The Improbable Return of Houston Prog-Rockers Chameleon

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Courtesy of Craig Gysler
The latter day Chameleon at the Texas Opry House: Craig Gysler (keyboards/vocals), Spencer Clark (guitar/vocals), Rick Huey (bass/vocals), and Marty Naul (drums/vocals)
Houston has a reputation for and kindness toward some music genres more than others. Blues, blues-rock, rap, metal, country and even psychedelia have all flourished in various clubs both still running and long-defunct across the city and its outskirts.

But the Bayou City has never quite cottoned to progressive rock bands, and especially those playing original tunes full of complex movements, multiple instruments, lyrics dealing with space and time, and tunes running in the ten-plus minute range.

In the late '70s, though, one local band of proggers who had paid their dues for nearly a decade seemed poised for a breakthrough; just one more gig, one more demo, one more audition before things could get really, really better. And then -- just like so many other bands before and after them -- Chameleon imploded.


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"After the Fire Is Gone": A Near-Forgotten Willie (and Tracy) Nelson Classic

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Tracy Nelson's only album on Atlantic Records, 1974
To hear Tracy Nelson tell it, her decision to ask Willie Nelson to sing a duet with her on "After the Fire Is Gone" was mostly just kismet meeting standard industry practice.

"I loved that song and knew I wanted to cover it just as soon as I heard the Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn version that was such a huge hit in 1971," recalls Nelson, no relation to the Red Headed Stranger, from her home outside Nashville.

Primarily considered a blues singer, she had recently left her band Mother Earth and signed a solo deal with Atlantic Records. Written by L.E. White, a close associate of Twitty's who had been in Bill Monroe's band before turning mostly to songwriting, "After The Fire Is Gone" was Twitty and Lynn's first No. 1 as a duo. It also won them a Grammy for Best Country Duet.


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The 10 Best '70s Monster Rock Riffs

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What? No Stairway? Denied!

Nah, we're totally lying. There's plenty of "Stairway" below, because bitchin' rock riffs are precisely what we're looking for.

Ladies and gentlemen, whip out the Ben-Gay and prepare yourselves for some injuries to your air-guitar arm, because with Deep Purple and Nazareth on this Throwback Thursday list, the burn? It's a'comin'.


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Strap in for the Cowpunk Ballad of T. Tex Edwards

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The Nervebreakers in the year they tried to hijack the radio, T. Tex Edwards in foreground
The gig is flying a bit under the radar, but Saturday the Big Top hosts T. Tex Edwards, one of the legends of early Texas punk. Known as one of the earliest cowpunks, Edwards was butchering George Jones songs when Jason and the Scorchers were still sloppin' hogs in Iowa.

He has always specialized in goofball eccentricity and exhibited a big jones for country murder ballads done in a spirit of deranged delight. As a teenager, Edwards was the vocalist for the now legendary Nervebreakers, a post-garage Dallas ensemble that feared no band. Although they never hit the big time nationally, Nervebreakers are probably best known for backing Roky Erickson at Dallas' Palladium in 1979, a performance eventually released as Erickson's Dallas Live album in 1992.


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Top 10 Songs to Download While Drunk

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Photo by Gina Carteciano via flickr
Boozy playlists are the very best, better still when they randomly appear on your playlist the day after you've knocked back a few beers. Your drunk brain always knows what kind of music the sober you needs. Or most of the time, anyway.

Unfortunately, sometimes drunken downloading can be just about as beer-goggle dangerous as anything we can think of. For example, we may know a certain writer who has a penchant for downloading Billy Idol songs while inebriated. The "Rebel Yell" singer only released so many songs, and that idiot may own them all. But thanks to that mishap, we've learned our lesson...sort of.


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The 10 Worst Musical Comebacks of All Time

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We'll get to you in October, Vince, Tommy, et. al.
Don't call it a comeback...because it sucked.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that "less is more," especially when you're a retired musician. It can be easy to find yourself pining away for the spotlight and those glory days of old, but we really would advise you to think twice before hitting the comeback circuit, lest you become one of these poor folks below. So many things can go wrong and, apparently, very little can go right.

So our wayward, nostalgic musician friends. Please make sure you're good and ready to face the world again before you emerge from the bowels of a previous decade, or else this could happen.


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How to Play a Vinyl Record

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Photo by acidpix via flickr
So you want to play a vinyl, eh?

Perhaps you've come across your grandma's old record player, or maybe you've found a sweet stash of vinyls at your local Goodwill that would look perfect in your hipster pad, and you want to test them out to impress your moustachioed friends.

There's only one problem, though. You're well out of the demographic that remembers 8-track players, much less those strange, disc-looking things you're holding haphazardly, and you can't just ask the dude in skinny pants that won't get off your couch. You'd lose way too much street cred.

Well, you're in luck. An official old is here to teach you the ways. Watch and learn, childrens.


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10 Bands So Bad You Forgot About Them

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Photo by Sam Howzit via flickr
There are two kinds of reactions to a long-forgotten song. First, and most optimal, are the obscure bands whose music hits your iPod and brings on the euphoria of resurrected-music magic.

But then there are the ones that play over the loudspeaker in the dusty aisles of your local discount store as you shop for marked-down electronics, and that when you hear them cause immediate claustrophobia.

These are not the bands that give you the happy-happy joy-joy's when you hear them again. These bands cause total discount-electronics-aisle meltdown, and you'd probably forgotten about them until this blog. We're sorry.


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The Rice Hotel Speakeasy: Houston Music During Prohibition

Note: This is Part 2 in a series that timelines through bits of the first century of Houston's nightlife until about the start of what was found to be Houston's oldest running bar.

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Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Rice Hotel dining room
The Rice Hotel (now the Post Rice Lofts) is located where the first capital of the Republic of Texas once stood. The Rice Roof at the Rice Hotel was one of Houston's top dance clubs among local elite and whatnot for some time.

By the time Prohibition came about in the early 1920s, the Rice Roof was where much of Texas' elite supposedly kept their private stocks of alcohol in individual cabinets. The Rice Hotel Dining Room Orchestra played here as well as several jazz "territory bands." One such group was Peck's Bad Boys, an influential local group led by Houstonian John "Peck" Kelley. They never recorded, though they were said to be largely popular while remaining generally ahead of their time. They possibly played at the Rice Roof and at college nights at the Lamar Spanish Dining Room, too.

Prohibition-era nightclubbing in Houston was said to happen in speakeasies made out of houses located in the Neartown area along present-day Westheimer, better known today as Montrose.


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Gunfights and Ragtime: The Houston Music Scene of 100 Years Ago

Note: This is a two-part series that timelines through bits of the first century of Houston's nightlife until about the start of what was found to be Houston's oldest running bar.

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Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
City Hall and Market House, 1904
For the first century since Houston's birth in 1837, happenings of music and revelry were advertised word-of-mouth. Music journalism generally consisted of classical reviews, and most of those who could chat about those times have passed, making it harder to find what's left today.

What's left are library reserves of research volumes alongside torn pictures and captions tucked and scattered throughout a small variety of nice, browned scrapbooks. Looking through dozens of those, this is what we found.


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