Steven Fromholz – Part 3, A Biography
On Monday 26th May, a Steven Fromholz Memorial Concert will be held at Threadgill Theatre as part of the 2014 Kerrville Folk Festival. A reminiscence of the Memorial Concert will form the fourth and final part of this tribute to the late musician. A Steven Fromholz interview dating from 1986 constitutes Parts 1 & 2, the third part is the following Biography including details of Steven’s exploits 1986 – 2014.
While some of what follows is duplicated by the aforementioned 1986 Steven Fromholz interview, I felt that to simply fill in the years post the interview was inadequate.
Part 3 – A Steven Fromholz Biography
Steven Fromholz was born in Temple, Texas on 8th June 1945. His Wisconsin born father, Al, worked for the Ford Motor Company. In the mid-eighties Fromholz told me “We travelled the Mid-West from Wisconsin to Texas until I was 11 years old. It was fun being a kid, living in all those places.” Eventually the family settled in Texas, and Steven attended Denton High School.
Enrolled at North Texas State University in Denton during late 1963, Steven founded the college Folk Club and became its first president. Fellow, musically inclined, students included Michael [Martin] Murphey and Travis Holland. “While attending College, I married my High School sweetheart. She gave me a banjo as a wedding present. I loved The Kingston Trio, The Limelighters and later Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson.” With Murphey and Patty Lowman, Steven debuted as a paid performer “We sang at Lions and Qantas Clubs.” Later, Fromholz became a member of the short-lived Dallas County Jug Band and the Dallas County Outpatients.
While visiting New Orleans in early 1965, Steven began writing songs and upon his return to Texas decided to become a professional musician. Then a draft notice arrived. “I was in the Navy till 1968 and spent the last eighteen months in San Francisco. I was in Buffalo Chips with Judy Caldwell. We sang four nights a week in city clubs.” Upon leaving the Navy, Fromholz spent time in Arizona, and then settled in Colorado. “I was in Denver for a couple of years, Evergreen for two and in Guadio for another couple. I met Dan McCrimmon in a bar downtown, on the third day I was in Denver.” Forming Frummox, Steven and Dan cut the first of a pair of albums. A thirteen-year gap separated the release of those albums.
Titled HERE TO THERE, their debut, was produced by ex-Journeyman, Dick Weissman. Released by abc/Probe Records, the eight songs included Fromholz’s ten-minute song cycle Texas Trilogy and also Song For Stephen Stills. By the early seventies, Fromholz was a member of Stills’ road band. The group eventually mutated into Manassas. “I think I have one rhythm track on their first record. I quit the band in the Fall of 1971.”
Post The Monkees, Texan, Michael Nesmith cut a number of critically lauded, country-rock albums. He persuaded Elektra Records to finance his Countryside label. Albums by Garland Frady and Red Rhodes were issued, but Fromholz’s collection HOW LONG IS THE ROAD TO KENTUCKY was shelved days before its planned release. “I’ve got the masters. Michael sent them to me. I’d known Michael since 1965.” Fromholz went on to play clubs in Texas and adjacent states as a solo act. Hooking up with Texas players, and still based in Colorado, he formed Captain Duck and the Farmers Electric Co-op Boys and the Bluebonnet Plague. “I moved down to Austin, Texas in 1974. I had a market there till 1976 with the progressive country scene. I was with Moon Hill Management and Larry Watkins became my manager.”
Having secured a recording with the Capitol label, Steven’s solo debut A RUMOUR IN MY OWN TIME included I’d Have To Be Crazy a # 11 Country Chart single for Willie Nelson during May 1976. His second album FROLICKING IN THE MYTH followed in 1977. Concurrently, Fromholz launched an acting/movie career by first appearing in OUTLAW BLUES  which starred Peter Fonda. Released by the Capitol label Fromholz performed three songs on the movie soundtrack album.
Steven’s next studio recording JUS’ PLAYIN’ ALONG, was released by Willie Nelson’s short-lived Lone Star imprint. Forming his own label, Felicity Records, FROMHOLZ LIVE – which amply displayed Steven’s music and his between song repartee and wicked sense of humour – was recorded in Austin at Steamboat Springs 1874, a club owned at one stage by Craig D. Hillis. The record label is named after Steven’s youngest daughter, Felicity Rose, who was born three days after LIVE was recorded. Felicity issued FRUMMOX II in 1982, with guest players including Dick Weissman and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
As for Steven’s movie career, he appeared in CLOAK AND DAGGER with Dabney Coleman , SONGWRITER with Kristofferson and Nelson  and, finally, the crime thriller POSITIVE I.D. . While residing in Colorado, Fromholz had acted. “McCrimmon was stage manager at a Catholic girl’s school. They did not have enough men around, so I did a bunch of acting.” During the summer of 1983, Fromholz appeared in the play WILLIE THE SHAKE. “It was presented at a place outside Austin. I played the head of the Shakespeare Department.” During the summer of 1988 Fromholz took the part of frontiersman, Hugh Glass, in Bobby Bridger’s play with music A BALLAD OF THE WEST which ran from June to mid-July in Cody, Wyoming. Due to the historic Yellowstone Fires that year, the cast returned to Texas for a six-week run at Austin’s Live Oak Theatre.
LOVE SONGS  was a cassette-only Felicity Records release, as was EVERYBODY’S GOIN’ ON THE ROAD  the latter credited to Fromholz and the Almost Brothers. In 1992 Steven narrated the cassette-only charity single Bald Eagles At Buchanan Lake. The nine-minute long song was composed by Patricia Long aka Patricia Hardin [Tom Russell’s female singing partner during the late nineteen-seventies]. Walter Prescott Webb’s book THE TEXAS RANGERS was published by the University of Texas Press during 1965. Featuring stories from Webb’s book abridged by Turk Pipkin, Fromholz narrated the two-hour long THE TEXAS RANGERS: AUDIOCASSETTE released by the University of Texas Press during 1994. During that decade and the preceding one, Steven regularly worked in Austin theatre productions, and undertook starring roles in THE NIGHT HANK WILLAIMS DIED, WOODY GUTHRIE’S AMERICAN DREAM, SWEENEY TODD, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSICand FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.
THE OLD FART IN THE MIRROR  was Fromholz’s first CD release, albeit on Jerry Jeff Walker’s label Tried & True Music. Recorded at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, his liner note ran to “Here I am again! Steven Fromholz: Up-and-coming middle-aged, stand-up folksinger, specializing in Free-form, Country-Folk-Rock, Science-Fiction, Gospel-Gum Bluegrass-Opera-Cowjazz Music!” Through the latter half of the nineties, in association with Terlingua, Texas based Far Flung Adventures, Steven was actively involved in skippering rafting expeditions through the rivers and canyons along the Texas/Mexican border, and also provided each evening’s musical entertainment. In 1998 Lyle Lovett released the double CD recording STEP INSIDE THIS HOUSE, a tribute to songwriters who were born, or at one time resided, in Texas. Disc 1 opened with Fromholz’s Bears, and Disc 2 found Lovett deliver an almost eleven-minute rendering of Texas Trilogy. In May 2000 Steven appeared on a Season 25 edition of AUSTIN CITY LIMITS alongside fellow scribes featured on Lovett’s tribute recording. Fromholz debuted on ACL in Season 1  with a whole episode to himself, and the following year split a bill with Guy Clark.
Over the years Steven has regularly reinterpreted his songs, while the Felicity release A GUEST IN YOUR HEART  mainly featured new material. The twenty-two song career retrospective COME ON DOWN TO TEXAS FOR AWHILE – THE ANTHOLOGY 1969 – 1991  was issued by the Australian imprint Raven Records, followed the same year by LIVE AT ANDERSON FAIR recorded at the famed Houston, Texas songwriter club. Authored by Craig D. Hillis, with photography by Bruce F. Jordan, and published in October 2002 by the University of Texas Press, TEXAS TRILOGY: LIFE IN A SMALL TEXAS TOWN was set in the town of Kopperl, Texas and brought Steven’s famed composition to life. The book included interviews with town folk and a CD of the song. LOVE SONGS was upgraded to CD during 2003, released by Felicity, it was re-titled COWJAZZ.
Commencing in 2002 Georgia bred, Texas based singer/songwriter Eric Taylor, accompanied by Denice Franke and David Olney began performing as The Texas Song Theatre, a concert presentation merging song with spoken narrative. Olney subsequently decided to concentrate on his solo career, and there was talk of Steven being his replacement but the plan never reached fruition. Sadly a month following Fromholz’s induction into the Texas Music Hall of Fame, in April 2003, he suffered a debilitating stroke. Sufficiently recovered, Fromholz booked a limited schedule of live performances early that Fall. Vince Bell, Taylor and Fromholz appeared on the themed Houston Night – Sunday 30th May 2004 – during the annual Kerrville Folk Festival. Taylor suffered a heart attack during late January 2004. The trio of acquaintances decided to work together from time to time. With a nod to a certain Lubbock bred trio, Fromholz suggested the name FlatLINErs – a reference to each man’s life-threatening illness or injury. The trio made its public debut during February 2005 with appearances in Houston at Anderson Fair and in Austin at the Hyde Park Theatre. The FlatLINErs played two-hour long Sundown Concerts at Threadgill Theatre during the 2006 & 2007 Kerrville Folk Festivals. A live 2CD recording was released of their 2006 performance.
A year long appointment, Steven was named the Lone Star state’s Poet Laureate in 2007 by Governor Rick Perry and the State Legislature. Toward the close of that year, the Texas Christian University Press published Fromholz’s NEW AND SELECTED POEMS.Featuring vocal accompaniment from Willie Nelson Hondo’s Song had only previously been released in the U.K. on a seven-inch vinyl single during 1981. It was appended to the 1978 Lone Star album and issued by Felicity on CD as TEXAS TRILOGY GOES TO G’NASHVILLE . The four CD box set CARRY ON  furnished further evidence of Fromholz’s time with Dallas born Stephen Stills – another musician, who as a kid, was raised on military bases. Stills’ song Do For The Others solely featured the two musicians and was credited as such. On Sunday 19th January 2014, Fromholz was fatally shot in a freak accident at the Flying B Ranch near Eldorado, after the rifle he was carrying slipped out of its case, hit the ground and accidently discharged. Having curtailed his public appearances of late, for five years prior to his passing Steven returned to his roots and had been a rancher.
as Frummox with Dan McCrimmon – HERE TO THERE  ; FRUMMOX II  ;
with The FlatLINErs – Kerrville Folk Festival  :
Solo – HOW LONG IS THE ROAD TO KENTUCKY unreleased  ; A RUMOUR IN MY OWN TIME  ; FROLICKING IN THE MYTH  ; JUS’ PLAYIN’ ALONG  ; FROMHOLZ LIVE!  ; LOVE SONGS  ; EVERYBODY’S GOIN’ ON THE ROAD accompanied by The Almost Brothers  ; THE OLD FART IN THE MIRROR  ; A GUEST IN YOUR HEART  ; COME ON DOWN TO TEXAS FOR AWHILE – THE ANTHOLOGY 1969 – 1991  ; LIVE AT ANDERSON FAIR  ; COWJAZZ  a CD reissue of LOVE SONGS ; TEXAS TRILOGY GOES TO G’NASHVILLE  a CD reissue of JUS’ PLAYIN’ ALONG :
Soundtracks – OUTLAW BLUES  :
Spoken Word – THE TEXAS RANGERS  :
Photo Credits: Part 3 – A Steven Fromholz Biography
001 Walter Prescott Webb’s THE TEXAS RANGERS  cover of audiobook cassette release
002 THE OLD FART IN THE MIRROR  album cover
003 A GUEST IN YOUR HEART , album cover
004 COME ON DOWN TO TEXAS FOR AWHILE – THE ANTHOLOGY 1969 – 1991 , album cover
005 LIVE AT ANDERSON FAIR , album cover
006 Craig D. Hillis, with photography by Bruce F. Jordan TEXAS TRILOGY: LIFE IN A SMALL TEXAS TOWN , book cover
007 COWJAZZ  a CD reissue of LOVE SONGS, album cover
008 Steven Fromholz: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS , book cover
009 TEXAS TRILOGY GOES TO G’NASHVILLE  a CD reissue of JUS’ PLAYIN’ ALONG, album cover
Brought to you from the desk of the Folk Villager.