Below you will find the latest installment in our fingers-crossed never-ending series of Extraordinarily Rare and Incredibly Impressive and Possibly Very Important Audio From George Gimarc's Bottomless Collection of Awesome. (Still workshopping that title.) This one features East Texas-born, West Texas-raised cowboy-singing great Stuart Hamblen, best known as the author of "This Old House," which he once performed on Johnny Cash's TV show.
Hamblen, who died at 80 in 1989, was one of radio's first singing cowboys, and got his start on local radio -- first at WBAP, then at WFAA, in the late 1920s. According to most accounts he got his big break when he won $100 in a Dallas talent contest and took his winning to New Jersey, where he wound up scoring a deal with the label that eventually became RCA Victor. His official bio says that contest was in Abilene.
For now, at least, it doesn't matter. What does is the audio: 13 minutes worth of radio-show audition featuring a Texas-born country great that you'll never find anywhere else. And without George Gimarc, it would probably be lost somewhere in the dustbin of history, a discarded echo. His collection of local and Texas music keepsakes is estimable, invaluable. He's been told countless times he ought to open a museum.
So he has, with Thomas Kreason -- the man who used to collect memorabilia for the old Hard Rock Cafe on McKinney Ave. It's the Texas Musicians Museum, in its third (and, likely, final) home on Irving Boulevard after stints in Hillsboro and Waxahachie. It has its "soft" opening today. All-day passes run you just $25. The great Bobby Patterson headlines a day's worth of live music on the impressive outdoor stage.
At the moment, at least, the venue -- a former Toyota dealership -- is more a giant room filled with amazing keepsakes and curios than it is a proper museum. Most of the items have small pieces of paper containing their origin stories; some aren't even labeled. And there's no real rhyme or reason to the way things are assembled. At the Thursday-night preview, we debated an organizational structure: Do you arrange items on a timeline? By region? By genre? Possibly. Could be. Maybe. Time will tell.
Until then, the collection is impressive regardless: There's Bob Wills' fiddle. Bobby Patterson's suit. A guitar that very might well have been Blind Lemon Jefferson's. The original circa-1940s letters that once decorated the side of the KXIL-AM building near downtown Dallas. A high school yearbook signed by Buddy Holley (he lost the "e" on February 8, 1956). Jimbo Wallace's bass. A sign from the Longhorn Ballroom. A wall covered in Texas legends' gold and platinum guitars. Old recording contracts.
Gimarc even has one of Alan Lomax's old field recorders. See?
In coming months there will be audio, like the clip heard above, and video; that'll take time ... and money.
Below, a couple more photos taken during Thursday's sneak peek. We'll have a long piece on the place in coming days. But you should really check it you for yourself, starting today. Tickets are now available at the front door.