When a young Lebanese man from Port Arthur, Texas named Clifford Antone got kicked out (or perhaps dropped out, depending on who you ask) of the University of Texas after a marijuana arrest in 1970, it seemed like an end to a promising career. The Antone family were prominent businessmen in Houston, owning an import firm and a chain of sandwich shops that specialized in po-boys. Other young men might have fallen into a depression, or started on a downward spiral into harder drugs and ruin, but Clifford Antone decided to open a night club. Yet when Antone’s opened in 1975 on a then-moribund East Sixth Street in downtown Austin, it was hardly the kind of club that people would have expected success from, for it was a blues club, and the blues revival had fizzled out by the end of the 1960’s. Nor was Austin well-known for blues, despite a Texas blues legacy that was primarily centered around Houston. But all of the best names in blues from around the country played at Antone’s, and by the time of Clifford Antone’s death in 2006, his empire had added a record store and a record label as well. The record store belongs to other owners now, and the record label was sold to Warner Brothers after a bankruptcy, but the club, despite occasional closures and numerous relocations, remains the absolute best blues club in Texas, and probably one of the best blues clubs in the world. So it was quite an honor for Hill Country bluesman R. L. Boyce to be invited to play there, along with Marshall County bluesman Lightnin’ Malcolm, who has increased in popularity over the last several years. The club was packed to overflowing, despite the cold, rainy weather, and the crowd enjoyed every minute of the proceedings. The drum chair was held by the late T-Model Ford’s grandson Stud Ford, and R. L.’s daughter Sherena provided the juke joint dancing and played the tambourine. Seen in the crowd was noted music journalist Matt Sonzala. It was a great night indeed.
I see lots of rap groups during South By Southwest, but it’s always a little more personal and special when I see the League of Extraordinary G’z. Not just because they’re Austin’s best rap group, but because I’ve been knowing them and keeping up with them ever since journalist Matt Sonzala spoke highly of them to me three or four years ago. I’ve seen them perform at South By Southwest for several years, at Conway, Arkansas and A3C in Atlanta. I’ve enjoyed their mixtapes, whether given to me or downloaded. I’ve proudly worn the T-shirts they gave me with the familiar map of Texas made out of guns (what a superb logo). I’ve felt the deep sense of loss and tragedy as they have lost not one but two members to death in the last couple of years, both from rare medical conditions. In short, the LOEG’z are not merely a rap group, but my friends and family, and I always try to catch at least one of their shows when I’m at SXSW.