Down by the Brazos
Taylor said he moved to Houston in 1971. He was 20 and came from McDonough, Georgia, population about 4,000 — before the freeway.
“I left around the time the freeway was being built,” he said. “I couldn’t handle it. Too many Dobbs Houses and Stuckey’s.
“I started doin’ this mostly after I came to Houston — met some really fine people. I met Townes [Van Zandt] and Guy [Clark]. I was playin’ guitar and I was fascinated with Houston mainly because there were so many writers here. I mean really damn good writers.”
In 1975, Taylor moved to Palestine, Texas, and worked for Palestine schools as a creative writing instructor under a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He moved back to Houston when the school year ended.
“I’ve always tried to look at myself more as a writer than anything else,” he said. “If I can play good clean guitar and nice melodies, then fine.”
Taylor writes nearly all of the material he does. His songs can be funny yet poignant. They are sobering, but not depressing. He deals in specifics, letting realistic situations make his point.
He was three days out of Mobile
Three days without a bath
There’s a knock at your door
Throw your things on the floor
Tell me ’bout the times you had
Said it wasn’t bad.
“Writing a song, you don’t have 500 pages to tell your story. Every word, every line has to be there. It has to say as much as a chapter in a book would. I like songs that have a beginning and an end. Not that that’s the good musical way to write things. It sure as hell ain’t commercial. I’d probably be beatin’ my head against the musical wall if I thought it was. But I’m not that interested in any entertainer of the year awards.
“I don’t buy that musician bullshit,” he said. “I don’t buy that scene very well at all. I think it’s a degrading industry and full of people who aren’t very bright. I can’t see myself ever Hank Snowin’ it. I can’t see myself at 60 years old goin’ out with my guitar and singing my songs for people. I’d like to be a good writer. Mostly entertaining people is just a road to get my words out. I’m not very patient with musician egos.
“You run into a lot of problems with egos with people who are gettin’ started. I guess I’ve been gettin’ started for five years. But I’ve seen people who are playin’ for 50 bucks a night who would have egos as big as the world. But if you’re playin’ for 50 or 75 bucks a night, you ain’t no star.
“I’m not real proud of the music business. I’m not real proud of a lot of the people I’ve met. I’m not real proud of the way they’ve handled themselves, includin’ me. The things you have to go through, the things you have to think about yourself in order to write a tune, in order to get up in front of people to play it, it starts gettin’ weird. Everybody’s probably tried to stand like Dylan at least once, and they just end up gettin’ a cramp in their leg.
“At this point we should tap-dance or somethin’,” Taylor said.
When he walks onstage with his guitar, Taylor presents himself. There is no act. He plays the way he feels, whether up, angry, depressed or drunk.
“You do feel a little cursed sometimes because you see things in your own head that other people may pass over — that don’t upset people. I find that most writers don’t have any real vent. I think that’s a whole lot of the reason behind their self-destructiveness, a lot of violence in their lives. I don’t mean just physical violence. Things hit me and they don’t seem to bounce off. They seem to stick and I can’t shake them very well. Painful experience. I carry it and sometimes the depression, it actually becomes a real physical thing. You get so down that you hurt, you physically hurt. Then there are other times when it’s great. You’re in a business that the ups are up. The ups are way up and the downs are low down. It’s sort of an emotional culdesac.”
Maybe I’m the kind of gambler
Who burns his hands on a brand new moon
And his luck runs pale in the afternoon
And he suffers the cold as the old folks do.
Any gamblin’ man will know
That’s ever played for love or gold
That the game don’t end
You pick up what you win.
February 22, 1979
Battalion Editor’s note: Over the years, Steve Fromholz has managed to elude recognition by the masses. He has also managed to elude The Battalion. For days he even eluded one of his agents, who also eluded The Battalion. Fromholz was finally tracked down in Fort Worth Tuesday night, but said he didn’t have time to talk.
Steve Fromholz will play Sunday to a sold-out audience of 200 at Grins Beer Garden and Chili Parlor, 4410 College Main in Bryan.
Steve Fromholz…I’ve heard of him…I think.
The name sounds familiar, but associating it with anything in particular is hard for most.
He’s coming to town? Great. Now what exactly is it that he does? Oh yeah, he writes songs and plays guitar. I knew that. And he’s an actor? Oh yeah, I new that, too.
Fromholz is a storyteller-comedian-singer-songwriter-music business survivor who’s been playing hide-and-seek with the big time for nearly a decade and a half.