For Your Weekend Listening Pleasure: Roky and the 13th Floor Elevators Were Sump'n Else
Bud Buschardt has spent the last several years writing a book I've always wanted to read: a history of the Sump'n Else show, the Ron Chapman-hosted rock-and-roll dance party shot at NorthPark Center that aired on WFAA from September 1965 till January 1968 and featured performances from the likes of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, the Monkees, Sonny and Cher, Herman's Hermits, Mouse & the Traps, Paul Revere & the Raiders and, most legendarily, Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators. It was Dallas's American Bandstand but much more -- a daily don't-miss, an influence on countless kids to whom it introduced the homegrown good stuff and the faraway far-out.
Buschardt had been asked to write an "academic" history-of Sump'n Else, a sort of treatise on Bandstand-type shows, but wound up with something too entertaining for his original publisher, who'd hoped for a 2010 on-shelf date. He says others are interested, sooner than later. And not a moment too soon: At the moment, the show exists more as myth and memory: Save for the videos we posted last night, and some keepsakes preserved on the recently launched Facebook page, most of the show was erased moments after it aired.
"We had two week's worth of tapes," Buschardt, a longtime RTVF prof at UNT, told me late yesterday. "We would take one week's tape, critique the shows, then recycle the tapes to use the next week. We always had a week we could watch, but when the show went off the air, well, a guy there [at WFAA] didn't like Chapman and made sure each of the tapes was erased."
But Buschardt kept plenty, turns out -- a list of every record that was played, ever band that performed, every commercial that aired. He has the entirety of the final episode that aired in January 1968: "an experimental show," he says, a light-show dance-party freakout featuring the music of Jimi Hendrix and the Doors, among others, which is presently in the process of being restored. So too is a collection of live recordings Buschardt kept of bands who played Sump'n Else. The video may be gone, but the audio lasts. Which is why I called Buschardt in the first place.
Yesterday I came across something I never knew existed: every single song Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators played on Sump'n Else, posted to the History of the Underground Recording Industry website a few weeks ago. And it's not just one episode, but two shows on which the band appeared in 1966: March 25 and May 9. I knew there was no video. But ... audio of the band and Chapman? My old friend Keven McAlester, who made the invaluable doc about Roky, told me Friday those were previously available on some boots and had come from the collection of one Bud Buschardt.
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Yup, said Bud: All the bands that played Sump'n Else were caught on cart, and he'd take the tapes from the NorthPark studio to WFAA HQ downtown to make transfers. Which is why, in places, the recordings sound a little "too fast," as one fan writes. Carts weren't exactly top-notch technology. Buschardt says actually he licensed those recordings years ago to Sundazed, which released them as part of the Psychedelic Microdots, Vol. 2: Texas Twisted collection, now long out-of-print.
"The Elevators were one of our house bands," Buschardt says. "Their equipment was really cruddy. Sometimes their tubes weren't working, and Bob Cardenas would take them down to the drugstore in NorthPark so they could fix them. But I remember: A promotions man came in and gave us the record, 'You're Gonna Miss Me,' and said, 'This is a hot group out of Austin.' Bob Cardenas would play it every two and a half minutes, over and over. And when it opened the movie High Fidelity, we said: 'From our little show to the big screen.'"
Roky, for those who haven't seen him in a while, has never looked or sounded better; see for yourself on September 30, when he plays the Kessler, a don't-can't-shouldn't-miss. Or buy True Love Cast Out All Evil, his most recent record, done with Okkervil River. Really, buy anything and everything of Roky's -- beginning with I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology and the soundtrack to Keven's movie.