Ponty Bone 1939-2018

photo by Scott Newton

The folks here at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the death on Friday of singer/accordionist Ponty Bone, an Austin institution. He was 78. He appeared on ACL with Joe Ely in 1980 and 1996, with Jimmie Dale Gilmore in 1992 and with his own showcase in 1987 as part of Season 12’s Squeezebox Special.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Harry DePonta Bone began accordion lessons when he was five years old. Moving to Lubbock in the sixties to attend Texas Tech, he became part of the beloved “Lubbock Mafia,” taking Texas music by storm alongside Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Tommy Hancock and the other West Texas luminaries who resisted any idea of musical categories. Bone moved to Austin in 1980 as part of the Joe Ely Band, he formed the Squeezetones a couple of years later, recording several albums while continuing to work as a sideman for Ely, Gilmore and Christine Albert on her landmark LP Texafrance. His output slowed down in recent years as his health declined, but his spirit never surrendered.

Well-versed in conjunto, zydeco, polka and any other kind of music that required an accordion, Ponty Bone never failed to bring the party whenever he stepped onstage. Here he is from the Squeezebox Special with “a little thing that represents my personal philosophy in life,” “Easy As Pie.”  

R.I.P. Sammy Allred of the Geezinslaw Brothers

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of the death of Sammy Allred, Austin radio DJ and one half of ACL three-timers the Geezinslaw Brothers. He was 84.

As noted in the May 10 Austin Chronicle, the Geezinslaws were one of “Austin’s first breakout acts,” with a career going back to the fifties and stints on the Louisiana Hayride with Elvis Presley. Allred and Dewayne “Son” Smith released twelve albums over the course of forty-plus years, starting in 1963 with The Kooky World of the Geezinslaw Brothers and concluding with 2005’s Eclectic Horseman. The duo scored via tunes like “Five Dollar Fine,” “I Wish I Had a Job to Shove,” “Help I’m White and I Can’t Get Down” and unique takes on classic tunes like the Eagles’ “Take It to the Limit” and Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Besides ACL, the band appeared on The Tonight Show, The Smothers Brothers Show and The Roger Miller Show. Meanwhile, Allred’s work in Austin radio spanned decades, including a long stint on KVET-AM that proved both contentious and beloved.

“To really appreciate Sammy Allred, you had to have a slightly – maybe very – warped sense of humor, which is probably why I considered him my favorite DJ of all,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “He also came to be a good friend in later years, and we had many laughs together. His on-air persona stirred some controversy, but as he often said, ‘That’s just a character’ (think: Stephen Colbert back in the day). As for the Geezinslaws, their fans loved them dearly, and there were many of them – in Austin and far beyond. They did their part to ‘Keep Austin Weird’ before it became a ubiquitous slogan. To borrow one of his favorite expressions (stolen from Fatty Arbuckle), ‘Choo-choo bug, Sammy…and goodnight, nurse.'”

Allred and the Geezinslaws appeared on ACL in 1982, 1986 and 1989. Here they are doing their distinctive version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

R.I.P. Tony Kinman of Rank & File

Tony Kinman for blog

Austin City Limits was sad to learn of the death May 3 of singer/songwriter/bassist Tony Kinman of Rank & File, the pioneering alt.country band who appeared on the show in 1983. He was 62.

Along with his guitarist brother Chip, Tony Kinman formed the Dils, one of America’s first punk rock bands, in 1977 in Carlsbad, California and based in San Francisco. After the Dils ended, the Kinmans moved to Austin, Texas, picked up then-local guitarist Alejandro Escovedo, and formed Rank & File, one of the first groups of ex-punks to explore country music and what would later be called Americana. The band’s 1982 debut Sundown, released on pioneering indie label Slash, is now considered a classic forerunner of the alt.country/No Depression wave in the nineties. Following R&F’s three-album run, the Kinmans became Blackbird, a noise pop duo indebted to the Jesus & Mary Chain. The brothers shifted gears later in the nineties to Cowboy Nation, an acoustic duo that performed old cowboy ballads and originals in a similar vein. Throughout the brothers’ career, Tony’s rock-solid bass playing and distinctive baritone voice were the anchor of all the Kinmans’ musical endeavors.

Tony’s most recent work was producing the debut album by Chip’s latest band Ford Madox Ford. He died of cancer in hospice in his home of San Diego, surrounded by family and friends. Our hearts go out to his loved ones and we hope he rests in peace.

Below is Rank & File performing “Amanda Ruth,” a song some felt was the quintessential Tony song and performance.

R.I.P. Charles Neville

photo by Scott Newton

We at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the death of Charles Neville of pancreatic cancer at age 79. The second oldest of the Neville Brothers, Charles appeared on the show with his siblings three times, in 1979, 1986 and 1995. The sax-wielding New Orleans native began his career backing various New Orleans-based R&B acts, before enlisting in the Navy. Upon release, he joined songwriter Larry Williams’ band before moving to New York, gigging constantly and building his jazz chops. He returned to New Orleans in the mid-70s at the behest of his uncle, Big Chief Jolly of the Wild Tchoupitoulas, to form the Neville Brothers with Aaron, Art and Cyril. Acclaimed albums like Fire On the Bayou and Yellow Moon and many celebrated tours and performances followed. The Brothers dissolved as a unit in 2012, but by then the Massachusetts-based Charles had already established himself as a jazz artist, as well as leading the New England Nevilles with his sons.

“Charles Neville was ‘the horn man’ ​in The Neville Brothers,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “​Each of the four brothers had their own distinct sound, but Charles, with his saxophone, brought a uni​que energy to what was to become one of the most popular and influential bands ever to emerge from the New Orleans music scene. ​They were one of the first acts I booked in my first year as ACL Producer, and we were honored to induct them into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame last year.”

Here are Charles and his brothers performing “Yellow Moon,” with his snaky sax giving one of the Nevilles’ most famous songs its signature sonic stamp.

Fats Domino 1928-2017

photo by Scott Newton

We here at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the death of rock & roll pioneer Fats Domino on October 24 at the age of 89. The ivory-tickling New Orleans icon appeared in a hour-long, hits-packed 1987 episode of ACL.

Antoine “Fats” Domino was born in 1928 in the Big Easy to a French Creole family – Louisiana Creole French was his first language. He learned to play piano from his jazz musician brother-in-law, joining bandleader Billy Diamond’s group in 1947. (Diamond bestowed the nickname “Fats” on the young musician in tribute to Fats Waller.) Fats released “The Fat Man,” his first single, in 1949 – a million-selling song that pioneered rock & roll before the term even existed. Fats went on to score 37 top 40 singles, including such immortal classics as “Blue Monday,” “I’m Walkin’,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” “I Hear You Knockin’,” “Walkin’ to New Orleans” and his version of the Gene Autry/Louis Armstrong standard “Blueberry Hill,” his bestselling and highest-charting song. As with many of the original rockers, his chart career waned after the British Invasion, but he continued to record and tour into the 1980s. By the end of that decade, he decided that he would no longer leave his hometown, claiming he couldn’t find any food he liked on the road – not even induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or an invitation to perform at the White House could change his mind. Like far too many others, he was forced to leave New Orleans after Katrina flooded his home, but he returned as soon as he could, remaining a fixture until Father Time did what Mother Nature could not.

Here is Fats doing “Blue Monday” on ACL in 1987.  

And “Blueberry Hill,” possibly his signature song in a catalog full of candidates, from the same show.

Don Williams R.I.P.

photo by Scott Newton

We here at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the death of country singer Don Williams at the age of 78.

Blessed with a smooth baritone and an imposing build, the Gentle Giant of country music became a potent force in the genre when his first single, 1974’s “We Should Be Together,” hit the top five on the country charts. When “I Wouldn’t Want to Live If You Didn’t Love Me” hit number one, it kicked off a string of top ten hits that lasted until 1991. Forty-two of his forty-six singles went top 10 – a remarkable feat in any genre of music. One of his biggest hits, “I Believe in You,” crossed over to the pop charts at #24. Possibly his signature song, “Tulsa Time” won the Academy of Country Music’s Single of the Year Award in 1978, the same year he was named Male Vocalist of the Year. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Williams appeared twice on ACL, in 1980 and 1983. Here he is doing “Tulsa Time” from 1983.  

R.I.P. Glen Campbell

photo by Scott Newton

We at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the death of country pop great Glen Campbell at age 81.

The Arkansas native began his career as a first-call session guitarist in Los Angeles, playing as part of the infamous Wrecking Crew and adding licks to a staggering array of hits records: the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” and singles by everyone from Jan & Dean and the Monkees to Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole. In 1964, he subbed for the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson on tour and in 1967 sang uncredited lead vocals for the cult sunshine pop group Sagittarius.

Campbell scored his first solo hit on the country charts in 1966 with “Burning Bridges,” but it was in 1967 that he became a household name with “Gentle On My Mind.” He followed that with even bigger hits, forging a special bond with songwriter Jimmy Webb via “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Galveston,” “Where’s the Playground Susie” and “Wichita Lineman,” which became his signature song. He parlayed his musical stardom into a major acting gig in the 1969 John Wayne vehicle True Grit, for which he also performed the title tune, and the host job on the popular TV show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour from 1969-1972.

Refocusing on music, Campbell earned some of his biggest hits in the 1970s, including the #1 pop smashes “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights” and the top 20 hit “Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.).” While his pop stardom faded, he remained a major force on the country charts for years, also expanding into gospel and Christian music. In 2008, he released Meet Glen Campbell, an album featuring covers of songs by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, the Replacements, Green Day and the Foo Fighters. His 2010 follow-up Ghost On the Canvas followed a similar vein, and was intended as a farewell LP. But his 2011 diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease led him to one final album (Adios, recorded in 2012-13 but released in 2017), a farewell tour and a documentary, 2014’s award-winning Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. His final recording, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” was released in 2014, by which time he was living in a Nashville memory care facility. He died in Nashville on August 8, 2017.

Campbell appeared on Austin City Limits during Season 10 in 1985. Here he is on the show performing his signature hit “Wichita Lineman.”

R.I.P. Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman performs on ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2011

Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of the death of Gregg Allman from liver cancer on May 27, 2017 at the age of 69. The singer, songwriter, keyboardist and guitarist appeared on ACL with the Allman Brothers Band in 1996.

Though born in Nashville, Allman came of musical age in Florida in the mid-sixties, forming the Allman Joys with his guitarist brother Duane. The Joys evolved into the Hour Glass, which in turn morphed into the Allman Brothers Band. Based out of Macon, Georgia, the Allmans used their instrumental firepower and improvisational spirit to push the blues further than it had ever gone before. After Duane died in 1971, Gregg continued with the band, but also began striking out on his own, recording several LPS over the years both solo and with the Gregg Allman Band, and scoring hits with “Midnight Rider” (originally recorded by the Allmans) and “I’m No Angel.” He continued touring with the Allman Brothers Band until its dissolution in 2014.

In 2011 Allman released Low Country Blues and received a lifetime achievement award from the Americana Music Association. The next year saw the publication of his memoir My Cross to Bear. Before his death, Allman completed the Don Was-produced album Southern Blood, scheduled for release later this year. As he wrote in his book, “Music is my life’s blood. I love music, I love to play good music, and I love to play music for people who appreciate it. And when it’s all said and done, I’ll go to my grave and my brother will greet me, saying, ‘Nice work, little brother—you did all right.’ I must have said this a million times, but if I died today, I have had me a blast.”

Below, the Allman Brothers Band performs Gregg’s signature song “Midnight Rider” during Season 21 of the show in 1996.