The Austin Music Scene
What do Muddy Waters, Earl Scruggs, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Mose Allison have in common? Or Guy Clark, Fats Domino, Roy Buchanan, and Janis Joplin? The answer lies in the pages of photographs taken by veteran photographer Burton Wilson of Austin. The book is a collection of more than two hundred black and white photos of the American music scene made by Burton from 1965 to 1994.
Burton Wilson during and interview with Lilly Gonzalez for Texas Monthly:
LG: What was your first job as a photographer?
BW: This is a good story that I enjoy telling. Back in the days of the Vulcan Gas Company, Johnny Winter was playing there. He had a trio from Beaumont. The bill that night was Muddy Waters and Otis Spann, old-time blues musicians who had driven down from Chicago to do that gig. The Johnny Winter trio did the setup for them. Well, as it happened, Johnny Winter's trio stole the show from the great Muddy Waters, and Muddy Waters was a famous blues performer. I had records of him back in school. Muddy Waters realized what had happened and sharpened up his second act the next night, but still, the night belonged to Johnny Winter. Well, some people realized that they should get him on tape. And so they went to the Vulcan Gas Company and asked for the best photographer and they sent them to me. They called me to do the cover for the Johnny Winter album-that's that cover there [Wilson points to the large framed photo of Johnny Winter on his wall]. They told me exactly how they wanted Johnny Winter shot, with his various hippie costumes and his various guitars. I said that was fine with me. Johnny showed up and he had oh, about five guitars and that many different costumes. We started shooting a bunch of film. I'd do a set with him, and then we'd get a new guitar and a new costume and do it all over again. I got down to the last of the film, and he picked up an all-steel guitar. I was so intrigued with that all-steel guitar that I posed him with his face reflected in it. I said, "Well, I've got to do exactly what the record people want done, but I'm going to do my own thing here just once." So I went on my own and shot that and sold it to Imperial Records and they used that photograph for the cover.
LG: So tell me about the book. How did it come about?
BW: Well, back when I was starting out at the Vulcan Gas Company, I published a book on my own that I called Burton's Book of Blues. It was successful, but it didn't do a whole lot. Independent books like that don't go very far. Then Jack Ortman, who owned a bookstore downtown, suggested I publish another book. I didn't really want to put it all together on my own, the way I did with the first one, so I told him that if he got someone else to publish it, I'd go ahead and work on it. Well, Jack got Eakin Press to reissue it. I added some new material and text-the first one didn't have any text, only pictures-and that was it. That's the book that I have out now, called The Austin Music Scene Through the Lens of Burton Wilson.