I found Willis Alan on MySpace and listened to a few of his songs – it certainly brought back some memories. The first time I ever heard Willis Alan was in Red River back in about 1972. He came to town to play at the Outpost. I had never heard of him, but all the other music fans in RR were excited about him. I guess he had quite the cult following around Austin. There was a band playing at the Motherlode that summer, but I don’t remember their name. I do remember having a crush on one of the musicians, and I managed to be sitting with him at the Outpost when Willis Alan was playing that night. After the first song, I remember thinking, "What a horrible voice - kind of scratchy." But the musician I was sitting with was awed, "Isn’t he great!" In my mind I thought, "Not really," but my mouth said, "Why yes, he is." Okay, I was trying to impress the guy. After listening to the rest of Willis Alan Ramsay’s concert that night and listening to his album the rest of the summer, I learned to appreciate him much more. Everyone seemed to be "in to" Willis that summer and played his album over and over. That is the way the kids were in RR – everyone following the fad. That may have been the same summer everyone was drinking Olympia beer.
Several years later, Red River put on a bluegrass music festival and invited WAR to play - along with some other popular bands. Since I worked nights at TR’s, I had my days free to work at the music festival taking tickets, which was a story itself. I was working with Judy Miller, a good friend of my mom’s and very interesting lady, when some serious bikers came through the gate. We took their tickets and stamped their hands to show that they had paid for the day, but the ink was dry (after all it was a hot summer day). Judy kept trying to get the inkpad to work, but it was dry. She seemed flustered. A big biker dude snatched it away from her and then hauled off and spit in it. He worked the spit into the ink, stamped himself, and handed it all back to Judy. I still remember the look on her face as she took the inkpad and stamp.
That was a side trip. Now I will get back to WAR. The music festival was held at Powder Puff Ski Area. The audience sat on the side of the hill to watch the bands below. I had made my way to the audience to hear WAR, but he was late – very late. Eventually, Wayne Kidd, the emcee came on and announced that WAR would be coming on shortly, but because WAR was being such a jerk we might all want to go take a break and not listen to him. It seems that Mr. Ramsey had gotten a bit difficult to deal with – maybe a bit arrogant. That may have been the summer everyone was drinking gin and tonics with a twist of lime.
I had not heard WAR for years, but my big brother, who has a "in" with lots of Austin musicians, brought me a WAR t-shirt a few years back. I wear it all the time. People ask me, "Who is Willis Alan Ramsey?" And I reply, "Do you remember the song, Muskrat Love sung by Captain and Tennille? Well, he wrote it."