Late 80's Austin, and looking back, one of the many pretty cool things to watch was Doyle Bramhall II appear on the scene, freshly stepping out upon graduation from Doyle Sr.'s schoolhouse of 'I dig what my father does for a living' life study program. Some obvious good stock.
Stagehanding an Austin outdoor rock & roll concert that The Fabulous Thunderbirds put on with frequency, I bore witness, up close, watching as young Doyle hung out then sat in with The T-Birds, starting a bit of a run and going out on the road with the band for a tour or nine. As was their wont. The larger scale intro into the fascinating world of r&r that awaited him. The graduation present.
A couple of years on, and after Stevie Ray's untimely departure, The Arc Angels were born. A band consisting of the Double Trouble rhythm section of Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon, to go along with Charlie Sexton and Doyle adding their guitar sounds to round out the combo. This ended up being very powerful, as you would expect. Ultimately, fairly short-lived for variable reasons.
There was a last show. A last time to hear. Head west to The Backyard, out in the Austin countryside. Doyle II was rock starred up. Soon after I got this feathered boa image, he was bent over, somehow wanting to climb down off of the stage, and proceeded to land right on top of me down in the pit. I remember telling him what I felt about all of this. From what I could make out over the din of the rest of the Arc Angels kickin' it into a very high gear, I'm pretty sure he mumbled an apology. After making sure my lens was still attached, the one in my right eye as well, I turned around and there was this to be absorbed. All I could do really was soak it all in. Rock and Roll.
Mr. Clapton. Slowhand. God, in some circles. There was graffiti scrawled on an outdoor wall somewhere in London in the 60's that said just that. So while living in Dallas in the spring of 1985, I created an opportunity to meet.....God. I had pieced together a small portfolio of pictures that I'd taken of Eric over his last few tours, with the thought of giving it to him. EC and his band were conducting pre-tour rehearsals at The Studios at Las Colinas just outside the city, rehearsals that were closed to the public, obviously. So, yeah, tough to get in there. But I snooped out that the band was staying at The Four Seasons Las Colinas not far away. So a late afternoon run from the studios to the hotel was inevitable.
Armed with the photos I waltzed in, wanting him to have these as a present for his 40th birthday which was coming up in a couple of days, and I came hoping he'd come waltzing in as well. After a couple of hours, alternately feeling like a groupie or a fan club stalker, I was almost ready to walk, feeling strange about it all. Then through the front door and into the empty lobby comes the Master, carrying a guitar case. Wondering what guitar was in there I called out his name instead and started towards him, unsure if he would just keep strolling. But he pulled down his sunglasses and extended his hand, maybe thinking I was someone else of importance. We exchanged cordial pleasantries, the book was now his, and for 30 seconds I'm lookin' into the eyes of The Yardbirds and Cream.
A few nights later, during the opening show of the tour, downtown Dallas, backup singer Marcy Levy went through a small list of vocal shout outs going out to some of their friends that were at the show. She mentioned the name Douglas and I always just kind of bought that. The hopeful own. Eric's way of saying thank you, perhaps.
I wonder if Clapton's still got those images. A chance that he does not. Temporary gifts are fine......the gesture had to be made. As I had written on a torn piece of paper that I inserted in the front sleeve of the photo album, "Just a little something for you for everything you've given me"............. Thanks for every note.