Cannabis Cowboys, Guitar-slinging Musicians, and Desert Landscapes

Homegrown captures the weirdness of Austin, as depicted in music poster art from the hippie days to the punk days.

Homegrown: Austin Music Posters 1967 to 1982

Publisher: University of Texas Press
Length: 176 pages
Author: Edited by Alan Schaefer
Price: $29.95
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2015-03

“Keep Austin Weird”. That slogan, along with bumper stickers promoting it, started appearing around the city years ago to promote local businesses and as a challenge to rising gentrification. When did Austin start to get weird, though? One can probably trace a lot of the weirdness to the late ‘60s, when Texas hippie culture found a welcoming home in the capitol city. The artists and musicians associated with the youth movement filled up the burgh, migrating in from parts distant and near, transforming Austin into a liberal oasis in the otherwise staunchly conservative state.

For, even though San Francisco, New York and Boston all had thriving technicolor counterculture scenes happening at the same time, Austin’s scene was particularly unique due in large part to its Texas location. Austin music and arts became a product of cowboys and rednecks commingling with the hippies and freaks – often harmoniously. Sometimes they were one and the same. This was especially reflected in the poster art advertising concerts which, though inspired by posters from famous venues such as San Francisco’s Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom, had a uniquely Texan slant. Western themes and symbols (deserts, cowboys, horses, armadillos) were often used and appropriated into the new culture, the artists changing them and psychedelicizing them, making them fit into a vision entirely different and new.

Homegrown: Austin Music Posters 1967 to 1982, edited by Alan Schaefer, is a retrospective of the most fertile years of Austin poster art. With extensive essays by music journalist and radio host Joe Nick Patoski and Nels Jacobson, poster artist and founding director of the South Austin Popular Culture Center and the American Poster Institute, the historical significance of the artists is detailed, along with biographical information on many. The bulk of the book, though, of course, is the posters themselves. Examples are lovingly displayed full-page with detailed citation information for each including poster artist, musician, venue, date and original size. Speaking of original size, art director Gilbert Shelton recounts in Patoski’s essay that, apart from subject matter, another way Austin posters differed from the more well-known posters in San Francisco was that “…being in Texas, we decided to make our posters twice as big as the California posters.”

Two venues in particular provided the impetus for the creativity coming to fruition in poster art. The Vulcan Gas Company was an early focal point, hosting light shows and original music and booking bands big in San Francisco. When the Vulcan closed its doors in 1970, the new Armadillo World Headquarters quickly took its place as the hot venue and had a successful ten year run, producing hundreds of posters advertising the acts it booked.

Homegrown features a painter’s pallet of different artists, many associated with the Vulcan and the Armadillo, including Jim Franklin, the godfather of Austin music poster art. Franklin’s work of cross-hatched pen and ink drawings was often surreal, even as it always maintained an anchor in realism. He became known for his trademark armadillos, making him a natural choice to design the poster for the Armadillo World Headquarters opening night, which featured four armadillos joined together and encircling the Earth.

Other artists favored pen and ink as their media of choice, as well. Danny Garrett’s work was in general less surreal than Franklin’s and informed by art nouveau and 19th century typography. Micael Priest and Kerry Awn’s endlessly imaginative pieces were often jam-packed with head and eye expanding detail. Ken Featherstone’s work often featured finely shaded cross-hatched portraits of the bands and musicians who were playing in the clubs around town. A uniquely Texas vision colors most of these '60s and '70s posters, with cannabis cowboys, guitar-slinging musicians, and desert landscapes.

In the late ‘70s and into the ‘80s, Austin poster art underwent a transformation when punk rock became the music of choice for much of the youth. Punk’s aesthetic was often at odds with the psychedelic art associated with the earlier wave of bands and poster artists. It was more confrontational and drew on more raw artistic styles, including collage and comic book art. Budgets were also more limited in the punk world and there was more of a DIY ethic. Posters more commonly became handbills, which needed to be easily and cheaply photocopied.

Austin is known as the “live music capital of the world” these days, a designation arrived at in no small part due to the married legacy of poster art and music illustrated in Homegrown. As Alan Schaefer writes in the preface: “A history of the city’s music scene and a narrative of cultural signs can be viewed in these works.” Nels Jacobsen’s “Colorful Tales and Early Techniques” essay in the book expands on that statement by noting “As music drove the poster movement, Austin’s artists elevated Texas street art to an unprecedented status and relevance. Through their powerful designs, these posterists spoke to hippies, rednecks, punks, and passersby; they provided a paper-prefiguring of every advertised performance and a dated visual trophy with which to commemorate each event after the fact. Long before computer graphics and digital art, Austin poster artists, wielding only pens, pencils, and X-Acto blades, constructed by hand a sprawling illustrated monument to Austin music and culture.”

Sample some of the posters in Homegrown here.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.