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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary P. Nunn is a renowned Texas country music singer-songwriter whose career began in the 1960s with the Fabulous Sparkles.
Today he is a Texas institution and is considered one of the fathers of the progressive country scene that started in Austin in the early 1970s. One of his most famous songs, "London Homesick Blues," was used as the theme song for the popular television show Austin City Limits for two decades. Nunn’s songs, such as “The Last Thing I Needed the First Thing This Morning” and “What I Like about Texas,” have been recorded by artists from Jerry Jeff Walker and Michael Martin Murphey to Rosanne Cash and Willie Nelson. With a continuing array of successful solo albums and an army of fans, Nunn has made a permanent mark on the Texas/Southwestern/Country/Folk music scene and draws devoted fans wherever he plays.
Gary P. Nunn
At Home with the Armadillo
Greenleaf Book Group Press
Hardcover, 978-1-62634-487-7 (also available in e-book format), 336, pages, $24.95
Reviewed by Si Dunn
Early in 1972, singer-songwriter-musician Gary P. Nunn was ready to quit performing, leave Texas, and move back to his home state, Oklahoma.
At age 26, he admits in At Home with the Armadillo, “I had had a butt-full of the music business as it had led me to nothing but heartache and misery.” His new plan was to help his uncles with their farming and ranching until he could figure out what next to do with his life.
Nunn, or Gary P., as he sometimes is called in his new autobiography, had been playing bass guitar in rock bands since junior high school in Brownfield, Texas, in the late 1950s. Now he had his pickup packed and was ready to go. But he decided, spur of the moment, to stay in Austin a couple of days longer so he could see a live performance by a rising star he greatly admired: Texas singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphey.
Murphey performed “material which he had written or co-written,” and Nunn recalls being “stunned—not only by the eclectic, poetic, and intellectual quality of the material, but by his singing and professional performance. It was light years beyond anything I had ever been exposed to, especially the songwriting aspect.”
The night soon got even better for Gary P.
Murphey needed a bass guitar player and knew Nunn’s work-hard reputation. Spotting him in the crowd, Murphey offered him a job in his band. Nunn accepted, Murphey moved his family to Austin, and the band played gigs around Texas and elsewhere. They also recorded songs in Nashville, including Murphey’s famed album “Geronimo’s Cadillac.”
Just when he had given up, Nunn’s musical career now took off toward new heights. Over time, he would become known as one of the founding fathers of the progressive country music scene. Some of the songs he wrote or cowrote would be recorded by Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Roseanne Cash, and other big-name performers. And, in 2007, Nunn would be hailed by Gov. Rick Perry as an “Official Ambassador of Texas Music.”
Nunn’s new book likely will please many of his numerous fans. And most won’t care that he has chosen one of the least-effective ways to create an autobiography: in chronological order, with a foreword but no warmup chapter to hook uninitiated readers and give them reasons to keep reading.
Fortunately, Nunn is a good writer. His opening account of growing up in Oklahoma and Texas provides an absorbing snapshot of life in America’s hardscrabble heartland soon after World War II.
Overall, At Home with the Armadillo is an entertaining self-portrait of survival within the Texas music world, as well as in concert venues across America and overseas. Gary P. Nunn likewise delivers intriguing looks at the challenges that may be faced when attempting to achieve and maintain success as a singer, songwriter, and musician.
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Si Dunn is an Austin novelist, screenwriter, and book reviewer.
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