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Doc records North Texas’ musical history

When Dallas Rocked

Director: Kirby Warnock

Cast: Jimmie Vaughan, Bugs Henderson

Rated: Unrated

Running time: 64 min.


Posted 12:00am on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013

North Texas seems to be in memory mode these days.

From such Hollywood movies as Parkland and Dallas Buyers Club to books like Dallas 1963 and last week’s screening at the Ridglea of You Must Be Weird or You Wouldn’t Be Here, chronicling Fort Worth’s legendary Cellar club, there’s a lot of looking back to see where we’ve been. These reflections continue Dec. 5 with another Ridglea screening: Kirby Warnock’s low-budget but insightful When Dallas Rocked, a documentary about the local music scene in the late ‘60s/’70s. It has screened in Dallas, most recently at the Texas Theatre, and now it finally lands on the western side of the Metroplex.

It’s a revelation, especially for anyone who wasn’t here at the time, to realize that, back then, it was DFW -- not Austin -- that was the center of the Texas music universe. It’s just too bad the film’s not longer (it clocks in at about an hour). There’s a lot of story to tell.

All the major record companies had offices in North Texas meaning lots of national tours -- from Springsteen to the Sex Pistols -- came through while groundbreaking album-oriented-rock radio station KZEW-FM, which could be heard from Lubbock to Tyler, provided the soundtrack for their young listener’s lives. Even those outside the region knew a little bit about the Texas scene, thanks to Dallas-based Buddy magazine, which was distributed for free at record stores outside Texas.

In 1967, a Dallas band called Five Americans had a huge hit with the jangling Western Union and young performers like the Vaughan brothers -- Jimmie and Stevie Ray -- were tearing it up in local clubs like Mother Blues and mega-concerts like Texxas Jam drew thousands to the Cotton Bowl. And at least one legend of North Texas blues, Freddie King, was still alive and kicking, often meeting with and jamming with visiting rock stars. Dallas was the rock’n’roll capital for much of the South and Southwest.

Then times changed. Clubs closed. Radio stations evolved. Musicians moved on (the Vaughan brothers both ended up in Austin by the early 70s).

As Warnock says in the documentary, it’s unfortunate that the local civic movers and shakers let Austin nab the musical thunder and have done little since then to remember those who’ve come before. But Dallas is known for knocking down its history. Relatively few, especially newcomers to the area, know about Dallas’ contribution to the blues or Fort Worth’s status as a birthplace for so much Western swing. After all, the statue dedicated to Stevie Ray Vaughan is not in Dallas, where he was raised and is buried, but in Austin.

But now Stevie Ray has been honored with a mural in Oak Cliff’s Lake Cliff Park, the renovation of 508 Park Avenue in downtown Dallas (a legendary address as blues pioneer Robert Johnson recorded there) continues, and When Dallas Rocked is just one of many docs, like You Must Be Weird, being made about music from the region. It seems that North Texas’ pop-cultural contributions won’t be forgotten after all.

At this point, DFW probably is never going to lead Austin again in the global pop mindset. They’ve got SXSW and ACL, after all.

But that doesn’t mean we should let so many long-gone figures slip through the pages of our history.

Exclusive: 7:30 p.m., Dec. 5 at the Ridglea Theatre, Fort Worth

A version of this review originally appeared on DFW.com in October

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