It has been said that music has charms to soothe the savage beast.
Not exactly sure about that, but music itself is indeed a truly magical thing that can improve a bad mood, relieve stress, improve learning and memory, and a number of other body and mind benefits.
Things have changed a bit over the years with the advent of MTV and the Internet, but no matter the amount of technology that comes along, nothing really can replace going out and listening to a live band.
“It’s the exchange of energy between the audience and the musicians. It’s almost like a group meditation, really,” said Gwenyth Jett, a live music aficionado in Harker Heights who has lived in central Texas since December 1982. “It’s also an experience that you’re enjoying with other people. A common experience that lifts all of you up.”
Jett grew up traveling the world as an Army brat and remembers a time when her dad was assigned to Fort Sheridan, Illinois, just outside Chicago, where as a young girl she saw more legendary musicians play than she can remember.
“This was between ’67 and 1970,” Jett said. “There was a place there called Ravinia Park. It’s still there, and in the summertime, it was all outside. Because my dad was in the Army, we could get reduced (price) tickets, so we could go see concerts for fifty cents.
“There was a blues night every week that was billed as B.B. King and Friends. You never knew who was going to be there. I saw Janis Joplin there. Electric Light Orchestra. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Santana. B.B. King several times. Basically, anybody that was touring at that time, because it was right outside Chicago.
“Before I left Illinois, I went with some friends to see this new guy that was all the rage. It was Stevie Ray Vaughan. That was a night that Buddy Guy was opening for Stevie. It made Stevie mad. He said, ‘I’m not going to play – I should be opening for Buddy.’
“When Buddy found out why Stevie wasn’t playing, he went and jerked a knot in his tail. He said, ‘Dude, grow up.’ I remember we waited around for a long time and nobody understood what was happening, but Stevie was having a bit of a meltdown. That was one of Cutter’s stories.”
Cutter, as in the late Cutter Brandenburg, one-time road manager for Texas legend Stevie Ray and owner of Cutter’s Music Hall & Wild West Cantina on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Harker Heights.
Like a lot of folks around here, Jett befriended Brandenburg, who grew up in Dallas and lived for a time in Temple, when she went to the club to hear some music.
“That was around 2001 to 2004. It was awesome. Cutter’s son owns Peggy’s Coffee House in Temple Mall.
“Cutter quit touring when his son was born so he could be at home with him. That was right around the time that Stevie got big.
“Who didn’t I see there, is more like it. Buddy Miles was there one night (one-time drummer for Jimi Hendrix). It happened to be graduation night, so the place was empty. There was maybe 30 people there.
“Buddy was like, ‘I can’t see you guys. If you don’t come up where I can see you, I’m not playing.’ We all came up closer, and he goes, ‘Closer; closer. Put your feet on the stage.’
“So we sat there with our feet on the stage while he played. I think he was there with Lance Lopez that night. It was great.
“The first time I saw Lance Lopez, he was opening for B.B. King at the Bell County Expo Center. They had a Mother’s Day show years ago. Cutter said Lance reminded him more of Stevie than any young guitar player he’d ever met.”
Jett has been a music fan all her life but has not seen a live show since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. She plans to start getting out as soon as she can but is still a little concerned about safety.
She recently discovered Tornado Radio and is excited to see live music on its way back to the area.
“I’m sorry I didn’t find it sooner -- it’s awesome,” said Jett, who is not a musician herself but an artist who participated in the 2006-07 Gibson Guitartown project in Austin, which placed large, decorated guitar sculptures in a number of locations around the capital city, including the airport baggage terminal and along Congress Avenue.
“The calendar is a really good thing to have. When I want to go out and see somebody, you have to go through Facebook and look at each individual venue to find something. It’s really nice to be able to look at that calendar and see who’s playing where.
“People need to get out there and check it out. There’s so much talent and so many different kinds of music here. We need to support people who are trying to better themselves.
“I really like live music. It brings me joy. It sparks all kinds of creativity … it just makes you feel good.
“I still plan to be careful – try to go to outdoor venues as opposed to inside. I want to be safe about it, but I really, really miss it.”
John H Clark III is a longtime central Texas journalist and author.
Go to www.johnhenryiii.com for more on his books and writing services.