October 14, 2008
Sunday night’s Keep Austin Young concert at the Music Hall might be a little misleading. A quick scan of the lineup reveals that pretty much everyone on the bill qualifies for an AARP discount … or soon will. Surely this irony wasn’t missed by the promoters. More likely they embraced it because the Keep Austin Young concert isn’t a scenester rave or a Methodist youth rally. It’s a celebration of the life of Danny Roy Young, a man who would have appreciated the title’s irony more than most. Young, who died in August at the age of 67, was the owner of the now defunct Texicalli Grill, a restaurant that in its later years occupied a converted Taco Bell on Oltorf next to Curra’s. Unlike its corporately homogenized predecessor, the Texicalli was a uniquely Austin establishment. The walls were cluttered with Young’s collection of music memorabilia, and the tables were usually filled with his colorful collection of friends: musicians, politicians, bubbas, hippies, and slackers. All came to eat good food, drink, and swap stories. Young was as much a raconteur as a restaurateur, and a good part of the charm of the Texicalli was the outgoing, good-natured banter of its owner, the “Mayor of South Austin,” an honorary title that was the result of Young being named Best Mayor for the City of South Austin in the Chronicle’s 1992 “Best of Austin” issue – partly for his political activism opposing expansion of South Lamar (where the original Texicalli was located) and partly because Young was so beloved by his unofficial constituency. As with any true South Austinite, Young was also a musician – a rubboard player for several bands: Ponty Bone, Texana Dames, and perhaps most famously with the Cornell Hurd Band. During their Thursday night residency at Jovita’s, Hurd would often refer to Young as the “Lord of the Board.” In true South Austin style, Young’s rubboard was handmade, played with leather gloves that had mercury dimes glued to the fingertips – exactly the kind of thing you might come up with while stoned at a South Austin back-porch jam session. Although Young retired from the restaurant business a couple of years ago, he continued with his rubboard career as well as his role as a South Austin icon, emblematic of an era when Austin valued creativity and talent more than money and style. The fact that Young’s benefit is at the Austin Music Hall piles on further irony. All the rapacious development – those towering new condos and sleek new businesses were built on the bones of the scene that greedless good timers like Danny Young created. It’s fitting that Young’s family should benefit from them in turn, if only indirectly. If you didn’t know Danny, you still have plenty of reason to pay your respect. He’s part of the reason you and thousands of other people live in Austin. If that’s not reason enough, how about several hours of music from the crème de la crème of Austin’s old guard musicians: the Texana Dames, Ponty Bone, Marcia Ball, Ray Benson, the Cornell Hurd Band featuring Teisco del Rey, Floyd Domino, Blackie White, the Antone’s House Band, and perhaps the finest songwriter in the known world, James McMurtry.