Lou Ann Barton: Austin Blues Queen Is Working Her Butt Off
It's 2 p.m. and Austin blues diva Lou Ann Barton is just downing her first cup of coffee of the day. Rocks Off admitted to her he was only on his second.
"We were recording last night, so I'm a little sluggish," says the Fort Worth native in her gravelly voice.
One of the masters of ceremony at the first Austin Music Awards, Barton isn't exactly in the headlines these days, but there was time when she was the absolute reigning monarch of the Austin blues scene. A woman not known for hiding her opinions or thinking before she spoke, she was frequently featured in Michael Corcoran's music gossip column in the Austin Chronicle, where he occasionally tagged her No-Show Lou Ann.
But longtime Austin music columnist and scenester Margaret Moser has written what is probably the definitive article on Austin's white blues hierarchy. In her 1999 Austin Chronicle piece, "The Scene Is Gone But Not Forgotten," she noted, "Lou Ann Barton doesn't have a record deal, and in recent years has been almost invisible in a scene she once ruled, though she's undisputably the Queen of Austin Blues."
As part of the original Double Trouble lineup, Barton recorded an album with Stevie Ray Vaughan at "Cowboy" Jack Clement's home studio in Nashville in 1978 that has found its way to the public via bootlegs.
Once known as a wild child, Barton stopped drinking and virtually stopped performing in the '90s, but has been more active recently, having just returned from some festival dates in Scandinavia where reviews were highly positive. Barton comes to the Continental Club Saturday night with a band filled with Austin aces including longtime friend/guitarist Derek O'Brien, Bob Dylan alumnus Denny Freeman, played-with-everyone drummer George Rains (Doug Sahm, Jimmie Vaughan) and bassist Scott Nelson.
Rocks Off: Like so many in the Austin blues scene that began in the early '70s, you came up from Fort Worth and had worked the Jacksboro Highway when you were very young.
Lou Ann Barton: Yeah, I always had a pretty good voice and I really just wanted to be a rock and roll singer. I started out singing a little rock with blues, got a little band together. Pretty soon we moved down to Austin, but it was quickly apparent there was more money, more gigs in Fort Worth so we moved back up there for a while.
RO: What was the catalyst for moving back to Austin?
LAB: One night me and Mike Buck went over to Dallas to see Jimmie Vaughan's band the Storm at the Bluebird Club. Jimmie asked us to sit in and he just flippped. He told me he was going to move to Austin and start a new band and he wanted me to come down there and be the singer in it. He even asked me to marry him that night. Of course, he was drunk.