Armadillo Rising – Wittliff Collection Rocks 1970s Austin Music Scene

Armadillo Rising poster art by Micael Priest
Armadillo Rising panel - Jason Mellard, Eddie Wilson and Joe Nick Patoski
The “Armadillo Rising” panel – Jason Mellard, Eddie Wilson and Joe Nick Patoski – recounted the heaven-and-hell schizophrenia of Austin’s Armadillo World Headquarters in the 1970s.

Bill Wittliff and The Wittliff Collections’ “Armadillo Rising: Austin’s Music Scene in the 1970s” event attracted a standing-room-only audience of Texas music and pop culture fans to Texas State University, San Marcos’ Alfred B. Alkek Library on April 19, 2015.

The special reception complemented the Wittliff Collections’ “Homegrown” exhibit of 1970s vintage music poster art from Austin gigs, created by renowned Texas artists Jim Franklin, Gilbert Shelton, Micael Priest, Kerry Awn, Danny Garrett and half a dozen more.

The “Armadillo Rising” event’s centerpiece was a free-wheeling and often funny panel discussion about the Armadillo World Headquarters, the music hall that was the epicenter of hippie culture in Austin from 1970-1980.

The Wittliff’s Steve Davis introduced the panel, which included cultural historian and award-winning author Jason Mellard (who served as moderator), Armadillo World Headquarters godfather Eddie Wilson, and writer-filmmaker-broadcaster Joe Nick Patoski, author of definitive biographies of Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Selena, as well as a profile of the Dallas Cowboys.

Patoski also directed the acclaimed 2015 Doug Sahm film documentary “Sir Doug and the Genuine Cosmic Texas Groove,” and hosts the weekly “Texas Music Hour of Power” on Marfa Public Radio.

Armadillo Rising attendees
‘Armadillo Rising’ event attendees included (front, from left): Eddie Wilson; Sally Wittliff and her husband Bill; and Dr. Denise Trauth of The Wittliff Collections. In the back: Boyd Elder, Jerry Retzloff and Joe Nick Patoski.

Among the notables enjoying the “Armadillo Rising” panel was the Wittliff’s namesake. Texas writer-photographer Bill Wittliff is an award-winning screenwriter of the “Lonesome Dove” miniseries in 1989 and a screenwriter on three films starring Willie Nelson (“Honeysuckle Rose” in 1980; “Barbarosa” in 1982 and “Red-Headed Stranger” in 1986). Wittliff’s passion for writing and Texas culture of all kinds drives the Collections, aided and abetted by his posse of artifact wranglers.

‘Lone Star Jerry’ & ‘Long Live the Longneck!’

The event also celebrated the opening of “Long Live the Longneck!” on the same floor of the Alkek. The “Homegrown” satellite exhibit sported priceless 1970s Texas music memorabilia from the collection of Jerry Retzloff, a San Antonio native and former Austin-based district manager for the Lone Star Brewery, curated by Wittliff lead archivist Katie Salzmann and her dedicated staff.

Retzloff was the Austin-based district sales manager for Lone Star in Armadillo Rising Lone Star beer poster by Jim Franklinthe mid-1970s who conspired with his longtime friend Willie Nelson to help each other sell lots more Lone Star Beer and Willie Nelson records, respectively, to younger (but not underage) Texas audiences.

It was a private, handshake deal between friends; no money ever changed hands between them.

Of course, Nelson, Doug Sahm, Rusty Wier, the Lost Gonzo Band, Greezy Wheels, Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, Kinky Friedman and dozens more Texas-based musicians went on to help co-brand Texas music and Lone Star Beer, aka “The National Beer of Texas,” to the benefit of all.

“We had a lot of fun, and didn’t get caught!”  –  “Lone Star Jerry” Retzloff

“Lone Star Jerry” as he’s known among Texas musicians gave the author a brief tour of his exhibit, then Salzmann detailed how his memorabilia was archived and organized for display, and how it fits in with the Wittliff’s “Homegrown” exhibit:

To give the Texas music and Lone Star brew-mance some visuals, Retzloff and the brewery hired Jim Franklin in 1974 to create a new “Long Live Long Necks” poster series. Franklin’s fertile imagination mixed up armadillos, Texas icons, Lone Star Beer and smart-ass humor, helping to establish the Austin counterculture’s tradition of keeping it weird.

RELATED: Lone Star Beer: Texas Music and Texas Beer Join Forces (1976)

Franklin’s Lone Star posters were a huge hit, plastered on the walls of bars and dance halls all over the state. Original prints are now hard to find.

In an interview with the author at “Armadillo Rising,” Jim and Jerry told this reporter how the deal went down:

Also on hand at “Armadillo Rising” was another featured “Homegrown” poster art legend, Danny Garrett, as well as Boyd Elder (aka “El Chingadero”), the Texas “artlaw” who created the iconic “American Fetish” painted-and-adorned animal skull art on the covers of Eagles’ multi-million-selling “One of These Nights” and “Their Greatest Hits” albums. Elder and the author road-tripped from tiny Valentine, Texas halfway across the state to attend the event.

Armadillo Rising - Joe Nick Patoski and Boyd Elder
Writer-director Joe Nick Patoski and artlaw-instigator Boyd Elder at ‘Armadillo Rising’ at the Wittliff in San Marcos.

RELATED: Boyd Elder: Encounters of the Southwestern Kind, 1978

Bill Wittliff established the Southwest Writers Collection at Texas State University, San Marcos in 1986, and founded the Wittliff Collections of Southwestern and Mexican Photography there a decade later. The Wittliff Collections continue to expand at the Alkek Library with a growing Texas music archive.

The “Homegrown” exhibit was on display at the Alkek Library March 1-July 3, 2015.

Find out more about “Homegrown,” “Armadillo Rising” and The Wittliff Collections here.

Photos: Stephen K. Peeples. Very special thanks to John M. Thornton and Michelle Hildebrand.

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For more fun with Lone Star Jerry, watch the River House interview with Stephen K. Peeples from the day after “Armadillo Rising,” April 20, 2015.

Armadillo Rising - Stephen K. Peeples and Lone Star Jerry Retzloff.
The author and ‘Lone Star Jerry’ Reztloff at ‘Armadillo Rising.’ Photo: John M. Thornton.

Santa Clarita journalist Stephen K. Peeples began his career writing about rock and roll, Texas music, and pop culture for Cash Box, the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Weekly, the L.A. Free Press, Circus, Picking Up the Tempo, Modern Recording, Performance, Rocky Mountain Musical Express, Rock Around the World, and other publications from 1975-1977. He is a Grammy-nominated record producer (“Monterey International Pop Festival,” MIPF/Rhino, 1992), a veteran record industry media relations executive (Capitol Records, Elektra/Asylum Records, Westwood One, Rhino Entertainment, 1977-1998), and website content manager (Warner New Media, 1998-2001). Peeples was the original, award-winning producer of “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series for the Westwood One Radio Network from 1988-1990. He was music and entertainment features writer/columnist for the Santa Clarita Valley Signal (2004-2011), and The Signal’s award-winning online editor (2007-2011). He wrote news and features for Santa Clarita’s KHTS-AM 1220 News ( and (2011-2016), and hosted, wrote, and co-produced the WAVE-nominated “House Blend” music and interview show on SCV community TV station SCVTV (2010-2015). Peeples was also Vice President/New Media & Editorial with Los Angeles-based multimedia pop culture company Rare Cool Stuff Unltd. (2010-2016). For more information, email skp (at) or visit

Article: Armadillo Rising – Wittliff Collection Celebrates 1970s Austin Music Scene
Category: News and Reviews
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
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