When we talk about Augie Meyers, there are a couple of non-negotiables. These are the things that you must know, that you hopefully already know, if you are a self-respecting local music fan.
One is that Meyers is as puro San Anto as they come, a living incarnation of all the contradictions, curiosities and character that crowds our collective core. The second is that he co-founded two of the most important bands in our city’s history (not to mention the history of rock and roll): the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornados.
But, did you know he’s collaborated with the likes of Tom Waits, Tom Jones, Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan — lending them his ear, his signature Vox Continental and his accordion? Did you also know that since the 1970s, he's steadily released solo albums — too many to count — full of his tender and rambunctious humor, natural songwriting gift and one-of-a kind playing?
Did you also know the latest of those albums is out next week?
Well he has, he does, and that’s why I talked to him last Thursday, right after he finished dinner at home with his wife and mother-in-law.
Of course I wanted to discuss the album and Friday's release show at Sam's, but Augie takes his time with everything. He gives off the impression that releasing albums is so much a part of his regular existence at this point that he sees a new one, to some extent, as unremarkable.
I didn't communicate with a publicist or receive a stream of the album in advance, or any of the standard stuff that so many artists now let their PR teams do for them. I emailed Meyers and he emailed me back, asking me to call him. Just call: no time or date specifics, no indication that he had to ask anyone or answer to anyone for his time. You've got to admire that kind of untethered nonchalance. And, more importantly, you can hear it in his music.
Without access to the new tunes, our talk was rambling and disjointed (in the best of ways), kinda like the experience of seeing Meyers live these days. He's every bit as captivating a storyteller/smartass/jokester as he is a songwriter, and he's a damn captivating songwriter.
I can tell you the following about the album though (beyond the facts that I'm excited to hear it and will review it on sacurrent.com once I have): It's titled I Know I Could Be Happy, If Myself Wasn’t Here,which, appropriately enough, sounds like equal parts Zen koan and sad old drinking song.
The title is an enigma even to Meyers, who, in his daily hours spent reading and writing, has probably casually tossed off more awesome (and terrible) album titles than you could even imagine. He's been at work for almost three years now on his autobiography, and has the slyly jovial demeanor of someone who has been fondly reliving both the good times and the bad.
The album has 10 songs on it and, like most of the man's recent output, it's an amalgamation of styles — South Texas Soul, country, old school rock and roll, Tex-Mex — and attitudes that Meyers has picked up over a long life of running in the best musical circles and listening to the best shit.
"Basically it’s like five-to-six originals and some old songs that I’ve always said I’d like to cut one day,” Meyers said, dropping names like Johnny Olenn and Jimmy Clanton like the best kind of self-taught music historian.
Apart from this album, Meyers says he's almost finished with a kind of Texas chamber music project that features solo piano and vocal performances with flourishes of horn and violin accompaniment.
Among the most interesting parts of our discussion, apart from the jokes about screwing off in high school (to be expected when you tell a guy like Meyers that you teach English), were those where Meyers slid into storyteller mode.
There's the one about how John Lennon and Paul McCartney bugged him about how to get their Vox Continental to sound more like his. ("They were using the wrong damn reverb pedal.") And the one about needling celebrated producer Daniel Lanois for simplicity's sake during the sessions for Bob Dylan's late career high point Time Out of Mind. And there are my favorite ones... the ones about his wife.
A quarter century ago, when making arrangements for their wedding, Meyers' spouse absent-mindedly took a message from a mysterious caller named Bob, thinking nothing of it. When Meyers protested, not knowing which Bob he was supposed to call back, she shrugged.
Days later, a call from Dylan (the Bob in question), led him to gently scold her that it was Bob Dylan who she'd failed to take a proper message for.
"Oh, I've heard of him," she said, according to Meyers. "What does he play?"
Another time, at a Farm Aid show in North Texas, she was excitedly snapping pictures from the side stage, forcibly moving aside "some little guy who kept getting in the way."
A few hours later, Meyers tried to introduce her to "a longtime friend, Paul Simon."
Simon, recognizing the lady who had shoved him aside for the sake of her eager photography, wryly said, "Oh, we've met."
"But, she was into disco, ya know...," Meyers offered, by way of defending his lady.
Meyers is a man who is full of stories like the kind your favorite tio or grandpa might tell — only legendary and iconic in scope. In the lively (sometimes touching, sometimes fascinating, sometimes crude) yarns he spins onstage, and through the songs he writes and chooses to interpret, it's these stories and their inextricable links to his magical sound that make Meyers such a true gem of not only Texan, but American musical history.
Don't miss a chance to catch Meyers this weekend as he shares his new songs with the same old earnest and smirking aplomb that has made him a legend among legends and a prime influencer among prime influencers. Augie Meyers Album Release Show $15-$70, 7pm, Fri., Feb. 1, Sam’s Burger Joint, 330 E. Grayson St., (210) 223-2830, samsburgerjoint.com.
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