GEORGE KINNEY & HEADSTONE
by Patrick the Lama
Ad for 1970 gig (original was black & white and non-reversed)
I was delighted to write liner notes for the 2003 release of George Kinney's 1970 HEADSTONE recordings by Splash 2 records in England. Due to limited space, the notes had to be edited down for the CD booklet. What follows below is the orignal, unedited note.
When the GOLDEN DAWN's first and only album "Power Plant" was finally released in early 1968, the band's short lifespan was already near its end. The LP, which today is considered a piece of worldclass psychedelia, had been held back from release for many months by the International Artists label; ostensibly not to compete with I A:s flagship release, "Easter Everywhere" by the 13th Floor Elevators. After "Easter" had been released in November 1967 and failed to take over the world, "Power Plant" appeared on the market with little fanfare. The few reviews it received were mixed or negative, and Austin's underground paper "The Rag" dismissed the Golden Dawn as an Elevators copy band, even though "Power Plant" had been recorded months before "Easter" and the Elevators themselves were supporters of the Dawn. Golden Dawn's creative force, vocalist-lyricist George Kinney has commented that the poor response to an album that the band knew was good accelerated their falling apart.
George Kinney was born and raised in Austin and had played in various pre-Golden Dawn outfits with local legends such as childhood friend Roky Erickson (the Fugitives) and Powell St John (the Chelsea). After the Golden Dawn he remained close to the local music scene but it would be a whole year before he got another band venture going. This project was HEADSTONE, a mysterious outfit that pops up in local music retrospectives but whose story has been unknown until now. In a recent interview Kinney talks briefly about the band, who formed in 1969 and lasted about a year. Several local musicians passed through its ranks but among the permanent members were Kinney himself on guitar and vocals and the Elevators' superb ex-drummer, Danny Thomas. Thomas' former rhythm section colleague from the Elevators, Dan Galindo, was also briefly a member, alternating with a couple of other bass players. Brit Edwards who co-wrote "Silver Blade" plays lead guitar on several of the Headstone cuts, alternating with Terry Brown. His brother Jay Edwards sang and played rhythm. Roky Erickson's brother Mike had ties to Headstone but was never really a member, while Roky's old Spades drummer John Kearney sat in on drums when Thomas was unavailable.
According to George Kinney Headstone "rehearsed every day for a year", played some fraternity gigs and made a few home recordings, but broke up in late 1970 "because nobody liked us". He has described the band as "cocaine rock'n'roll" with an influence from the late 1960s era Rolling Stones, playing a mix of cover versions and Kinney originals. Their best documented appearance was at an October 1970 Houston benefit for Roky Erickson, who at the time was behind bars at Rusk State Hospital. Indeed Kinney would be instrumental in the process that finally managed to get Roky out from his incarceration among Rusk's murderers and rapists, financing the "Openers" book of poems which was Roky's first work in four years.
Headstone are likely to have remained an obscure footnote in the vast Austin music chronicles, remembered only for featuring members from the city's two greatest 1960s bands, if it weren't for the rehearsal tapes recently excavated by George Kinney himself. Apart from a few covers of Dylan, Rolling Stones and the Elevators they feature a number of excellent Kinney originals not found anywhere else. Ranging from crude garage hardrock to introspective folk-psych these tracks display the depth and creativity familiar from his legendary work with the Golden Dawn three years earlier.
After Headstone disbanded Kinney relocated to Nashville where he had a taste of mainstream success as a songwriter for Johnny Cash and other country acts. Some time was also spent in Florida, after which he returned to Austin and worked in and out of the music business for many years, giving occasional interviews as the Golden Dawn cult was growing around the world. Kinney released a fine solo CD ("After The Fall") a few years ago and is currently performing live with the revived Golden Dawn in a line-up that includes his old Headstone guitarist Terry Brown on pedal steel.
Copies of the Headstone CD are available here.
The Lama Workshop