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Message from Executive Director Don Carleton

October 2012

Dr. Don Carleton, Executive Directory of the Briscoe Center

This month, the Briscoe Center hosts a special screening of For the Sake of the Song: The Story of Anderson Fair, a remarkable documentary film that we are proud to have co-sponsored. Our involvement with the film goes back almost a decade, when I was approached by filmmakers Bruce Bryant and Jim Barham as they were beginning a documentary film about legendary Houston music venue Anderson Fair. Dr. Bud Frazier, a mutual friend and longtime supporter of the Briscoe Center, told Jim and Bruce about our extensive Texas music collections, and thought perhaps we could be of help.

Bruce and Jim wanted to share the story of Anderson Fair through a film that would explore the significant role the venue has played in preserving an American musical tradition. The list of artists whose careers were nurtured by the club reads like a Who's Who in Texas music: Vince Bell, Guy Clark, Slaid Cleaves, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Steven Fromholz, Nanci Griffith, Carolyn Hester, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, Eric Taylor, Dave Van Ronk, Townes Van Zandt, and Lucinda Williams, to name a few. Bruce and Jim also wanted to share the story of how a devoted family of artists, volunteers, and patrons transformed a politically subversive little coffee house and restaurant into a unique American music institution.

I was immediately interested, in part because of my own personal knowledge of Anderson Fair's importance. As a graduate student in Houston in the 1970s, the venue was in my Montrose neighborhood, and I was familiar with how it had shaped the city’s culture—or, more accurately, its counterculture. I also knew of its significance as an incubator of musical talent. More important, I could see the direct connections between the Briscoe Center's archival holdings and the film project. We agreed to support the film financially, as well as provide access to our photos and documents that might help illustrate the story.

Our efforts to support the film were enhanced when Ramona Kelly, the Briscoe Center's chief development officer, joined our staff. She connected the filmmakers with Houstonian and Anderson Fair devotee Elizabeth Phillips, who provided crucial support to the project’s completion. Ramona not only helped with fundraising efforts on behalf of the film; she served as a creative consultant during the editing process, and her experience as a documentary filmmaker brought another level of expertise to Bruce and Jim's project.

The Briscoe Center also is proud to be the film’s archive, meaning all the materials related to the film – including interviews, outtakes, and other footage, as well as documentation – will join our Texas music collections, a significant addition to our collections. I hope you can join us for the screening, and enjoy this entertaining and important film.


The Briscoe Center is saddened by the recent death of two of our longtime employees at the Winedale Historical Complex. Karel Weinert, who died in August, served as a building attendant and worked at Winedale for more than 15 years. And Delores Gummelt, who had more than 23 years of service to Winedale, died in late September. Delores worked in a number of capacities, including archivist and collections management. Both women made great contributions to Winedale and will be greatly missed. On behalf of the Briscoe Center staff, our deepest condolences to their families.

 

Don Carleton, Ph.D.
Executive Director
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History
 

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