Category Archives: Armadillo World Headquarters

The Armadillo World Headquarters – December 27, 1980

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In my previous post, I told the story about finding my long-lost shoe box containing a dozen smaller boxes of photographic slides. Over the years, I have kept wondering what happened to that shoe box. There was only one small box of slides that I really wanted to find, as I really had no memory of what any of the other boxes of slides contained.

The box that I really wanted to find contained photos that I took inside of the Armadillo World Headquarters on December 27, 1980, which was just 4 nights before they closed their doors forever. That box of slides was plainly marked “AWHQ 12-27-80”.

This place has played a legendary role during the 1970’s for helping to put Austin, Texas on the map as a prominent center of music – behind only Los Angeles, California and Nashville, Tennessee. Wikipedia has an excellent history of the place, as well as a pretty decent list of the bands that played there, and the albums that were recorded there over the years. Here is a link to the site that declares itself the official web site for this place that closed its doors more than 32 1/2 years ago. Under the lower left corner of the photo, click the link to “Enter The Site” and then on the left side, click on the photo that says “Performances”. The list is truly staggering in length!

I have been busy this week learning how to scan these slides on my Epson V500 scanner and using the Epson scan software that came with it. There is no metadata that I can look at to tell me anything about the settings that I used.

All I know for sure is that in late 1980 my camera was a Canon AE-1, and I had three prime lenses: a Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 lens, a Canon FD 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, and a Canon 200mm f/2.8 lens. I am not sure which lens that I used for which photo that I am about to show you. I also had a Canon Speedlite 199A external flash, and you can tell that I used it (in the hot shoe) to illuminate several of the photos of the artwork (but certainly did NOT use it to photograph the bands). The slide film was Kodak Ektachrome, and I am guessing that it was ASA (ISO) 64.

The ticket stub shown at the top of this post says that the show started at 9:00 PM, and my first wife and I arrived well before that. We were probably one of the very first people in through the door, and nobody said anything about me bringing in a camera with a large lens attached. It never occurred to me that they might not allow that, either.

I took my first photo of the stage, while the first band was still checking out their sound settings, and before any other customers parked themselves in my field of view.

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Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

I remember that the first time I came to The ‘Dillo was in the spring of 1974. I remember that, because I remember the 3 other guys who I came with – we all lived next to each other in the dormatory at UT. I do not remember which band that we saw, however. I do know that we were all very impressed with the whole “experience” that we had that evening. I knew that I would be back!

The artwork on the walls was somewhat “iconic”, and that was the main reason that I wanted to bring my camera into The ‘Dillo.

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This large canvas painting was hung high and to the right of the stage. My memory says that someone once told me that was Freddy Fender in the photo above, but I must admit that I really don’t know who it is. I just thought it was pretty cool! That canvas is probably 10 or 12 feet across.

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The photo above was high and to the left of the stage. This is the legendary blues man, Freddy King. I guess he represented the heart and the soul of the Armadillo.

The women’s restroom was located to the left of the stage, and the door was in plain view of everyone in attendance. That door is in the lower right corner of this huge painting on the wall.

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I walked to the back of the “concert hall”, where one of the two bars was located. This photo is exposed for the neon signs, but you can still see the pitchers all stacked up and ready to be filled with beer. On a “good night”, you had to hang onto your pitcher, as they would run out at the bar and then you could only order by the bottle (oh no!).

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OK, so that’s all of the photos that I took before the first band came out on stage. I really do not remember who they were.

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I do remember that the photo above was taken from our seats, which were the first row of metal folding chairs. Everyone in front of us was sitting on old beer stained carpet remnants scattered all over the floor. You can see that in the next photo, which I took during the intermission.

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The 20 or 30 minutes between the two bands was usually enough time to get your pitcher refilled, and to go to the restroom. After the men had “done their business” in the trough, and they turned to exit the restroom, here is the larger than life-size artwork that they would see.

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The main event of the evening was billed as “Joe Ely – Lubbock Reunion”. I had seen Joe at least 3 or 4 times before this show and always really liked what I saw and heard. I know that even today I still have a couple of his vinyl records and at least a half a dozen of his CD.

Lubbock, TX is the home of Texas Tech University, and is located exactly 400 miles northwest of Austin. Lubbock has been, and still is, the home of several highly respected musicians. Buddy Holly (and The Crickets) was from there. Later on Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore formed a band they called The Flatlanders.

Lloyd Maines, was also born and raised in Lubbock, and supposedly has appeared more times than any other musician on the Austin City Limits television show. He’s the master musician playing the pedal steel guitar!

OK, so it’s time for the main act, and here’s one of two photos that I took of them from my seat.

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That’s Joe Ely playing guitar in the center, and Lloyd Maines is seated just to Joe’s left (your right). I guess I knew that if I was going to get any decent photos, I was just going to have to get up out of my chair and work my way into the crowd.

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That’s Butch Hancock sharing the microphone with Joe Ely. The next photo shows them together, as well as a better shot of Lloyd Maines on the pedal steel guitar.

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I’m going to stop typing now, and just show the best 6 of the last 9 photos that I took while they played.

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Wow, what a show! Being that close to the stage, the wall of speakers to either side of you just resonant right through to your sole.

After the show, and the lights were turned back on, I realized that there was another piece of artwork that I had missed.

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The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers were always watching over the crowd at The Armadillo World Headquarters!

Last night after I had finished scanning this box of slides, I was really in a nostalgic mood. I got out my box of ticket stubs that I have saved over the years. I think I found all of the ticket stubs that I have from The ‘Dillo. This is certainly not all of the shows that I saw there – these are just the ticket stubs that I saved.

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The Armadillo World Headquarters wasn’t the only honky-tonk that I would go to in the 1970’s. But The ‘Dillo was where you could go and drink your pitcher of beer right in front of the stage with all of the other cosmic cowboys. And in the 1970’s there wasn’t any other honky-tonk that I was aware of that everyone was welcome: hippies, cowboys, UT students, working people. In all the times that I went there, not once did I ever see, or even hear about, a fight. Not once did I ever feel unsafe or threatened. With all of beer that was consumed there, that ¬†just doesn’t seem possible today!

Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog today.

Discovering My Long-Lost Time Capsule

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Last Sunday, I was rummaging around in one of our storage closets, where I had remembered seeing a box of old shorts that had become too big to wear. I was now tired of my size 36″ waist shorts being too tight, so I had succumbed to the disgusting reality that I now needed to get out those old size 38″ shorts again. After I got onto our short step ladder, I saw that there was a small box on top of the box labeled “Shorts – 38”, so I took that box down and opened the lid to see what the heck other useless junk we’d been saving around here.

What I found made me immediately start to tremble with excitement! This wasn’t a box of junk. This was a box I had been looking for for years. This was my box of 35mm slides!

After I put all of the “big boy” shorts into the washing machine, I sat down at the kitchen table and sorted out my new found treasure. Fortunately, inside the box I also had a GAF Pana-Vue 1 Lighted 2×2 Slide Viewer. Today, I am absolutely shocked to see that B&H still sells the exact same model that I have!

I was thankful that I never installed the size C batteries, as I was certain that they would have been corroded and ruin the electrical contacts. Instead, I just plugged in the AC adapter into the wall, pushed down on the light bar, and instant glow! The light bulb still worked, but man, was it ever dusty inside of this thing. A few blasts of air from my Rocket Blower, and I was all set to find out what sort of photos that I would find.

There was only one specific box of slides that I had been looking for, and it contained photos that I had taken inside of a famous local nightclub / concert hall just a few nights before it closed its doors forever. Those photos will definitely be used sometime soon for a blog post, as I am sure that they will be of interest to many other longtime Austinites!

That box of photos was plainly marked “AWHQ 12-27-80”, but only a few of the other 11 boxes were labeled in any way whatsoever. One said “Cats Jan. 1982”, one said “Fireworks Fujichrome 50”, and the others said “Zilker Gardens”, “Foreigner 4¬† 1-17-1982, Cars 1-24-82”, “Lake Travis 3-81”, “Good Shots 1” and “Good Shots 2”.

Obviously, I didn’t know anything about proper library management of photos 30 years ago! Even after I went fully digital in 2004, and right up until sometime in mid-2008, everything, and I mean everything that was worth keeping, ended up in a photo album. There are about 20 of these behemoths on a couple of bookshelves in one of our spare bedrooms. I listed the range of dates inside the front cover for the time span that was contained within that album, but rarely did I write any descriptions about who was in the photo, or where it was taken.

I got my first “real camera” in 1980. It was a Canon AE-1, and I got it with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. A year or so later I bought two more used Canon FD lenses from and advertisement in the newspaper. One was a 100mm f/2.8 macro lens that came with an extension tube. The other was a 200mm f/2.8 that came with a 2x extender.

I mention that because I know for certain that this is all of the camera equipment that I had when all of the slides in this box were taken. Well, yes, I also had a Canon flash and an inexpensive Manfrotto tripod… And about 1987 or 1988 I replaced my camera body with a used Canon A-1 and also bought a 28mm lens. There wasn’t any Image Stabilzation back then – that’s what a tripod was for. The lenses were all manual focus back then, too. There weren’t any High ISO sensors, either. I am rather certain that the highest sensitivity slide film that I ever used was ASA (ISO) 64. (Now I also shot a lot of ASA 400 print film, but slides were slow. Very slow.)

So I sat at the kitchen table for nearly 3 hours last Sunday trying to figure out what I had. I got through 10 of the 12 boxes. I took yesterday off of work as a vacation day and used that time to go back through, from the beginning, and document what was in each box. 5 hours later, I had finished that task.

The photo above was the first slide in the box labeled “Zilker Park”, and so I can only say that this view of downtown Austin was taken from Zilker Park, or somewhere very near to there, like Barton Hills Dr. What I do know, is that this photo was taken in the spring of 1981, and I was using Ektachrome slide film, which I mailed to Kodak for development. I’d guess that it was ASA 64 film.

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The photo below was also taken during the spring or summer of 1981, also on Ektachrome. This was a few months after the Armadillo World Headquarters had closed its doors.

Yesterday evening was the very first time in my life that I have ever scanned a slide into my computer. I am using an Epson V500 scanner, with the Epson Scan software. I played around with the settings in the histogram area for several attempts before I got something close to what I could work with. I’m not sure exactly what Digital ICE does, but it does seem to remove most of the smaller dust spots. (I have cleaned the glass surfaces with a lens cleaner, and blown the dust away from the scanner and the slide using my Rocket Blower.) I can get a pretty decent TIFF file from the Epson software, but thank God that Lightroom 5 can take it from there. Add a little Exposure, a little Clarity, bring down the Blacks, and it’s pretty much done.

This next photo was the very next photo in Box #9 after the Armadillo sign photo. I must have gone about 1 block over to Auditorium shores and taken this photo of downtown Austin.

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I hope that these photos look decent enough when you view them from my blog post. I scanned them at 4800 dpi, and honestly, when I zoomed in for my first 100% pixel-peeping view, I was very surprised, and disappointed by all of the graininess that I saw. These photos are in some serious need of sharpening, but so far my attempts to do that only bring out the graininess even more. I have played around with the Luminance Noise Reduction slider, and that helps. I have also used the Masking slider for the Sharpening amount, and that helps some too. My inspection of these 1200 pixel wide JPGs that I am putting here look surprisingly good, considering what I saw on the full resolution versions. I’ve been at this for less than 24 hours so far, so hopefully I will get a better with some more practice!

This next photo should interest a few of you. This was taken on July 4th of 1981 (I think). I was on the north shore of Auditorium Shores along Town Lake (as it was known then), and the rounded top building behind the crowd on the south shore is the no-longer-existing Palmer Auditorium. This is the facility that my high school graduation took place in. That building was demolished years ago, and this is where the Long Center is located today!

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Even though I still have to use this very low-tech Pana-Vue slide viewer to see what “treasures” I have uncovered, I am very glad that I have a modern scanner, attached to a modern computer, running modern software that allows me to bring these photo to an acceptable digital state.

Contrast that to a photo that I took some time in late 1981 or very early 1982. I was still in electrical engineering school at The University of Texas here in Austin. This was my desk where I spent countless hours doing my studies. On the left was my “computer”.

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Oh, it was a real computer, alright. A Radio Shack Color Computer 2. The monitor was a 19″ Motorola Quasar TV. To the right of my monitor sits a little tape deck that was used for storage. That was before the 3.5″ floppy disk was widely accepted. This was about 3 years before I spent $2000 on the very first Apple Macintosh computer (in 1984)!

Maybe now you can realize what I realized as I viewed these 12 boxes of slides. It was like opening up a time capsule that I had buried more than half of my lifetime ago. Austin had changed. Technology has changed. I have changed!

Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog today.