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Roxy Gordon




Tu Gah Juk Juk Ka Na Hok Sheena

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Crazy Horse Never Died New Re-Issue/Release

From Paradise of Bachelors Records

The ten songs on Crazy Horse Never Died, his first officially released and distributed album, were recorded in Dallas in 1988. “Songs” is perhaps an imprecise taxonomy for what Roxy captured on this and his other albums, all of which remain out of print or were released in instantly obscure limited editions of homebrew cassettes and CD-R’s. (Paradise of Bachelors plans to reissue remastered, expanded editions of his catalog; Crazy Horse is the first.)

Crazy Horse Never Died comprises songs that span the personal and political arcs of his writing practice and the poles of his native and white ancestries. His introduction to the almost-title track in the strikingly illustrated poetry chapbook supplement to the album (included in the LP edition of the reissue and also available for purchase separately) draws explicit parallels between the oppression and displacement of Palestinians by Zionists and the similar treatment of Native Americans by Europeans, justifying the historical necessity of resistance to racist imperialism through terrorism.

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Rare Breed and Dove's Feet: First Coyote Boy Resurrects Crazy Horse in Dallas

by Brendan Greaves

Everything is very, very strange. At the time of writing, a debate still rages about the legality and morality of separating the children of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers from their parents while in detention at facilities near the U.S.–Mexico border, and, appallingly, whether to extend due process to “illegal” immigrants to the United States at all. Through 2016 and 2017, the widespread (and ultimately unsuccessful) protests at Standing Rock and beyond to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which Sioux and Meskwaki tribal leaders asserted would threaten both sacred sites and local water quality, galvanized and united indigenous peoples alike across North America and beyond. I can only assume that these persistent issues—how our government fails to respect the civil rights of the country’s natives and newcomers alike—will continue to hang thick in the air like sickly, crooked smoke. These are old stories, recursive but still raw.

In 1988, the Texan and American Indian poet, multimedia artist, activist, and musician Roxy Gordon released a song called “An Open Letter to Illegal Aliens” on his debut solo album Crazy Horse Never Died (technically his second full-length recording, following Unfinished Business [1985], but the first to see proper release and distribution). The LP was one of a clutch released by the tiny independent UK-based label Sunstorm, which was named for a 1985 album also called Sunstorm, by singer-songwriter (and sometime Sunstorm artist) John Stewart, who in a weird twist of pop history, was both a member of the anodyne folk revival group the Kingston Trio and also wrote the Monkees’ 1967 hit “Daydream Believer.” Peter O’Brien, fellow poet and songwriter as well as editor and publisher of the legendary, small circulation British music magazine Omaha Rainbow, for which Gordon wrote many beguilingly digressive essays and album reviews—mostly about nominally country and western artists circulating in so-called “outlaw” circles—from the late 1970s through the late 1980s, was instrumental in founding Sunstorm, and funding, producing, and releasing his friend’s recordings of his extraordinary, distinctive songs.

“Songs” is perhaps an imprecise taxonomy for what Roxy recorded on this album and scattered others, all of which remain out of print or were released in instantly obscure limited editions of homebrew cassettes and CD-R’s. (Paradise of Bachelors plans to reissue remastered, expanded editions of his catalog; Crazy Horse is the first.) Gordon was above all a storyteller, known primarily as a writer of inimitable style and unvarnished candor, whose wide-ranging work encompassed poetry, short fiction, essays, memoirs, journalism, and criticism. He only occasionally attempted to sing, and his musical recordings are primarily corollaries of, and vehicles for, his texts. His sharp West Texan drawl, tinged by formative years of reservation living and unmistakable once you hear it—nasally, high, lonesome, flat, and cold-blooded as a bare rusty blade—instead patiently unfurls in skewed sheets of anecdotal verse and discursive narrative rants. Like some Lone Star avatar of the Fall’s Mark E. Smith or Jamaican DJ U-Roy, only less traditionally rhythmically inclined, you get the sense he might say anything next, or might keep talking forever from some febrile place outside himself, carried along by the inexorable current of his own peculiar cadence, its dry heat. The shallow modulation of Gordon’s speaking voice suggests deep, expectant distances, monotonous drives toward the broad horizons and through the crazed, sun-harshed sepia landscapes of West Texas, where you can see the gray seams of storm clouds and rain columns miles away across the seemingly boundless flatlands but may never meet their wind or wet. (Relatively concise on record, during performances the pieces could go on for ten minutes or longer.) I find Roxy’s voice—the sometimes unlovely, piercing sound of it, its grim humor, and its bemusement about our shared culpability and onrushing mortality—arrestingly strange and singularly moving.

Gordon cultivated close friendships with fellow Texan songwriters such as Lubbockites Terry Allen, Butch Hancock, and Tommy X. Hancock, as well as Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver, and, most famously, Townes Van Zandt. (Gordon was precisely one year younger and died almost exactly three years to the day later than Townes; drinking buddies, partners in crime, and, sadly, mutual enablers, they called each other brother, and so they were.) For a while Roxy and his wife Judy published a country music magazine called Picking Up the Tempo, and for another while, they operated a small publishing company called Wowapi Press. He moved in diverse circles, Indian, white, and beyond. (Smaller Circles [1997] is the title of his most widely known album, produced by and featuring his friend, British musician Wes McGhee.) He did time managing a Dallas office for and touring with David Allan Coe.

Although Gordon’s music at times incorporated powwow style drumming, fiddling (in the great tradition of Choctaw fiddlers), or unaccompanied ballad singing, the majority of it hews to an idiosyncratic spoken word style, accompanied by atmospheric, sometimes synth-damaged country-rock that skirts ambient textures and postpunk deconstructions. His songs are essentially recitations over backing tracks of fingerpicked guitars, rubbery washtub bass, and buzzing, oscillating keyboards. On the stark yellow and red jacket of Crazy Horse, which he designed himself, Gordon describes these recordings as innately ambivalent in terms of form, content, and identity:

These are poems and/or songs about the American West, white and Indian. My life has been Indian and/or white. Maybe there’s not a lot of difference—maybe. I guess that’s mostly according to which white person or which Indian you’re talking about. That’s probably what this album’s about.

Here is the Indian and/or white life we’re talking about: Roxy Lee Gordon was born to Robnette L. (Bob) and Louise (Bomar) Gordon on March 7, 1945, in Ballinger, Texas, an only child of the American West (though, like Elvis Presley, he apparently had a twin brother who died at birth). He grew up in rural Coleman County, on the fringes of Talpa, about fifty-five miles, or an hour’s drive, due south of Abilene, in the heart of West Central Texas. His mother and grandfather were both musicians, and Roxy took up guitar as a teenager (later he played drums too) before moving to Austin to attend the University of Texas, where he edited the student literary magazine Riata. Gordon identified his ancestry as mixed Choctaw and Scottish—or half Choctaw, half Texan—and in the late 1960s, a few years after marrying Judy Nell Hoffman in 1964, the young couple moved into a one-room log cabin in Lodge Pole, Montana, on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, immersing themselves in the Assiniboine (Nakota) and Gros Ventre (A’aninin) communities there. Gordon assessed the rather radical decision with characteristic laconism: “Born Choctaw, not knowing much about the rest of Indian America, I wanted to find out. Finding out started then.” During their time in Lodge Pole the Gordons published Fort Belknap Notes, a weekly newsletter about reservation life.

After leaving Montana, they embraced an itinerant bohemian lifestyle, with spells in San Diego, where Roxy briefly studied at Cal Tech, met Jim Morrison of the Doors, and befriended novelist Richard Brautigan, poet Robert Creeley, and actor Rip Torn; outside Albuquerque, where they founded Picking Up the Tempo and Wowapi Press while Roxy pursued journalistic endeavors; and, for two decades, from 1976 to 1997, in Dallas, a block off Lower Greenville Avenue. It was there that Roxy founded a local chapter of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and made most of his recordings (including Crazy Horse, with accomplices Brad Bradley, who arranged and engineered, on keyboard and guitar and visual artist and chili chef Frank X. Tolbert2 on washtub bass). He read his poems and performed regularly in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, throughout Texas, and further West, sharing stages with Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Ernest Tubb, and Erykah Badu, among many others. In 1991, at a traditional Sundance ceremony at Fort Belknap, Gordon was officially adopted by his old friends John and Minerva Allen into the Assiniboine tribe, taking the aptly tricksy name First Coyote Boy (Tu Gah Juk Juk Ka Na Hok Sheena) and thereby tethering his identity to a third homeland in addition to Texas and the ancestral lands of the Choctaw (which lie within what we now call the South—originally modern-day Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana—but which predate that designation and all others in European tongues).

The Gordons’ cluttered East Dallas home, brimming with art, artifacts, and books, and trussed with animal hides and bones (locals called it “the bone house”), proved more permanent than others, attracting a ragged and dedicated scene of artists, activists, poets, singers, seekers, and misfits from all over Texas, the nation, American Indian nations, and Britain, where Roxy had a cult following thanks to the support of O’Brien and McGhee. He became increasingly active in the movement to free AIM activist Leonard Peltier, organizing several fundraising concerts. His final years were spent back at his family’s homeplace in Talpa, where he and Judy returned in 1997 in part to care for his ailing mother and elderly grandmother. Roxy received visitors in a rickety, hand-built studio/campsite/sculptural environment that he called the House-Up, overlooking the Gordon property.

After a long struggle with cirrhosis of the liver, First Coyote Boy died on February 7, 2000, a month shy of his fifty-fifth birthday, beloved by his many allies and admirers, but underrecognized by the literary and musical establishments and doomed by his unquenchable addiction to alcohol. Judy passed away on July 10, 2022, survived by her two children with Roxy, John Calvin (“J.C.”) Gordon, who has assumed the role of archivist of his father’s legacy, and Quanah Parker Gordon, his father’s sometime accompanist on fiddle and drum.

He left a lot of work, most of it uncollected. Over the course of his career Gordon published six books (including the excellent, and perfectly titled, 1971 memoir Some Things I Did, about his Vietnam War-era stint volunteering for the antipoverty VISTA program in Colorado, right before he and Judy decamped to Montana) and hundreds of shorter texts—essays, short stories, poems, plays, reviews, artist profiles, creative nonfiction, and news items—in outlets ranging from Rolling Stone and The Village Voice to the Coleman Chronicle and Democrat-Voice. He recorded six albums, including, in addition to the three already mentioned, two live recordings (Live at 500 Café, Dallas and Kerrville Live) and the posthumously released 2001 studio album (and accompanying chapbook) Townes Asked Did Hank Williams Ever Write Anything as Good as Nothing, once again with his chief musical collaborator Wes McGhee. Although his work covered a vast array of topics exploring strata personal, local, global, and cosmic alike, Gordon’s primary subject as a writer, musician, and visual artist was always American Indian culture, specifically the ways it collided and coexisted with European American culture in the South and West—and within the context of his own life and braided identity.

Crazy Horse Never Died comprises songs that span the personal and political arcs of his writing practice and the poles of his native and white ancestries. Sometimes abrupt tonal and metaphorical shifts, discontinuities, and lacunae bely his seemingly plainspoken verse by amplifying the essential ambiguities of his understated and unpretentious poetry. (“Mostly it’s the spaces between things where I feel comfortable,” Roxy once wrote.) His introduction to the title track in the strikingly illustrated poetry chapbook supplement to the album, originally published separately in 1989 but sharing the same title and reproduced in this volume, draws explicit parallels between the oppression and displacement of Palestinians by Zionists and the similar treatment of Native Americans by Europeans, justifying the historical necessity of resistance to racist imperialism through terrorism. On “Junked Cars” he describes his sometimes lonely youth in Talpa amid the desolate landscape and the human wreckage of discarded material culture:

I spent my mysterious childhood

hunting human sign

over miles and miles

of empty

Texas West.

I hunted rusted tin cups and

broken bottles where adobe houses

melted and where dryland farmers’

deserted shacks moaned low in

summers’ winds ...

Junked cars were beautiful to me then

because they offered proof

of living human flesh.

“The Hanging of Black Jack Ketchum” and “The Texas Indian” confront the complexities and contradictions of Texas history and Gordon’s own family history, which included several Texas Rangers, infamous hunters of Indians and Mexicans. The frenetic, synth-spraying “Living Life as a Moving Target” and the chilling, sinister-sounding “Flying into Ann Arbor (Holding)” confront the complexities and contradictions of mortality, the blind forces that threaten and ravage us, collectively and individually, externally and internally. “The Western Edge” begins in Hollywood, at “Chuck Berry’s girlfriend’s house” (listen to how he savors and then spits out those words), and then careens amiably right off the continent, over the Pacific Ocean ledge. Stabs of sly humor such as heard here punctuate the album with winks of recognition. Jokes elicit laughter, and blood rises to smiling faces, revealing bloodlines. (In 1999, paraphrasing his acquaintance R.A. Lafferty, the singularly weird and wonderful Oklahoman author of the fictionalized Choctaw historical saga Okla Hannali [1972], Gordon wrote that “when two strange Indians met in the old times, if they each burst into laughter, then they’d know they were both Choctaw.”)

“I Used to Know an Assiniboine Girl,” the devastating, brokenhearted centerpiece of the record, tells a tragic, elliptical tale of domestic violence and a young woman’s governmental punishment for defending herself, all refracted through the narrator’s deep regret and sorrow as a spectator to her brutalization. As he bluntly explains in the spoken introduction, regardless of extenuating circumstances, “Indian girls up in Montana don’t beat up white guys and not expect to spend time in the penitentiary.” (And so it remains today, with the systemic abuse, murder, disenfranchisement, and incarceration of native women.) His voice audibly aches as he confronts how his own desire and inaction have implicated himself in her predicament, tracing her strength back to their people’s resistance to the iterative, genocidal violence perpetrated against them.

But I had another woman and I never said a word.

I kept all I wanted to myself.

So she came to spit at me, came to call

my name with fire,

offered actually to fight me with her fists.

And, my God, I loved her then; I looked

behind her brown eyes,

I saw a nation that’s gone born again.

I saw lean and screaming riders race for buffalo.

I saw a hundred-thousand free and haughty men.

“An Open Letter to Illegal Aliens” is just over three minutes long. It is both a dirge and an antiracist protest song. Gordon’s vocal cadence recalls the incandescent pitch of a fire and brimstone sermon, and the song itself resembles a pre–WWII recording of a gospel sermon, a genre popular in the 1920s and 1930s, with stars such as J. M. Gates of Atlanta, Georgia. Gordon sounds like an irreverent beatnik Choctaw incarnation of Hank Williams’s gospel persona Luke the Drifter, but funnier, more profane, and more menacing. As a church organ synth swells and recedes in waves, Gordon enumerates a litany of diseases—namely, capitalism, communism, materialism and money, Christianity, and Judaism—the “baggage” imported by European immigrants to “these American continents,” which had been doing “pretty well” for some forty thousand years before their arrival. They all “kill and steal,” and each has its own victims. This acid retort to conservative white America’s hysteria about immigration is, in the end, a rather compassionate and tolerant transposition. It’s the ideological baggage that is not welcome on “these American continents,” not those foreign human beings who bear it, who in Gordon’s estimation might be just “as native American as Crazy Horse” (note the lower case “n”), even if they do not behave that way. Introducing the song in the Crazy Horse Never Died chapbook, Gordon writes breathlessly that:

The overwhelming hypocrisy of a nation descended mostly from gangs of illegal alien thieves, which closes down its borders to latecomers (who themselves are mostly descended from the race that got stolen from) is so obvious that I swear I don’t know how it can get away with it.

In his 1984 essay “Breeds,” from the fine collection of the same name, he concludes with a note of hope:

The voices of these continents are not stilled because, for a few centuries, this land is overrun by human beings who cannot hear. Over years of cultural and racial genocide, over centuries of lies and misdirection, That Which Is still calls . . . and the old American blood in us listens.

Roxy’s friend and fellow poet-turned-musician Leonard Cohen had kind words for Breeds, writing: “It is strong. The word goes out. Can a change come on dove’s feet?”

Crazy Horse Never Died begins and ends with a typically equivocal response. The narrow howl of a single distant wolf opens the record with a summoning, a lonesome convocation. The final sound we hear on the album is a chorus of wolves, a pack’s howls massed and keening in an eerily prayerful farewell.

The smoke has gone up. The talk is over with. Only howling remains. Bestir that old American blood and listen.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina


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Writer/Poet/Musician/Artist/Indian Activist

Roxy Gordon was born in Ballinger, Texas and grew up in the small West Texas town of Talpa. He wrote about growing up

"I spent my mysterious childhood hunting human sign over miles and miles of empty Texas. I hunted rusted tin cups and broken bottles where adobe houses melted and where dryland farmers' deserted shacks moaned low in summer's wind. Junked cars were beautiful to me then, because they offered proof of living human flesh."

Roxy attended the University of Texas in Austin where he edited the official student literary magazine, Riata.  "Stayed at UT way too many years then went to the Fort Belknap Reservation in northern Montana. Born Choctaw, not knowing much about the rest of Indian America, I wanted to find out. Finding out started then. Assiniboine and Gros Ventre. One room log cabin in Lodge Pole, Montana. My wife, Judy, and I edited, published and produced the weekly reservation newsletter, Ft. Belknap Notes." Later, in July, 1991, he was adopted into the John and Minerva Allen family of the Assiniboine Indian tribe at the Fort Belknap Reservation. Of his Assiniboine family, Roxy wrote "I had known John and Minerva and their kids for over 20 years. Judy and I first went to live at Fort Belknap in the spring of 1968. John was on the Tribal Council and had been Tribal Chairman. Minerva was an educator and poet."

He was adopted and named at a traditional Assiniboine Sun­dance. (The Sundance is a major - perhaps the most important - cere­mony of plains Indian religion and culture.) He was named Tu Gah Juk Juk Ka Na Hok Sheena, meaning First Coyote Boy, First Boy because he was a bit older than Little John, John and Minerva's oldest birth son, and Coyote because he was from south of Montana and the Coyote is the animal of the South.

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As a writer, poet and musician, Roxy Gordon published over 250 pieces of writing in addition to many newspaper columns and book reviews. He had two books published: Some Things I Did and Breeds as well as dozens of poems and short stories appearing in anthologies of American lndian literature. He recorded five albums and self-published six books of poetry and short stories. He wrote articles for The Village VoiceRolling StoneCountry Music Magazine, and No Depression. He also co-wrote two plays with Choctaw author LeAnne Howe. Starting in 1980 and until his passing, Roxy performed hundreds of readings and concerts all over Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Oklahoma, and a few other states and performed fundraisers for the American Indian Movement. In the 1990s he attended dozens of college and school workshops and performances on writing and Native American Indian studies.

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Some Things I Did

From Montana to California to Texas

In 1969, Roxy and Judy moved to Oakland, California. Roxy wrote of the move "Judy and I had left the Montana res for San Diego where I attended a summer course in writing. One of the teachers was the now long suicided Richard Brautigan, an original Haight-Ashbury hippie, a digger who furnished food for wannabe hippie kids during the Summer of Love, and at that point, probably the most popular and best selling poet and prose writer in college-kid America. We became friends. He said come to San Francisco, didn't mention flowers in the hair. We had some fed money left from the res, planned to go home to Coleman County, but I had read Post Magazine about San Francisco and the Haight, so we figured to take detour."

In 1970, Roxy returned to Texas for an extended visit home with intentions to return to California. But on returning to California, Roxy wrote "At the end of the Texas year, we headed, tentatively, toward San Francisco to resume our previous position – this time, probably even in a better role because I had just published a book. But at the KOA campground in Santa Fe one night, I had a good long, serious talk with myself about the nature of true Stardom and we took off for El Paso, instead, where we spent five months starving, unrecognized, sitting at A&W Drive-ins and driving the streets to look at pretty Chicano girls."

His first book: Some Things I Did, published by Bill Wittliff of Encino Press, Austin, Texas.

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Some Things I Did

Book Review Excerpt by Steve Barthelme, The Texas Observer, March 17, 1972

There’s a touch of anarchism about a regional press issuing Roxy Gordon’s first book in the quiet blue matte finish of standard quality Texana.  But the disparity between the quiet traditional beauty of the book object and the mean beauty of Roxy Gordon’s mind is somehow pleasant – it, like the book itself, forces conflict which reminds you that you’re alive.  Some Things I Did doesn’t go out of its way to be easily assimilable, and that too is refreshing because so much of what is published today is very easy to assimilate, that is, understand, that also is, forget.

It is Roxy Gordon's gift, in Some Things I Did, to be self-conscious without being so terribly serious, to be narcissistic without being nauseating.  Add to that, the very personal way he describes his experience, and the intelligent, unique quality of his description, and you may well have the reason that Some Things I Did is worth reading and The Strawberry Statement is not.  In a time when everyone seems to have such a tight grip on the truth, it is refreshing, and rewarding, to read someone who does not, and who does not care, because it is only from such a person that anyone ever gets any good information, or any intelligent conversation. 

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Wasted Days, Wasted Nights?

(Not When You're Freddy Fender Making Hay) by ROXY GORDON

Originally published in Country Music, March 1976

The Statler Brothers were leaned up against a fence on Greg Garrison’s opulent Hidden Valley Horse Ranch, waiting camera call for the Dean Martin Christmas Special Garrison was making, when Freddy Fender finished his burrito breakfast and ambled over. Freddy faced them, leaning himself on his upended Fender guitar case. Country music was lightly discussed, “I didn’t even know what it was a year ago,” he said to the Statler Brothers, with only the slightest trace of a smile.

“Well, you sure wrung hell out of it,” one of the Statlers replied.

With Freddy’s first ABC album now approaching the one-million sales mark, his numerous TV appearances, and his criss-crossing the country almost every day for the concerts, which have largely replaced lower-paying club dates, the Statler was right enough.

I doubt if the Statler took what Freddy said about his new-found knowledge of country seriously, but in fact Freddy has no country bone to pick – as is obvious from the material he records. Freddy’s producer and general all around mentor, Huey Meaux, told me that Freddy hated “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” at first and refused to record it. Then there was “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” which has never been anything but a South Texas rock and roll song. Rock and roll – at least Freddy’s brand of rhythm and blues/rockabilly rock – has its roots planted firmly in country soil, though; and the night after he finished the Dean Martin filming, Freddy got himself to Alabama and laid down a purely country show to a packed house of decidedly non-progressive country fans at the brand new Ozark Civic Center – where he appeared on the grand-opening show. Backed by Mel Tillis’s band, he did his hits and a set of standard country that the crowd knew well and had no trouble recognizing.

The place determines the show, which might range from mostly Chicano material in Chicano situations, to classic rock in Austin, to Ozark, Alabama’s straight country. But whatever it is, Freddy can do it all. He’s packed a lot of all of it into his thirty-odd years, and he’s still going. Consider, for example, his schedule for the four days beginning early in the morning of Wednesday, November 26th, 1975, and ending at a similar dark hour during the night of Saturday, November 29th.

I found him in a strange little Hollywood photo studio just after midnight as the 26th began. He’d spend the day at the Dean Martin set, and he was waiting for the Country Music cover photo session. There had been some mix-up on the time, and Freddy, suffering from a cold, had been waiting three hours – not exactly patiently, perhaps, but persevering nonetheless. The session was accomplished, and Freddy left at some ungodly hour in the early morning.

Daylight found him at Garrison’s ranch, finishing the Dean Martin sessions all day.

That evening found Freddy Fender waiting – this time more patiently, talking to a Spanish-speaking doorman – at New York’s Kennedy Airport while Sam Herro, his road manager, tried to straighten out the numerous complications that day-to-day jet travel imposes on ticket procedures.

The following morning found Freddy Fender riding a rocking horse in a downpour in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

That evening, Freddy played his country concert in Ozark.

The next night, Freddy played the Ector County Coliseum in Odessa, Texas. He also played half the country night clubs in town.

The following night, Houston’s Latin World – a Chicano club – was treated to a performance by the one and only Freddy Fender.

This is the kind of pace that reduces most people who become stars to show business zombie. It is indeed strange to lose most of your normal touchstones to reality, the familiar environments that let you know who you are, and after four days of keeping Freddy Fender’s schedule, I was more or less non-existent. That day at Garrison’s ranch, I’d begun to realize what I was in for, and I started wondering about Freddy. I knew his biography well enough – his South Texas Chicano background, the early rock & roll success, the Penitentiary in Louisiana, the years of playing as a sideman while trying to make a living in the Chicano market, and finally, with seldom-seen suddenness, his rise to national and international stardom – but who was he? Had he lost himself in his schedule? It was Sam Herro, Freddy’s road manager, who supplied the answer, plus something more about the reasons behind Freddy’s appeal. “He hasn’t changed at all,” Sam said, “and that’s why people like him.”

Sam is right about Freddy’s reaction to star status. That morning at Greg Garrison’s ranch, Nick Donovan, who was coordinating Freddy’s visit, asked me to look after Freddy’s guitar while he went on some errand. Freddy decided to walk off somewhere while we were talking, and I picked up the guitar case. Freddy stopped and took it from me. “Let’s get started off the right way,” he said, “you don’t have to carry stuff for me.”

Greg Garrison is Dean Martin’s partner in production and he directs most of Martin’s projects. He has a great fancy for putting singers outside, miles from the nearest musician, and having them mouth their hits while taking part in some outdoorsy activity. He did Music Country U.S.A. a few years ago wherein Tom T. Hall and a lot of other country stars leaned on probably every fence at that ranch – and there are a lot of fences. He had Freddy leading a big white horse down the road singing “Secret Love,” and had him sit in a tree for one segment – while Ted Baxter’s TV girl friend (from the Mary Tyler Moore Show) sat backwards on a horse underneath. “And this guy,” I kept thinking, “is a genuine Texas rock & roll legend.” Of course, legendary status is rarely more than a pain in the ass to maintain – but I suspect that sitting in trees for national TV ain’t too much fun either. Freddy took it all with perfect grace. He did what he was told; he kept his cool – which is considerable. “He is a long-suffering man,” I said to Nick.

The next day, while he was still suffering from a by-now-worsening cold, the TV people and Macy’s put him on this giant, ridiculous rocking horse and sent him down Broadway in a pouring rain for the Thanksgiving Day parade. Dick Howard (his booking agency’s TV man) and I watched on a monitor inside an NBC trailer. Dick is a genuinely good human being (a rarity in agent-types, I expect) – an endless supply of good humor and concern. He paced and fretted about the rain, and finally walked a considerable distance in it to get Freddy an umbrella. He came back shaking his head. “The man is freezing uncontrollably on that horse.”

Freddy, completely soaked, was still shivering in the limousine on the way back to the hotel. “Everything happens to Freddy Fender,” he said, “and they ask me why I look so experienced.” He was smiling and laughing, in a good mood after going through what I’d figure to be one of the worst experiences possible.

When he fell through a hole in the stage at the Latin World, he found that funny too – part of the job – and kept singing while somebody lifted him out.

On the plane out of New York, bound for Ozark, he told me, “I just take things as they come.”

Later, while he slept, I leaned back in the jet seat to wonder if maybe he wasn’t taking things too much as they came – not defending his stance quite enough form the middle-of-the-road pop image that seems to be falling around him.

The next night, by the time he went on stage in Odessa, we’d already been drinking for hours. He’d broken a three-week wagon-ride, first because of his cold – and then just for the fun of it – and he was well enough along on stage to really get into his South Texas Elvis act (or maybe I was well enough along to see it). He rocked, gestured and crooned. I stood in the upper rows above stage and watched, drinking tequila out of a paper cup. Freddy was great and I began to formulate (drunkenly, I must confess) a piece of advice I planned to give him on parting at Houston. “Don’t let them make you too middle of the road,” I was going to say, “or too country. Keep that South Texas flash.” But that was before we spent the rest of the night getting drunker and wandering around Odessa – and before I really took the time to sort all those jet-fast impressions.

“Have you ever been to a Chicano dance?” Freddy wanted to know while we waited for the elevator at the Holiday Inn, on our way to the Latin World.

“Sure,” I said, and he wanted to know where.

“Texas. New Mexico. Southern Colorado,” I told him.

While gringos and Chicanos in all those places have lived separate lives (side by side), the cultural interchange is actually much greater than politicos on both sides sometimes choose to admit. Where I grew up in West Texas, Mexicans (a word both gringos and Chicanos used – and a word Freddy uses still, merely as a cultural and racial designation, not as any kind of political statement) and gringos went to school together, worked together, dated, and sometimes married each other. In New Mexico, social interchange has always been even more pronounced.

Music has crossed the gringo/Mexican line freely. A great portion of Mexican popular music was and is based on gringo-German polka. “Rancho Grande,” which Freddy performs on his first ABC album and as part of his show, was a favorite at gringo dances of the 30s and 40s. Both Mexican and gringo kids loved rock and roll when I was in high school, and in fact great coolness was owned by the gringo kid who spent a good portion of his time at Mexican rock and roll dances.

The Latin World was typical of a certain kind of Chicano dance hall – big, colorful, given to flashing lights. Slim Summers – who is the Freddy Fender concessionaire, marketing t-shirts, records, photos for autographs – delivered us to the front door where security guards escorted Freddy inside. Sometimes, Freddy told me, Chicano dances get a little weird for him; the crowds might hassle him for being a country star instead of a Latin music star. Rodriguez, Freddy said, won’t work Chicano places at all for that reason; nor will he speak Spanish around gringos. Two Chicanos speaking Spanish tend to make the gringo nervous in his ignorance of what they might be saying. Freddy thought that was probably a good enough idea, but nevertheless, he carried on Spanish conversations with anyone who spoke to him in Spanish. And in fact where Johnny Rodriguez is a Chicano who has become a country star, Freddy has become a Chicano country star. He said Puerto Ricans gave him clenched fist power salutes from the Macy’s parade audience.

I had expected a lot of Spanish-language material from Freddy at the Latin World. Instead, the pickup band was a gringo country band which made several onstage jokes (either from amazement that they were really there, I guess, or nervousness about the fact that Freddy did a country show). He spoke English from the bandstand. The crowd loved him. Girls actually rushed the dressing room door. One young man, who’d been turned away at the door three or four times, sawed his way through the ceiling.

Freddy is a compact, handsome young man whose looks in person seem to explain the kind of reaction he gets from young and not-so-young women, much better than do most of his published photos. He is younger-looking than his photos seem to portray him, and sleeker. Following his show, women wait in crowds for his autograph. They manage to get backstage and clump at the dressing room door. At the Latin Room, they grabbed at him and tore the buttons from the rhinestone and studded shirt-suits which have replaced his oft-photographed leisure-suit look. Sometimes he has to check into hotels under assumed names, and rarely can he have a barroom conversation uninterrupted. In Odessa, while a group of sweet young things shouted at the closed dressing room door, Freddy sat inside teasing the promoter’s mother – who must be about seventy – calling her “honey” and giving her light kisses on the cheek she’ll likely never forget.

Huey Meaux sat beside me in the dressing room while a crowd clustered around Freddy across the room. A nine-year-old Chicano kid sat a ways back, staring at Freddy. “Freddy will never stop doing Chicano places,” Huey said. “He owes them too much.” Huey motioned toward the kid. “And the kids, you know, need people to look up to.”

Huey is probably even more legendary in Texas than Freddy. He’s produced a number of big-time hits and he’s been responsible for most of the music that’s made the South Texas sound famous. He’s done B.J. Thomas, and he presented Doug Sahm with the only major success that Doug’s yet had. Freddy told me that Huey picked the material he records. Thinking still of my Odessa tequila revelations, I asked Huey about his choice of material. Huey told me in that incredible, musical, Cajun accent of his, “I like the funkier stuff, but you have to do what sells.”

By explanation, he said he preferred his own label’s Latin and rock version of Freddy to the smoothed-down ABC version. But that was only his personal taste – and Freddy’s as well. The next album would be funkier – a return to funk after the MOR of the Are You Ready For Freddy? album. And there were plans for a live duet album with Doug Sahm.

“You should see the magic of those two together on stage,” Huey said. “They been brothers so long.”

It was, I think, the fact that Doug dedicated his recording of “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” to Freddy which began the whole new interest in Freddy. “You know what’s ironic,” Freddy told me, “people in Texas have been hearing my voice on the radio for twenty years and suddenly all this.”

“We helped each other, brother,” Huey said. Freddy came to him a few years ago. “Man, I couldn’t believe it. I’d heard that voice on the radio for years. I’d just got out of the penitentiary and I was bitter. Freddy, he didn’t have anything going. Man, all we had was each other.”

Huey and I watched Freddy smile for a series of Instamatic and Polaroid shots, usually with his arm around a broadly smiling woman. “That’s what’s so good about him,” Huey said. “He’s been through so much, man, he’s practical, you know? He knows how to get the job done.”

Freddy talked to me about drinking. He told me about a couple of times when he got so drunk he fell down on stage – and kept playing while they hauled him away. He laughed, then he grew more serious. “That was when I was playing for nothing. Now I have to be more responsible,” he said.

After the show in Odessa, Freddy, Sam and I made it from one club featuring awful bands to another; Sam drinking his Cutty and water, Freddy and I drinking tequila. At each place, Freddy was duly called to sit in, and at each place he duly did, giving them a show each time; each time he shook hands and signed autographs (he must have signed hundreds of them during those four days). After the bars closed, Sam went to sleep at the hotel, but Freddy and I went to a little hole in the wall afterhours place where Freddy once again climbed on stage at the band’s call. That night, with a pre-dawn flight to Houston scheduled, we roared until pre-dawn.

After an hour’s sleep, I was awakened by a pounding on my door. It was Freddy, looking about like I felt but still, amazingly, on the ball.

“It’s not my idea, brother,” he said – meaning that such an early departure after such a late night was Sam’s doing, not his.

Now Sam Herro is a good man – a club owner from Corpus Christi who booked Freddy before Freddy made it, and is, like Huey and the other people around Freddy, a vastly intelligent man. Freddy’s ironic success after twenty years is owed in no small part to Huey and Sam and the rest of them. But it was, after all, Freddy who went to Huey and Freddy who fired Sam.

Both Freddy and I got drunk again in Houston, ending up at nearly dawn again – this time in the Holiday Inn coffee shop, since nothing else was open. I overslept, missing my plane home, but, by some miracle of standby on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, got one a little later. Hung over again, I thought about Freddy that morning in Odessa and realized that was the only time he didn’t tell me the complete truth – and in my pain that morning, I forgave him out of our mutual pain of that previous morning. Freddy’s not about to miss any flights (travelwise or otherwise) that he has to make. He hasn’t lost any flash at all; he’s just gained enough experience to know what he wants.

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Roxy Gordon

By Robert Trammell (From Hot Flashes #2 - January 1986)

The first time I met Roxy was when he & I were doing a reading together at 500 Exposition about 5 years ago.  That night he read a longish poem “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night, Alive As You Or Me,” a real angry, hostile bit of writing & I assumed that was who Roxy was.  I was prepared not to like him.  That was stupid of me.  My own work is at times violent & it really puts me off when people think therefor I am.  Maybe I am, maybe Roxy is too but we both exorcise those demons mostly thru our writing (but the gun is real).  As it turned out Roxy and Judy are about the most generous people I’ve ever met.  They are honest and direct.

I’ve come to respect them both.  I’ve also become a fan of Roxy’s no nonsense writing style.  I learn from him & his work (he also paints & draws), am provoked & inspired by him to write from the heart as he always does.

Starting young, in 1963 he won a Talpa-Centennial High School Letter Jacket for writing.  He may be the only person to have ever been so honored in Texas.

At the U. of Texas he was editor of Riata, the school’s literary mag.  Soon after graduation he wrote Some Things I Did (Encino Press, Austin, 1972), made some money & got some notoriety.  The book had a lot to do with his living on the Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation in Northern Montana.  Roxy is a Breed, part Choctaw.  His work often reflects that heritage.  In the ‘70s he published, edited & wrote for the small but influential monthly mag Picking Up The Tempo.  Lots of his friends (Townes Van Zandt, Butch Hancock, Billy Joe Shaver, Richard Dobson, Jimmy Gilmore & the Lubbock-by-way-of-Fresno Terry Allen) still write songs.  That makes sense cause, till now, this state has sure turned out better songwriters than poets.  In 1984 Place of Herons Press published Breeds, his most important collection/book.  In 1985 Judy Gordon started her Wowapi Press & published his most recent book Unfinished Business.  He has had work in Greenfield Review, Omaha Rainbow, The Sun, Art Magic (which he published) & Earth Power Coming.

Roxy & Judy have been building a kinda Comanchero camp/house/enclosure near Talpa.  They call it the HouseUp.  They spend as much time as they can out there but still have to make a living in Dallas.  They grew up together & both of their families still live there.  Judy’s father runs an old-fashioned ranch & traps game.  While we were visiting he trapped, skinned & gave me the pelt of a Ring Tail Cat.  He can only get $3 for them.  They are sent to Russia & made into mittens.  Roxy nailed it to a board, cured it with formaldehyde.  It’s on my hall wall next to the rattlesnake skin to remind me as Roxy & Judy always remind me that Dallas is just a stopping place on their way back home to Coleman County.

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Wowapi Press and Picking Up The Tempo: A Country Western Journal

From Albuquerque, New Mexico to Dallas, Texas

Roxy and Judy moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and expanded their publishing company, Wowapi Press. They also edited and published a country western music magazine called Picking Up The Tempo. Picking Up The Tempo ran for nearly three years centering on the alternative Nashville country scene, with articles and interviews of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, David Allan Coe, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joe Shaver, Tommy Hancock, Freddy Fender, Dolly Parton, Doug Sahm, Kinky Friedman and many others as well as coverage of several of Willie Nelson's early 4th of July Picnics. Picking Up The Tempo focused on new and upcoming country artists, the origins of country music, the radio stations that supported and played country music, cowboys and rodeos, and the rich histories between country musicians and their roots in country music.

In 1977, Roxy and Judy left Albuquerque for Dallas, Texas, to work with David Allan Coe. Shortly thereafter, Roxy and Judy continued to publish books under Wowapi Press. Roxy illustrated a series of poems called Art Magic, which combined poems with graphic illustrations. He started writing extensively about Native Indians. In 1984, his book Breeds was published by Place of Heron Press, Austin, Texas.

In 1988, he released his first album Unfinished Business and in the following year of 1989, Crazy Horse Never Died on Sunstorm Records out of London, England, with an accompanying book of poetry.  He performed and read on a weekly basis at places like the Prophet Bar, 500 Cafe, Poor David's Pub, Paperbacks Plus, Video Bar, Dallas Museum of Art, Theater Gallery, Caravan of Dreams, and the Kerrville Folk Festival. 

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Do You Know Willie Nelson?

Written by Roxy Gordon, Published in the Coleman Chronicle & Democrat-Voice

July 1995 - Kathleen Hudson had me to the college in Kerrville to do an Indian literary festival in May.  She told me Willie Nelson was doing another 4th of July Picnic - this one in Luckenbach.  She wanted me to come.  Kathleen and I went to one in Austin, 1990.  That was my fifth.  I didn't make Dripping Springs, the first, which from all accounts was, not really Willie's folks, but some part of the Country Music Association with private investors.

I first met Mr. Nelson in about 1974.  He did a private party in Albuquerque.  He had shoulder length hair and no beard.  Second time, he did a concert at the convention hall in Albuquerque.  After the show, he was going to some singles bar to play.  Judy didn't like the bar and advised him in no uncertain terms.  Saint Willie did his usual grinning act with eyes not quite there.  His drummer, Paul English, The Devil In The Sleeping Bag, settled her.  Then there was the series of picnics.  I was doing a magazine in New Mexico.  I had a friend working at KOKE radio in Austin and she said she'd get backstage passes if I'd say I was going to do an edition on the second picnic, the one at the speedway at Bryan/College Station.  We said okay and went.  It was quite an event.  I decided to do a one shot tabloid, decided to call it Picking Up The Tempo after the old Willie Nelson song.  Sent it around to Austin and Nashville.  Soon had people calling.  Nobody had ever seen a country music publication like it.  We published photos of topless young women in the audience.  I ran into Faron Young and he told me in no uncertain terms he didn't approve.  He was involved somehow in publishing Music City News in Nashville.  He told me Waylon Jennings did not smell well.

Folks who called wanted to advertise.  We kept doing issues.  At the end, after four years, we'd only lost seventy dollars.  But it got us into many a show for nothing and backstage passes, including Willie Nelson 4th of July deals.  I'd always played music and, through the publication, met half the countryish musicians in North America.  I stay in Dallas because I met David Allan Coe and he wanted me to help me run his office there.

Best backstage at a picnic was Bryan, probably 25 acres.  Waylon rode with Sammi Smith in a Cadillac driving in circles.  George Jones was afraid of the hippies and had his limo drop him directly at stage stairs.  Tom T. Hall wouldn't even come.  Doug Sham changed clothes down to his boxer shorts with red hearts printed.  Sue Tewawina took photos of him but later discovered she had no film in the camera.  A young woman roamed around wearing nothing but glued-on sequins.  I decided Leon Russell was a true mutant.  I got into a fight with one of the radio station guys and he forced himself into their trailer.  Later at Denny's, I ran into Red Steagall and asked him why his band was called the Coleman County Cowboys.  He said he'd never been to Coleman County; said his aunt's name was Coleman.  Michael Martin Murphey sat with us.  He was wearing a leather shorts outfit that Swiss yodelers affect.

Liberty Hill was bad.  Mud six inches deep, backstage partitioned in plywood sections.  I spent most time on David Allan Coe's bus.  The car broke down on the way back to Valera, Texas.

Judy, a woman named Marsha (works for Warner Brothers now) and I drove David's new Cadillac to the Gonzales event.  We parked just back of stage.  Show went on all night.  It was hot.  We slept in the car, motor running, air-conditioner running.  The place was full of bikers.  The Outlaws were with David.  The Angels were with Willie and Waylon.  David packed a pistol.

Cotton Bowl in Dallas, people with fire hoses sprayed the audience.

Austin, I discovered backstage pass wasn't worth plastic printed.  Took the thing off and had more nearly complete access.  But then decided to go to the pickup for a drink.  Passed a metal cage with a pretty young woman apprehended for goodness knows what.  She cried and screamed at me to help her.  Got back and security guy got me.  I lied, told him I played guitar with Kimmie Rhodes.  I'd known her for years and guessed she'd back my lie.  Guard looked me over, head to foot, and said go on in.  Billy Joe Shaver wondered around with his new wife who is no longer his wife.  Some guy on stage wore a tee-shirt with my name on the back.  Fireworks exploded.  Kathleen and I escaped to the motel.  She wanted to sleep, told me to shower picnic dirt.  She did and commenced to crash.  I decided to tell her the story of my life.  She was sound asleep before I finished.

Luckenbach, Texas, day before yesterday.  Judy and I slept in the back of the pickup front of Kathleen's house.  When the morning comes and you got to get up, we take off for the event, following Kathleen who took two New Yorkers and one of her students.  She had good enough sense to get there early.  Had to park two miles away, get bussed in on school busses.  Backstage passes were not to be found.  Some guy at the gate knew who I was and said go on in.  Went to the office and various folks there couldn't find passes.  Finally, Judy and I went hunting and did.  We sat by the old dance hall and watched the hoard pile in.  Music started and we went backstage.  David Allan Coe had taken chairs to the shade.  I sat there seven hours, talked with David, met his newer wife, Jody, and oldest new kid, Tyler.  People kept coming and saying hello.  Naturally I didn't know almost any.  David signed tee-shirts and guitars.  He went to the bus to dress and I decided best idea I'd had in the world was to get out.  That mass of humans was going to make a leaving traffic impossible.  We split and spent early evening in Kathleen's side yard in silence.

Mr. Nelson is over 60 and may never have another picnic.  I am 50 years old and told Judy somewhere around Menard I'd never do it again.  But, then on the other hand, my mama says never say never because it just might change to will.

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The Art of Roxy Gordon

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Wowapi Press

Wowapi Press publications since 1973.

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Like Spirits of the Past Trying to Break Out and Walk to the West

By Minerva Allen

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Animal Magnetism

By Jennifer Kidney

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Rhythm Rebel

By Rick Sikes

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Unfinished Business

By Roxy Gordon

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Coyote Papers

By LeAnne Howe

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Living Life as a Living Target

By Judy Gordon

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Great Aunt Lessie Belle's Funeral

By Charley Moon

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Minerva Allen's Indian Cook Book

By Minerva Allen

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Readings 1987: Volume 1

From The Prophet Bar

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Salty Songs

By Richard Dobson

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Smaller Circles

By Roxy Gordon

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Revolution in the Air

By Roxy Gordon

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Townes Asked Did Hank Williams Ever Write Anything As Good As Nothing

By Roxy Gordon

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West Texas Mid-Century

By Roxy Gordon

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Wowapi: Anything Written In Any Form

By Judy Gordon

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Tender Blue Flickers

By Karen X

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Crazy Horse Never Died

By Roxy Gordon

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Crazy Horse Never Died

Roxy Gordon's Second Album Release

From the Dallas Observer

Street Beat

By Clay McNear

May 11, 1989

Cast of characters: Dallas poet/author/vocalist Roxy Gordon lives on Oram Street off Lowest Greenville, something of an artistic compound because of its reasonable rents and Deep East Dallas ambiance.  So it’s kind of crazy, though not so surprising, that the new album by this self-described half-Choctaw Indian/half-Texan is available only as an import via London’s Sunstorm Records (available in the States thanks to distribution by indie label Heartland).  Titled Crazy Horse Never Died, the disc features Gordon on spoken/sung vocals, Brad Bradley on keyboard and guitar, and Frank X. Tolbert II on washtub bass.  Gordon’s lyrics bespeak his passion for issues affecting (usually adversely) the American Indian and, as one London magazine put it, Gordon “forces America to confront its history of genocide.”  Neither mindless listening nor easy, and certainly not for every taste, but the atmospheric LP has some definitely indescribable moments.  It’s currently available at Paperbacks Plus on Gaston.

{Illustrations below from the self-published book of poems supporting the album release.}

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The Hill

From The Coleman Chronicle & Democrat-Voice (Published July 1992)

The Hill is a major piece of my childhood memory and mythology and a major part of middle age experience ─ and mythology. The Hill ─ it was always called The Hill and still is by my family ─ is the southernmost of the range that runs north of Talpa, cuts south toward Highway 67, almost touches the highway six miles from Talpa and four miles from Valera and then heads on north of Valera toward Coleman. Where those hills almost touch the highway, that's The Hill. The Hill takes up a sizable portion of my grandparents' old pasture. Their houses, one called The Old House, and the other, The New House (bought from south of Talpa and moved-in years ago after a tornado shifted The Old House around a bit) both sat just under the point of The Hill, The Old House much closer. Till I was three, my parents lived with my grandparents in The Old House. It was a T-model house with a long front porch facing east. In the first of my memories, I am on the porch in early evening. Cows and sheep are calling, blue Santa Anna Mountain is in front of me and to the southeast, much closer, another major mythological place of my childhood, Bead Mountain. After my parents moved to Talpa, I still spent much time with my grandparents and early evenings on the front porch are among the best of my memories.

And right there, to the north, just across the road to the cow lot, was always The Hill. The Hill was rugged and close, always in my sight, drawing me the way hills and mountains have always drawn human beings. I was both fascinated and afraid. The fear, I expect, had much to do with my family. I was warned against The Hill. They were afraid I'd climb up and fall on the rocks along the rim and they were afraid I'd meet a rattlesnake. Still today, when I go to The Hill ─ and I do often to the house I've built on the point ─ my grandmother warns me to "Watch out for rattlesnakes."

But there was more than relatives' warnings. Mystery was about the place. All human beings have always found mystery in high places. The mystery was undefined to me. But once in a while, it took shape. Once, this after my grandparents had moved into The New House, I was there with my great-grandmother. In old age, she'd moved, from White Chapel, in with them. My grandparents were gone to some function in the Valera Community Center and, with darkness, I realized I'd forgotten to close the chicken house door. My grandmother's chickens were being wiped-out by varmits and I guessed I'd best overcome any nervousness of darkness and close the chicken house door. The chicken house was very close to The Hill. I'd already closed the door when I became convinced I was being watched, watched from The Hill. I looked up to the point and I still today swear I saw human forms there, or forms of humans that were no longer alive. They were to me, that night, Indians and I have never had reason to change my opinion.

My grandmother raised turkeys that ran loose and sometimes they wouldn't come home. So she'd go looking and take me. I remember sitting with her on the side of The Hill, her looking out over the pasture trying to spot renegade turkeys. She used to say she'd climbed that hill so many times she wishes someone would just knock it down. Someone tried. When the highway people rebuilt 67 in the late '40's, I guess, and later in the '50's, they opened a caliche pit there, a huge, gaping pit mine. That became The Caliche Pit. Open pit mines are not supposed to be good. This one became a wonder.

Hidden back up from the highway, it surprises the visitor. My friends who come to visit from England can't believe it is a man-made eyesore. To them, it looks like the American West, a miniature Grand Canyon with cragged walls and tumbled boulders, mesquite and willow trees growing beside the lake that half-moons around the west and north walls, a profusion of cattails, and now-and-again a bobcat or gray fox running off into the boulders.

I always loved it. I'd beg my grandmother to take me. She'd boil eggs for a picnic and we'd eat by the water. When I was older, I'd spend summer afternoons swimming and riding the raft I made with some Huckleberry Finnish feeling of a river far away. Now my kids like to go there at night. Rocks glimmer in moonlight; animals scurry. My older son killed a deer one afternoon at the water. I came once within five feet of a gray fox kit that just sat and looked at me. I called my younger son to come see and the fox never ran. The Caliche Pit did not hurt The Hill. In some way not at all planned by the men who dug it, it made The Hill into something more.

I have friends from England on The Hill because I have written for English magazines and made record albums in England and made friends who come to visit. They come to The Hill because of the house I built there. Actually "house" may not be the right word. I wrote in an English magazine that it is a hybrid of a house, hunting camp, sculpture and western movie set. My wife, two sons and I have worked on it for most of a decade. We tore-down The Old House, what was left of it after years of an unpatched roof and wind and rain, and moved the usable lumber up the hill. Our house is built on the point of The Hill, at the place I saw Indian ghosts. We have neither electricity nor running water. My younger son, Quanah, was about three when we began. Because it was on the hill, he called it The HouseUp. We still call it that. We spend as much time as we can there, amongst ghosts and other mysteries and memories and a south wind that blows forever.

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Crazy Horse Notes

Written by Peter O'Brien

In November 1973 it was my admiration for singer/songwriter John Stewart that prompted me to publish Omaha Rainbow, a magazine named after a song John recorded on California Bloodlines, his first solo album after leaving The Kingston Trio.

Fast forward to 1977 and I was putting together the 15th issue which included two interviews with Townes Van Zandt. One of the shops here in London, England, that sold Omaha Rainbow was Compendium Books. It was there I had discovered Picking Up The Tempo. Included in one of the issues I purchased was an article, Townes Van Zandt might Be Arriving, written by its editor and publisher, Roxy Gordon.

I wrote asking if I might reprint that article in my magazine and he generously gave permission, adding that if I ever came to America I was welcome to stay with him.

The following year during the course of a phone interview John Stewart asked me, "When are you coming to America? "Is that an invitation?" I enquired. "Get your ass over here, O'Brien," he responded.

So it was in August 1978 I made my first trip to the USA, flying into Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to be met by Roxy and his wife Judy, who were to become two of my dearest friends, staying with them on numerous return trips in the long summer vacations from my day job as a high school physical education teacher.

It was during one of those visits Roxy began recording the songs that were to become the album, Crazy Horse Never Died. By this time I had also started a small record label, initially to put out a John Stewart album released to support one of his UK tours.

When Roxy sent me a cassette of his finished album I offered to release it on vinyl through my label, Sunstorm Records. Roxy happily accepted the offer and the LP was actually mastered from that cassette.

Just down the street from where Roxy lived was a fine music venue, Poor David's Pub. It was there I had seen Townes Van Zandt play and subsequently Roxy himself. It was also where Roxy and Judy got to see John Stewart a few times. John would invariably end the evening back at their house.

I'll end this as I began with John Stewart on whom Roxy had made quite an impression. Writing in his newsletter, The Finger, John said, "We jumped through the eye of the weather needle and hit Texas under bright skies and hot highways. There's a renegade poet-author named Roxy Gordon who lives in Dallas with his wife, Judy, and their two sons. Roxy has recently come into my life as my new, favourite writer. Someday, maybe Steinbeck will be my favourite writer again but, right now, it's Roxy Gordon. Roxy writes bone-lean, clear views of the world and the American Indian that makes me want to tear up what I've written and start again. Since every day I feel I'm starting again, I guess he just inspires me."

{Photograph of Peter O'Brien, Roy Hamric, Robert Trammell & Roxy Gordon}

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In 1980, Roxy penned and illustrated a series of poems entitled Artmagic.  He produced an introduction explaining Artmagic and 23 follow-up poems.  Two of the poems would later become songs on the Crazy Horse Never Died and Smaller Circles albums.  Each illustration was inked in black and no other color was used.  Several of the illustrations utilized collages built around the poems.

Writing about Artmagic, Roxy states "Art has been magic and should be.  The adornment of utilitarian design began as protection or sign.  In response to dream or invocation, a man meant to define his place in the whole order - meant by adornment of his dwelling and person to take charge of himself and not leave to chance, his relationship with man and mystery.

He meant to affect other men; he meant to affect the wind and rain and stars.

Later cultures have continued to attempt affection upon other men.  They have called that attempt style.

The true artmagician defies codification; with innate and ruthless will, he remains on the edge.

The edge is within and without.

The artmagician haunts the edges of cultures.  He haunts the edge of his own culture; he haunts the edge of his own sanity."

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From The Coleman Chronicle & Democrat-Voice (Published August 1992)

Oklahoma Choctaw writer LeAnne Howe and I wrote a play in the mid '80's. It is called "Big Pow Wow." The three major characters are a white woman, an Indian woman and a 600 year old Indian ghost. When the white woman discovers the ghost, she announces there's a ghost in the house. The Indian woman tells her there's always a ghost in the house. My father and his parents and his brothers and sisters once lived with a ghost in the house. That was on the Kelly Place four or five miles southeast of Novice.

Minerva Allen, of my Assiniboine family on the Fort Belknap Reservation in northern Montana, told me twenty years ago to never look at a ghost. She said when you hear something following you at night, don't look back. If it is a ghost, it will turn your face. Your face will literally go sideways, your mouth and nose twisted. I knew one man up at Belknap who had such a twisted face. I told Minerva I would always look at a ghost. She herself has such a story about the man who raised her, Andrew Gray, a medi­cine man. One night many years ago, Andrew ran out of gas in Ghost Coulee, a place known for ghosts. Andrew left a friend in the car and went walking for gas. A ghost came to the car and terrified his friend. When Andrew came back with gas, his friend asked if he'd seen the ghost. Andrew said sure. Andrew said any ghost on Fort Belknap was likely a relative and would mean him no harm. Andrew said the ghost helped him get the gas.

My father says he was never afraid of the ghost on the Kelly Place. She always came with a blue-green light which was in the southeast corner of the ceiling. She came to my father three or four times, always wearing a flannel nightgown with ruffles at her wrists. She had very long hair, as did my grandmother, and at first he thought it was his mother. But then he realized she was standing at the head of the bed and that was impossible. The head of the bed was next to the wall. And anyway, he could hear his mother asleep in the next room. The ghost rubbed his cheeks.

This was about 1940. My father had been away at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp when his folks moved into the Kelly Place. Almost twenty years later, at a family reunion, his two brothers, Wade and F.A., said the same things happened to them in that room. The three of them had never before mentioned it to one another. F.A. looked for the source of light and never found it. One day, F.A. was at the well, an old hand-dug well they used to water the cows. A man walked up and told him he'd pay a gold piece if F.A. would go down into the well and find a watch lost there. The man wore khakis. F.A. said he looked down into the well then back to the man and the man was gone. My father said he went back to that house years later and found the corner where he saw the light had been torn-out. Someone had torn into the ceiling hunting the source.

The people who owned the place wouldn't live in the house. They lived in a little shack down the road. And dogs wouldn't stay there. My father says a dog would yelp at night as if something hurt it. The next morning, the dog would be gone. My grandmother said later she wouldn't enter that room without a lit lamp. My father thinks maybe his parents knew about the ghost, but never mentioned it, not wanting to scare the kids.

When I was in high school I told my friend, Gerald Canady, about the Novice haunted house. He told his father, Harry. Mr. Canady knew all about that house. A woman, Harry said, had been dying there. She'd said a star would fall toward the house at her death and the clock would strike thirteen times. According to Mr. Canady, the clock did strike thirteen times at her death and her nurse threw the clock into well. Harry Canady said he was in that neighborhood that night, going somewhere in a buggy. Mr. Canady said he saw a star fall toward the dead woman's house.

Gerald Canady and I decided we'd spend the night in the haunted house. We got directions. Only the porch and the haunted room were left. The haunted room had floral wallpaper. A single, long dead lightbulb hung from a cord in the middle. We sat till well past midnight. No old lady appeared. We felt silly. We decided beds at home sounded good.

But I always wanted to see a ghost. I've seen several things I might call ghosts. To say I've seen them is not quite accurate. It was not my eyes that seemed to be seeing. Before we were married, Judy and I were on the west side of Bead Mountain one night just as the moon came up. It came up over the hill, huge and blood red. Without prompting, we both felt at the same time, some presence. We saw nothing but the Comanche Moon. And later, leaving, we saw an owl which dove straight toward the car windshield. That was before we went to the reservation, and I did not yet know owls are themselves, messengers from the other side.

I was one time in the pasture sawing up an old telephone pole to use for fence corner posts when I began to think someone was watching me. It was summer and very hot and heat was shimmering. I began to think I could see some figure in the rising heat. While in fact, I could see no human being, I began to formulate a person. He was short and stocky and very dirty. He had long, tangled black hair and he wore almost no clothing. I think he was an Indian from long before Indians were called Indians. While he watched me, I saw him, but never really saw anything except the shimmering heat.

The Indian song-writer and poet Buffy Ste. Marie wrote once, "You think I have visions because I am an Indian. I have visions because there are visions to be seen."

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From The Coleman Chronicle & Democrat-Voice (Published March 1995)

The most successful songwriter I can count as a friend is Billy Joe Shaver out of Corsicana, Texas.  Years ago he wrote an (almost) whole album for Waylon Jennings.  He wrote huge hits for Johnny Rodriguez.  Coming in a close second, if not even, is Fort Worth's Townes Van Zandt, the author of "Pancho And Lefty."  I know and have known a number of songwriters.  I've been one myself, sort-of, some­times.  My friend Bob Trammell is a poet in Dallas.  He organized a poetry group called Wordspace.  Judy and I are on the board of directors.  Bob thinks songwriters are among the best poets anywhere and especially in Texas.  So he decided to put together a songwriting symposium.  I helped him.  Day-after-tomorrow, I have to do a talk at the thing.  I decided to do something on TEXAS SONGWRITERS I HAVE KNOWN.

I guess, by time, the first has to be Rick Sikes.  I didn't meet Rick till a cou­ple of years ago, but he was writing songs when I was a mere child.  (Hey Rick, you're older than I am.  Almost nobody else is, as you know.)  I've got tapes of Rick's work and a songbook.  This is very literate and smart writing.  But for success and widespread fame, no Coleman songwriter can touch Tom Jones.  I don't know much about Tom Jones except he spent part of his childhood in Coleman.  Years ago, many years ago, he wrote a musical with Harvey Schmidt called The Fantastiks.  I've read it is the longest running play in New York and it has been performed in virtually every the­ater in America.  A song from it, "Try To Remember," was performed by every folk group and lounge singer in the '60's.

Slim Willet’s "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes" seems to have come out of Coleman County.  Rick says Slim didn't really write it, that it was written by some guy from around Novice.  All kinds of pop singers did that one.  Perry Como had a hit with it.

The first songwriters I really knew were in Austin when I went to UT.  John Clay was from Stamford.  I met him one week after I got to UT.  He was skinny and wore only white tee-shirts.  He had, clipped blond hair.  He was a beatnik going hippy.  He played banjo.  He had couple of songs everyone knew, "The Road To Mingus" and "Harley Hog."  Both were written when he was a student at Tarleton in Stephenville.  Mingus was the nearest place to Stephenville to buy beer.  "The Road To Mingus" is about college kids dying in a car wreck coming back from buying beer.  Years later, someone in California heard a folksinger doing the thing and this guy said it was traditional folksong.

Second wave of songwriters are from Lubbock.  Butch Hancock, Jimmy Gilmore, Terry Allen, Joe Ely, David Halley.  Going back to Buddy Holley and Waylon Jennings and Tommy Hancock, folks have wondered how all that music came out of Lubbock.  It has been suggested there ain't nothing else to do in Lubbock but play guitar.  Joe, Butch, Tommy and Joe had a seminal acoustical band called The Flatlanders.  They did a record in Nashville which was not released in America, but later released in England.  It has since been released here.  The later-day hit off it, sung by everybody in Texas, is Jimmy's "Did You Ever See Dallas From A DC 9 At Night?"  Several years ago, Rolling Stone magazine declared Jimmy country singer of the year.  Butch puts out his own records.  He has written much for Joe who has had several major record deals.  Terry has made many records, plays all over the country is also a visual artist, probably more successful there.  He has work in the new Denver airport.  Terry played the Kerrville Folk Festival once and the promoter, Rod Kennedy, didn't invite him back because his songs were just too strange.  Lubbock strikes again.

Michael Martin may not count as Texas.  He is from eastern New Mexico, but then that's almost Texas.  Martin and a guy from Abilene named Tim Holiday are old friends, both Viet Nam vets, and both old friends of mine.  Martin writes songs of the New Mexico border, good, sad songs.  Songs about the passing of old culture.  He also writes Nam songs, one with Holiday about how vets sought out other vets to try and figure it.  Both make a living more-or-less, from music.  Martin writes tongue-in-cheek songs.  One about a convenience store would-be-robber who uses a water gun.  The clerk says that's a water gun.  The robber says it is full of LSD.  The clerk says he's an old hippy and fire away.

Tony Lane is from Comanche, lives in Nashville, or just outside.  I met him years ago when he was living in Dallas, playing folky little bars.  He comes from a musical family.  His older brother, Jerry Max Lane, was something of a star in progressive country days.  Most all his brothers play music and there are a bunch of them.  Tony and I have written together.  He thinks he wants to be mainstream Nashville.  In truth, he doesn't know how.  He's too good.  He grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, John Stewart.  His best song is about the serial killer Ted Bundy, written from Bundy's point of view.  This ain't Allen Jackson material.  I've taken Tony to the res in Montana twice.  Indians love him.  I brought him to Coleman County a few years ago after his marriage wasn't doing well.  We went over in the pasture and shot a bunch of turtles which sank in the tank and we couldn't retrieve to fry.  We agreed songwriters might not be great hunters, Ted Nugent notwithstanding.  (And Ted has been known to hunt about ten miles from where I am typing this in Valera.)

Tony is a wonderful songwriter and has an amazing voice.  All these people I've mentioned are people I know quite well, hang out with.  The rest of Texas songwriters would be a list to fill several books.

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The 1990s

From Dallas, Texas, to Home in Coleman County, Texas, and Lodge Pole, Montana

Living for over a decade one block off of the Dallas' Lower Greenville Avenue scene, Roxy continued writing, publishing and producing music. Becoming active in the American Indian Movement, he helped raise funds and awareness of Native Indian history, issues and social conditions. He released two more albums - Smaller Circles and Townes Asked Did Hank Williams Ever Write Anything As Good As Nothing. 

Roxy continued to travel to Lodge Pole, Montana, to perform and educate on the Fort Belknap Reservation where he was adopted into the Assiniboine Tribe. Of these travels, he wrote "I expect I am double-blessed. I have a home and family in western Coleman County, Texas, and I have a home and family in northern Montana."

"Five years ago, over 15 years after I'd lived at Fort Belknap, I was up there and went to the Lodge Pole general store. This is an old-fashioned general store with all the goods behind the counter. You ask for what you want. I was waiting and a tall, old Indian came in. Schoolboard elections had been held that day. The old man waited beside me. 'Well,' he asked me, 'did you vote?' I said, 'No, I couldn't.  I don't live here any­more.' He squinted at me. He asked me, 'Where do you live, now?' I said, 'Texas.' He looked a bit puzzled. 'When did you move?' he asked me."

In 1997, he uprooted from Dallas and moved back home to Coleman County where he and Judy lived on the same family country land that his grandparents owned. He continued to travel and perform and wrote extensively an ongoing column for the Coleman Chronicle & Democrat Voice. He wrote over 100 articles ranging from Texas history to Native American Indians to music and a lot of other stories about his life in between.

Roxy Gordon passed away on February 7, 2000, leaving a 35-year legacy of writings, poetry, music, and illustrations.

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