Remembering Dale Brooks, Early Houston Punk Videographer

Photo courtesy of Ella Tyler
Dale Brooks, center, with "Robot" Burtenshaw (left) and Ted Barwell at Brooks' 2013 wedding
When the first wave of punk swept through America and Britain during the rather moribund mid-1970s, it became so fertile because punk was inclusive, participatory and democratic. Into its ranks swept musicians, fashion designers, artists, radio personalities, photographers and writers, as well as filmmakers and documentarians.

Dale Brooks, who passed away on November 19 at his home in Marble Falls (age 60), was a seminal character from those times. I met him while he filmed the Island reunion gig a few years back, and Brooks' audiovisual skills and vision helped propel local acts like the Hates into the video age and caught touring acts like the Dils during their rare, short-lived jaunts into middle America. Though Brooks was a longtime supporter of electric cars, eventually becoming president of the Houston Electric Auto Association, today Rocks Off would like to shed light on his forays into local music.

Like many, he began his pursuits by preparing well in advance of punk's zero hour.

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RIP Bobby Keys: Texan and Stones Saxophonist Dies at 70

Sean Birmingham via Wikimedia commons
Bobby Keys in 2009
Note: According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Bobby Keys passed away earlier Tuesday. The Lubbock-born saxophonist was a longtime side man for the Rolling Stones, first appearing with the band on 1969's Let It Bleed. Keys was especially close to Keith Richards, with whom he shared the birthday of December 18, and was also a longtime member of the Joe Ely Band during some of the Stones' more inactive moments of the 1980s.

We were lucky enough to talk with Keys, who was 70, before the reunited Ely group played Houston's International Festival in May 2011.

Born in Lubbock and raised just east in Slaton, Joe Ely's home town, saxophonist Bobby Keys left Lubbock in 1960 looking for kicks. At 14, he was playing with Bob Dylan influence, Bobby Vee, before moving on to a gig with seminal rocker Buddy Knox. Fifty-one years later, Keys will fly into Houston to play with Joe Ely at Houston iFest on Sunday.

"I was tired of Lubbock and Lubbock was tired of me," says the 67-year-old wild man from his home in Nashville. "Me and trouble were on a first name basis."

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Houston Remembers Little Joe Washington

Photo by Marco Torres
Little Joe Washington made the rounds...he even stopped by our place once in a while.
Whenever someone important like Little Joe Washington dies, an easy way to gauge just how much impact they had on their community is to see what people were saying about them right before they passed. Enter social media.

In Washington's case, it was a site called Funky Blues Radio, an Internet station that uses its Twitter feed as a log to track songs played, and apparently went on a bit of a Little Joe kick Tuesday. After he passed, people far and wide paid their respects -- but not surprisingly, an overwhelming amount of them were musicians.

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Here's to You, Little Joe Washington

Photo by Mark Britain
Probably the editor's favorite picture of Little Joe, taken at House of Blues' Bronze Peacock Room in 2010
Even if it wasn't a surprise, Little Joe Washington's death Wednesday afternoon is a shock. The Houston music community has lost one of its icons, a dynamic performer whose talents far transcended the style of music he happened to play, and whose energy made him a favorite of people generations younger than he was. Everybody who saw him came away a Little Joe fan, even if they only saw him once.

Those who saw Joe play did not soon forget it, even if they happened to stumble into Boondocks by accident some anonymous Tuesday night, or by showing up some Friday expecting to see the later show at the Continental. Half the time they left shaking their heads that sounds that crazy could come out of such a tiny frame -- especially when Joe got going and started playing his guitar behind his back -- wondering what the hell they had just seen.

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Remembering Jack Bruce, Cream's Gentleman Bassist

Photo by Marek Hofman
Jack Bruce with a constant companion.
Note: Cream bassist and lead vocalist Jack Bruce, universally recognized among his peers as one of the greatest instrumental talents in rock history, passed away last Saturday at age 71. Rocks Off's Bob Ruggiero was lucky enough to speak with Bruce this past spring, and would like to re-run this interview that originally appeared on May 6.

He's best known to the average classic-rock fan for the scant time in the '60s, fewer than three years, that he spent singing and playing bass for a quiet little trio named Cream, alongside subdued guitarist Eric Clapton and noted shy-guy drummer Ginger Baker. But Jack Bruce has certainly had a multi-hued career since those acid-drenched days of white rooms, strange brews and tales of brave Ulysses.

In addition to his work with other groups and collaborators, Bruce has also released a series of very-much-underrated solo efforts, beginning in 1969 with Songs for a Tailor up through 2003's More Jack Than God. In these discs he stretched out not only his string-thumping, but also the genres he explores in his material, in particular his leanings to and love for jazz.

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UPDATED: Walters Downtown Owner Pam Robinson Passes Away

Photo courtesy of Walters Downtown
We'll miss you, Pam.
Sad news this morning. Walters Downtown owner Pam Robinson, a fan and champion of Houston musicians for decades, has apparently passed away following a long battle with cancer. Robinson's family released a statement earlier this afternoon on Walters' Facebook page:

Yesterday afternoon we lost our beloved owner, Pam Robinson, to her battle with cancer. She was a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, an aunt and a Gaga. She was feisty, loving, badass, smart, passionate and a very understanding person.

We all loved her and what she did for the Houston music community, and through Pamland, she started to help shape many musicians and bands into who they are today. She gave to so many people without asking anything in return, and as Willow, from Hatetank Productions, put it, she was the "Godmother of the Houston Music Scene".

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RIP Joe Sample: Houston Music Icon Dies at 75

Photo by Marco Torres
Joe Sample, the Houston native whose masterful keyboard playing made him a leading figure in the jazz fusion movement of the '60s and '70s and a top session musician in jazz, R&B and pop for several decades, passed away Friday night, according to his Facebook page. His family announced his death with the following message:

[Wife] Yolanda and his son Nicklas would like to thank all of you, his fans and friends, for your prayers and support during this trying time. Please know that Joe was aware and very appreciative of all of your prayers, comments, letters/cards and well wishes.

Sample was a graduate of Wheatley High School, where he and some classmates founded a group they called the Jazz Crusaders in the mid-'50s. They moved to Southern California in the early '60s and became one of the most popular and respected groups in jazz thanks to albums like Freedom Sound and Looking Ahead. In the '70s, as their sound incorporated more and more elements of funk and R&B, the group changed its name to the Crusaders. Sample also took plenty of jobs on the side, appearing on classic pop-rock albums such as Joni Mitchell's Court & Spark, Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On and Canned Heat's Up the Country. It was not easy work, he told the Houston Press in 2013:

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RIP Dick Wagner: Nightmarishly Good Rock Guitarist Was 71

Note: Dick Wagner, a guitarist who played with everyone from Lou Reed to Hall & Oates but most famously with Alice Cooper's '70s band (he co-wrote "Welcome to My Nightmare" with Cooper, among other shock-rock hits), passed away Wednesday morning at age 71, according to As tribute, Rocks Off would like to re-run the interview our Bob Ruggiero did with Wagner shortly after the publication of his 2012 memoir, Not Only Women Bleed: Vignettes From the Heart of a Rock Musician.

dickwagnercover feb15.jpg
Rocks Off: First I have to ask, how is your health?
Dick Wagner:
Well, it's very good. I made a very strong comeback and am getting ready to tour in the spring and summertime. I barely picked up a guitar for five years. And I'm going to Italy in a few days to produce a band. So I feel good and I'm being active.

You started your career at a time when there really were regional music scenes, and bands -- like the Bossmen and the Frost -- could be hugely successful with hit singles and radio play in one area and then maybe spread. Do you think we miss something by not really having that anymore?
Oh, absolutely. Everyone looks to radio, and to build a local scene, you had to have local radio support and you could gather up a fan base. It was exciting. With the Bossmen, we got so tight with the guys at the radio stations that we'd go in and make up skits right there in the studio with the DJs.

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Billy Gibbons, Others Remember Johnny Winter

Categories: Miles-tones

Photo courtesy of Cactus Music
Cactus Music GM Quinn Bishop (left) and Johnny Winter
Tributes are pouring in for Texas blues icon Johnny Winter, who passed away overnight Wednesday while on tour in Switzerland. The Beaumont native was found in his hotel room in Zurich, a spokesperson said. He was 70.

The albino Winter, two years older than his rock-star brother Edgar (of "Frankenstein" fame), went from Gulf Coast dives to Woodstock and some of the UK's biggest festivals of the late '60s. With a fiery, fearless technique matched by only Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton among his contemporaries, at one point he reportedly signed the biggest advance in music-business history. But he was a bluesman to the core, eventually helping his idol Muddy Waters get his career on track by producing three albums for the Mississippi legend, Hard Again, I'm Ready and King Bee. In 2011, Winter came in at No. 63 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list.

One of his biggest fans was ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, who released this tribute to Winter via the band's publicist Thursday morning.

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RIP Johnny Winter: Texas Blues Icon Dies at Age 70

Michael Weintraub/Sony
The quintessential Texas bluesman: Johnny Winter
Guitarist Johnny Winter, one of the true greats of Texas blues, passed away Wednesday night in Switzerland. His publicist sent the following message at 5 a.m. Thursday, and said a longer official statement would follow "at the appropriate time."

"His wife, family and bandmates are all saddened by the loss of one of the world's finest guitarists," it said.

Winter, a native of Beaumont, was 70 and known for his work with Muddy Waters and albums including Second Winter, Nothin' But the Blues and Serious Business. Following is an interview Rocks Off's Bob Ruggiero did with the legend back in February, when Columbia Records released the multi-disc career retrospective True to the Blues. We will have additional tributes to Winter soon as well.

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