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Dallas History

My Wild Ride Through the ’70s Music Scene in Dallas, Thanks to ‘Buddy Magazine’

Dallas was a different place back then, and with youth on my side, I survived an eight-year rock-and-roll odyssey by way of the iconoclastic publication that could never exist today.
ZZ Top Billy Gibbons and Bill Hamm
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top with Bill Hamm, their manager at the time. ZZ Top was playing the Cotton Bowl with the Rolling Stones and the Fabulous Thunderbirds on Halloween Night 1981, in what was billed as “The Concert of the Decade.” This was shot in Gibbonsʼ limo after soundcheck. Courtesy

In 1976, I walked into the “office” of Buddy Magazine to pick up a check for the princely sum of $6 for a photo of Jerry Jeff Walker I had sold to the publication a month earlier. As I looked at the check, I asked if they had any job openings. The response: “Can you sell advertising?” 

“Of course,” I replied.

So began a more than eight-year odyssey that introduced me to some of the giants of rock music in an era before the internet or even CDs. I got backstage at just about every show that passed through Dallas and even a few out of town. At the time, I didn’t really grasp how amazing the journey was, but in hindsight I can now see how lucky I was to be there and to have a camera. It was almost like being the Forrest Gump of rock and roll.

Buddy billed itself as “the original Texas music magazine” and was named after Buddy Holly, because in the words of its founder, Stoney Burns, “Buddy Holly and LSD changed my life.” To call Stoney “colorful” is akin to calling the Gulf of Mexico a puddle. He was larger than life and, depending on your politics, was either the most hated or most revered long-haired hippie in Dallas in the 1970s. He was arrested numerous times for various crimes, including obscenity, inciting a riot, and outing an undercover narcotics officer. He used to tell me that he hoped they never legalized pot because then you wouldn’t be able to buy it on Sunday, and possession of marijuana was the only charge on which he was ever convicted. For less than a tenth of an ounce, Stoney was sentenced to 10 years and one day in Huntsville. He served time there until his sentence was commuted by Governor Dolph Briscoe. 

Working at Buddy with Stoney was quite a transition for a kid raised in south Mississippi and a recent graduate of Baylor University. Until then, I had never been around someone who so openly flaunted the law or poked the conservative power structure in the eye. At times being around Stoney flat-out scared me, but somehow I emerged unscathed with some great stories to tell.

Our office was two adjoining apartments in a worn area of McKinney Avenue, nearly 40 years before the area became Uptown. It was a rather spartan setting, with piles of paper strewn all over the place, along with stacks of previous issues, a darkroom to develop our 35 mm black-and-white film, and a production room with an IBM composer, hot wax, and a light table. This was decades before the advent of “desktop publishing” on a computer, so every story I wrote was banged out on a Smith Corona typewriter and then typeset and pasted onto blue-lined layout paper.

This was in the era of vinyl and dozens of record stores such as Sound Warehouse, Hastings, and Peaches, as well as FM radio powerhouses KZEW (aka The Zoo) and Q102. It was also a time when Dallas was shaking off its deeply conservative trappings and starting to walk on the wild side. Cocaine had burst onto the scene, finding its way into just about every niche of Big D society, from Highland Park to Industrial Boulevard. But it was also the age of a huge live music scene in Dallas that only the aging baby boomers can now recall. There were so many clubs offering live music nightly that Buddy ran pages and pages of their schedules, as well as photos of the local bands that played there. Not only that, but every national rock and country act had to play Dallas-Fort Worth because their record companies demanded it. Back then, artists went on tour to sell records, and their concerts were available for just $5 a seat. (Now they give away their music on the internet and charge $100 for a concert ticket.)

It was the decade before MADD and heavy penalties for DWI. From 1973 to 1981, the drinking age in Texas was 18, and you could carry an open container in your car as long as you weren’t drunk. Bars regularly had two-for-one happy hours or ladiesʼ nights when the women drank for free. Dallas also had a huge pool of 18- to 24-year-olds who moved here after graduating college or high school and were able to find jobs and cheap rent. 

Mainly it was a time when the music mattered. Everyone had a favorite band they followed like an NFL team, and if your band came to town, you simply had to be in that concert hall with a few thousand of your fellow like-minded rockers. 

Waylon Jennings
I shot Waylon Jennings with Buddy staffer Bobette Riner backstage at the Tarrant County Convention Center, in 1976. 5. A year later, KZEW (aka The Zoo) sponsored a free concert at the same venue featuring Billy Joel and War. At the time, Joel only had one big hit, “Piano Man.” His newest LP, The Stranger, had been released about two weeks earlier, so he hadn't gotten any traction from it yet. The woman was Stoney Burns’ date. Courtesy

Buddy began its assault on the status quo when there was no Dallas Observer or even any real rock music coverage by the Dallas Morning News or the Dallas Times Herald. Both newspapers had critics (e.g., Pete Oppel) who reviewed the national acts when they came to town, but if you were a local band playing at Mother Blues or Sneaky Pete’s, there was nowhere to get any ink. Stoney saw this niche and founded Buddy right after leaving The Iconoclast, an underground newspaper he’d headed up that railed against Vietnam, social injustice, and The Man. As he told me, “The best part of The Iconoclast was covering the concerts, so I decided to start a publication that only covered Texas music.”

By the time I joined Buddy, he wasn’t as strident in his political views, but he still loved music, pot, and women, and for some reason he attracted a lot of the latter. It was all a good ride, but one day I woke up and realized that I had spent the decade after college living the rock-and-roll lifestyle while all of my peers were married, raising children, and buying their first homes. When I left Buddy, I felt as if I was starting out 10 years behind my Baylor classmates. So I joined the mainstream and took a corporate job with a regular paycheck, a 401(k), and healthcare.

I also married for the second time rather later in life. There had been a brief “rock-and-roll marriage” while at Buddy, but it lasted less than three years and produced no children. Now, at 35, I was starting a family, going to PTA meetings, and attending youth sports. Because it was the pre-internet era, very few folks had an inkling of my previous life, unless they had an old copy of Buddy stored in a box somewhere.

Raising my three children and being with my wife, Diann, gave me a joy you can’t understand when you’re living single, but there was no way I could have done that and worked at the magazine. The corporate jobs I held were all decent, but none of them matched the excitement of living the life of a rock-and-roller and sharing the Buddy stage with Stoney Burns.

I did, however, have a host of incredible stories to tell, as well as the photos to prove it. Even if I was the oldest member of the PTA. 

Kirby Warnock is the producer of the documentary films When Dallas Rocked and Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Brothers in Blues.

This story originally appeared in the June issue of D Magazine with the headline “Glory Days.” Write to [email protected].