Mural honors musicians in a place where the past meets the present

Mural by Tim Kerr at the corner of Red River and 9th Streets called "There's More to 'Texas Music.'" (KXAN Photo)
Mural by Tim Kerr at the corner of Red River and 9th Streets called "There's More to 'Texas Music.'" (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new mural honoring local musicians who made their mark from the 1920s to the 1960s covers the downtown Austin landscape.

Artist Tim Kerr brings music and art together at the corner of Red River and Ninth Streets in his latest work called “There’s more to ‘Texas Music.'”

The faces of 12 musicians are painted on the back side of Stubb’s, and are now part of the Red River Cultural District which is home to 13 live music venues.

The little known pioneers — Erin Mae Miller, The Gant Singers, Gilbert Askey, Leon Payne, Blind George McClain, Camilo Cantu, Oscar Moore and Arizona Dranes — went onto work with artists like Elvis Presley, The Temptations, George Jones and Ray Charles.

Under each artist are brief biographies noting their ties to local schools and where their talent took them years later.

Take Askey for example who went from playing in the Anderson High School Yellow Jackets marching band to Motown where he helped discover the Jackson 5.

“That’s so cool,” said Austin singer-songwriter Jane Ellen Bryant while checking out the wall. She was born and raised in Austin herself, moved to Nashville, but ended up coming home. She discovered Nashville is a place where artists need to arrive polished and ready to impress big time recording labels, while Austin is a place young artists can learn and grow.

“For me I really need to be in a town that was supportive and nurturing me, work with my band and grow and practice,” said Bryant.

Kerr said the mural is a tribute proving Austin has long been a place where music mattered.

“Yeah, music does matter in Austin,” said Dave Madden. “The city of Austin makes music a big priority.”

He says one example is the 2015 Austin Music Census Report, a data-driven move by the city to assess the local music economy. Madden to moved to Austin 14 years ago from Philadelphia, and was drawn to the city because it was a music town.

“Austin is that middle ground where you can be really good at music, you can move here, you can work hard, spend years making a name for yourself and do and have it rise to the cream of the crop,” said Madden.

He has no plans to go anywhere else, and values Austin’s deep music roots.

“It’s all about the history of those that came before us,” said Madden.

The installation was made possible by the partnership between the Red River Cultural District Merchants Association, the City’s Economic Development Department’s Soul-y Austin Program, and Public City. Kerr’s piece is just one of three projects completed in the District within the last month.

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