Looking for Russell Cushman art ?: http://russellcushmanart.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Let's propose a new paradigm, one that we can all live with: Let everyone learn to live within their own means, without expecting to encroach on the rights or property of others...
Bluebells, the namesake for your favorite ice cream, still survive in the rolling hills of Grimes County, but the scars of civilization are just beginning...
Stop the Madness!

Houston: A half-Century of unchecked expansion

Citizens of Grimes and nearby counties are once again threatened by wild government schemes and unconstitutional forfeiture of their property. FOUR major projects are planned to accommodate the needs of the Houston area while our rights and convenience are thrown under the bus, and in the exchange, toll roads will replace our Farm to Market roads, while a monumentally expensive and UNPROVEN high-speed rail system and two electricity transmission lines destroy our environment in order to serve others.

This recurring nightmare began decades ago, when reasonable citizens gradually abandoned the “concrete jungle” in Houston and sought safety, serenity and a better life. Then just a hungry little gator, Houston, Texas was already the seventh largest city in the United States, striving to be the energy capital of the world. Seeing the trend of a perpetual attack on our quality of life, my family and many others relocated to Grimes County, which was a comfortable distance from the relentless urban sprawl of Harris County.  Anointed by LBJ as “Space City,” the Houston Metropolitan Area continued to expand like a heartless lava flow all the way to the extremes of Harris County and beyond.  We fled, and found temporary refuge, but we knew this day would probably come.

Now the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston has blossomed into the Great Shop of Horrors, an insatiable overgrown parasite who, like the cute little plant in The Little Shop of Horrors, one day looked down on its keeper and demanded, “FEED ME!”

A stomach with no conscience, it lives to serve itself, and being so powerful, it does not have to explain itself. We must feed it, or it will make us sorry. The Houston Shop of Horrors must have water. Lots of it. It must have energy. Lots of it. It must have convenience… as much as it can make for itself. And like many rotten and untrainable pets, it MUST have a disgusting potty-box to deposit all of its excrement. It looks to anyone and everyone outside of its perimeters to fill these constant needs.

Unfortunately, Harris County cannot support its unmanageable shop of horrors. It looks to its weaker neighbors to supply the oceans of water, the megawatts of energy, the miles of convenient access, and the vast garbage dumps, whatever necessary for its survival.  In blind revenge it routinely takes what it wants from those who wisely fled from its clutches. And it will continue to do so until the cows can no longer come home. The high speed rails, the toll roads, and the utility lines that feed this selfish monster will continue to butcher and choke the surrounding countryside until the cows will be totally landlocked; their owner’s farms invaded, confiscated, divided and violated to serve the “greater good”; the “Greater Houston Metropolitan Area,” that is.  It is time to stop the madness.

It is time for the people, and especially the governments of the various counties who neighbor with this conscienceless leviathan to stand up and unite and work together to limit the damage Houston and its champions would do to us in the name of “progress.”

In the path of possible destruction: Beautiful high ground on HWY 90 between Anderson and Navasota- I have dubbed Holland Pass, above the bottoms of Holland Creek. Tapley Holland was one of the heroes martyred at the Alamo.

More than land at stake.

Grimes County is one of the last jewels of Texas country life, the veritable “Cradle of Texas Independence,” land purchased with blood shed at the Alamo, tragically nestled under the treacherous shadow of an expansive monster that knows no limits to its mindless appetite. It is time to fight this enemy of OUR greater good with everything we have got, and stop the tide of ugly, inefficient suburban sprawl. Houston plans to cut up Grimes County like a cheap side of beef. It does not know or care the price of the land, the irreversible damage to it, the value of our lifestyle, or the fate of our irreplaceable heritage which it would slice and pave.

Houston does not know it, but it needs us just as we are. We are an enclave of beauty and serenity, and we have inadvertently become the stewards of its forgotten soul, the keepers of the flame that has inspired the whole world since the Battle of San Jacinto, wisely masterminded by none other than Sam Houston.  
Jesse Grimes was an early pioneer, friend of Sam Houston and signor of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

I grew up in Houston. But I never felt and loved and relived its history until I was able to get far from it and experience the land as the pioneers did here in Grimes County. When my family came here, we were enthralled by this wonderful time-capsule that had saved the buildings, the fences, the roads and bridges, and the very lands as the early Texians had seen and worked them. It shaped my character, my life, and my art. You might label me a poet or an idealist, but few souls like me are ever spawned between the dark, dangerous fast-lanes of the city. My imagination took root and prospered as I discovered pristine woodlands and breathtaking vistas in the local landscape. So near to Houston, and yet a world away.  I feel so fortunate to have escaped the house of horrors.

A winnable strategy

We all remember past struggles to kill other impositions by outside governments. We have won some and lost some. But some of us learned the game when we successfully fought Governor Rick Perry’s Spanish Imposition, the grandiose “Trans- Texas Corridor,” and will fight this battle as well. And we will do it for future Texans whom we know will need and cherish the inspiration and serenity of the Texas heartland as we do.  We will do it for the wildlife, once nearly exterminated, now flourishing. Yes, we will do it for the cows and their owners. And we will do it for those that went before, buried and resting in this soil, who faithfully farmed parched cotton land, built fieldstone villages and churches, and wrote the Texas Declaration of Independence and those famous blues songs from the Brazos Valley…  In the process, they wrote their fierce spirit into our hearts.

Joining hands with the American Stewards of Liberty Alliance, an organization experienced in these battles for land owner’s rights, we can beat the Houston overreach with public awareness and Texas Law… if we can afford the lawyers. Every community must organize to create a formidable gamut of legal red-tape, insurmountable for mercenary bureaucrats, who are required BY LAW to COOPERATE WITH EVERY LOCAL INTETY. At every turn we will shame them. This is one way we derailed the Trans Texas Corridor.

Sam Houston, the namesake of the City, would be ashamed of its present reality, so narcissistic and insulting to its neighbors. He once served as our President and lived here in our neighborhood, just across the river, in the frontier capital of the Republic of Texas. Houston was baptized in a creek over in Washington County, and that faith he attained gave him the courage to stand against the enormous tide of Secession and the subsequent War Between the States. He taught us something about fighting for right, the value of this land, its worthiness for personal sacrifice.  He won Texas for all of us, against all odds, by a military miracle, and more accurately the Grace of God.  We will fight these urban Huns for him too.

You may never before have had a chance to live and act and feel like a real, old-time TEXIAN. Here is your opportunity. In fact, this struggle is exactly like the Texas Revolution, where a powerful and ruthless government used and abused the citizens at its fringe to enjoy unjust benefits at their expense.

Houston is the Mexican Army, looting and taking at will, granting no quarter, intolerant and all-powerful. But this will be no “Runaway Scrape.” 

Please get involved and help turn the tide of injustice and the institutional violation of land owner’s rights, and join the fight for a virgin wilderness, inhabited by wild cats and eagles, and people who foster them. Join this fight or see our Texas heartland finally and forever rolled over like a stinking Chicago parking lot. Join the fight or live with the shame that you did nothing in a time of distress while good men struggled for our way of life.

Look at any map of Texas. It has already been carved and bastardized enough. Help us stop this madness, this relentless expansion with no end, which has no inspiration but greed and convenience. Texas is being changed forever by raptors who would trade our quality of life for speed, profit, and no small amount of personal gain. Remember the quaint old rice town Katy? Remember Alvin, once the garden land of Texas? Remember the stately Imperial Sugar plant Sugarland! Remember the stately trade oaks at the crossroads of Tomball! Remember the virgin forests of Conroe? Rural serenity is long gone at those hapless doormats for Houston.  We are next.

ENOUGH ALREADY!  HOUSTON IS BIG ENOUGH. Really! We must band together and force the great house of horrors in Harris County to accommodate itself; to build its own infrastructure in order to feed and sustain itself; to supply its own water, its own garbage dumps, its own energy, and to limit its impositions on its neighbors. Houston’s appetite will always be insatiable as long as others provide the sacrifice at its alter.

Besides, we are now full of people and opportunities ourselves. We all chose our beds, and now we must sleep in them.  That would be true social justice. Maybe then, if Houston has to curtail its own rapaciousness, if it is raping itself, it will begin to check its own expansion. Only then will it no longer require so much from those on its fringe, those of us wise enough not to participate in, or inhabit its hopeless system.

Remember the ALAMO!

CONTACT your elected representatives! Many assume that nobody is paying attention and have their heads in the sand… and are waiting for the political winds to blow… So BLOW! Here are your bullets:

Specifically, we are fighting:

1)    The Proposed Dallas to Houston High Speed Rail- This will be a political battle. We call it properly JAPANESE High Speed Rail, as they will be the only folks who will get any advantages out of building this… (no benefits to us, only gutting of property values, community sacrifice and transportation inconvenience) The California High Speed Rail system just went bankrupt… was 68 BILLION underfunded, will have to be taken over by the Feds… Contact Kevin Brady , 301 Cannon Building, Washington D. C. 20515!

2)    The Proposed “Brazos Valley Connection” 345 KV Transmission Line which is to stretch from Harris County through Waller County to Grimes County... Both of these lines offer only sacrifice, inconvenience and decimation of property values.

3)    The Proposed “Cross Texas Transmission” 345 KV Line which will run from Grimes County up to Limestone County… transecting Madison, Brazos, Robertson, Leon and Freestone  Counties. These two transmission lines are our biggest hurdles, both will require a legal battle costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Landowners must dig deep in their pockets or this may not be stalled in time.

4)    The State Highway 249 Toll Road (from FM 1774 to SH105, local authorities have withdrawn their support of this incursion). Once again, no benefits locally, only decimated property values, sacrifice and inconvenience. “Toll Roads are the new [Public] Utility,” said OUR FORMER State Rep., Lois Kolkhorst with regret in March of 2013 (now elected State Senator in another district) and publicly stated that this 249 Toll Road was a “boondoggle” and that she was against toll roads and anticipated that surpluses in future budgets, “rainy day funds” etc. could take up the slack in building our rural highways.

Learn more about all of this at www.communityupdate.org

If you want to get involved, contact: grimescitizenadvisorygroup@ gmail.com

If you want to get the play-by-play, then “FRIEND” GCAG on Facebook;  SEARCH FOR GRIMES CITIZEN ADVISORY GROUP.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Benefit Concert for Two BIG Benefits to Navasota!

Navasota's most famous artists, Leon and "Molly Bee" Collins. They just lost everything they own in a house fire.

We are planning a benefit concert for Molly Bee and her father Leon on January 24, 2015. Tubie and the Touchtones and Brickyard Kain have offered to play at a benefit concert and auction at The Dizzy Llama. Things will kick off at 6:30.

If you want to donate to the LIVE Auction, let me know!

The Collin's house burned down a couple of weeks ago. Leon lost everything but his Bible. All of his money and paintings and clothes...He's going to need a lot of help. They have moved into a new place on Church Street.

Leon's tragedy reminds us that life, our mission in life, is more important than we might think. There are great things at stake while we indulge ourselves in philosophical questions, often unanswerable. Sometimes life demands that we step up to the challenges at our feet, think of the greater good. And jump in.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Who Let The Dogs Out? We did.

This wily little black cat has survived several attacks on our cats by dangerous dogs in our neighborhood. The dogs have killed four of her pals so far...

Governments at every level and in many locations across the country are struggling with dangerous dog ordinances. This is America and many people think they have a right to own a dangerous dog and even let it run around the neighborhood once in a while. But I am fed up with these irresponsible pet owners who give no thought to the danger their dogs present to cats and small dogs and children.

Just a few weeks ago the whole country was amazed at the You Tube video of an intrepid common housecat who jumped a dangerous dog right as he attacked a little boy, probably saving his life. This was wonderful, and gave us new insight on our feline friends, but unfortunately my cats are not so fearsome.  In fact several of my pet cats have been killed by dangerous dogs as they lounged in my yard. One Sunday morning, we looked out in our yard and saw two of our cats killed where they lay, and another neighbor’s cat across the street was also dead. These killers are wanton and swift and efficient.

Living near downtown Navasota, we have had terrible luck with our animals. One evening a family walking their unleashed dog in front of our house lost control of him and he chased our cat up on our porch and shook him to death…as my wife looked on.

Just last night a chronically loose pit bull dog ran up on our porch and tried to kill the two cats we have left, my wife screaming and the dog’s owners vainly calling it.  My poor wife has been repeatedly traumatized unnecessarily because our society refuses to stand up to reckless pet owners. How often do we read about an innocent small child torn up and scarred for life by someone’s adorable pet, who “had never done anything like that before.” We cannot hope for the best and pray that nothing bad happens, or wait for these dangerous dogs to evolve into kinder, gentler friends of Man.

Many towns have tried to write an ordinance which outlaws certain breeds, or stigmatizes known trouble-making dogs or dog owners. Usually fines or even confiscation are threatened to inspire plain common-sense and compliance.  But most of these dangerous-dog people are risk takers anyway, to have such a vicious dog, and are willing to pay a lot of money to subsidize their pet companion. People are known these days to spend more on veterinarian bills than our parents did on doctors. Pets are cool, and dangerous dogs in the city are status symbols. Fines will not solve the problem.

It is important that communities protect themselves before they suffer tragedy at the hands of these negligent owners and their often neglected animals. Many cities are taking action to protect their citizens from this growing menace. So here is my solution for Navasota.

Most dangerous dog ordinances are written to control and even punish the dogs who offend. Forget this. We have had it all backwards. We need to aim the dangerous dog laws squarely at the true offenders, the dog owners. We need to fine the dogs and PUT THE OWNERS IN THE POUND with their dog! Seriously, a few nights sleeping on a concrete pad, stinking of dog shit, listening as homeless dogs wail and bark incessantly, would get anybody’s attention. This is not cruel punishment, compared to the pain and destruction and suffering these dog owners can cause.

So we don’t fine them, but apply legal pressure to spend their money on a responsible pet facility. This is usually the problem anyway. After they get out of their stay at the pound, you force them to build a fence or whatever to sufficiently secure their dangerous dog, according to a strict code, inspected by a city official. Otherwise you can condemn their home as unsafe and a health hazard. And this will certainly be true. This will get the land owners and renters involved, and they too will apply pressure to keep their property clear of liens or injunctions or whatever. After all of this unpleasantness, these dangerous dog owners will soon be packing out of here. And they can take their dogs with them.

And that is what we want.

Friday, August 22, 2014

More on FAKE Ranger Badges

I get a lot of inquiries from people who find and read my blog, still convinced they are the owner of a REAL Texas Ranger Badge, and wanting further satisfaction. I have to admit some of them own very well-made replicas. Sometimes, rarely, I agree that they have an authentic Texas Ranger badge. Maybe once. Also some owners of these rare relics contact me as well, and they of course do not need or ask for my opinion. But they seem to enjoy the blog and agree with most of it. Anyway, I thought I would post this for all those want-to-be Texas Ranger badge owners who still are not convinced, one way or another. 

IF you have the real thing... there are some telltale signs, on the back of the badge... once again the reverse or Peso side of the badge tells everything. A jeweler in Houston named Nelson Silvia made many of the later Ranger badges from the 1960's on and put his mark on them. It will look something like this... there are variations. IF you have a badge that looks like this, but does not have this cartouche, you are probably holding a clever copy.

real deal
Note at about about 5:00 the stamp...

It says : NEL-SIL 

The better copies of this badge are cast in silver by excellent craftsmen. As far as I know, there have been none made with the Silva name stamped in them, as this would be double forgery. But not all of them are easily discounted. Some of these copiers are very good at casting and replicating the Peso. So good, you cannot tell. BUT, you can tell if it is cast.


Do you see the inconsistencies at the bottom edge?

Inspect the coin's ridge. It should be in tact and have all those little tiny teeth. Here is where you will find the tell-tale evidence of casting. When the Peso badge is replicated, a mold is made from it and then wax copies of the coin are made to be cast in silver using the "lost wax" process. There has to be a tube to funnel the molten silver into the hollow ceramic mold -  which houses the cavity where the wax replica was... (now melted away). That tube will fill full of silver as well and be sawed off after casting. The jeweler will carefully file the edge of the "coin" and then try to replicate the tiny little teeth on the edge of the coin. They hardly ever do a very convincing job- if you look hard...

You will see file marks, but they are never as neat and are rarely done with much precision... like a real Peso... it is just too small for most jewelers to be able to do it.

How about now? This is an especially poor job.

So, does your badge have any maker's mark? If it is a later design, and most are that "Co. A" Peso badge, it should have one, if it was an authorized badge.

Is it really a coin, or a clever forgery? Here is another absolutely gorgeous fake... with tell-tale saw marks on the edge,  to compare with yours...

This one is numbered and signed GW by the jeweler. GW did a great job, but his sprew location is easily detected, on the ridge, again, at the very bottom.

I hope yours passes this last line of scrutiny. If it does... then congratulations! You might well own a real Texas Ranger badge.

Monday, August 18, 2014

2 Bit Palomino- Like an aged wine...

An expectant crowd of music lovers spreads out at Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville. 

I had heard Andi and Peter Renfree first as "The Renfrees" at the Corner Cafe several years ago. They came back the next year re-invented as "2 Bit Palomino," with a new guitar picker and keyboardist, and unveiled their new songs... But being in transition, I chose to reserve my judgment and wait for more input before writing about them... Then a mutual friend invited me to see them at Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville.

2 Bit Palomino is a veteran threesome of Houston-based singer-songwriters who have found an original sound and written some catchy, solid songs. These are songs that make you remember those things in your sub-conscious that have been pushed aside by the tyranny of the urgent; things we need to hold on to.  

They were named the Vocal Group of the Year in 2011 and 2013 by the Academy of Texas Music. My favorite song is an epic song they sing, made famous by Chris LeDoux, and written by Andrea C. Renfree, Willie McCullough and Clay Canfield, called The Buffalo Grass. I promise, it sounds better than... it sounds... Anyway I'll bet this song had something to do with the fact that Howlin' Dog Records just signed them to a contract. The three are quite pleased with their new situation and looking forward to cutting the new album. Persistence and excellence have paid off.

Andi Renfree strolls among her crowd at Bernhardt Winery before she performs. With casual, down to earth ease, she explains how far her faith was stretched, how far she had to step out on faith, before the band was seemingly "instantly" rewarded with milestones of success in their respective careers.  Now they are going to enjoy the coming journey with appreciation that has been fermented like a fine wine. 

Bill-       Andi-      "Ren"
Bill Ward, the songwriter- guitarist and keyboard player, explains that he just performed in front of the Alamo. Now THAT is a Texas moment. He is doing his second performance in as many days, with a grueling drive in between. And the real work is just beginning. Only talent and commitment and down-right hard-headedness would have gotten them this far. And now, almost running on empty, they generously give us, who sit casually in our lawn chairs, an evening to remember...

Peter Renfree

2-Bit Palomino sings about No cowboys in Dallas, buffalo grass... and even about a whore. Bill sings a protest song. He finds no comfort that everyone agrees with his protest, that there is no more middle class in America. So it must not be a protest song... he explains, if everybody agrees with him... Their sensitive, sincere message strikes a chord with the audience. America is changing right before our eyes. The songs hit us where we sit; regular folks seeking a measure of peace and serenity in the middle of somewhere. And for just a moment,  remembering.

As in the days of yesteryear, songsters are the voice of our social conscience- and our consciousness. And for the moment, there is music, and friends, and Grimes County wine.

It has been a perfect evening. Too perfect. Native Americans would intentionally place a random bead in their bead work, a concession that only God can make perfection, and to keep themselves humble. I looked around and found the Bernhardt's "random bead"... a little light bulb had gone out.

You probably wonder about their name... it is also the name of one of their great songs... about that mechanical rocking horse we all begged to ride for a quarter as children, in front of the grocery store... Meanwhile 2 Bit Palomino has grown and matured into a promising act, and will be away, more than ever, on the road or in Nashville or whatever, and we are fortunate to have had an evening with them. And now they can get rested up for the challenges ahead. Good luck to them, and God Bless! And thanks for refreshing my memories!

Confessions about BERNHARDT WINERY, Plantersville, Texas.

I have prided myself in covering most music venues and anything worth knowing about in my neck of the woods... but I will confess to avoiding the woods. 24 years ago when my little family left Plantersville, after calling it home for around 18 years, it was with the firm conviction that coming there had been the most serious mistake of our young lives. So it will be no surprise that going back... to cover any deserving story, is bitter sweet. Or to be more accurate, choking on crow.

It was a hard pill to swallow, that right across from the Price pasture where I used to hunt and photograph bluebonnets and run my Labrador retriever, is the sign and the road leading to one of Grimes County's prime attractions. Plantersville has enjoyed the upgrade brought by such neighbors as the Bernhardt Winery, as some of us shrugged and shook our heads. "More newcomers... they will never make it..." 

So now you and I can quit ignoring the stunning truth- that Grimes County is now the home of several excellent wineries, and Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville is the flagship of the fleet. Let me demonstrate why...

Natural Beauty.

Bernhardt Winery is situated on county road 204 in far eastern Grimes County, just north of Hwy 105. The surrounding countryside is so pretty that it explains why I moved here... and stayed here in Grimes County over forty years ago. Distant vistas and mammoth trees greet visitors to this oasis, which prides itself on being a site of peace and serenity. And the wine doesn't hurt. Bernhardt offers their award winning wines ice-cold, as you sip and listen to Texas' most celebrated musicians. Shake Russell. Ezra Charles. On this visit we were entertained by the original future hits of 2- Bit Palomino. 

World Class Music. 

A veteran crowd of picnickers congregate on a gentle slope which stops at a gargantuan pecan tree, which protects a small outdoor stage from the sun. It might be Bob Livingston, who has performed in over 30 countries around the world for the State Department, or the best of local talent. This Autumn they plan a series of tribute bands, from the Eagles to Willie to Elvis to the Beatles to Motown. 

And the wine flows. The music fills the valley. The sun goes down... 

And Jerry Bernhardt reads some of his winsome poetry and... all is right with the world. He explains that the place is for getting back in touch with nature... and beauty. If I'm not totally accurate about what he said... I'll blame the wine...And he asks everyone to be quiet and just listen for a moment to the sounds of the country. Cicadas obligingly turn up the volume, and crickets rub their legs with enthusiasm. He makes a toast. I look around. Yes, this is Plantersville. Back when I first moved here, me and my coon hunting, skoal dipping, whiskey sipping buddies would have cracked up at such eloquence.

Delicious Wine.

As I explained to the kind lady offering me a sampling of wine, I'm a beer guy. But the wines I tasted were very rich and refreshing. We bought a blush wine that disappeared quickly. You come. You be the judge. I know music- and they have the best music in Texas, and as our entertainers for the evening joked, the more we drank the better they sounded. And probably the better the whole experience is... or seems. Whatever, Plantersville has more going for it than the Texas Renaissance Festival. Right now it has the two most impressive entertainment venues in Grimes County.

Thanks to the vision of the Bernhardts, time, good taste and financial commitment has rewarded this lovely place with a solid attraction. And hundreds of people are making it a regular part of their lives.  I sure plan to.

But thank goodness, it is still Plantersville.

If you want to more details about Bernhardt Winery, call (936) 894-9829 or go to their website:

ValHALLa! An Awe-inspiring Peek at Navasota River Halls

My friend Michael Havens has begun to rent his fabulous facility west of Navasota as an event center. Navasota River Hall is huge, richly furnished and decorated, and an exciting new asset to the region.

Carved cedar tree trunks hold up a timber framework which shines under the tin ceiling. The cozy lighting makes each area intimate, even though it is a huge (16,392 sq ft!) facility. A large stage will facilitate most bands, who will appreciate the excellent sound system, and there is a spacious serving room for caterers.

Here are a few shots of a beautiful wedding for the Prescotts, held there Saturday...

Bridesmaids wait their turn...

The pastor had a lot to say to the couple...  about being servants to one another...

If you don't like wood... you'll HATE this place! 

There was room for three hundred people to dine afterwards... 

And just as many to dance.... after the wedding chapel was cleared!

This place is sure to become Party Central for the Brazos Valley!

An 80 foot bar... You have to see it to believe it...

And over-the-top ranch decor... a Texan Valhalla!

This Brazos Valley event hall should be called VALHALLA!

Michael Havens can be reached at: (936) 499-8699

Monday, August 11, 2014

Serendipity- and Bob Livingston Returns

If you hung out around Navasota a few years ago, you will remember a little place called Serendipity’s. Later Phil Heibeler, the owner sold the business and then got it back, and re-invented it and renamed it The Corner Café. Phil’s new vision was a café with Live music, and he featured about two years of excellent Friday evening mini-concerts he called a singer-songwriter series. I actually began this blog to try to help him promote the music scene here in Navasota, the “Blues Capital of Texas.” Every Friday night I was there at the Corner Café photographing and staying up very late writing the blogs while they were fresh on my mind.

In the process some of the musicians enjoyed my comments and used them on their websites. My photos went all over the Internet, and Phil had me blow some up and put them on his café walls. They looked good there, and I felt real cool coming in the place and feeling the art and the fun and the live music even when it was not there. Then Phil went out of business again, and left for greener pastures. He sold me the big enlarged photos I had made for his cafe, and suddenly I had these huge cumbersome things all over my studio. I’m talking 30” x 40” canvases of George Ensle, David Lutes, Susan Herndon, Bob Livingston and Brian Ashley Jones.

These folks are not exactly huge stars, but they are in my universe. Still, I was not sure what needed to happen to them, I just did not want them to leave Navasota, like the rest of our music history.
Anyway, all that to say that one of the big plans was to have each of the artists back some day and they could sign their canvases. You know, with one of those big gold pens. Of course other than one of them, that never happened. Now fast-forward a couple of years.

Sunday I was keeping the store at Blues Alley, something I rarely do any more, and had an average day and was about to close when two dudes strolled in. They arrived all smiles and commenting what a great town Navasota seemed to be… one of the prettiest towns in “East Texas” one of them offered. This identified them as Austinites. Everyone around here knows we are in CENTRAL TEXAS.  OK, we are on the edge... of three distinct geographical regions... Still, I had to agree that Navasota is one of the prettiest towns around... I bragged a little and tried to sell them a cheap guitar...

One of them asked about the Corner Café.  I shared the tragic loss of the wonderful little music venue we enjoyed for several years. And then one of them said, almost under his breath that he had performed there. I pondered that, for I had seen most of the shows. 

Bob Livingston

The only one of the performers he could have been was Bob Livingston, but Bob is taller, younger and clean shaven.
Bob Livingston is sort of a living piece of Texas music history, a Texas songwriter, once a member of the Lost Gonzo Band and running the roads with Michael Martin Murphy, Gary P. Nunn and other Texas Music Legends. This guy was no Bob Livingston. “You say you played at the Corner Café? What is your name?”

“Bob Livingston.”

Well you can imagine that, after insulting him mercilessly, I adapted quickly and invited Bob Livingston up to my studio to see my collection of Texas musicians… and he graciously offered to sign my canvas of his former countenance. It was a great mini-moment… One of the long Lost Gonzos had been found, right in my studio! Felt kinda like Neil Armstrong when he first stepped on the Moon. He even posed for a picture.

Songwriter and world traveler Bob Livingston poses with his obsolete portrait. I urged him to keep the beard. I was hoping he would give me the hat. I'm pretty sure he is thinking... "What a moron!"

And I had not been scheduled to keep the store like that, in YEARS. So Phil, that’s two down… three to go. Thanks to... your serendipity. 

This might take a while, but I‘m thinkin’ we gotta GO FOR IT!

Sunday, August 10, 2014


The best year ever in my opinion.

The two day festival started on Friday, Aug 8th, with a cigar box guitar workshop at Navasota Blues Alley in downtown Navasota, led by the wizard of such music, Justin Johnson.

Justin Johnson does wonders with the humble diddly bow at Blues Alley.

Then Justin opened the festival out at the Grimes County Expo Center...
Justin Johnson

Afterwards Brad Absher took the stage with a full blown band and lit up the room. He has TWO saxophone players and an ivory tickler who brings his own (quite heavy!) piano. Very solid band called SWAMP ROYALE.
Brad Absher at far right up front with his sax men 

Tony Vega finished off the first night with tight energy for a three piece band. They set the expectation for the weekend... which delivered GREAT BANG FOR THE BUCK!

Tony Vega

Saturday, Aug 9

The Saturday events kicked off with a fun acoustic set done by Back Porch in E Flat, (or something like that!) who graciously replaced Dr. Michael Birnbaum who was unable to attend. These guys each played multiple instruments. The bass player was blowing on a harmonica and tapping a top hat. A small crowd of hard core blues fans sat in chairs up close to the stage to get a better look, and time stood still... and flew by!. 

Back Porch E Flat

Then, FINALLY, one of my favorite musicians ever, Doug Macleod brought his resonator mastery to the Blues Fest. I told him this must be heaven, because I was sure this is what it will feel like, getting to enjoy such fabulous music and sharing it with your friends. Doug is a National Treasure. He writes his own songs.. and they have a very useful message in this day and time. His slide guitar prowess shares few peers.

Doug Macleod

BAD BRAD and the FAT CATS came on and instantly connected with the crowd, quickly gaining the attention of this seasoned blues crowd and getting smiles. Brad is bad, but I mean that in a good way. This guy will go far as long as people want real blues.
Bad Brad and the Fat Cats

Then everything got crazy.  Texas Johnny Boy and his all-star band blew out the cob webs with his typical high energy blues assault. This man is a blues animal. You can tell he lives to play and plays to live. 

Texas Johnny Boy

Annika Chambers came on like gangbusters as they say and showed why is she has left a wake of devoted fans all over the Houston area and beyond. She is a passionate performer, singing and frolicking on stage with a rare combination of power and abandon.
Annika Chambers

And then there was the incomparable Ezra Charles and his fabulous band. In my mind the best act we have ever seen. Charles has found his dream team and nurtured them into a rollicking brass section that sings and struts and mixes it up with the crowd. By the time he got through playing, everyone was EXHAUSTED!

It will be hard to top this year's sterling stream of shows. Some old traditions were broken to create the best line-up they have ever had. I'm one who thinks the sacrifice and the change was worth it, and hope they stick to their new plan... and that is offering up the best blues fest in the country! SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!


OHMYGOD!!!! (Ezra Charles)