Terry Allen:  Writer, Artist, Musician, and Generally Cool Guy

I didn’t really have a topic in mind for this week’s blog.  I was running out of time, and then, miracle of miracles, late on Saturday evening, I watched Austin City Limits, a weekly TV program, run out of Austin, that features hour-long musical performances.  This week, they had a concert by Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band, a group I’d never heard of before.

I immediately fell in love with Allen and his music (and wondered why the hell I didn’t know more about him already).  During one of the songs, I got on Google and did a little research about the originator of the band.  I was delightfully surprised to discover that Allen is world-famous in all the areas I mentioned in my title.

I’ve always been fascinated by Renaissance men—sorry for the sexist language; there are Renaissance women too, but no such phrase was ever coined—and Terry Allen is one. 

It’s damned hard to be good at anything in life.  To be so incredibly talented at so many things—I recommend that you listen to Allen’s music and look at his sculptures and paintings too—just blows my mind wide open. 

As it turns out, the writer/artist/musician/generally cool guy also talks pretty well too.  Here’s an interview he did where he discusses all manner of subjects (especially his own development as an artist) in the most compelling sort of way.  (Notice his gargoyle head sculptures in the background.)

And here’s one of his songs.  Listen all the way to the very end because there’s a wonderful reference to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick in the last few seconds.

I always get inspired by creative people.  I hope you find Allen inspiring too.  Thanks for reading.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

If you’d like to see some of Troy’s art, have a look.

5 thoughts on “Terry Allen:  Writer, Artist, Musician, and Generally Cool Guy

  1. Thanks for this post. I had never heard of Terry Allen either, but the music’s right up one of my alleys. A good friend of mine here in CT does a radio show featuring Austin music, so I’ll have to see if he has some of his music.
    Also was interested to learn in the interview that he was an early fan of the Beats too. Like you noted, an all around interesting person.

    1. Hi. I noticed you described his music as “right up one of my alleys.” Like you, I like his sort of music, but I’m very eclectic in my musical tastes. I certainly wouldn’t have had the same feeling if his music had been the sort of silly formulaic music that most country stars put out. If you haven’t seen Austin City Limits before, I highly recommend you try to find past telecasts on the internet. Certainly PBS will have all their shows archived. Are you from Texas? One other thing that I found intriguing about Terry Allen is that he grew up in Lubbock, Texas. I can tell you from past personal experiences. The city isn’t the sort of place that would encourage experimental thinking or people who color “outside the lines” as Allen seems to love to do. The beats are great. I bet he has read Charles Bukowski too. I thought he was fascinating because he was learned, down to earth with a proletarian background and political inclinations. He was visual and mental. I’ve long thought that arts that are more auditory in nature are extremely different from the visual arts. He brings those opposites together. Thanks so much for the comment. I plan to read some of your writings. I see you call yourself an occasional optimism. How do you manage even occasional optimism? Please share your secret.

      1. Actually I’m from Connecticut, not a country music Hotspot, though I know the evil is spreading. Like you, I’m referring to the contemporary popular swill that people suck up because they don’t have the imagination or musical appreciation to look elsewhere. I have seen a lot of Austin City Limits though and often like who they feature.
        By the way, somehow I seem to recall that Buddy Holly and Delbert McClintock were from Lubbock.
        Anyway, nice hearing from you, and re your optimism comment, my website is called An Optimist in Dreamland, and subtitled Humor for a Doomed Planet, so if you find any actual optimism, let me know and I’ll be sure to correct it.

      2. Hey, Bob. So you’re from Connecticut, eh? We Texas progressives see Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont (and such) as the political promised land. If things go much farther south in the political situation, my wife and I will be headed up north or overseas. (I lived and worked overseas a lot of years and an married to a newly-minted American citizen who originally hails from North Africa.) Part of my interest in Allen is that he originally hails from Lubbock, a place I’ve lived. He’s living proof that artists and creative genius can grow from pretty rocky and inhospitable soil. I’ll read more on your site and will either ignore what appears to be optimism or I’ll identify passages that that need your attention. It’s nice that we met. I hope we stay in contact.

  2. From what I can tell, I think creativity flowers best in inhospitable soil. Though I have to wonder where the great satirists are in this Age of Unenlightenment. It would be great to have a Swift, Voltaire, or Twain among us. Or even Molly Ivens, to mention a Texan who I used to enjoy reading. Not that they could have made a difference when things are this crazy, but it would make things more tolerable. Even here in CT, I keep one eye on the Canadian border, and the gas tank filled.

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