Tribute to John Clay on The Lonesome Stranger

Posted on: August 9, 2023
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john clay

By special guest host Dan Foster

I’ve heard it said that old Austin didn’t change. It was killed.

You might be excused, what with all the lip service being paid to historic preservation hereabouts, if you were surprised that no one on the City Council even raised an eyebrow when they started tearing down Threadgills here in the Live Music Capital.

But the sorts of magic that once happened up there at Kenneth Threadgill’s gas station on the old Dallas Highway, and down on Barton Springs Road at the Armadillo World Headquarters have always been at the very heart of memories that the billionaire-class would like to erase, if they can’t sloganize them out of meaningful existence first.

Tune in to The Lonesome Stranger on KOOP Radio 91.7FM or online at this Thursday, August 10 at 10am when Christy and I join Tim Hertenberger to look into a secret history of ‘ATX’ and present our tribute to the original Austin songwriter, John Clay – and to the subversive youngsters who set this town on its different path way back in the 1950s.

Though ever under the watchful eye of the Austin Police Department, not to mention the FBI, something was being born here in that little west campus scene starting about 1960 that would later come to define Austin, at least for a while.

Bill Killeen recalls:
So, if Janis Joplin, who spent barely a year there, is Austin’s Vocalist Laureate, what then is John Clay, who hung around for fifty of them and never missed a party? Well, I’d call him an Essential Element, maybe even enough of a factor to lower the Austin Scene’s overall grade from A+ to a simple old A were there no such person. John Clay was the People’s Musician, a pied piper from the past, followed by his adoring flock from village to village, the likes of which neither Austin nor the rest of us are likely to experience again. So celebrate the fact we once upon a time had a John Clay, that his music still thrives… And don’t worry, John saw it coming—for himself and all the rest of us—blazing around the turns, screaming down the straightaway, and he long ago knew there was really no hope. After all.

John Clay and the Lost Austin Band put out two LPs, though John wrote more than a hundred songs mostly about true events and some things that came or are coming true.