I was a Brent Grulke fan before I ever knew him.
The official obituary for the SXSW creative director, who died of a heart attack last month at the age of 51, said he was inspired to move to Austin and attend the University of Texas in 1978 after reading Jan Reid’s book The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock. By the time I moved to Austin to attend UT in 1990, Brent had played that very role for me.
The so-called “New Sincerity” bands, among them Glass Eye, Doctors Mob, the Reivers, Wild Seeds, and True Believers, were all I knew of Austin besides Darrell Royal, and much of why an R.E.M.-obsessed Jewish kid from Philadelphia could someday think of calling Texas home (though I also had copies of Larry McMurtry’s All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers and Steve Earle’s Guitar Town). Grulke was a friend, fan, road manager, soundman, coach and shrink to those bands, all of whom will pay tribute to him—along with Fastball, Sixteen Deluxe and Wannabes —Saturday at ACL Live at the Moody Theater for what has been dubbed “Grulkefest: A CELEBRATION OF BRENT / 1961-2012.”
Unbeknownst to me, Brent was the co-producer and liner notes writer of the 1985 compilation Bands on the Block, which I used to play on WNUR, the Northwestern University radio station that was my whole college existence. When I saw the Reivers live in Chicago, he was probably behind the soundboard. And he co-wrote “I’m Sorry, I Can’t Rock You All Night Long,” the 1988 not-really-hit by Wild Seeds, the band fronted by Texas Monthly’s Michael Hall.
For me, however, he was just an editor I needed to impress in 1990. I was a journalism grad student looking to catch on at the weekly Austin Chronicle, and he had just been put in charge of music coverage–kind of a bummer, from my perspective, because I had been prepped by mutual friends to talk to Michael Corcoran, who I knew from his article about the Austin music scene in SPIN. But “Corky” (also now