By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Leave it to the man who wrote a song called "I'm Sorry I Killed You"--mainly "'cause now I am in jail," although the protagonist (if that's the right word) finds some solace at making goo-goo eyes at the victim's underage sister--to pick up and get on with his life. The upper floor of Naomi's is being converted into living quarters and the club itself will soon be refitted to serve as a laundromat for nearby apartments, developments that find recent piscatorial poser and local music legend Barry Kooda--along with partner-in-crime Donny Ray Ford--dry-eyed and already ensconced in another hangout.
Upon hearing of Naomi's demise, the redoubtable duo immediately set off on a blitzkrieg-paced survey of area clubs before settling on a new base camp at the Dallasite Club at the corner of Ross and Hall. Several test gigs have gone well, including the most recent last Saturday, featuring Barry Kooda and the Mutineers (Mssrs. Kooda and Ford ably supported by drummer Gerald Iragorri and the Hon. Kim Herriage on electric and pedal steel guitars).
"We just showed up off the street, and everybody was very friendly," Kooda says, pausing only to grunt as he shifts the weight of the large bluefin tuna he's carrying with him. "When we left, the bartender said to be sure to come on back." The club--at its present location two years after almost two decades on Gaston before a decaying neighborhood and rezoning forced a move--is indeed an agreeable place. It is patronized primarily by longtime regulars who are friendly yet respectful of boundaries and is graced by a killer jukebox (helpful hint: the entrance is in back). The most recent gig found the Mutineers in fine form--particularly Herriage, who has long been an underappreciated aspect of the local music scene--as they ran through Kooda Klassics such as the aforementioned "Sorry," and most of the songs off of Crossin' the Line, his latest release.
"I think it'll be cool," Kooda says, looking to the future. "We're trying to build a scene here, and that takes time." Meanwhile, he says, "karaoke night is impressive, with these two black guys at the bar who really know their Sinatra."
"Most of my customers have been coming here for over 20 years," confirms Rhonda Dungan, who owns and operates the establishment with her husband, Fred. "We have all kinds of people come in here, and we all get along wonderfully. Barry's great, and we'll try whatever it takes to get it together."
Donny Ray Ford will be at the Dallasite Club two upcoming Saturdays: September 13 and September 27.
Real rock remembered
Hot on the heels of Hightone Records' reissue of Mac Curtis' excellent mid-'70s collaboration with rockabilly fan and producer Rockin' Ronnie Weiser--a joint effort with Weiser's Rollin' Rock Records--comes Texabilly, a similarly conceived pairing of Weiser and essential cat music comet Johnny Carroll. A kid when he first burst upon the local scene with a series of hits for Decca, Phillips (of Sun Records fame), and several regional labels, Carroll's talent, frenetic stage presence, burning sincerity, and focus afterward reminded many of an artist who should have gotten a spot much higher up the rock 'n' roll ladder; Carroll converts mention with brio the 'E' word when making comparisons. Undeniably talented yet denied that lucky break, by the end of his life in 1995. Carroll seemed to have made some degree of peace with the music biz, pursuing a career in country that at times seemed a lot like a poorly tailored suit made out of very fine fabric.
The re-release of Texabilly proves that there was peace to be had through that compromise and that Carroll was born to make music regardless of genre: Who else but a true believer could have made such a true pilgrimage to the shrine of rockabilly back when the music itself was not just dead, but mouldering in its grave unmourned? Who else could've gone through the Stations of Gene Vincent with a heart pure enough to make the corpse get up and dance?
Texabilly reaffirms Carroll's soulful genius, but the whole emerging Hightone/Rollin' Rock series is a tribute to the man who believed in something enough to revel in being the loyal page, a knob-twiddling Sancho Panza to a string of black-leather Don Quixotes: Weiser himself. It was in a European flea market in the early '60s when Weiser--a native of Italy--stumbled upon his first vintage American rock records. They flipped his wig.
"It was hot rock from the wild, wild west," he recalls. "Unfettered and unchained, totally out of control. It was wild, man! Gene Vincent! People thought I was sort of strange because after that I was looking only for American music, all American music, but that was it for me! Nothing else!"
Weiser--who, when excited, sounds a bit like Ren Hoëk--embarked upon his quest, his grail defined simply. "If it rocks, that's it! I started finding out about all these people, and eventually I got around to Texas rockabilly and guys like Mac Curtis and Johnny Carroll." Weiser, whose devotion soon moved him from excited end-user to a role in the preservation--nay, resuscitation--of the music he loves, feels like the Lone Star State has a particularly potent vibe when it comes to rock 'n' roll.