Thursday, October 15, 2009

OBT: Rusty Wier

i wanna escape to someplace where all the people i cherish aren't dying by the freaking bucketload . . .

Off the Record

Music News

Rusty Wier (1944-2009)

Not only did Rusty Wier help develop the "Austin Sound," he embodied it. "Six-foot-five in boots and hat," Wier was the original cosmic soulman, merging the psychedelic Sixties with the Seventies' outlaw attitude, his music similarly torn between hard living and rough-hewn grace. After a two-year battle, Wier succumbed to liver cancer on Friday at his son Coby's house in Driftwood. He was 65.

"He had that whole progressive and independent spirit – Slow, Stoned, Rugged," says Ray Wylie Hubbard, referencing Wier's 1974 classic of the same name. "But underneath that he was a very caring, gracious musician. He understood the craft of songwriting. He didn't waste words. He'd cut right to it."

While best known for his anthem "Don't It Make You Wanna Dance," which earned double platinum status via Bonnie Raitt's version on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack, the Manchaca-raised songwriter amassed a remarkable body of work over his five-decades-long career, most notably including 1976's Black Hat Saloon. Wier, who started behind drums at age 13 with the Centennials before joining the Wig and Gary P. Nunn's Lavender Hill Express, was also a great interpreter of songs ("Rustification" as he called it) and among the first in town to cover artists such as Willis Alan Ramsey and John Hiatt. Yet, more than anything, Wier was an entertainer.

"He had a total commitment to his audience, a way of reaching them and making them feel close to him," smiles longtime manager Vicky Moerbe. "That was his gift."

A public memorial is scheduled to take place tonight (Thursday, Oct. 15) at the Saxon Pub, where Wier held down a legendary 15-year Thursday residency until he became too weak to do so in 2007. As Saxon owner Joe Ables puts it, "Everyone will be on Rusty's guest list." He is survived by four children.

"I've had a wonderful time," Wier once told the Chronicle (see "I Before E," May 31, 2002). "There's nothing else I could have possibly done in my life where I would have had as much fun and made a living. I play songs, I make music, that's what I love to do. And I don't have to kiss nobody's ass."

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