for authenticity).

Junior obliged with all the crowd's favorites, even taking requests. When he was done with his 90-minute set, we followed the band to the back door and bought some T-shirts from his drummer (whose name, alas, is on a slip of paper somewhere well hidden among all the stuff that was jam-packed into our car). The guy manning the front door of the club reminded us that our $15 cover was not good for admission to see the night's headliner. Didn't matter to us. We had already seen our headliner, an experience we'll never forget.

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