Kirby Warnock on His New Film and the Heyday of Dallas Rock
Imagine a time in Dallas when Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty, the Cars and Elvis Costello could all be found without sneaking past a team of security guards or purchasing a $200 VIP pass. It's a time when every major record label in Dallas not only pushed records like drug dealers, but also pimped their artists to anyone who'd listen.
"Most people don't have a grasp of just how big of music town Dallas was back then," says Kirby Warnock, the former editor of Buddy, one of the first rock-n-roll magazines in Dallas to cover the music scene. "There was no Dallas Observer, and mainstream media wasn't covering rock 'n' roll, because they considered it to be the counterculture. It was fresh after Vietnam War. To them, it was just a bunch of hippies making music."
Warnock is setting out to memorialize those heady days with a new short film, which premiers at Texas Theatre on September 26.
In his new short film When Dallas Rocked, Warnock hopes to show just how important the Dallas music scene was to the artists, to the fans, to the city. Showing classic photos of various rock 'n' roll moments and telling stories that would stop even the marginal music lover in his or her tracks, the former editor reveals just how much cooler the Dallas scene was compared to Austin or Nashville. "People think it's all happening in Austin," he says, "and don't get me wrong -- it is now. Austin is the place to be now. But we have a rich music history here and we should catalog it. This is my first attempt to catalog and digitize and chronicle what was going on back then because there's no record of it anywhere even though I was there... and so were a lot of other people."
Of course he's right. Dallas does have a rich music history. Robert Johnson recorded Hellhounds On My Trail, a legendary blues song recorded by a man who could feel the devil's breath on the back of his neck. "Austin has a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan, but we don't have one here even though he's from Dallas," says Warnock. "It's crazy we don't have a statue of Freddie King here, and he's in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Here, in his home town, there's not a plaque or anything. It's crazy that a guy from Dallas is getting recognition in Cleveland but not here. Explain that to me."
Of course he's right again. Not only do we not recognize Mr. King or the Vaughan brothers in Dallas, both of whom are Oak Cliff boys, but also "Dimebag" Darrell Abbot and Mike Scaccia, both of whom deserve a statue in the middle of downtown Fort Worth. "We don't do a very good job of recognizing our creative artistic class here," he says.
So that's the need for Warnock's film. The project began at last year's inaugural Oak Cliff Film Festival, where a category called "Community Shorts" was opened to submissions for short films. "So I had all this pictures from working at Buddy just sitting in a box. I just kept thinking: Man, these are pretty neat pictures; somebody might want to see them." He scanned them, found some music and created a slideshow. "Most young people think everything that happened before they were born is on the Internet, but that's not true. There's a ton of stuff that's got to be scanned and digitized."