“It’s twine time! Ooh, ah, ooh, ah, ooh, ah!”
Anybody who’s lived in Austin in the past 45 years and listened to KUT (now KUTX) on Saturday night knows what’s next. The snap of a snare drum, a snaky guitar riff, a raspy saxophone, and the familiar voice of Paul Ray, one of the best DJs in Texas, introducing “Twine Time,” one of the best radio shows of all time. Paul died Friday at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. He was 73.
Every fan of the show—and they are legion—has a “Twine Time” discovery story. Mine dates back to 1980, around the time I was also discovering R&B and blues. I heard the show one night and I couldn’t believe there was a radio show that dedicated three hours to this music. I loved the show (named for the song of the same name by Alvin Cash and the Crawlers), but I also loved Paul—his voice, his spark, his knowledge, his transparent love for the music. He understood the pacing of a good music radio show, playing five or six songs without interrupting before expounding on the history of the tracks with lovable asides, charming inside jokes, and a vast encyclopedic memory of the story of each song. Paul Ray was like a tour guide into another world.
He wasn’t just a DJ. He got his start as a singer and songwriter with Paul Ray and the Cobras in Dallas, a band whose guitarist was a kid named Stevie Ray Vaughan. Paul was also an emcee at the Austin Music Awards. He was a world-class talker—acerbic and hilarious, holding forth on whatever moved him or made him mad.
I taped dozens of “Twine Time” shows, and then I’d listen to the tapes all week. He’d do special shows—all Muddy, all Elvis, all rockabilly, all Motown. I still have those tapes, and they still play. Some of my favorite moments are when, every week, he’d make a dedication to his wife: “This is for Diana!” he’d call out and play some glorious love song.
Thanks, Paul, for rescuing old soul music, for playing us songs we’d never have heard, for giving us some amazing Saturday nights.