Austin fave Link Wray was born 88 years ago today

The man.

Happy birthday to the late Link Wray, the one-lunged, Shawnee native who changed the way people thought about guitar would have been 88 today. Antone’s celebrates his legacy at a concert later this month.

Wray is credited with inventing (or at least popularizing) both the power chord and distortion as a vital part of a guitarist’s musical palette, two elements upon which the rock ‘n’ roll church is built.

Wray, who hailed from Dunn, N.C., did most of his best work in the Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia/Maryland area. Legend has it that the Korean War veteran came up with his primal rock instrumental ‘Rumble’ while playing a dance at the Fredericksburg (Virginia) Arena.

Someone asked for a stroll, and Wray and his band knocked out one of the most powerful instrumentals of all time. The single was released in ’58 and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Rumble” is a wonderful song to listen to in the autumn — this sound is wind in the Central Virginia hills, leather jackets over heavy flannel shirts and violent D.C. juke joints.

It’s a sound that hypnotized everyone from Pete Townshend to Bob Dylan; bands such as the Cramps and the Rev. Horton Heat built entire careers around the rockabilly-as-menace shtick, mixing it with junk culture and punk rock.

His hits collections, full of ripping instrumentals such as”Raw-Hide,” “Jack the Ripper,” “Ace of Spades,” are mandatory listening for every rock fan.

As the Beatles ascended, instrumental rock faded. In in the late 60s and early 70s, Wray‘s career had a strange second act when he and his band cut three albums over a few years time on his father’s farm in Maryland, the “3-Track Shack.” A blend of blues, country, gospel, Native American chants and folk, they sound like the could have been cut tomorrow. One of them, “Beans and Fatback” was reissued for Record Sore Day 2017.

But he never forgot his overdriven, holes-in-the-amp-speaker roots, especially as punk embraced fuzz and distortion.  “Link Wray: Live at the Paradiso, released in 1979, is a proto-noise-rock stunner.

Wray — who toured until his death and did two nights at the Continental Club several months prior — is remembered for making music that embodied the idea of rock guitar as dangerous, as menacing, as something that could barely be tamed.

For those who want to see Austin players pay tribute to the godfather of distortion, head over to Antone’s on May 13 for the “13 Guitar Rumble” starring Burnin’ Mike Vernon (3 Balls of Fire), Eve Monsees (Exiles), Mike Buck (LeRoi Bros), Denny Freeman (Bob Dylan),  Speedy Sparks (Sir Douglas Quintet), Rosie Flores,
Rick Broussard (Two Hoots and A Holler), Steve Fulton, John X Reed, Danny B Harvey (Nancy Sinatra), Pierre Peligrin (Havana 3am), Pat Collins (LeRoi Bros), Don Leady (Tail Gators), Jack Montesinos (Don Leady’s Rockin Revue) and Homer Henderson along with all kinds of guests.

Tony Hale talks acting, ‘Veep’ in ‘On Story’

Julia Louis Dreyfus and Tony Hale on “Vep

On tonight’s broadcast of “On Story,” check out actor Tony Hale on the best acting advice Julia Louis Dreyfus ever gave him.

“On Story” airs 7:30 p.m. CT on KLRU-Q; the audio /radio version can  be found PRI and available at onstory.tv and iTunes, Stitcher and elsewhere.

Bret Anthony Johnston’s American Short Fiction story takes £30,000 award

Texas writer Bret Anthony Johnston (“Remember Me Like This” has won the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for his story “Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows About Horses,” originally published last fall in Austin literary magazine American Short Fiction’s 25th anniversary issue.

The prestigious international prize is the richest for a single story in the English language, worth £30,000 (almost $39,000 in today’s exchange rate) to the winner.

Two recent ASF stories were selected for “Best American Short Stories 2017” and another for “Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017.”

You can read Johnston’s story in its entirety on the Story Award’s website.

The annual contest is judged by a panel of renowned editors, literary journalists, and writers. This year’s winner was chosen by Anne Enright, Mark Lawson, Neel Mukherjee, Rose Tremain, and Andrew Holgate. The judges praised it as a story “in which small details take on vast significance, and perceptions have the kick of a stallion.”

Johnston’s best-selling “Remember Me Like This” was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and the winner of the 2015 McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns Prize.  Johnston teaches in the Bennington Writing Seminars and at Harvard University, where he is the Director of Creative Writing.

Here is Johnston at BookPeople in 2014.

Willie and “The Handmaid’s Tale:” No, it’s not a new CCR song

Elisabeth Moss confronts a rather grim existence in “The Handmaid’s Tale”

 

This week, look out for:

“Dreaming the Beatles” by Rob Sheffield (Dey St.) Boy howdy, is this book good. (April 25)

“Borne: A Novel” By Jeff VanderMeer (MCD) In the highly anticipated follow-up his outstanding Southern Reach trilogy, VanderMeer explores the story of Rachel, a scavenger in a dead city once-dominated by collapsed corporation called the Company, who adopts a being called Borne. Long a top-drawer editor, VanderMeer is becoming contemporary master of gripping, thoughtful s-f weirdness. (April 25)

“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu). I think it’s safe to say that this 10-episode series is the crown jewel of Hulu’s original programming for 2017. This terrifyingly relevant story, based on Margaret Atwood’s classic of dystopian feminist science fiction, stars Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, a very creepy Joseph Fiennes, Samira Wiley and more. Three episodes launch the show; the rest arrive weekly on Wednesdays. One suspects that this might be the future of streaming: a balance between bingeing and weekly waits, which both gives the show time to build an audience and prevents folks from watching all of it at once and the show having less overall impact as a result. (April 26)

Feist, “Pleasure” (Interscope). She’s back! It’s her first album since 2011 and her fifth overall. Expect a whole mess of emotional, intense song craft. Who doesn’t like Leslie Feist? (April 28)

Willie Nelson, “God’s Problem Child” (Legacy Recordings). Another seven months, another Willie Nelson album (the last one came out in September). Many songs were written by Nelson and producer Buddy Cannon. Also looks for songs by Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White, vocals from the late Leon Russell, a song about the 2016 election called “Delete and Fast-Forward” and a tribute to Merle Haggard called “He Won’t Ever Be Gone.” And, yes, the original title of the album was “I’m Not Dead.” Forever and ever, amen.

Justin Marks discusses ‘The Jungle Book’ on ‘On Story’

 

On tonight’s (April 22 ) broadcast of “On Story,” check out screenwriter Justin Marks discussing how to update “The Jungle Book.”

 

“On Story” airs 7:30 p.m. CT on KLRU-Q; the audio /radio version can  be found PRI and available at onstory.tv and iTunes, Stitcher and elsewhere.

Galactica’s crew reunites on the closing night of ATX Television fest

Adama, father and son. Starbuck. Baltar. Six.

All in the house.

Cast members of “Battlestar Galactica” — Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, James Callis, Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff, Grace Park, Michael Trucco and Michael Hogan — will join creator/executive producer Ronald D. Moore (“Outlander”) for the closing night (June 10) of the ATX Television Festival.

ATX returns for a sixth year June 8 to 11.

The cast will also be featured in an “EW Reunites: Battlestar Galactica” special on the streaming People/Entertainment Weekly Network.

This year’s reunion is part of a multi-year partnership between EW and ATX, which kicked off last year with the “Ugly Betty” reunion presented by EW on closing night.

So, yeah, someone ask Moore about that whole “All Along the Watchtower” thing.

 

What makes Mike Judge laugh and other things we learned at the ‘Silicon Valley’ premiere party

HBO is airing the season premier of “Silicon Valley” on Sunday (April 23).

Wednesday evening, series co-creator Mike Judge joined actors Martin Starr (the terminally acid Gilfoyle) and Zach Woods (the doe-eyed Jared Dunn) for a brief red carpet at the Alamo Drafthouse South. This was followed by a screening of the first two episodes and a 30-minute Q and A session.

Zach Woods, Mike Judge and Martin Starr at the “Silicon Valley” Alamo Drafthouse event April 18. (Photo Credit: Scott Moore/for American-Statesman)

A-LIST PHOTOS: ‘Silicon Valley’ red carpet at the Alamo Drafthouse

Here is what we learned:

“Yeah, you’re going to jail, son.”

It is weird to see Judge laugh and Starr smile

Judge is notoriously press shy and always looks very business as usual at press events, somewhere between a kind of Zen offensive coordinator and maybe a guy giving you bad legal news. He also talks very softly.

So it was genuinely awesome to see him laugh long and hard at his actors cracking wise during the Q and A afterwards. It was similarly cool to see Starr — best known for his career-making performance as Bill in “Freaks and Geeks” (17 years ago!) and for Gilfoyle’s brutal, dead-eyed sarcasm — bust out a wide smile (not pictured) when talking to reporters. Woods, on the other hand, seems very much like Jared, with maybe more penis jokes.

Women are rumored for later in the year, but not on these episodes

HBO and the Alamo Drafthouse screened two episodes. The first one sets the table: Everyone is still in the house owned by Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller), the company has pivoted a bit into a video chat app largely invented by Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), which is driving Richard (Thomas Middleditch) nuts. He hates being the CEO of a video chat company, especially one essentially co-owned by Big Head’s father.

So he quits. Plot ensues.

The second episode (mild spoilers) develops the video chat plot kind of ingeniously and features some of the most (intentionally) obnoxious hair Kumail Nanjiani has ever worn, anywhere.

This was about 60 minutes of filmed entertainment, much of it sharp and funny and canny. There was a woman on-screen for less than five of those minutes, a conversation between Richard and Monica Hall (Amanda Crew). Unless I am misremembering something, and I don’t think I am, that was IT.

Now, according to this piece, the show is finally adding women coders, so perhaps it will improve.

Woods is the most like his character, though all of them are apparently sweet people

“When it’s a lot of young comedy guys, it can kind of be a sort of feral environment,” Woods said during the Q and A. “But everyone’s really kind to each other, it’s not competitive. People pitch each other jokes. It’s nice to be with other people that are equally delicate flowers.”

That said, when Woods was discussing the first time he met Miller, he (Woods) was sitting “on a yoga mat reading a journal of reassuring quotes with a bunch of scented candles lit” while Indigo Girls was on in the background.

Which seems awfully Jared.

A time in the Dinesh/Gilfoyle relationship that stands out for Starr

“The jacket episode,” Starr says. “I had a lot of fun berating him in front of strangers at that Starbucks. I don’t know why, but I really enjoyed it. It went a little off the rails sometimes.”

There isn’t a lot of improvisation on set that makes it into the final product. However….

The line “Sizzler buffet for the sexually deranged” (nope, not giving you the context) was all Woods.

The show is famous enough that hip-hop acts will debut tracks as end credits music

Look for Nas and DJ Shadow’s “Systematic” to close out the first episode.

What makes Mike Judge lose it

The “creepy extra” in the back of the room at the very end of episode two. You’ll know it when you see it (on April 30). “The way it works is you get a bunch of extras and they line ’em up, and I picked that guy,” Judge said. “And I said, ‘Put him in a sweater,’ and when he came out in that sweater and sat him down, I couldn’t stop laughing. Luckily there was no dialogue in the scene. It was good to see (the audience) laughing at it because me and Tim Suhrstedt, the DP, could not stop laughing.”

“Silicon Valley” airs Sundays on HBO.