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Matthew Munoz as new Cactus Cafe manager evokes a hearty “Who’s He?”

April 24, 2010 5 comments

Where is Brad Buchholz when we need him?

The insightful Austin American-Statesman reporter distinguished himself and showed true journalistic grit when he wrote often about University of Texas administrator’s shady attempts at “repurposing” the iconic Cactus Café since it was publicly announced last January.

In February Buchholz wrote – “Truth be told: The Cactus feels like home to me, too and it’s not simply a matter of music. The Cactus, at its heart, is about closeness, about intimacy, about sitting so close to the musical campfire that you feel the fire-glow in your bones. The only thing prickly about the place is its name. You go to listen, to feel, to connect.”

He writes in another article – “The character of the Cactus is essentially linked with the people who run it. That means booking manager Griff Luneburg, who began working part-time at the Cactus in 1981 and shaped it into the sensitive listening room we know today… [he] is as important to the Austin singer-songwriter scene as the late Clifford Antone was to Austin blues. Like Antone, Luneburg is about love first, love of music.”

Former Cactus Café manager Griff Luneburg has said Buckhholz truly understands the twisted turn of Cactus events – “He really gets it!” – so I sure wish he could have written the article that appeared in the September 8 edition of the Austin American-Statesman. Buchholz is on an extended leave of absence from the Statesman.

All Bob Kinney photos

 

Griff Luneburg begins Friday show of Last Cactus Week

Statesman music writer Patrick Caldwell wrote a perfunctory news story on the appointment of the unknown Matthew Munoz being named the new manager of the Café effective September 13. I am sure that Stewart Vanderwilt and Hawk Mendenhall – the top KUT Radio administrators who chose Munoz over Griff – smiled when they read the article since it parroted their talking points.

Both Caldwell’s article and the KUT Radio website describe Munoz as a “record industry veteran.”

But wait. Upon reading Munoz’ employment history, the former rock band drummer only began working in the record industry ten years ago. His work in Los Angeles was junior level and the Houston record company he represented recently in Austin has folded.

Munoz has absolutely no experience in booking artists in quality listening rooms like the Cactus Café – let alone the many Austin music clubs ranging from the Continental Club, Antone’s and the Hole in the Wall to Emo’s, Ginny’s Little Longhorn, Threadgill’s, and Beerland. Ten years of below-top management experience in any profession does not add up to “veteran” status. Does it, Stewart?

 

The Final Bow on Saturday night at the Cactus

It reminds local music fans of another time Vanderwilt used the word “veteran.” It happened when Vanderwilt brought David Brown to the KUT studios from California in early 2009. The Wall Street reporter for NPR, Brown had a regular spot on the weekday evening NPR newscast.

I recall that Brown’s wife was news director at KUT then and Brown’s move to Austin reunited the couple. Only trouble is that Brown was given the air time of the popular KUT Latin Jazz program — Horizontes.  KUT staff complained that Brown was being paid way too much more than them. Soon afterward, Vanderwilt cut the on-air hours of two KUT veterans, Larry Monroe and Paul Ray. As a result,  the two 60-somethings lost their KUT health insurance. John Aielli, KUT’s 40-year mainstay morning DJ, has had his on-air hours cut in half since Vanderwilt came to KUT in 2000. Despite mistreating these “veteran” DJs, KUT capitalizes on their iconic status and fan appreciation whenever profitable.

A recent letter to the editor in the Austin Chronicle noted that Brown and all other Vanderwilt Era KUT music program hosts have never broke the Top Ten of DJs in the Chronicle’s annual Best of Austin readers’ poll.

In his news release announcing Brown’s hiring and launching of his Texas Music Matters program on KUT, Vanderwilt described Brown as a “veteran journalist.”

A “veteran” of Wall Street chicanery – Yes.

But, Music … especially in Austin – No.

To read more about the “repurposing” of the Cactus Cafe, check the next post on this blog. A full compilation of posts I have made about the Cactus Cafe since last January is on the second page of this web blog.

The Cactus audience before the first show on Tuesday


I see nothing but public relations, marketing and dealing with minor artists already signed to the company you work for in Munoz’ employment history. No senior management responsibilities. No supervision of folks who work for you. No experience in booking music clubs. Nothing but a promise to  somehow market the Cactus better. Can you see preferred stage-side seating for Cactus big donors coming soon?

What may have happened should have all folks thanking the ever-spunky Hayley Gillespie, co-founder of Student Friends of the Cactus Café on the UT campus.

Hayley has been in the forefront of opposition to UT’s very hidden maneuvers throughout 2010 to “repurpose” the Cactus Café and replace Luneburg who grew the music venue into a world-renowned listening room during the past 27 years. She filed numerous freedom of information requests during the spring and summer to expose the internal UT administrative machinations that brought shame to that world class university and, reportedly, harsh criticism from its pissed-off president, William Powers, about this unnecessary rupture of community relations.

The latest Gillespie legal action led to discovery of a truly swarmy history of emails between Cameron Smith, then assistant director of Texas Performing Arts (PAC – Bass Concert Hall etc) with UT administrators Hank Smith, Juan Gonzalez and Soncia Reagins-Lilly written days after the trio announced the “repurposing” of the Cactus Café.

Smith pitched himself to replace Griff and shamefully used students to further his goal. Paving the way for himself, Cameron Smith announced he would be leaving the PAC at the end of August – coincidentally about the time KUT would be announcing the new Cactus manager. Read the emails at – http://blogs.utexas.edu/sfotcc/2010/08/23/cactus-cafe-open-records/

 

Hayley Gillespie, left, with Tiffany and faculty adviser Dr. Thomas Garza outside a UT press conference about the Cactus that they could not attend in May.

When KUT announced that Munoz is the new Cactus manager on September 13, many Cactus fans wondered “Who is He”? Facebook lit up. Up to his hiring Munoz was not on the circulated public short list of finalists – Griff, Cameron Smith and Paul Minor, booker for the Hole in the Wall.

Did Gillespie’s uncovering of Cameron Smith’s ties to KUT cause Vanderwilt to dump Smith? Seems like Gillespie hit a sensitive spot on the UT administration body yet again. Was Cameron Smith dumped out of long overdue UT/KUT concern for ethics?

In a form email response I received after writing to UT Communications College Dean Roderick Hart about the necessity of not hiring Smith simply because of ethical considerations, he wrote “I am confident that we will hire the best person available for the job and, above all, I can assure you we will hire someone with the highest ethical standards.”  Dean Hart had the “oversight responsibility for hiring the Cactus manager.”

Thank you, Dean Roderick Hart for the first forthright response I have received from UT about the Cactus controversy since the beginning of 2010.

Compare Dean Hart’s words with Vanderwilt’s response to the same email – “Thank you for reaching out regarding the Cactus Cafe. We are committed to its long-term future.

This will be a team effort among many station and Cactus staff and volunteers; along with our Union and campus partners.”

Say What, Stewart?

“Support for the Cactus Café comes from Wendy’s – stop by after the show for a burger. Turn left at the stairs after leaving the Café.”

All Bob Kinney photos

 

Thanks for giving so much, Griff

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Categories: Uncategorized

Adios, Iconic Cactus Cafe

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

The Last Five Days of the Iconic Café was a time for the Cactus Music Family to gather together and help fill the room with memories, melancholy and music every night.

Butch Hancock returned to the Café for the twentieth time to present his No Two More Alike shows long on the Cactus calendar. They now mark the end of the Iconic Days of the Cactus.

all Bob Kinney photos

 

Butch Hancock

Scores of musicians returned to the familiar comfort of the Cactus stage to play with Butch and say Adios with a Heartfelt Thanks to Griff Luneburg who crafted the Cactus beginning almost three decades ago and grew it into the best listening room in Austin and many other cities.

Acknowledgment of all the musicians who played during the Last Five Days is at the end of this post.

 

Joe Ely

Austin Chronicle writer Raoul Hernandez nicely detailed every show of the last week and included set lists – http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/review?oid=oid%3A1070799

 

Cactus audience second night

Three moments in the last week stand out with me.

Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore joining Butch onstage for a 75-minute Flatlanders set on the third night. J.T. Van Zandt came on stage during the set to sing the always timely “Ballad of Ira Hays” with Hancock.

 

Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Friday night Griff opened the show by thanking bar tenders Chris Lueck and Susan Svedeman for their exemplary work at the Cactus – 27 years and 18 years, respectively. It would be the last night all three worked together since Susan had Saturday off.

 

Griff exposes the Kill the Cactus Leaders

Referring to the twisted saga of University of Texas administrators “rebranding” the Cactus first begun in secret late last year and marked with obfuscation, corporate non-transparency and filings of numerous Open Records (freedom of information) requests by media and Hayley Gillispie, co-founder of Student Friends of the Cactus Café, throughout the spring semester and summer months, Griff then revealed that Chris and Susan actually were behind the whole effort to Kill the Cactus and promptly fired the two.

Minutes later Chris announced he and Susan were on strike so Griff could not fire them … even if we are in Texas.

all Bob Kinney photos

Darcie Deaville and Butch

 

The Flatlanders

Butch Hancock and Betty Soo singing Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” during the final show on Saturday was sublime. Hancock’s legendary compilation Split & Slide I and II filled the evening with rambling wit, truly odd characters and the occasional pun. Butch followed that with his long-anticipated Split & Slide III – sung for the first time in full.

Butch finished the night with the quite appropriate cover of Townes’ “To Live Is To Fly” – a song Van Zandt often sang on the Cactus stage.

And then …

Last Call for the Cactus Café.

Thanks, Griff for your abiding love of music and steadfast endurance of everything thrown at you this year. KUT Radio simply must do the right thing and retain you as Cactus manager.

 

Griff

Thanks, Chris and Susan for caring for all of us and being who you are.

Thanks to the leaders and all the members of Friends of the Cactus Café and Students Friends of the Cactus Cafe groups for Fighting the Good Fight. Matt and Zach, of Friends of the Cactus Cafe, are pictured below. Hayley Gillespie, who continues to pry truth out of the UT administration through freedom of information requests, was attending an academic conference out of state during the Cactus’ Last Week.

 

Save the Cactus leaders Matt Portillo and Zach Bidner, left

 

Butch and son Rory

Thanks to Ikeda Tomoko, a UT graduate, who came back to Austin from Tokyo to attend all the shows (and thanks to Tiffany for introducing us).

Thanks to all the Cactus fans I met up with and others I got to know during the week – often standing in line before the show.

Thanks to all the musicians who enhanced the Cactus’ last Nights with their love and talent by performing during the Last Five Days of the Iconic Cactus Café – Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Pat Manske, Betty Soo, J.T. Van Zandt, Darcie Deaville, Colin Gilmore, Bob Livingston, Eppy the Hill Country Clown, Jimmy Petit, Kevin Carroll and David Garza (hope I’ve included all).

 

The Final Bow

Farewell from Butch

Good Night, Cactus

all Bob Kinney photos


Butch and Townes point the way in the Cafe’s  final song.


To live is to fly

Low and high,

So shake the dust off of your wings

And the sleep out of your eyes;

Shake the dust off of your wings

And the tears out of your eyes.

Last words sung in the Cactus Café August 14, 2010

The final lines of the Townes’ song –

“To Live Is To Fly”


All of my posts about the saga of the Cactus Cafe “rebranding” throughout 2010 are archived on the second page of this web blog

Categories: Uncategorized

Cactus Cafe Blues

April 22, 2010 Leave a comment

December 11 date above is only to position this article on my archives. Real time is Spring Semester 2010. Bob

Keep the Light Shining on UT & Cactus Cafe

The twisted spirit of the late University of Texas regent chair Frank Erwin filled the inside of the sumptuous conference Room 4.118 on the top floor of the Texas Union Wednesday afternoon May 19 when the union board held an invitation-only press conference to detail how Union administrators Andy Smith and Juan Gonzalez intended to “repurpose” our beloved Cactus Café.

As I write this on May 19, Erwin is applauding the Texas Union administrators who artfully obfusticated and continually rewrote the script for months until a freedom of information request by two Austin media forced UT to cough up their machinations.

Erwin, who also squirmed under the gaze of the same Texas Observer and Austin American-Statesman publications mentioned above, tried to quash 60s student protests against the Vietnam War and his close friend Lyndon Johnson,  personally led with a hard hat and a bullhorn the bulldozing of a creek for expansion of the UT football stadium where students had chained themselves to the threatened trees, and brutally fought for more power over the faculty until he fired Arts & Sciences Dean John Silber (much like how regents fired UT President Homer Rainey 20 years earlier – remember to read about this chapter of UT outrage at end of this blog).  Smith and Gonzalez et al waited to announce their detail-less plan to join with KUT radio in managing the Cactus until the Café was into its customary last half of May vacation, finals were finished, dorms were closing that afternoon, and parking spaces across Guadalupe were almost plentiful. Don’t worry about details, folks, since “we bring a lot to the table,” said KUT manager Stewart Vanderwilt.

all Bob Kinney photos

 

Hayley Gillespie and Cactus Fan Tiffany with Professor Thomas Garza outside closed meeting May 19

Hayley Gillispie, co-founder of Student Friends of the Cactus Café, and Dr. Thomas Garza, former union board member and new faculty adviser to the student Cactus group – both active members of the ongoing Cactus discussion – were refused admittance.

Student reporters from the Daily Texan and the Horn were stopped at the door. Someone higher up no doubt worried about the administration’s tenuous transparency taking a nasty publicity hit and let them in. Why weren’t student media invited first? Frank Erwin can tell you.

“The only thing transparent about today’s events were the glass doors of the conference room separating us from the press conference,” said Gillespie who was standing near the conference room atop a cushy carpet. She disputes the administration claim that “A majority of Student Government leaders and the Texas Union Board of Directors are advocates of the partnership” with KUT Radio. With construction beginning on the new College of Communications building across Dean Keeton from the present KUT complex, raising money to pay for the construction will take fund-raising precedence over the Cactus Cafe … especially during a university-wide hiring freeze.

It’s important to honor the folks who got you here.

In an editorial in the May 13 issue of the Daily Texan newspaper,  student government representative Matt Portello – who founded Cactus Student Friends with Gillespie – emphasizes the importance of keeping the current experienced and respected Cactus management in place. KUT has yet to affirm that Griff Luneburg, creator of the Cactus and close friends with hundreds of musicians and managers, will keep his job. Read Matt’s op-ed on the need to keep Griff as manager with his long-time staff at dailytexanonline.com

 

Cactus Friends unfolding scroll of petition signatures April 21

I cringe to think of what will happen to the Cactus Café with KUT manager Stewart Vanderwilt reshaping it. He simply has ruined KUT Radio by clogging its airways with incessant commercials that destroy the wonderous flow of music that used to flow through decades before he came to Austin. What was uniquely Austin about KUT is gone. In its place is a mix of too-trendy music shows and canned public radio programs that can be heard most anywhere else. On-air hours of knowledgeable dj’s were hacked in half, benefits reduced and playlists introduced. I stopped my generous support of KUT in 2006. When its non-commercial federal radio license comes up for renewal soon, be sure to comment. What part of “non-commercial” doesn’t Stewart understand?

When I came to Austin in 1978, KUT was one of my two favorite radio stations – the other being KVET during its Doug Sahm/Kicker mid-70s years. I enjoyed calling Larry Monroe late at night to talk about a song he had just played. We both remembered watching Johnny Ray singing “Just Crying in the Rain” during a 50s music show on a b&w televison. We shared roots in the Midwest, Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons. I got to know John Aielli in the mid-80s when I began publicizing the Seminary of the Southwest a few blocks north of UT campus. I suggested and then arranged John’s first not in-the-studio-interview by phone with theologian Matthew Fox who was giving a lecture at the seminary back then. I have listened to Paul Ray from the stage as well as on the radio for many years. His knowledge of music is deep, respectful and enthusiastic. Memories of my son now 23 hopping up and down in his crib when he heard “Waltzing with Bears” on KUT still brings a smile. His mom or I or both of us would pick him up, turn up the volume and dance around the house – “wa-wa … wa-wa … -waltzing-with-bears.” He later graduated to  “Workin’ on a John Deere Tractor” by the missed Don Walser from here in Austin.

Friends have suggested over the years that I give KUT another listen. I try but usually can’t last 15 minutes. I am a Prairie Home Companion fan and can be found Saturday evenings when I’m home turning the sound down as the clock approaches 6 and then 12 so most of the flood of catch-up commercials can’t be heard.

 

Cactus Friends enter public hearing April 21

My May 19 visit to the Union was not my first Cactus decision protest. I showed up April 21 to help hold the scroll of Save the Cactus petition signatures outside the Cactus and later spoke at the public hearing. What I said is posted at the end of this blog. I have been adding to my Cactus web-blog since I created it in January. You can trace the ongoing developments, follow the shifts in administration rationale, read my thoughts and follow links in that article at the end of the second page of this web blog.

I am going to be closely watching how the New Cactus will unfold over the summer. I hope you will be, too.

Communication from UT & KUT to the Austin community must be more imaginative and welcoming than just providing an email address. All of us have been writing way too many Cactus emails since late January.

Let’s also hope that the first show we attend at the Cactus this fall does not have stage-close seating reserved for “preferred donors” or that the following chirpy-voiced message is not played on the Cactus sound system after every two songs performed onstage – “Support for the Cactus Café is brought to you by Wendy’s – who invites you to stop by for a burger after the show.”

 

VP Juan Gonzalez conducting April 24 public hearing

Text of Bob Kinney comments during the April 21 public hearing about the Cactus Café’s fate.

“The late Episcopal Bishop John Hines was a good friend of Dr. Homer Rainey, who was president of the University of Texas from 1939 to his firing in 1941.

“Bishop Hines founded St. Stephen’s School in West Austin and the Seminary of the Southwest – a few blocks north of here along Duval – when he was bishop of the Diocese of Texas after the Second World War. He later became Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church during the Civil Rights years of the 1960s.

“Hines returned to the seminary in 1986 to preach at the twentieth anniversary of its chapel.

“During his sermon, Hines condemned how University of Texas regents tried to pressure Rainey to fire four full professors of economics for their alleged New Deal views. Rejected by Rainey, the regents then fired three untenured economics instructors – a move that drew a nine-year censure of the university by the American Association of University Professors, Phi Beta Kappa and university accreditation groups. Most galling was the regents’ removal of John Dos Passos’ book, USA, from the English Department’s reading list. And then they fired Homer Rainey.

“Standing in the pulpit of the seminary chapel, Hines pointed toward the University of Texas and proclaimed “It all happened at that university a few blocks south of here – that institution without a soul.”

“Nearly twenty-five years later, the same can be said about university administrators who are slipping through their callous and not necessary decision to close the Cactus Café. It’s shameful that the Freedom of Information act had to be used to pry open the administration’s machinations that led to the January 29 so-called public announcement of the Cactus Café’s closing at the University of Texas – the institution that still lacks a soul.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Miss Leslie Is Real Country

April 20, 2010 1 comment

It was ten minutes to one a.m. bar time Feb 20, 2010, at Ginny’s Little Longhorn in north central Austin when Miss Leslie said Last Song. Miss Leslie and Her Juke-Jointers from Spring, Texas, were finishing up a four-hour show with just one thirty-minute break between two sets.

A favorite and long-time regular at Ginny’s – the best honky tonk in Austin or anywhere – Leslie Sloan sat with a sigh and relief onto a metal folding chair while her bandmates packed up the instruments after the show.

 

 

Miss Leslie Sloan

 

“Our baby is due on the Spring Equinox,” Leslie said with a hopeful wonder. Ricky Davis, soulmate and steel player, is the dad. Here’s hoping your child arrives then – what a great start to life! But, then again with parents like yours – why worry?

Leslie Sloan has just released her fourth and best classic country album so far and now she’s taking a couple of months off to be a Birth Mom again.

 

 

Ricky Davis

 

The new album – “Wrong is What I Do Best” – is filled with fourteen … count them, 14 songs … featuring Leslie’s writing, voice and fiddle with Bill Kirchen’s brilliant Commander Country guitar-work, the impeccable steel riffs of Ricky Davis, solid backbone and expressive faces courtesy of drummer Timmy Campbell and sweet acoustic bass plucks and thumps from Ric Ramirez’s hands, heart and soul. Dave Biller plays acoustic guitar in some of these songs and is a regular in Her Juke-Jointers – Leslie’s performing band that plays at Ginny’s every six weeks or so.

 

 

Ric Ramirez

 

all Bob Kinney photos

This is the second Miss Leslie album that Tommy Detamore has produced with Leslie and Ricky. It was recorded in his Cherry Ridge Studios in Floresville, Texas.

 

 

Timmy Campbell

 

Leslie has so much going for her. She acknowledges her parents in the opening paragraph of liner notes in Miss Leslie’s new Wrong release. Dad, musician and minister, Country Jim Sloan enjoyed playing bluegrass and traditional country music, as well as ministering to folks through music, the gospel or both. Leslie’s Mom, Glenna, was an accomplished concert pianist. Leslie began playing violin at age 4 and performed on stage at age 14 – playing country/bluegrass fiddle and touring with her family band of parents, sister and brother through Texas and beyond.

 

 

Brent Wilson

 

Miss Leslie and Her Juke-Jointers plan a party to celebrate the birth of the child and the cd release of Wrong Is What I Do Best at Ginny’s Little Longhorn this Spring.


 

 

Miss Leslie – eight months pregnant – stood throughout the three-plus hour show

 

I admire Leslie’s music making, writing, marketing ideas and commitment to Real Country Music. Her songs like “I Need Me (A Whole Lot More than I Need You),” “There’s Two People Here Not Talkin’,” and “Lie, Lie, Lie” are rooted in strong self-hood. “The Last Time I Drank,” the song that ends the new album, is chilling. The interplay between Leslie’s fiddle and Ricky’s steel is simply superb. Tommy’s drums and Ric’s bass always blend a solid rhythm. She and the band have grown so nicely over time. These folks enjoy making music together on an exemplary level – show after show after show. In the liner notes to her new album, Leslie writes “Thanks to the band – we live the quintessential struggle of the musician. A commitment to art that isn’t commercially viable. But we stay with it because it is a part of our souls.”

 

 

The BassMan

 

Many of us complain about the Current So-called Country Singers – Do you feel like you have been TaylorSwiftBoardered?  Who took over country music while we weren’t listening cause most of it these days is crap.  Leslie has written about this. First, she suggests, find out and go to Real Country music shows in your hometown and help spread the word about the musicians. Keep Fighting Back Against the Trend to Commercialize Country Music. It’d be nice if They decided to take over Jazz, Hip hop, Gospel or even Polka … but it ain’t gonna happen. Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum wilt before Leslie Sloan. Think of different ways to persuade your friends and help fight the Beast.

 

 

Yeah, Leslie

 

For example, Leslie decided to give away her third album. All you had to do was sign up on her website and she mailed it to you – postage paid. More than 300 folks discovered Leslie that way.

 

 

The South Austin Flash

 

Be Imaginative. Be Real. Perform a great show and do just as good or better the next night. Just like Miss Leslie and Her Juke-Jointers.

 

"songs of the soul and words of the heart."

 

 

 

 

Categories: Country