A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 26, 2007
Redneck Rock (Progressive Country)

The music produced in Austin in the 1970s (mostly at the famed Armadillo World Headquarters, or at Willie Nelson’s concerts) was a mixture of many styles, including country and rock. Jan Reid’s article in the November 1973 Texas Monthly, “The Coming of Redneck Hip,” and his 1974 book, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock, popularized (and probably coined) the term “redneck rock.” The term “progressive country” was used by at least July 1973 for the same type of music.


Handbook of Texas Online
ARMADILLO WORLD HEADQUARTERS. During the 1970s the Armadillo World Headquarters, a concert hall in Austin, became the focus of a musical renaissance that made the city a nationally recognized music capital. Launched in a converted national guard armory by a group of local music entrepreneurs, the “Armadillo” provided a large and increasingly sophisticated alternative venue to the municipal auditorium across the street. This venture, which capped several years of searching by young musicians and artists to find a place of their own, reflected the emergence nationwide of a counterculture of alternative forms of music, art, and modes of living. The name Armadillo World Headquarters evoked both a cosmic consciousness and the image of a peaceable native critter, the armadillo,qv often seen on Texas highways as the victim of high-speed technology.

The Armadillo opened its doors in August 1970, and quickly became the focus for much of the city’s musical life. With an eventual capacity of 1,500, the hall featured a varied fare of blues, rock, jazz, folk, and country music in an informal, open atmosphere. By being able to host such top touring acts as Frank Zappa, the Pointer Sisters, Bruce Springsteen, and the Grateful Dead, the Armadillo brought to Austin a variety of musical groups that smaller clubs or other local entities might never have booked. Since outstanding local or regional artists often opened these shows, the Armadillo also gave vital exposure to such future stars as Joe Ely, Marcia Ball, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The Armadillo’s eclectic concert calendar brought together different, sometimes disparate, sectors of the community. The most dramatic fusion mixed traditional country-music culture with that of urban blues and rock to produce a Texas hybrid character known as the “cosmic cowboy” and a hybrid music called “progressive country” (sometimes referred to as “redneck rock"). The acknowledged godfather of this movement was singer-songwriter Willie Nelson, who made his Armadillo debut in 1972.

Amazon.com
The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock: New Edition (Jack and Doris Smothers Series in Texas History, Life, and Culture) (Hardcover)
by Jan Reid (Author), Scott Newton (Photographer)

Book Description
Musical magic hit Austin, Texas, in the early 1970s. At now-legendary venues such as Threadgill’s, Vulcan Gas Company, and the Armadillo World Headquarters, a host of country, rock-and-roll, blues, and folk musicians came together and created a sound and a scene that Jan Reid vividly detailed in his 1974 book, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock.

The breadth of talent still astounds—Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin, Jerry Jeff Walker, Doug Sahm, Delbert McClinton, Michael Martin Murphey, Willis Alan Ramsey, Kinky Friedman, Steve Fromholz, Bobby Bridger, Billy Joe Shaver, Marcia Ball, and Townes Van Zandt. Reid’s book even inspired the nationally popular and long-running PBS series Austin City Limits, which focused attention on the trends that fed the music scene—progressive country, country rock, western swing, blues, and bluegrass among them.

In this new edition, Jan Reid revitalizes his classic look at the Austin music scene. He has substantially reworked the early chapters to include musicians and musical currents from other parts of Texas that significantly contributed to the delightful convergence of popular cultures in Austin. Four new chapters and an epilogue show how the creative burst of the seventies directly spawned a new generation of talents who carry on the tradition—Lyle Lovett, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, Jimmy LaFave, Kelly Willis, Joe Ely, Bruce and Charlie Robison, and The Dixie Chicks.

About the Author
JAN REID, of Austin, Texas, is the author or coauthor of six books, including The Bullet Meant for Me: A Memoir. He is a founding contributor and writer-at-large for Texas Monthly and has also written for Esquire, the New York Times, Men’s Journal, GQ, and Slate. SCOTT NEWTON has been the still photographer for Austin City Limits for the last twenty-five years.

Product Details
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: University of Texas Press; New edition (March 1, 2004)

(OCLC WorldCat record)
The improbable rise of redneck rock /
Author: Reid, Jan.
Publication: New York : Da Capo Press, 1974

22 July 1973, New York (NY) Times, “It’s So ‘Progressive’ in Texas” by Patrick Carr, pg. 97:
The term “progressive country” can now be re-defined as “Willie Nelson’s friends.”

Texas Monthly (November 1973)
The Coming of Redneck Hip
Rock and Country music met in Austin. That friendship may make the state.
by Jan Reid and Don Roth

AUSTIN’S NUMBER ONE, LONG-HAIR, honky-tonk, Armadillo World Headquarters, always draws a crowd Saturday night. The Armadillo, an abandoned armory adjacent to a skating rink, has already attracted its share of myth, mystique, and tall tales. Its concrete floors temper the urge to dance with the fear of shin splints, its walls bear some artwork of modest inspiration, and there is apparently no way to air-condition the damn thing. However, the Armadillo has a license to sell beer, some pretty fair food for sale, surprisingly good acoustics, and for the heat-exhausted, an outdoor beer garden. And most important to the faithful who part with their money one Saturday night after another, Armadillo offers some of the best live music in the country.

Getting things started the night of April 7 was Whistler, Austin’s first country-rock band, together again for the first time in nearly two years. They got a ...

24 February 1974, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Following the Sun” by Bob St. John, section B, pg. 4:
His music is country and yet something more. It’s pop and sometimes rock, too. I suppose it’s Progressive Country, though Willie (Nelson—ed.) says you shouldn’t label music this or that.

11 May 1974, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Music Hall to Feature Willie Nelson,” section AA, pg. 10:
Willie Nelson will headline a progressive country music show 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Music Hall.

Also appearing on the show will be Michael Murphey, Billy Joe Shaver and Ray Wylie Hubbard.

5 June 1974, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Jennings Meets Friends, Fans” by Connie Hershorn, section B, pg. 9:
THE MUSIC Saturday was a fine example of what is becoming known as Austin music—progressive country combined with rock.

11 July 1974, Amarillo (TX) Globe-Times, “Willie Nelson Festival Victim of Too Much Promotion,” pg. 10, col. 1:
Marsha Ball is the lead singer of Freda & the Firedogs, which along with Greezy Wheels, The Ewing Street TImes and Alvin Crow & the Neon Angels, comprise the most popular of Austin’s “house bands,” the bands that play the progressive country music that someone recently dubbed “Redneck Rock.”

17 July 1974, Amarillo (TX) Globe-Times, “‘Redneck Rock’ Musicians Find a New Home in Austin,” pg. 3, cols. 2-4:
The state capital—home of politicians and bureaucrats—also is the home of the original “cosmic cowboy”—the long-haired performer who is digging for his Texas roots, and is finding them in a mutation of country music.

Their music is country, but not country like their parents know it. The tempo is raunchy—an offshoot of rock ‘n roll—and, instead of the old romanticism, the lyrics embrace much of the so-called “consciousness” of the youth culture.

It’s called “redneck rock,” “progressive country” or even “permissive country” by the hard core country-western music fans. 

16 February 1975, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Progressive C&W: Book Chronicles ‘Redneck Rock’ by Dave McNeeley, section C, pg. 4 photo caption:
Jan Reid and Melinda Wickman...There are some who say that the new breed of Texas musicians aren’t rednecks and don’t play rock, but “The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock” outlines the recent evolution of progressive country music.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Monday, November 26, 2007 • Permalink