IVAN KOOP KUPER | NOSTALGIA | The Summer of ’72: A look back after more than 50 years.

Coming of age in Houston, Texas, with The Rolling Stones

Photo by John M. Lomax (John Lomax III), first published in underground newspaper Space City!, June 29, 1972, and later in the book Exploring Space City! published by the New Journalism Project in 2021.

By Ivan Koop Kuper | The Rag Blog | January 26, 2024

There was a feeling of excitement throughout the city of Houston and specifically in the neighborhood of Montrose in the summer of 1972. Something was in the air and you could just feel it. The seminal rock and roll band, the Rolling Stones, were coming to town to promote the release of their new double-sided album, Exile on Main Street, and everyone in my circle of friends just knew that this concert was going to be the cultural event of the season.

In the summer of ‘72, whenever it suited me, I could be found swimming and lounging at what was then referred to as the “Montrose Country Club.” In reality this was the outdoor swimming pool on the campus of the neighborhood liberal arts college, The University of St. Thomas. It was a social gathering hot spot easily accessible not only to St. Thomas students, but also to the local bohemian citizenry who resided in the surrounding area. The pool was the ideal spot to take a respite from the brutally hot Houston summers that never seemed to relent until well past Halloween.

On one occasion at the pool, I was a joined by a neighborhood local who dropped by with his girlfriend to get some much needed relief. “Hey Red,” I said to the familiar face with long, flowing red hair and a matching beard who was known as “Uncle John” Turner. He had an elderly persona to all who knew him but in hindsight I now realize that at the time, John Turner was all of 28 years of age.

“I bought my ticket this week to see the Stones on Sunday night,” I said to Turner and his hippie girlfriend who accompanied him to the pool. “You wouldn’t happen to know anyone who has a couple extra tickets they don’t need would you?” asked his girlfriend. Turner seemed a little embarrassed by the question that indicated they were down on their luck and the two were possibly struggling to make ends meet. Later that day, I thought to myself how could this happen with someone who was a successful drummer and who, just three summers prior, performed at the Woodstock Music and Art Festival, in upstate New York, with his East Texas, golden-triangle band mate, Johnny Winter? I would run across the good-natured Uncle John Turner in Houston and Austin for that matter, throughout the next several years, at live music venues and musical instrument stores until his untimely death in 2007, from the dreaded Hepatitis C Virus.

I was living the good life in the summer of my 18th year. I was finally out of the suburban house  where I was raised and away from the watchful eyes of my worrisome, yet well-meaning immigrant parents. I was employed at Rolando’s Burger Factory, a local neighborhood joint where I was slinging burgers and fries, located near the university, and getting stoned with my friends whenever the opportunity presented itself. Back in the day, getting stoned was as much an act of political defiance against extremist American conservative values as it was a recreational endeavor. It is hard to believe that as of December 2023 and excluding the great state of Texas, of course — marijuana is now legal in 24 of the United States of America. The irony here is that I do not even remember the last time I traveled down the road to enlightenment being the responsible senior citizen that I am these days.

In the summer of ’72, I was also learning the fine art of editing quarter-inch analog audio recording tape as a volunteer at the recently established Pacifica Radio affiliate, KPFT-FM, located in the old Atlanta Life Insurance Building in downtown Houston. Little did I know this was an acquired avocation I would revisit several times throughout my lifetime — and when I least expected it. Incidentally, this is the very same radio station that had the dubious distinction of being the first and only radio station in the United States that was bombed off the air by right-wing terrorists not once, but twice, in 1970, by the Pasadena, Texas “klavern” of the United Klans of America, Inc. aka The Ku Klux Klan.

I shared a two-bedroom apartment in the summer of ‘72 with my first roommate, Pete Kelley, who I met while I was working as a board operator and audio editor at the Houston community radio station. He was an older, more mature 26 year old, who, in addition to his daytime job as a camera salesman, worked as a late-night DJ. We split an extravagant $65 per month on rent (not including utilities) in a 1920s brick four-plex with oak floors and 12-foot ceilings located in the heart of Montrose at the corner of Bute and Branard Streets. Our rent was eventually increased to $75 to adjust to 1970s-era inflation. Not surprisingly, after more than 50 years, I seem to have lost track of some of my friends and acquaintances from that era in my life including Pete, who may very well be a great-grandfather by now.

During my senior year of high school on my 18th birthday several months earlier, I received a letter from the United States Selective Service System inviting me to register for the draft which I reluctantly did. I was issued the obligatory registration lottery number; however, it would be three more years before the atrocities of the conflict in Indochina would come to a climactic end with the fall of Saigon in 1975. Before this historic event transpired, our nation witnessed the resignation of its morally corrupt 37th president, Richard M. Nixon, only 10 months after the resignation and his equally corrupt vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, thus ending our nation’s eight-year involvement in the non-declared Viet Nam War.

The local live music clubs were my home away from home in the summer of ’72 and they are where I received my formal musical education. One historic venue in particular, known as the Old Quarter, is where I was a regular patron. It was at this nondescript hole in the wall on the corner of Austin and Travis Streets located east of downtown that I was first exposed to the country blues of Houston’s Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins and Navasota’s Mance Lipscomb, and a little known, underrated and underappreciated bluesman from Bellville, Texas known as Weldon “Juke Boy” Bonner. Bonner would pass away in 1978 at age 46 from cirrhosis of the liver never receiving the acclaim, accolades, nor recognition he rightly deserved. The Old Quarter is where I was also first introduced to the dark and sullen songwriting of a Fort Worth transplant named Townes Van Zandt.

And so it came to pass that on the evening of June 27, Pete Kelly and I, his girlfriend, and a neighbor or two loaded ourselves into Pete’s VW Beetle and drove from Montrose through Houston’s historic African-American neighborhood, Third Ward, to Hofheinz Pavilion, a venue on the campus of the University of Houston, where 20,000 like-minded young adults assembled to experience the sights and sounds of those British imports with the Texas twang: The Rolling Stones.

I have to admit that I remember very little about the Stone’s actual performance and what compositions they performed that balmy summer evening. They were accompanied by then-new guitarist, Mick Taylor and a horn section comprised of Fort Worth native Jim Price and Bobby Keys of North Texas on trumpet and tenor saxophone, respectively. These two Texans also contributed to the making of the Stones’ new album, Exile on Main Street, which the band was in town to promote. Keys, who spent his formative years in Slaton, a tiny speck of a town near the Texas panhandle, initially met the Stones when they were on their first ever tour of America and were booked into San Antonio’s “Teen Fair of Texas,” in 1964. As the story goes, Keys was a member of another band performing that afternoon: the backing band for early 60s, teen idol, Bobby Vee. San Antonio was ground zero for the beginning of a life-long contentious relationship between Keys and the Stones that ended when Keys died of liver cancer in 2014.

John Lomax III of Houston’s then-underground, alternative weekly, Space City!, reported: “The not-so-young machos laid about 16 songs on us at the 9 p.m. show, were on stage around 1½ hours and left the crowd begging for more. But there were no encores from this band and the crowd filed out of the hall at 11:35 p.m. feeling partially fulfilled, but wishing for more.”

Lomax continued to describe the subdued atmosphere that permeated the venue: “it was all done in a businesslike, yet infectious manner with Mick complimenting the crowd often.” However, at one point, Jagger is said to have made the cryptic comment to the audience, “you’re a good crowd here in Houston, but you should be in church, though.”

After the all-too-brief performance, several of my neighborhood cronies and I rendezvoused back at the “Montrose Country Club” where we hopped the low-security cyclone fence for an evening of post-concert analysis, celebration, and libation. And while we floated in the pool that had been heated all day by the relentless Texas sun, we relived the night’s performance delivered by Mick and the boys, and pontificated about its historic and cultural significance into the wee hours of the morning.

[Ivan Koop Kuper is a freelance writer, professional drummer, real estate broker, podcaster, and a frequent contributor to The Rag Blog. He invites everyone to follow him on twitter @koopkuper and he is available for comment at: koopkuper@gmail.com.]

Find more articles by Ivan Kuper on The Rag Blog here.

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JONAH RASKIN | BOOKS | ‘Material Wealth
: Mining the Personal Archive of Allen Ginsberg’

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | December 27, 2023

[Compiled and annotated by Pat Thomas; PowerHouse Books; 256 pages.]

Pat Thomas has written and published colorful books about the Black Panthers — the defiant organization that rocked the U.S. from coast-to-coast in the 1960s — and Jerry Rubin, the author of DO IT!  and Growing (Up) at 37. His latest book is about Allen Ginsberg, the unofficial U.S. Poet Laureate whose work has been read and enjoyed from Chile and Czechoslovakia to China and everywhere that the spoken word is treasured. Material Wealth
 might be called a scrapbook in the spirit of the Yippies that combines words and images and creates something greater than its parts. Indeed, it’s composed of bits and pieces — photos, sketches, letters, posters and ephemera — that cohere and coalesce.                                                  

It also might be described as Ginsberg “light,” though it also includes plenty of darkness, a territory that the poet covered in his three major poems: Howl — an epic about a generation “destroyed by madness”; Kaddish — an elegy for his mother, Naom — and Wichita Vortex Sutra, an anti-war hymn in which he writes, “I here declare the end of the war!” It’s as timely a proclamation in the age of Ukraine and Gaza as it was during the Vietnam War.                                                

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NORMAN SOLOMON | DEATHS | For media elites, war criminal Henry Kissinger was a great man

Henry Kissinger / LBJ Library image / Creative Commons.

Can a war criminal really be a “noted statesman”?

By Norman Solomon | The Rag Blog | December 13, 2023

For U.S. mass media, Henry Kissinger’s quip that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” rang true. Influential reporters and pundits often expressed their love for him. The media establishment kept swooning over one of the worst war criminals in modern history.

After news of his death broke on Wednesday night, prominent coverage echoed the kind that had followed him ever since his years with President Richard Nixon, while they teamed up to oversee vast carnage in Southeast Asia.

The headline over a Washington Post news bulletin summed up: “Henry Kissinger Dies at 100. The Noted Statesman and Scholar Had Unparalleled Power Over Foreign Policy.”

But can a war criminal really be a “noted statesman”?

The New York Times top story began by describing Kissinger as a “scholar-turned-diplomat who engineered the United States’ opening to China, negotiated its exit from Vietnam, and used cunning, ambition and intellect to remake American power relationships with the Soviet Union at the time of the Cold War, sometimes trampling on democratic values to do so.”

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LAMAR HANKINS | MIDDLE EAST | Hamas, Israel, and the Palestinians

Israel’s Wall in Bethlehem, West Bank. Photo by Montecruz Foto / Creative Commons.

To criticize Israel’s government and policies is not antisemitic.

By Lamar Hankins | The Rag Blog | December 5, 2023

I am reluctant to write about Israel at this politically- and emotionally-charged time because there is little respect for free speech in our country, which has long been known for free speech.  Groups and individuals — right, center, and left — want to cancel the right of free speech for those with whom they disagree.  I am also reluctant to broach the subject with Jewish friends and acquaintances for fear of damaging our relationship, even though I have always made clear distinctions between the State of Israel and being Jewish.  To criticize Israel’s government and policies is not antisemitic.

I try to approach the world through logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than through authority, tradition, or religious or political dogma.  With that in mind, and with compassion for those being harmed on all sides, I realize that if I don’t discuss Hamas, Israel, and Palestinians, I leave the discussion up to those who are willing to distort history and current affairs to suit what too often is informed by prejudice, false information, and fear.  But my biggest difficulty today is sorting out fact from fiction.

And we can’t separate fact from fiction without understanding what has happened and is happening from the perspective of the other.  We must understand the experience of Israelis and Jews and Palestinians, both Hamas supporters and all the rest.  Understanding the other’s perspective does not mean that we excuse unconscionable behavior.  But without understanding the other’s experiences, their emotions, and the realities of their lives, there never will be a just peace in this part of the Middle East.

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JONAH RASKIN | FILM | The reign of terror waged against the Osage. A review of the movie ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

By Jonah Raskin | The Rag Blog | November 24, 2023

Jonah Raskin will discuss this article and related issues on Rag Radio, Friday, Nov. 24, 2-3 p.m. (CT) on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin or streamed at KOOP.org.

For the past 600 years and maybe far further back in time than that, indigenous people all over the world have taken a terrible beating, though they have also survived. Novelists, poets, painters, playwrights, and filmmakers have told that story of genocide and resistance in its many iterations over and over again, and still the wars go on. David Grann tells a small part of that global phenomenon in his nonfiction book, Killers of the Flower Moon, a bestseller. Now, famed director Martin Scorsese has adapted parts of Grann’s story for a long movie that describes the war that white settlers, businessmen, and lawmen waged in the 1920s in the state of Oklahoma against a Native American tribe called the Osage.

The Osage called the war that was waged against them a “Reign of Terror.” When oil was discovered in Osage territory in Oklahoma, the Indians suddenly became wealthy. In many ways they assimilated white values, without totally surrendering their own heritage and language. Both resistance and compliance went on at the same time.

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LAMAR HANKINS | DEATH AND DYING | Dying on our own terms in Texas

Texans are unlikely to see a medical assistance in dying law any time soon, but other options are available for those facing an unacceptable, protracted death that lacks the dignity most people seek.

By Lamar Hankins | The Rag Blog | October 12, 2023

[Lamar Hankins will be Thorne Dreyer’s guest on Rag Radio from 2-3 p.m., Friday, October 13, 2023, on KOOP-FM 90.1 in Austin or at KOOP.org.]

Few people want to discuss dying, including most Texans.  Nevertheless, more and more people are demonstrating a willingness to plan for what every person will eventually face.  The use of advance directives; the proliferation of Death Cafes, where death and dying issues are discussed in an informal setting; organized discussions in many social, nonsectarian, and religious groups; and the passage of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) laws in several states over the past few years attest to an increasing interest in thinking about and discussing death and dying.

The need for assistance in dying

Many people don’t see the need for assistance in dying.  I will point to four examples by way of explanation.  An inoperable brain tumor can lead to painful headaches and seizures that leave a person in misery, with no hope of recovery.  As the symptoms get closer and closer together, they may have no opportunity for a peaceful life.  Often, the medications prescribed to control the symptoms leave the person unable to function in any normal way.  Death is certain, but how soon it will come is unknown.  Brittany Maynard, who had an inoperable brain tumor at the age of 29, explained her decision to use the MAID law in Oregon to end her own life:

Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.  Now, I’m able to move forward in my remaining days or weeks I have on this beautiful Earth, to seek joy and love, and to spend time traveling to outdoor wonders of nature with those I love. And I know that I have a safety net.  I hope for the sake of my fellow American citizens that I’ll never meet that this option is available to you.  If you ever find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, I hope that you would at least be given the same choice and that no one tries to take it from you.

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ALICE EMBREE | LATIN AMERICA | The First 9/11: Fiftieth anniversary of the coup in Chile

September 11, 2023, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the 1973 military coup in Chile.

Painting by Carlos Lowry, 2023.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | September 10, 2023

The Austin Committee for Human Rights in Chile began after the coup.  It is where I deepened my understanding of U.S. complicity in that coup.  It’s where I was called Compañera, where I met a partner who had been in Santiago that fateful day.  The long shadow of dictatorship, lasting 17 years, marked my life and others I came to know in the Chile solidarity movement.  Our solidarity efforts echo a previous generation’s experience with the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, a long shadow of dictatorship.

As we live in a time of peril, climate apocalypse, state bans on bodies, local bans on books, and sustained attacks on democracy, I can’t help but feel we are on a precipice.  Imbued with remembrance of movement victories and a sense of solidarity, we live with a palpable fear of losing ground, of losing democratic rights we thought were inalienable.

I was moved by Ariel Dorfman’s recent article, “Defending Allende,” in the New York Review.  He was there when Allende won the presidency.  He speaks of it beautifully:

I had one of the most moving epiphanies of my life on the night of Allende’s election on September 4, 1970. After listening to him promise a delirious crowd that he would be el compañero presidente when he entered La Moneda in two months’ time, I wandered along the streets of Santiago with my wife and friends and witnessed the wonder, pride, and determination on the faces of workers and their families as they walked through the center of the city.

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LESLIE CUNNINGHAM | CIVIL RIGHTS | The March on Washington: Now 60 Years Later

Hundreds of thousands descended on Washington, D.C.’s, Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963. U.S. Government Photo.

Now it’s the 60th anniversary.  Ten years ago (see my article below) I was marking a lot of half century points in my life; the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and momentous events of the months following it loomed large.  Somehow it’s a decade later and I’m still alive, but my head’s been reeling with what’s happened during this time — the good, the bad, and a lot of ugly.  This is very frightening to those of us who remember the 1950s — segregationist violence, McCarthyism, and the very real danger of nuclear annihilation. Today it’s the resurgence of overt racism, homophobia, violent white supremacy, and Christian nationalism that we once thought had become fringe but is now a serious power.  

 So once again, what is to be done? I wrote about “seeing all those people, all those BLACK people, all those men and especially women, young and old, whose event this was. Seeing their seriousness and power and determination. They were the instigators, they were the organizers, they were the leaders of their own struggle.” What I felt vaguely in 1963 was that black and brown people (“especially women”) would also be the leaders of a multiracial movement for change, and that I did not want to be in organizations and campaigns dominated by Anglo people — though I’ve found myself doing just that at various times in the last 60 years.

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JIM SIMONS | A PASSING | Greg Olds and the Gang of Six: An Abiding Memory

The original gang of 7.

By Jim Simons | The Rag Blog | August 25, 2023

AUSTIN — A dear friend passed in June at 86. Greg Olds was a quiet, thoughtful person. Even though he was very sick, he assured us he was fine. No fuss, self-deprecating and witty. Some of his youth was spent in Oklahoma where his father taught law. Greg was a graduate (in journalism) at UT. But he didn’t care for the school, thought it loud, aggressive and pretentious. So he became a strong fan of OU. When able, in early years, he drove to Norman for football games. He regularly went to the OU–Texas game at the State Fair Cotton Bowl. I went with him once. No repeats for me. His tickets were in the section where OU fans sat. I kept my allegiance for Texas to myself.

After graduating at Texas, he did post-graduate study at the University of Missouri.

I first met Greg at Scholz’ beer garden in 1967. He was with Ronnie Dugger, the hard-driving editor of the liberal publication, the Texas Observer. I was on friendly terms with Ronnie, who hailed me over to the table. Greg at that time was editor of the Richardson newspaper in North Dallas. I didn’t know it but Ronnie was vetting him as possible editor of the Texas Observer, because Ronnie hoped to spend more time on other writing. A critical book on LBJ was often mentioned. Greg was liberal in his politics and did take over as editor of TO at the end of 1968, possibly a bit later. In 1967 I was working for the OEO, “War on Poverty.” We became friends, as we were for the rest of Greg’s life.

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ALLEN YOUNG | BOOKS | Two new memoirs by gay liberation pioneers, one by a lesbian and one by a gay man.

The experiences of Shelley and D’Emilio differ largely because of their unique backgrounds and life goals.

By Allen Young | The Rag Blog | August 16, 2023

Two new books, which I just finished reading, merit a wide-ranging readership, so whether you are well-informed about the gay movement, or know little about it, the writers offer some valued insights. Furthermore, you might also have some fun getting to know two very different individuals. The authors, Martha Shelley and John D’Emilio, both in their seventies, have contributed an enormous amount to the gay movement and thus to the transformation of our nation’s politics and culture.

The books are: We Set the Night on Fire: Igniting the Gay Revolution by Martha Shelley and Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood: Coming of Age in the Sixties by John D’Emilio. Memoirs, as most readers know, are quite popular, and I want to address that for a minute.  I found this on the web: “Since the early 1990s, tens of thousands of memoirs by celebrities and unknown people have been published, sold, and read by millions of American readers. The memoir boom, as the explosion of memoirs on the market has come to be called, has been welcomed, vilified, and dismissed in the popular press.”

I authored a book that is an autobiography, somewhat different from a memoir. My 2018 book is Left, Gay & Green: A Writer’s Life, and a review was published on The Rag Blog.

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TOM ZIGAL | ART | Carlos Lowry’s portrait gallery for our time

La Peña Presents:

Rastros Inolvidables / Unforgettable Traces
Paintings by Carlos Lowry, August 13-September 11, 2023

Opening Reception:
Sunday, August 13, 2023 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Live Music by Trio Tiburón
La Peña is located at 237 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas 78701

By Tom Zigal | The Rag Blog | August 8, 2023

I’ve known Carlos Lowry as a friend and co-conspirator for 45 years, and he continues to surprise me, inspire me, and challenge me to explore the amazing, complex warren of his passions and fascinations. Mostly politics, music, and film, but I’ve also seen him cheering ringside in a crowd of millennials at a pro wrestling match. Trying to keep up with his intellectual and artistic pursuits is like trying to grasp a common thread that stitches together all the incredible images in Rastros Inolvidables/Unforgettable Traces. You’re gonna need to Google.

In this new exhibition, Carlos is not only paying tribute to the revolutionaries, pop stars, and legendary figures who intrigue him, he’s inviting us to educate ourselves and embrace the fullness of history and share his personal admiration for Emma and the pecan shellers, the daring New Wave filmmakers, and even an old cowboy named Top Hat you won’t find on Wikipedia or a Facebook page. Each colorful image is a world unto itself that beckons us to activate our courage, to defy brutality and despotism, and yet to enjoy the catharsis and uplifting wonders of art and music. This is a portrait gallery for our time. Not a preening procession of chancellors and kings, but the heroines and heroes and forgotten ones who intrigue Carlos Lowry and inhabit his fertile imagination. And now they are our icons as well.

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ALICE EMBREE | VERSE | The brutality of August

The clock was stopped at 11:48 a.m. I took this photo the day they dedicated the memorial.

On August 1, many of us remember the 1966 University of Texas tower shooting.  Fifty years later, in 2016, the University of Texas in Austin finally honored the victims of that mass shooting with a ceremony.  The clock was paused.  A bagpipe player led a solemn march from the main mall of the campus to the site where a memorial plaque was dedicated.  Keith Maitland’s movie Tower honored the heroism shown by many that day.  This poem, written in 2012, refers to Claire Wilson James, a survivor of the shooting.

The brutality of August

I try to fill the birdbath each day
One day missed and it becomes bone dry
Birds perch on its lip and leave

The rosemary needs water
Her leaves begin to close,
The tips of fronds turn down
As though they have given up.

Not as bad as last year, we say.

But in July I begin to dread August
To fear the searing heat
That leeches moisture from my skin
Turns ground cover into dust.

And I think of August 1, 1966
Forty-six years ago.

Claire hit by Whitman’s bullet
Her partner lying dead beside
Her baby stilled inside her

On the university mall
Beneath the tower still raining bullets
With its slogan “ye shall know the truth”

We were so innocent before that day
Before we learned to fear August.

Alice Embree
Austin, Texas

This poem first appeared in Looking Glass, a collection of poems by Alice Embree, published in 2018, by the New Journalism Project.

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