What do you do?
I’m lucky enough to get to make up songs and sing ‘em. I was born at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX.
What are some of your earliest/fondest memories growing up here?
My earliest memories center around the part of Houston where the University of Houston is. My parents both worked for the old Humble Co. Their offices were in the old Prudential building, corner of S. Main and Holcombe. We lived near the university while they finished up college going to night school. I went to a kindergarten on the campus of the university so that part of town holds special memories for me.
What do you think about being a part of a happening city?
Always seems to be something going on in Houston. My entire life Houston seems to get bigger and bigger. And to see people from other places moving to Houston—Houston is such an international city. But to see our city embraced by people from all over the world, is a great feeling. There’s no limit to what goes on in Houston and there’s no limit to the possibilities you can find in Houston.
Growing up in Houston, your career took off. What led you to music?
The first place I ever played a set of my songs was right in the Montrose area of Houston. Anderson Fair Retail Restaurant was, and still is, a great place for original music. Downtown folks would come by for a spaghetti lunch during the day, then in the evenings and weekends there was always live, original music. Some of the great local musicians have played there over the years. (Rocky Hill, Dr. Rocket, Don Sanders, Eric Taylor, Vince Bell, Nancy Griffith and Lucinda Williams were regulars there. )
When did you know and what sparked your start as a musician?
My mom and dad always encouraged me and my mom asked me if I’d like to take guitar lessons and I said ‘sure.’ At the old Halbert and Walker Music Co. on Main Street from Chuck Woods—it really made me enjoy the instrument.
Why have you kept your home here?
My family has lived in the same part of Houston, North Harris County, since the late 1840s. so I have lots of extended family here—it’s home to me. I really value coming home to Houston. I consider it a real blessing. I get to travel to a lot of great places but lesson learned over and over is that you only have one home.
What are the things that you enjoy most about the city now?
Houston has everything to offer. In the arts, Houston is respected the world over. It’s a great feeling to be able to go into Houston and not feel as though you have to travel elsewhere to enjoy the symphony or the ballet or a great museum. Houston just has so much to offer.
What are some things that you personally enjoy about Houston?
The thing that has always been important to me, what really makes any city is the people who live in it. I appreciate getting to be a part of the community. It’s always the people that make a place great and that’s how I identify with Houston—it’s with the people who live here.
As a professional musician, how do you view the Houston music scene…
The music scene in Houston is great because there’s lots of opportunity for somebody to perform. I think that’s essential. That’s certainly what helped me coming up from the clubs in Montrose to the Heights. The first place I ever got a job playing was at a restaurant on 1960, when I was 18 in a duo with Bruce Line from Klein High School at a steak place called The Mariner. We played in the bar area for people waiting for their tables. We were grateful for getting that first gig. A couple of years later, when I got enough songs together for a set, I went down to Anderson Fair and asked them if I could play. The first night, I was a guest of Eric Taylor, a great singer-songwriter from here, and I played as part of his show as sort of an audition for the guys who ran the place.
Music in Houston…
There is a tremendous musical tradition here in Houston. The singer-songwriters that I get to hang around with all seemed to value the impact of the blues music that came from Houston. (Townes Van Zandt and Lighting Hopkins) Of course that little band from Texas, ZZ Top. That’s really shown the rest of the world, the tip of the iceberg of what goes on in Houston musically.
What are the things you say to people that have never been here?
It surprises me, but I’ve run into a lot of people that have never been to Houston or maybe just pass through the airport. First of all, people seem surprised at how big a city it is—how diverse Houston is as a city. And I always end up talking about the music scene here in Houston, the arts scene.
What would you say to someone talking about visiting Houston…
I’d say come to Houston, it might surprise you. People don’t realize how big Houston is and the diverse opportunity that exists here. the days of Houston having a singular focus, or just an oil city, are gone and when they do get to visit they see that and are oftentimes surprised by that.
Why do they say Houston is international city?
Houston is an international city because people from all over the world live here. Businesses from all over the world do business here. Every time we fly out of Bush Intercontinental Airport and it’s clear enough to see the ship channel, you see so much going on and realize that so much of the legacy of our city is because of being a great port.
During Ike last year, we were here, and to see how folks extended a helping hand to one another was really something, a powerful thing to be a part of and to witness. That was something that really made me proud of our people.
Coming home after a tour…
I think about coming home and getting to enjoy some really good Mexican food. And getting to run around to some of my favorite sports and see my friends. The Mexican food you have in Houston is really better than anywhere else. There are a couple of places we enjoyed after playing like Andy’s in the Heights and Doneraki on Fulton would have mariachis, be open late and be a real lively place. Ninfa’s is a staple—the original on Navigation.
Is Houston a city of the arts and why?
The arts community around the world is aware of Houston.
What do you do for fun?
Occasionally I get to go to Minute Maid Park and enjoy a ballgame. Reliant Stadium is an amazing place. I still like just driving downtown, down Allen parkway and going to Anderson Fair.