The Central Texas Bluegrass Association, incorporated in 1978 as a Texas non-profit, tax-exempt corporation, invites all bluegrass friends, fans, and pickers to become active members.
Since I lived in San Antonio, I was not involved in any of the planning or execution of these concerts, but I can well imagine what a staggering undertaking it must have been to produce two events on this scale. All I can tell you is that both years, when I walked into the auditorium and saw the immense turnout, I was amazed. And the shows themselves were unbelievably good. This was truly the CTBA's finest hour, and the association officers ought to be enshrined somewhere for their efforts. In many ways, the middle and late 1980s were boom times for bluegrass in Central Texas and elsewhere. The newsletter was upgraded and expanded, there were more local events, the Kerrville Bluegrass Festival continued to bring in major talent like Hot Rize and the Whites, and promoter Jane Lancaster staged a series of Nacogdoches Summer Music Festivals with acts like the Seldom Scene, Osborne Brothers, Hot Rize, Newgrass Revival, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Tony Trischka and Skyline, J. D. Crowe and the New South, Jerry Douglas, the Tony Rice Unit, the Bluegrass Cardinals, and others. It seemed that almost every major act in bluegrass was there, and it was at one of these that Pete Wernick ventured out into the campground one evening and spent the night picking with a bunch of us rank amateurs. In the winter, Jane also staged indoor festivals termed "Acoustic Music Conventions." In September, 1988, the final Kerrville Bluegrass festival took place and in October, the first Old Settlers Bluegrass Festival was held in Round Rock, sponsored by the Old Settlers Association, City of Round Rock, and Round Rock Chamber of Commerce. The following year, I saw Alison Krauss and Union Station for the first time at the second festival.
In September 1984, "Bluegrass Sunday Morning" was cancelled. In May, 1984, the CTBA and Ted Miller took over publication of the Bluegrass Newsletter from Jamie MacLaggan, maintaining both the name and the current issue numbering of the publication (the next three issues lack the year of publication). The CTBA also established a new "north" jam at Old Settlers Park on weekends that alternated with the St. Michael's jam. In October, 1986, the "north" jam moved to Cap'n Tom's Barbecue. I believe Rolf and Beate Sieker made their first visit to Austin in January of 1985, and later that same year, the IBMA was chartered (in 1992, the CTBA joined as a member organization).
In 1986, the first Tres Rios festival was held featuring, among others, Blue Night Express. Didn't a couple of those pickers eventually become Dixie Chicks?
In 1987, the final issue of the Bluegrass Newsletter was published (April-May, Volume 11, number 2) and in May, the CTBA established the Central Texas Bluegrass Bulletin to fill the void left by the demise of the Bluegrass Newsletter.
This is the first publication that the association could truly call its own (and the first to actually sport the association's logo), and Jeanne DeFriese was the first editor. The first issue is undated, but was evidently issued in May. Eleven issues in 7 x 8.5-inch format were produced at irregular intervals, the last being the December 1988/January 1989 issue. The date was listed, beginning with the second issue, but no volume or issue numbers were listed. Beginning with the February-March 1989 issue, the Bulletin went back to a standard 8.5 x 11-inch format, very similar in appearance to the Bluegrass newsletter, but with the logo on the masthead. Volume and issue numbers were still omitted throughout 1989, until the February/March 1990 issue was published as Volume 12, number 1. The numbering, in other words, was resumed in such a way as to make it consistent with its predecessor, the Bluegrass Newsletter. CTBA member Buck Buchanan handled the printing of the Bulletin, and would continue to do so for the next ten years, earning himself a place in the CTBA Hall of Honor.
On May 7, 1988, the association celebrated its 10th anniversary and Worldwide Bluegrass Month by staging the first of eleven annual outdoor public concerts at Zilker Hillside Theater. Wrygrass, the Barnburners, the Grazmatics, Texas Prairie Fire, the Buchanan Brothers, Leon Valley Bluegrass, and the Flaky Biscuit Boys played. In 1990, Don McCalister suggested that the CTBA issue a compilation recording representing all the member bands, to raise funds for the CTBA. Now, 13 years later, it looks as though that idea is going to assume concrete form, as the association issues its first compilation CD.
The 1990s: Zilker and Old Settlers
In June, 1990, the CTBA biweekly jam ended its twelve-year run at St. Michael's Church, leaving the "alternate north" jam session at Cap'n Tom's Barbecue on north Lamar (now Ross's Old Austin Café) as the official CTBA jam, and starting a tradition of "barbecue and bluegrass" that continues in Austin to this day. Tom Allen, the North Carolinian ex-tugboat captain, served as our genial host for the next year and a half. Large measures of bluegrass were picked on the wraparound porch, and stage shows featuring acts like the Weary Hearts and Warrior River Boys were often held on a small open stage in the front yard. In about January, 1993, the jam moved to the Travis County Farmers' market on Burnet Road and for the first time was held every Sunday.
In October, 1992, the CTBA sponsored a fall festival (with the Del McCoury Band) at Jellystone Park, near Waller. In December, John Hood became the editor of the Bulletin. In 1993, the association co-sponsored the Old Settlers Festival. This was the only year that the CTBA was formally involved with the festival, but because so many CTBA members continued to volunteer in subsequent years, and because the CTBA continued to hold its own events at Old Settlers Park, the festival was often erroneously associated with the CTBA in years to come. A show featuring Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys was scheduled for June 12, 1994 at the Manchaca Fire Hall, but had to be cancelled. In July, 1994, the CTBA jam moved from the Farmers' Market to Ruby's Barbecue, on 29th Street. "Strictly Bluegrass," hosted by Keith Davis and Rod Moag, went on the air on KOOP-FM in 1994. In 1995, the Board of Directors began seeking Cultural Arts funding for the Zilker show from the City of Austin. The grant was received and applied to the 1996 festival. In April, 1995, the CTBA jam moved from Ruby's Barbecue to ArtZ RibHouse, where it remains today, and in July, the association began holding its annual "Fun Raiser" garage sale at ArtZ RibHouse to recover losses (about $500) from producing the Zilker festival and actually took in $863, far exceeding its goal. Some time around February, 1996, the CTBA web site went online. At the urging of editor John Hood, and beginning with the June, 1996 issue, the Bulletin was considerably downsized and changed from a bi-monthly to a monthly publication. Chuck Interrante became the new editor in November 1996, then Chuck Brodkin in April, 1997, Doug Stoker in July, 1998, and the present editor, Steve Zimmet, in March 2000.
For eleven years, from 1988 to 1999, the CTBA held its free outdoor concert series at Zilker Park Hillside Theater in May, through years with good weather and bad, subsidizing it through arts funding (in the early years) and the July "Fun-Raiser." Rising use fees and declining city funding led the association to discontinue the Zilker fest in 2000. Instead, an association jam was held at Krause Springs in May, 2000, and a fall festival was held at Old Settlers Park (by this time, the "Old Settlers Festival" promoted by Randy Collier had moved on to Dripping Springs).