Friendly advice on just about anything from the Hill Country’s happiest songwriter

By Al Barlow

(LSM July/Aug 2011/vol. 4 – Issue 4)

Dear Al,
How come you know so much about Terlingua and the Big Bend?
— John Scholten

Dear John,
The Big Bend has had a tremendous impact upon my life. My first visit to the Big Bend, way back in the ’70s, really enlightened me. Though I had lived in Texas my whole life, I’d never been to that region before. I began traveling out to Big Bend National Park once or twice a year, and met many musicians, characters, and people who loved the desert as I do. I met Gary P. Nunn in Study Butte one day. My dear friend Gareth Angleton and I bought five-and-a-half acres across from the Terlingua Ghostown 17 years ago. This parcel of desert has the most beautiful views of any acreage in Texas. It has an almost magical vibe to it. Gareth and I threw a big old party, and virtually every inhabitant of the desert community showed up. We played music until sunrise.

A lot has happened since. Gareth is now the sole proprietor of the property, and does a fantastic job taking care of this little slice of heaven. He and I still have an annual music festival in Terlingua, called the Terlingua Music Bash. This year we will celebrate our 27th annual event! Musicians by the score travel from far and wide to attend the festival, which is held the third weekend in October every year. It has become one of the finest music festivals in the state. John, I hope you’ll join us the weekend of Oct. 14-16 for one of the most memorable music experiences of your life!

Dear Al,
Have you ever sent someone on an after-hours beer run on horse back?
— Inky Arlene

Dear Inky,
As a matter of fact, I have! When I was visiting some friends in Boquillas, Mexico, along the banks of the Rio Grande, our group decided to spend the night at the “Buzzard Roost” bed and breakfast. We brought a big old ice chest full of beer, and by 2 o’clock in the morning, we ran out of beer. Well, the little village of Boquillas was sleeping soundly by this hour, so we figured getting any more beer before morning was futile. But our gracious host (and owner of the bed and breakfast), Joe Sanchez, hollered a few words in Spanish, and this young Mexican man got on his horse and high-tailed it to town. He woke up the owner of the Park Bar in Boquillas, and told the gentleman that a bunch of gringos at the Buzzard Roost needed some beer. So, within a few minutes the young man on horseback returned with an ice-cold case of delicious Mexican beer. You should’ve been there, Inky!

Dear Al,
In your opinion, who’s the best Texas songwriter, and why? What’s the best venue?
— Jamie Smith

Hi Jamie,
It would be impossible to accurately define the best Texas songwriter because there are just so many killer writers in Texas. My favorite is Guy Clark. My favorite venue is, of course, the fabulous Phoenix Saloon!

Dear Al,
What is the worst gig you’ve ever played — and what was your favorite?
— Michael O’Connor

Hey, Michael!
My worst gig was probably the Drug Free Fair that I did at Aquarena Springs in San Marcos way back in the late ’80s. It paid pretty well, but I couldn’t ever reach the audience for some reason. Plus, it was hotter than blue blazes that day, and I nearly stroked out. I hated that gig. My favorite gigs are too many to choose from — but singing at the Willie Nelson 4th of July picnic in the early ’90s was certainly a memorable and exciting experience!

Dear Al,
Which joint in Texas serves up the best BBQ? Personally, I always have to break that down into different categories: Best Brisket, Best Beef Ribs, Best Pork Ribs, Best Sausage, Best Poultry (if you even think of poultry when you think of BBQ — personally I don’t), and, lastly, Best Sides (as in potato salad and such, not “and a couple of ribs and sausage links on the side of my brisket”). I of course reserve the right to disagree with your picks, and probably will, because naturally I’ve got my own favorites, but as one Texan to another, I’d love to hear yours!
— Hungry Just Writing This

Dear Hungry,
My neighbor, Jeff Hardwick, makes the best barbeque in the world. But if you’re hungry for good barbeque and Jeff ain’t around, I believe Granzin’s in New Braunfels serves up the best. Cooper’s Barbeque is way too expensive, but they’ve always got real good barbeque. Rudy’s BBQ has the best corn in the world. It’s worth a trip to Rudy’s just to pick up a quart of that delicious creamed corn. Plus, Rudy’s smoked turkey is to die for! Mmmmmmmmm!