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Antone's West Blues Cruise 1988
Blues Cruise 1988
17" x 22" (43.18cm x 55.88cm)

In 1988, Antone’s took it on the road with Antone’s West Blues Cruise. Bundling together a number of blues greats from Chicago and elsewhere and teaming them up with players from the club and the record label, they headed out for the left coast. This 17”x22”(A2) music bill was commissioned for the occasion. This is an unusual size and generally such pieces were not printed except for special events, and this was definitely special. Painted in acrylic on cold-press illustration board, it was printed in a black and indigo duotone to give it the proper ‘blues’ feel. The image itself is of the touring bus, a classic model from the 1960s. The piping that forms the titling, the space containing the graphic and the players, and the play dates at the bottom is designed to mimic neon glass. The space at the very top was meant to contain the tour dates in aggregate, but there were so many last minute changes to the schedule that they were never inserted in the bill. I drew the bus on a mythical California road with the waters of the Pacific breaking on the foreshore and the Sierras off in the distance with pine, fir and palm trees in between – a generous dose of west coast semiotics.


The Eighties, especially the mid-Eighties were banner years for the blues in Austin. The Fabulous Thunderbirds, with Jimmie Vaughan, Kim Wilson, Fran Christina, and Keith Ferguson, was the first of the hometown blues musicians to go national. They were shortly followed by Lou Ann Barton, who had a hit record shortly after signing with the famous – and infamous – Huey Meaux. This success precipitated her departure from the Triple Threat Revue, causing its leader to assume vocalizing for the first time and reform the rest of the band -- Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon, and later Resse Wynans -- into an entirely new unit. This new band would be Double Trouble, and then later Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. It was to be the most famous and successful of them all.

Other blues musicians around the city were beginning to tour and be noticed nationally as well. Charlie Sexton had signed a contract and received extensive national promotion; becoming one of the first big MTV regulars. The star promotion and Hollywood treatment ill suited him and he returned to Austin about this time, re-joining his biological family – especially his younger brother Will Sexton, a powerful budding musician in his own right - and his blues family, fellow musicians such as Doyle Bramnall Jr., Malford Milligan, the Moeller brothers, and others. Angela Strehli and her band were touring as well, along with Marcia Ball and her band. Scores of others were forming and reforming world-class blues bands, and hoped to follow these successes; people such as: Denny Freeman, George Raines, Derek O’Brien, Mark Kazanoff, Bill Campbell, Bill Carter, Johnny Nicholas, and Bobby Mack, to name only a very few. And the blues venues of Austin where these musicians played were full as well, and numerous: places such as The Rome Inn, The Aus-Tex Lounge, Alexander’s, the 311 Club, and as always, The Continental Club. The blues firmament was bright in the mid 80s, but no star in it shone as bright as Antone’s, Austin’s Home of the Blues. So they took it on the road.

And thus was conceived Antone’s West: ’88 Blues Cruise, a mission to bring Austin’s red-hot blues scene to the clubs and the music fans of the West Coast. This was a true representation of what the blues was in Austin at that time and more especially, what the blues was and had always been to Antone’s, its beating heart; its very soul. A cursory glance at the artists billed on this poster tells the whole story of the legendary blues club in what was then its thirteenth year. When you read the names – Buddy Guy, Luther Tucker, Jimmy Rogers, Pinetop Perkins, James Cotton, Muddy Waters Rhythm Section, Calving Jones, and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, you are reading a partial roster of the Chicago and Mississippi Blues Greats that Clifford created the club specifically for. The names – Kim Wilson, Angela Strehli, and The Antones, are just a few of the Austin blues musicians who attended the performances of those greats, studied and played with them, in order to become the accomplished professionals that were accepted as peers. More of these are mentioned in the paragraphs above, and many, many more are not mentioned here. And the other names – Albert Collins, Mel Brown, and Chris Thomas, were frequent or resident bluesmen of the club. Many times Albert Collins would hang around the club for a week or more after a performance, playing occasionally, sitting in with the hometown players, or tossing Blackjack for a $100 a pop in the office. Mel Brown formed another house band and toured the state and nation out of clubs new Guadalupe location. Chris Thomas was a hot young guitarist from Baton Rouge, whose career started at the club; he would later play the “Crossroads” bluesman character the Coen Brothers’, Where Art Thou. It was more than a musical troupe that set out that January of 1988, it was in the truest sense, a blues family. And I’m proud that this poster celebrates it.

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