Picture This | Austin, 1970s, Hippies, Rednecks, Antone’s, The Armadillo, Live Music

by Leslie Barrett on November 1, 2017 in What I'm Reading, Austin, Music,
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Watt Casey was there, and that is what he did. Watt Matthews Casey, Jr. grew up in Albany, Texas, surrounded by music. His grandmother was a fabulous piano player, his grandfather a renowned composer. With this strong musical heritage and after seeing The Beatles on TV, Watt dreamed of being a musician and writing songs.

The legendary Steve Miller wrote the foreword to music photographer Watt Casey’s book,
‘My Guitar Is a Camera.’

In 1970 the young west Texas rancher started classes at the University of Texas with a major in Journalism. Like most college kids, he was drawn to live music, and it was erupting out of the the nightclubs and concert halls in and around Austin. One concert in particular on May 10, 1970—The Jimi Hendrix ‘Cry of Love Tour’ at San Antonio’s Hemisfair Arena—was the turning point for Casey. Standing at the feet of one of the greatest guitar players of all time, Watt did not have a camera to capture that incredible experience with Hendrix. He promised himself that night that he would never again go to a concert without one. And thus began his career in music.

His instrument: A camera.

That one night ignited a lifelong quest for photographing live music and the artists who make it and is now chronicled in Casey’s new book: My Guitar Is a Camera (Texas A&M University Press, October 31, 2017).  

“Blues fans, photography aficionados, and music lovers everywhere will delight in this powerful and beautiful imagery. Watt captures the light, the mood, and the joy of some of the greatest musicians in the world in their best moments at Antone’s Home of the Blues and the early concert scene in Texas…An exceptional body of work, this collection is a historical record of the fleeting nature of greatness and the moments when the worlds of the Delta, Texas, and Chicago blues; rock ‘n’ roll; and jazz actually came together.” – Steve Miller

Outlaw Country’s cosmic cowboy Willie Nelson, as captured in ‘My Guitar is a Camera,’

Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

With a foreword written by the legendary Steve Miller, this rich visual history of the vibrant live music scene in Austin and beyond, during the 1970s and early 1980s through 2016, allows Casey’s lens to reveal both the stage, awash in spotlights and crowd noise, and the more intimate backstage moments, where entertainers hold forth to interviewers and friends. As Outlaw Country’s cosmic cowboys Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings mixed with East Coast rockers Springsteen and Dylan, bluesmen Junior Wells and Buddy Guy, and West Coast hippies Jerry Garcia and The Eagles, Watt Casey roamed at will with an “all-access pass,” capturing the people, places, and happenings that blended to foster Austin’s emerging reputation as “The Live Music Capital of the World.”

The Rolling Stones, with Ron Wood, Billy Preston, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Of course, My Guitar is a Camera is all about the photos – Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Johnny & June, B.B. King, Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones, to name a few—but the accompanying stories told by Mark Seal, Joe Nick Patoski, Susan Antone, Bill Bentley and a host of others, harmonize perfectly with the photos because they were there:  in the clubs, behind the scenes,  and in the moment; they provide the perfect balance to Casey’s works of art.

Casey and the new book will be featured at this year’s  Texas Book Festival, November 4th-5th, and at the Old Jail Art Center, November 11th in Casey’s hometown of Albany, Texas. See more of Watt’s work hereBooks are available at amazon.com, BookPeople (autographed copies, while they last) and all major booksellers.

Cover photo: Buddy Guy, Clifford Antone, Muddy Waters, Jr. Wells at Antone’s. All photography courtesy Watt M. Casey, Jr.