Dallas Blues and Jazz Historian Tim Schuller, Once an Observer Contributor, Has Died

Courtesy Patty Mayes
Tim at the old Peaches Records and Tapes in 1977
This morning, Pat Boyack asked if I'd heard, if it's true: Had Tim Schuller died? Then, later, came the confirmation, via Buddy Magazine's Facebook page: "Sad news as long time friend and Buddy music writer, Tim Schuller has passed on. We want to wish his family and close friends our sincere condolences." I have since heard the sad news from others, among them KNON's Don O.

Schuller, for those who don't know, was a former Dallas Observer contributor, on and off for many years. But more than that, he was among the city's best and brightest blues historians. For years he spoke and wrote about Dallas's estimable blues heritage; jazz too. He wrote liner notes, contributed to big-name blues mags, including this interview with Freddie King compiled in Living Blues's classic-chats collection. And this '97 profile of Robert Ealey is among the finest things stashed in our archives.

Boyack writes on his Facebook page this afternoon that Schuller was a "throwback," a real writer and historian concerned with getting things right. Writes the bluesman: "I always saw him as the guy who played jazz and blues records in a small room, surrounded by books while writing about some artist that intrigued him and who had a good story." Our condolences to Tim's family.

For Your Weekend Listening Pleasure: Brent Best Explains These 42 Slobberbone Covers

Categories: Local Music
brent best.jpg
I've still got a few of the work-week rock-and-roll adioses stashed away, and guess I'd better use 'em or lose 'em between now and the next week or so. So let's start with this -- a bootleg officially known as The Bone Collection, featuring 42(ish) covers performed by Slobberbone and, in a few instances, special guests, among them the Drive-By Truckers and Danny Balis. And here's a special treat: I got Brent Best to annotate the collection, after explaining its genesis.

Says he: About, oh, 10, 12 years ago a guy from East Texas used to follow Slobberbone around with a tape recorder. "His name was something like 'Low Dog,'" Best says. "That's what we used to call him. And he would travel. Like, he showed up in Duluth one night -- you never knew. But we turned him on to My Morning Jacket, and he started following them. But then he ended up putting out this two-disc set, and I was amazed -- there's stuff on there I never knew we did.

"I remember when I was doing a solo tour with Anders Parker and South San Gabriel. We were in Austin with My Morning Jacket, and Low Dog gave me a set of those discs. I was like, 'I don't remember half of these.' Anders said, 'You played 'The Temples of Syrinx' [off Rush's 2112]? And I was like, 'I don't think so ...'"

Ah, but he did -- at Dan's Silverleaf, on February 1, 2003. And it's not the only Rush song on the set list either ...More »

Last Night on The Voice, Anthony Evans Moved From Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship to Team Xtina

Might as well put my faithful Voice viewing to good use, though no doubt in coming weeks Audra will follow Anthony Evans's reality-TV travails over on DC9 at Night. But even before the Marvin Gaye-covering Evans was intro'd as a Dallas native last night it was clear who he was: Not only is he an established gospel singer 'round town, but as you'll see in the five-minute excerpt above his father's a familiar face too -- none other than Dr. Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. And now his son's going to be coached by Christina Aguilera.

Discovering a Rare Bobby Patterson Single Mentioned in the Warren Commission Hearings

A Friend of Unfair Park wondered Saturday afternoon: Is the "unknown teen" named Robert Patterson heard singing "Tell Me How" and "Dear Debbie" on this purchased-this-morning Future Records single none other than the Bobby Patterson? Why, yes, yes it is; just listen to that voice. Said Bobby when I asked him about it last night: "The label was owned by a guy who was a student at SMU." Bobby can't recall the name. "But his dad had plenty of money. He used to come hear me sing at The Beachcomber."

"Tell Me How"/"Dear Debbie" was actually Patterson's second single on Future; before that handclappin'-pop-n-smooth-soul combo platter was the country two-fer of "Walkin' The Floor Over You"/"Beautiful Brown Eyes." Says the Soul 73 mainstay, "I was ahead of my time, as usual." They were recorded at a studio on Commerce, across from the old KLIF HQ. Bobby says he didn't have his own copy till someone sent him the old singles, which date back to '63, when he was still in his teens and attending Arlington State College.

Later would come the immortal Abnak and Jetstar and Paula singles, collected on two essential compilations (the early-years Soul Is My Music and Soul of a Man) and covered by the likes of the Fabulous Thunderbirds ("How Do You Spell Love?") and Golden Smog ("She Don't Have to See You (To See Through You)"). But this Future single, which has never made it to CD, is the oldest blast from Bobby's past I've heard, and I hadn't heard it till Saturday night.

I wonder, though, if the buyer knew the historic back story behind the disc. Because, as it turns out, Bobby actually mentioned Future Records when, in the spring of 1964, he was interviewed by Burt Griffin, one of two Warren Commission attorneys tasked with investigating Jack Ruby. Bobby knew Ruby, initially through Jack's sister, Eva Grant, for whom Bobby had performed on occasion. As Bobby told Griffin, Ruby got him to play The Vegas Club. Because, you see, Ruby was a big, big fan ...More »

Better Than Any Trailer (or Coffee), Badu and Ronson Re:Generate on Late Show Last Night

This is absolutely within the purview of Unfair Park's more musically inclined sibling; my apologies in advance, Audra. But for months I've had this song stuck in my head; the same goes (and then some) this morning, following Lady of the Lake Erykah Badu's appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman with Mark Ronson, drummer Zigaboo Modeliste and a few of the Dap Kings on loan from Sharon Jones. My kid calls it "The 'Unh' Song." That's about right.

It's actually titled "A La Modeliste," a strong-as-coffee-and-chicory New Orleans homage cut for the RE:GENERATION film project directed by Amir Bar-Lev, whose My Kid Could Paint That and The Tillman Story sit high on the list of favorite docs of recent vintage. This film's a bit lighter: The filmmaker tails Ronson, DJ Premier, The Crystal Method, Pretty Lights and Skrillex as they retool modern music with the likes of Mos Def, Martha Reeves, a few of The Doors, the Funk Brothers, Ralph Stanley and, speaking of locals, LeAnn Rimes, among others.

The film opens in Dallas tomorrow, matter of fact -- for one night only and at but a handful of locations, all of them Studio Movie Grills.

Tonight, At Least, The Omni Looks Mighty Pretty Reflected in the Trinity River

Photo by Justin Terveen
Like I need to tell you, even if there were no photo credit, this is a Justin Terveen photo -- one in a series of extraordinary photos of the rain-soaked city he's taken in the past 24 hours. This one was taken earlier this evening, just west of the Houston Street Viaduct: "dead-smack center in between Houston and 30," he says.

Justin's still out and about, making the city look stunning in the reflection of the Trinity River. He's moved to Sylvan now, then ... who knows where. "It's too good to pass up," he says. "The water's flat and glassy, with a nice reflection." More to come, he vows. "But nothing like what you see here." As always, the big'n is here, suitable for framing.

For Sale, For $99.99, One of the Most Obscure, Oddball 1960s Singles Ever Cut by a Dallas Band

Garage Hangover
There are plenty more photos of the Rain Kings (this one's circa 1966) over on Chris Bishop's invaluable website.
A few weeks ago I spoke with Chris Bishop, otherwise known as the man behind the great website Garage Hangover, which recalls obscure '60s garage-rock bands so you don't have to. After a few visits in recent months, I wondered: What fuels his interest, especially given the amount of Dallas bands that have appeared on the site?

"Well, first, the scene there was so great," said Bishop, who lives in upstate New York after a stint in Houston. He was a collector who became a devotee. "And when I'd get a record I'd find more information and hope to tell a story, and if there was nothing out there I'd post. I've tried to cover bands that haven't been covered in detail, which is why I haven't covered the well-known acts. I figure if I can't add anything new to it, why bother."

Which brings us to The Rain Kings.More »

Before the Calatrava's Switched On, Breaking News: The Relatives to Play Bridge Opening

Justin Terveen's already taken his place on the west side of the Continental Avenue Bridge for tonight's lighting of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, set to begin glowing at 6:15, give or take. He says it's filling up fast, no joke. I'm about to head that way myself; why not. But before I split, this big, bad bit of breaking news: For the first time ever -- by which I mean, since being rediscovered by Noel Waggener and his Heavy Light Records label out of Austin -- The Relatives will be playing their hometown, at the Bridge-O-Rama wingding set for the Calatrava's opening weekend. Rev. Gene and the band will perform March 3, specifically, at 5 p.m. on the Ben E. Keith Stage, which will be located at 317 Singleton Ave. For this you have to thank, in part, our old pal Jeff Liles of the Kessler, one of the event's myriad partners for the shindig.

And they're not the only band lined up for the event: Says the release just dispatched by the West Dallasites in advance of tonight's formal announcement, Possessed by Paul James and Rattletree Marimba will also play the World Music Stage that Saturday. The music portion of the program begins at 1 that day, and, says the release, "Additional acts will be announced as they become confirmed over the next few weeks." I'll let Audra tackle those on DC9 -- because, ya know, she's the one who wrote the first, best and longest piece on The Relatives back when she was at the Austin Chronicle. I expect she's itching to do a follow-up.

Till then, you have heard The Relatives' record, right? No? Here, lemme fix that for you.

Update: Lyle Lovett will play the March 2 opening-weekend fund-raiser.

From the Archives: A Great Old Photo of Gale Hess and Cafe Noir, Along With a Soundtrack

Of all the many Cafe Noir photos in our still-very-physical photo archives, this is the one most worth sharing -- a very, very early-days look at the band with Gale Hess
Many have asked since yesterday if there will be a memorial of some kind for Gale Hess. Today I was told: No, not yet. There will be a small service for family and close friends, and there may be something else down the road. But, I was told, it will be at least a month away. Said a family member, the Cafe Noir violinist and composer did not want to be mourned; instead, she requested a celebration, but, for now, it will have to wait.

Until then, I would like to honor some other requests: Several Friends of Unfair Park, and old friends, have asked for some of the rare and unreleased Cafe Noir tracks mentioned in yesterday's post. Those I can provide you. The first features the band with another special someone whose loss (has it really been 15 years?) is still profoundly felt: Ed Hagen, whose visage graced the cover of Cafe Noir's The Waltz King. It was produced for KERA 90.1 Sound Sessions by Josh Alan.

"Flight of the Lark" is something recorded on a UCLA stage in 1998 but never released, something heard only as a snippet in the sampler posted yesterday. And it's the song that morphs into "Kashmir," the result of Gale's stint with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page at Reunion Arena in the spring of 1995. As Norbert Gerl told me yesterday, "Gale and I came to rock and roll late," but when they fell, they fell hard.

And, finally, there is something from our first Observer compilation. I asked Gerl way back in '96 if he had something unreleased he could offer. He said there was but one song sitting in the vaults, something he didn't know what to do with: a cover of Tioga, Texas's own Gene Autry's "Back in the Saddle Again," with the great Randy Erwin on vocals. Feel free to download the latter; I want you to keep it.More »

Say Farewell to Cafe Noir's Gale Hess, Who Made Some Extraordinarily Beautiful Music

Word began to spread late last night: Gale Hess, said friends, died two days ago. Cancer is to blame, say those who've been close in recent years. Gale was young -- young enough to have been first violinist in the W.T. White Symphony Orchestra in 1973, at least. And she was among the most talented musicians ever to come from here; all those who got to hear her play with Cafe Noir or at the Dream Cafe with the Gyros String Quartet or at the Old Warsaw all by her striking lonesome or on Randy Erwin's Cowboy Stomp in 1988 or Josh Alan's The Worst! in '94 or with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page at Reunion Arena in March 1995 can attest to this. The sampler above and continued below, shot by Mark Trew when the band took to a UCLA stage for a live recording in 1998, only shows off a fraction of a fraction of her range -- classical to classic rock, honky-tonk to hepcat all in the time it takes most people to exhale.

Cafe Noir's line-up for Window to the Sea, from left: Gale Hess, Lyles West, Randy Erwin, Jason Bucklin and Norbert Gerl
Friends use words like "sweet," "supportive," "influential" and "brilliant" to describe the violinist and composer. I was fortunate enough to write -- frequently -- about Cafe Noir during my tenure as music editor in the early to mid-'90s. Cafe Noir, assembled by Hess and guitar virtuoso Norbert Gerl in 1985 after years of friendship, won countless Music Awards and played several award shows -- each one, our honor. The ensemble also provided the first track on our first rare-tracks compilation CD, back in 1996: a swinging iteration of "Back in the Saddle."

The band released only a handful of records -- 1988's eponymous debut, '93's Window to the Sea (from which this is taken), the farewell The Waltz King a year later -- all on Carpe Diem, all out of print. They were oft-haunting, occasionally jaunty, sometimes mysterious sound tracks to smoke-filled movies in which you wish you'd starred, foreign affairs with a twang. Each was anchored by Gale, Stéphane Grappelli by way of Bob Wills but so clearly meant for the arena. (When Gerl told her of the Page-Plant gig, Gale, who served as principal viola, was initially leery, I recall -- or maybe just nervous. I told her it was the coolest thing ever. She replied as though she didn't believe it: "Is it?" Or perhaps she just didn't buy it.)

Cafe Noir played Deep Ellum when it was a loose-knit "scene" consisting of bands in varying stages of being signed or dropped by what used to pass for major labels. Somehow, though, Cafe Noir fit in amongst the electricity and noise, filling Chumley's regularly with silent, spellbound audiences.

Of late Gale had been playing with Cirque du Soleil; a reviewer in 2007 called her "a stunning violinist," an understatement. I was a fan, as you can see, but also a friend for a long while, long ago. Only last week, while cleaning out some bookshelves, I came across a copy of a book she gave me on my 25th birthday -- Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, a dizzying thing, much like Gale. She wrote inside: "I hope this book brings you as much pleasure as it has me." She would have turned 57 on February 22. A memorial service is in the works for a later date.
More »

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