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Rusty Wier

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Rusty Wier Obituary
Hearing was musician Rusty Wier's last sense to go, so although he was unresponsive when surrounded by relatives and friends, including Jerry Jeff Walker, at his son Coby's house in Driftwood on Thursday night, Wier tried to raise up his head when the group sang "Amazing Grace."

By the next morning the Austin musician, who had a hit when Bonnie Raitt covered his "Don't It Make You Wanna Dance" on the soundtrack to "Urban Cowboy," was dead after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 65.

"There's this myth about the hippies and the rednecks meeting at the Armadillo and passing joints and Lone Stars to each other," Austin musician John Inmon said. "But the rednecks and hippies were the same people. That was Rusty. He was a redneck son of Central Texas, but he was also a hippie."

Although Wier got his own chapter in Jan Reid's book "The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock," which chronicled Austin's "cosmic cowboy" scene of the '70s, Wier's contribution to Austin music goes back to the mid-'60s. As a student at Southwest Texas State, the Manchaca-raised Wier was recruited to play drums in the Wig, Austin's answer to the Monkees. He later played drums and sang in the Lavender Hill Express, a popular country/rock cover band.

But he wanted to step out front. "One day he just gave up the drums and started woodshedding on guitar," said Inmon, who played with Wier in the trio of Rusty, Layton and John. "He locked himself in a room and practiced and practiced. He was a natural entertainer, so he could get his music across, but it took him awhile to get good."

He established himself in the early '70s as a folk singer with rock 'n' roll eyes and a ever-present, low-crowned black hat. Wier's first three albums - Stoned, Slow, Rugged in 1974, Don't It Make You Wanna Dance in 1975, and Black Hat Saloon in 1976 - came out on three different major labels.

But in the clubs is where he made his money.

"Bartenders loved Rusty," musician Bob Livingston said. "He had this thing during his show where he'd hold up a shot of tequila and everybody would go to the bar to buy their shots. Bar business was always good when Rusty played." Wier played the Saxon Pub every Thursday for almost 15 years, almost never missing a gig, owner Joe Ables said.

"He played the Saxon one last time in March," Ables said. "He was so sick I had to carry him to his wheelchair, but he was in a great mood. People had come from all over to see him. He truly got to find out that he was loved."

A memorial service will probably take place at the Saxon, Ables said, though details are still being worked out with the family.

He's survived by four children from four different wives, Inmon said.

Michael Corcoran, American-Statesman; [email protected]; 445-3652
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Oct. 9 to Oct. 14, 2009
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