Austin’s Underside: Two Tales

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074-Tim-Rangers-5.15.67-SMTale 1: Taken from my story in the American-Statesman:

Turn over another rock, find another snake.

Austin author and musician Jesse Sublett spent 10 years researching “1960s Austin Gangsters.” Still, in the months since the slim book came out last spring, Sublett has learned much more about the slippery Overton Gang, which brutalized not just Austin but also the rest of Texas and beyond.

“It’s a sort of secret history of Austin,” Sublett says. “People light up when you mention them.”

Sublett has a gift for getting people to talk. The gang’s few survivors and offspring spilled the beans about the burglaries, prostitution, murders and other crimes — spread out over more than a decade, mostly up and down Interstate 35 — as did bigwigs such as Roy Minton, Ed Wendler, Dick DeGuerin and Armadillo World Headquarters founder Eddie Wilson, who was a huge help.

Austin_Jazz__37804.1440087673.500.750Tale 2: Also taken from one of my stories in the American-Statesman:

Escapism. Hedonism. Sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll.

“I had a fabulous time in Austin during the 1970s, believe me” author Richard Zelade says. “This was the Garden of Eden.”

Switch out “jazz” for “rock ’n’ roll” and you would have Austin in the Jazz Age, the subject — and title — of Zelade’s most recent book about the city’s louche past.

“Part of the jazz lifestyle was escapism,” says Zelade, whose previous books include “Guy Town by Gaslight,” which maps out Austin’s famous red light district (1865-1913). “Paris was the place you wanted to escape to — in theory — during the titillating, titubating, tumescent ’20s.”

Between World War I and the Great Depression, the Jazz Age picked up where Guy Town’s vices left off.


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