Music Legend Redd Volkaert Is Latest to Leave Austin
Austin, TX is losing yet another music legend. The latest to join the stampede out of the Live Music Capital of the World is Grammy winner and guitar-playing legend Redd Volkaert. Renown throughout the country music world and beyond for being one of the greatest Telecaster players in history, Volkaert once played in Merle Haggard’s backing band The Strangers in the spot previously manned by Roy Nichols, and has been a mainstay of the Austin live music scene for some 20 years.
Originally from Vancouver, Canada, and picking up guitar at an early age, Volkaert moved to Alberta where he got his first serious start as a professional musician. Redd would then move to Southern California in 1986, eventually running into a young Dale Watson, who would ultimately be the man to convince Volkaert to move to Austin. But before Redd would become a resident of the Lone Star State, he spent some 11 years in Nashville primarily as a live performer, playing with the likes of Ray Price and The Statler Brothers among others, and eventually behind Haggard. But he never quite liked it in Music City, where most of the musician work was centered around studio time as opposed to the clubs and honky tonks like in Austin.
So eventually Volkaert ended up taking Dale Watson’s advice and moved to the Texas Capital, and for some 20 years has been playing at Austin’s famed Continental Club with the supergroup Heybale! every Sunday, and his solo Happy Hour slot from 3:30 to 6:30 on Saturdays. These set times have been like an institution in Austin music, so much so they are included in literature for the music tourists who come to Austin and want to get an authentic taste of what the Live Music Capital is all about. Now Redd Volkaert is once again following Dale Watson, and leaving Austin as a place of permanent residence (Watson now splits his time between Austin and Memphis).
“Kathleen and I have decided to make a life changing move,” Volkaert announced on November 21st. “For me its just time for a change and new chapter. I’ve been in Austin 20 yrs, longer than anywhere I’ve ever lived, so its time to move along. Austin has been an awesome music/people place. After all its where I met my wonderful wife.”
Similar to Dale Watson, Redd Volkaert’s name has become synonymous with Austin music. Along with his sets at the Continental Club, he’s played with countless other Austin-based outfits, including most recently being featured on the Graham Reynolds project, Marfa: A Country & Western Big Band Suite. He’s also commonly called on for studio work around town, and is respected as a guitar player well beyond the country world. From Western Swing, to jazz and rock, Redd is considered an icon on the Telecaster with guitar models named after him. Despite his stout fingers and advanced age, he’s still considered one of the savviest guitar players alive.
But don’t worry, Volkaert is not retiring from music entirely. In fact he’s trading one famous music town for another. “We’re headed to Galax Virginia. A gorgeous place in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just north of Mt. Airy, NC (Andy Griffith)” he says. “We’ll start there in the new year. For me its just time for a change and new chapter. Kathleen has retired and will have lotsa room for her animals, hiking & riding trails, equestrian folks and fishing. I still look forward to traveling the road with my regular music folks. Also making new friends and getting to play with some of the great musicians in Virginia.”
Galax, Virginia is considered an epicenter of old-time music, and has hosted the Old Fiddler’s Convention since 1935. There’s also multiple instrument makers in town, and many part-time and permanent residents that consider music their primary occupation.
It’s not just Redd Volkaert and Dale Watson who have left gaping holes in the Austin music scene. Leo Rondeau and Brennen Leigh are two other big names from the country realm who’ve recently relocated primarily to Nashville in the continued exodus of Austin musicians. Many venues have also been shutting down recently, including Threadgill’s on South Riverside, located in the same area as the famous Armadillo World Headquarters. It closed on December 2nd, 2018. East Austin’s Hard Luck Lounge just closed on November 23rd due to rising rent. They join a laundry list of venues that have been forced to shutter recently due to skyrocketing overhead, property taxes, and encroaching development.
Though much continues to be made in local Austin politics about how to solve the city’s music crisis and preserve its rapidly contracting live entertainment scene, the solutions are too late in coming and mostly symbolic, such as shared practice spaces, some units of affordable housing, or tip options for bands in performance spaces, none of which address the underlying reasons that musicians are leaving the city, or not choosing to come to Austin in the first place.
Along with skyrocketing cost of living, gentrification, and a general lack of interest in music due the techification of the Austin economy, the primary focus on music in Austin is shifting to major promoters like C3 Presents, which after selling a 51% stake to LiveNation, spends most of their time promoting bands outside of Austin to the wider population, as opposed to supporting local talent first in events like the massive ACL Fest. This year the PBS program Austin City Limits booked Kane Brown and other national acts to perform, but the show has still not featured Austin music icons such as Ray Wylie Hubbard, or other upcoming local bands who could benefit from the exposure.
Just this week it was announced that LiveNation has paired with the University of Texas to build a new $338 million arena in Austin. Meanwhile many of the clubs and honky tonks that Austin is known for can’t keep taxes and development from closing their doors and/or bulldozing their locations.
One of the main draws for musicians to migrate to Austin from all across the country has been to study under and walk in the footsteps of artists like Dale Watson and Redd Volkaert, and one of the biggest draw of tourists to Austin over the years has been to be able to see artists like Redd Volkaert and Dale Watson perform in their natural environment. But no matter what happens to Austin music in the future, Redd Volkaert has left an indelible and iconic footprint on the Austin music scene that will never be replaced. Austin was lucky to have him, and keep him this long.
Lost and Found
December 5, 2019 @ 10:05 am
As Austin turns Blue, its long time residents see Red.
December 5, 2019 @ 1:14 pm
Turns Blue? You are clueless. It has ALWAYS been VERY blue.
December 5, 2019 @ 2:15 pm
Agreed. Texas may be turning blue, but Austin was always a hippie citadel.
December 5, 2019 @ 11:43 pm
a hippie citadel? Today it’s more like a yuppie citadel.
December 6, 2019 @ 11:03 am
If by “yuppie citadel” you mean “Bolshevik enclave,” you’re exactly right.
December 5, 2019 @ 5:36 pm
Redd will be a lot harder for them see, it would seem.
December 16, 2019 @ 9:10 am
The leftist employees at my Austin hotel we’re rude and ignorant and having a meltdown over Kavanaugh’s swearing in. They were openly hostile to my group of conservatives. We could not get out of Austin quick enough, the streets have poop, vomit, urine and trash all over. Very aggressive homeless who physically impeded our walking on the sidewalk, screaming in my friend’s face. She got human poop on her sandal. We cut our trip short and left. Thank God for Governor Abbott demanding they clean up the shit hole that is Austin. I’ll avoid it in the future. it was a real disappointment.
June 15, 2021 @ 4:57 pm
Good don’t come back ,Matter of fact take a coupla under each arm with you .
June 15, 2021 @ 5:05 pm
You should not judge a beautiful city like Austin by the bar district you hung around in .One of the loveliest cities in the country .At least till the developers took over . And still better than most .
December 5, 2019 @ 10:32 am
We were very lucky to have had Redd around town for 20 years. I am going to miss his sense of humor as much as his playing.
December 5, 2019 @ 10:43 am
It won’t be long before all the music venues are gone, and people will have to find somewhere else to sit and play with their phones.
December 5, 2019 @ 10:54 am
Sad. Some of my fondest memories are going to see him at the Continental.
December 5, 2019 @ 11:03 am
I hate to see Redd go as much as anybody, but he has his reasons and it is not really anyone’s business other than his own and his wife’s. Based on what he personally told me, which pretty much reflected what was said in the Facebook post that was quoted here, I don’t think his reasons are quite the same as Dale Watson’s, at least not entirely. The fact is, it happens all the time, and not just in Austin. People move. It is sad to see them go, but what we need to be doing more than going into doom and gloom mode and talking about the end being near for Austin, is focusing on the present and the future, and what we can do to maintain and improve those. We still have it better here in central Texas than just about anywhere else in the US when it comes to music – especially traditional country music. We need to realize that and do something positive with it going forward instead of looking solely to the past and concentrating on how much worse things are getting. I hear that all the time. But I rarely hear any talk of solutions, or making the most of what is left in the present.
December 5, 2019 @ 11:34 am
That’s a good point. And most certainly, supporting the artists, bands, and venues that still do exist within Austin is something that we need to sustain as opposed to throwing our hands up and saying all hope is lost. I certainly try to do that as much as I can from my little perch at Saving Country Music. I also don’t want to imply that Redd is leaving with his middle finger wagging in the rear view, or that he or any of these artists should feel guilty for leaving like they’re abandoning the city. As an Austin resident, I’m jealous for Redd getting to start a new adventure in Galax, which is a great town.
All that said, I do still think it is important to underscore the severity of the situation. Austin has been talking solutions for over seven years, drafting studies, forming committees, talking more, and talking more while the real solutions are taken off the table as more older housing gets bulldozed, and more venues close. The same solution to Austin’s music scene issues is the same for its traffic issues, its parking issues, and its affordability issues. Gentrification can be healthy and necessary part of urban renewal, but it should be managed sustainably, and Austin just does not have the will to stand up to the big money developers that are reshaping the city blocks at a time. And even if it started today, so much damage has been done, it’s going to be very hard to put that Genie back into that bottle. I can’t think of a better way to illustrate what Austin musicians are facing than listening to the latest record from Croy and the Boys called “Howdy High-Rise.” It’s all encapsulated right there.
So in short, I think we need to do both. I think we need to celebrate Redd’s time in Austin. I think we need to show our support for the artists and bands that are still here. But I also think we need a very realistic assessment of where Austin music is to make sure people realize we don’t have another 7 years to talk about what we’ll do seven years from now about a problem we’re already seven years behind on solving.
December 5, 2019 @ 11:09 am
December 5, 2019 @ 2:02 pm
I see what you did there! 😉
December 5, 2019 @ 11:10 am
@lost and found Austin and been blue ya dingus.
December 5, 2019 @ 12:44 pm
Yes, I don’t understand why some folks are blaming liberals for this issue. Austin has been a liberal city for over 50 years, and it’s one of the reasons it became the Live Music Capital in the first place. Granted, the fact that you have so many city officials and other boosters who claim to be liberal and all for poor people, art, and minorities, but are really vulture Capitalists in disguise with their first priority being development and real estate values is a big problem. But generally speaking, the fact that Austin remains a liberal town is probably one of the firewalls keeping the music scene from completely imploding.
(Coming from my completely anti-political viewpoint, at least)
dough see dough
December 7, 2019 @ 7:49 pm
They’re blaming liberals because it’s trendy, and they’re gaslighting liars.
December 10, 2019 @ 12:24 pm
Liberal hippies that like music are one thing but all the techies moving in are an entirely different bred.
March 30, 2020 @ 1:53 pm
I think this is a new Left, different from the hippie left that perhaps defined Austin in the past. This is a militant, activist left backed by major corporate money. It is only “tolerant” if you agree with them 100%.
I see a lot of older Liberals thinking we still have this older left. Like they are still fighting “the man” like in the 60’s. But they don’t realize they are fighting for “the man” now.
December 5, 2019 @ 11:25 am
I have known Redd for a while. I wish him the best of luck for his next chapter.
As far as Austin music scene, there were many from Dallas that headed to Austin in the 70s & 80s (SRV namedrop here). Dallas has suffered decades of music scene decline. But we are still here and we aren’t going away.
I used to visit Austin in the 70s. It is no longer the same place that attracted our musicians. Not just the music scene either. The traffic so bad, I will drive country miles just to bypass Austin now. Homeless people, trash, graffiti and crime have taken a firm foothold in this historic city. If this trend continues, there will be little differences between Austin, Chicago & Baltimore – historic, but undesirable.
Sharon J Jewel
December 5, 2019 @ 11:31 am
Dales hasn’t left any gaping hole in the Austin music scene. He still plays his regular gigs, and he still lives here. He is here every week except when he is on tour, same as always.What he did move was the Ameripolitans. That has moved to Memphis and he also has a home there, but he has not left Austin. No different than Willie having a place in Austin and a place in Hawaii. He is still in Texas.
December 5, 2019 @ 11:52 am
Yes, Dale Watson still has a big presence in Austin. But he also has a big presence in Memphis where he now holds the Ameripolitan events, and has been in investing in local venues. And this is a big loss of Austin, and a big boost for Memphis. That’s not to blame Dale Watson all all. He’s going where he sees the opportunity, and where he can thrive, just like Leo Rondeau and Brennen Leigh did, and who both also still come to Austin to perform regularly. Nor is this to downplay what Dale or anyone else is still doing in Austin. Dale and Redd Volkaert have been massive for Austin music, and nothing will ever erase that. But I also think it is important to recognize the impact these important artists have on the Austin music scene, and whether it’s splitting time of moving away permanently, it’s not a good sign, and should symbolize to Austin the seriousness of the situation affecting its music scene.
December 5, 2019 @ 1:18 pm
I just saw Dale twice last weekend in Austin at The Continental and at C-Boys for Chicken Shit Bingo. He also played The Broken Spoke in between. He was his usual awesome self.
December 5, 2019 @ 11:40 am
Big loss to Austin, but a great big Xmas present to those of us other ex-Austinites who found a happy home in the Blue Ridge Mtns.
December 5, 2019 @ 11:41 am
So glad I got to see Heybale. One of my favorites from a Texas trip. Huge Redd V fan here. He’s a certified gitar’ slinger. Guess I’ll look him up in Virginia sometime and see what his next adventure is all about.
As for Austin, I sincerely hope The Broken Spoke is thriving. Saw the documentary on it and the developers have it surrounded but they claim it can stay. Let’s hope so. I met some Austin lifelong locals and they despise the new demographic in their town. Exact quote : yeah were glad you came to visit, but please don’t move here, all these interlopers are wrecking our town.
December 5, 2019 @ 12:15 pm
Until the liberals are gone this will continue to happen. They have destroyed Austin.
December 5, 2019 @ 12:56 pm
People like you, who constantly blame others for whatever situation, need to sack up. Stop bitching and make things better instead of blaming others. We know you can do it, snowflake.
December 5, 2019 @ 2:46 pm
Maybe liberals have destroyed Austin (not sure I’d agree), but they also made Austin what it was- a musical oasis where the hippies and cowboys could come together. Austin has been liberal for a good long while.
December 5, 2019 @ 11:46 pm
I was just in Austin for 4 days and it is hardly “destroyed”.
December 5, 2019 @ 11:50 pm
Liberals will never be gone from Austin. Have you lost your mind? Austin is by far the most liberal city in the State. Have you ever been there? Get your head out of Trump’s ass and join the rest of us in the real world.
December 5, 2019 @ 12:25 pm
See y’all in Lubbock.
December 5, 2019 @ 1:17 pm
Sorry to see Red go. He will be missed. Dale still lives in Austin the majority of the time. He has said many times he hasn’t moved to Memphis. Austin still rocks. It’s one of the best music cities in the country.
December 5, 2019 @ 2:51 pm
“He has said many times he hasn’t moved to Memphis.”
That’s just not true. I really don’t want to get argumentative about this, because it’s a complicated matter and it’s really up to Dale Watson himself to characterize this however he wants, and I don’t want to put words in his mouth. But he has said multiple times on record to the press that he has moved to Memphis.
Here’s a quote:
” Yep, I’m about a mile away from Graceland. It’s great … When I come home, like anybody, I need to get energized. Austin, which has been my home for over 25 years, has grown so much, and a lot of the personality of the town has changed. There are condos built over the old beer joints where I used to play … I thought maybe if I had a place here, I could come more often. So I looked around for houses in the area, and I thought, ‘I want to move.’ Everything about Memphis was electrifying to me. I’ve always loved the city and its history. But having a place was never sustainable for me. Now I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’m at a point in my career where I can live anywhere I want to live. And once I came down here and looked at the houses and the scene, I said, ‘I’m going to put down roots here.'”
Here’s the source:
What he’s ALSO said in clarification is that he still holds a residence in Austin, and still considers Austin his home as well. This was NOT included in the above article, and Dale has made sure to emphasize this since then. I spoke at length with Dale and Celine about the situation in February in Memphis at the Ameripolitan Awards, and they reaffirmed to me that Memphis is where they feel their home is, yet they still consider Austin their home. Characterize that however you wish.
Also important to note, Dale Watson also now owns a club in Memphis called Hernando’s Hideaway:
His last major album “Call Me Lucky” is all about diving head first into the Memphis sound:
Again, you can characterize his living situation many different ways, and I don’t want to characterize it for him. But it is not incorrect to say that either Dale moved to Memphis part-time, or is at least a part-time resident of Memphis. In other words, it’s complicated.
December 6, 2019 @ 6:50 am
Hmmm, I wonder why Dale would be saying it if it isnt true.
Sharon J Jewel
December 5, 2019 @ 1:56 pm
@Trigger The thing is Dale has not left Austin. He still lives here and performs at his regular gigs. My point is that Dale has left no gaping hole in the music scene here, as the article stated. Dale is still here for the public to hear him, as often as before. It is his home time which is divided but that doesn’t effect his presence in the music scene here. Cannot compare to Brennan or others who have actually moved away. Brennan still plays here but does not maintain her regular gigs. Dale maintains his regular gigs. He did not move away. He just got a 2nd home. For sure Memphis has gained, but Austin hasn’t lost due to this.
December 5, 2019 @ 2:56 pm
I think we fundamentally agree. Dale is a very driven guy who is trying to do what he can to keep the roots music scenes alive it two very important music enclaves, and we should all be appreciative for that no matter where we live. The only reason I brought up Dale at all is because it was he who convinced Redd to move to Austin in the first place, and because it was a big story previously when Dale decided to start putting roots down in Memphis as well. The “gaping hole” comment was less about Dale specifically, and more about all the artists who have left Austin recently, and was just poetic embellishment complimenting their contributions to the Austin music scene, not in any way a slight to Dale or anyone else.
December 5, 2019 @ 1:58 pm
While the loss of Redd will indeed be felt throughout the Austin music community, I wouldn’t exactly call it a “crisis” considering the Black Pumas, Gary Clark Jr, Willie Nelson, Patty Griffin, and Jimmy Vaughan have all been nominated for Grammys this year.
Doug Sahm lamented the changes in the Austin music scene in the 80’s. There are plenty of us around who wish we could go back to how it was in the 90’s. And now we have posts about how much the scene has changed during the 2000’s. Things just change. That’s just how it is.
December 5, 2019 @ 2:32 pm
The main problem with Austin music scene is the pay for musicians. It pays roughly around 60.00 a gig. Should be a minimum of 150. 00 a man. I’ll take quality over quantity any day.
December 5, 2019 @ 4:29 pm
As long as the people of Austin vote for those on the left side of political aisle you can count on even more venues closing. Democrats have never met a tax they didn’t like. You get the government you vote for and people of Austin, you deserve it!!
December 5, 2019 @ 5:14 pm
Trig named Croy and the Boys’ amazing album, Howdy Hi-Rise, one of the almost-AOTY candidates for 2019. The album is fantastically musical and the lyrics are all about the issues discussed above.
Here is a link to one of the most unusual songs in country music history, “G-E-N-T-R-I-F-I-C-A-T-I-O-N,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl2Rf29gD3Q .
And here is a link to the title track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAriru6Ja8o .
I can’t get enough of this album, and the interesting, timely, intelligent, hilarious AF lyrics are a big reason why.
December 5, 2019 @ 5:27 pm
Has Willie ever addressed the changes occurring in Austin?
December 5, 2019 @ 6:29 pm
Not that I know of, but I kind of wouldn’t suspect he would. No disrespect to Willie, but he kind of lives in a bubble, and his place in Austin is out in Spicewood, while is well out of the Austin madness, though each time I go out there for the Luck Reunion, it’s crazy how much that area is getting built up as well.
December 5, 2019 @ 9:22 pm
I was upset when I heard Redd was moving, but at the same time happy to hear he’s headed for Galax, a beautiful place in my home state, which I first experienced at Stompin’ ’76, a monster festival there up in the hills long ago. As I watched Redd play Sunday from my Heybale spot sidestage, I was grateful for all the nights I’ve stood right there and soaked in that Telecaster magic. Word at the club is that he’ll be on hand two more Sundays, so I hope a lot of real Austin folks will show up before the tourists and enjoy this Heybale incarnation one more time before it changes. Redd has left his mark on Austin and Texas music, and given us all a great deal of pleasure. He deserves whatever he wants in the way of living. PS: Dale Watson is still, like Sharon says, very much around. He has a loyal Austin fanbase and does too much monthly business here to ever be gone for long.
December 5, 2019 @ 10:34 pm
ACL has Kane Brown headline before Ray WH? WTF?
December 6, 2019 @ 10:37 am
RWH burned a lot of bridges back in the day. Maybe this is one of them.
December 6, 2019 @ 12:26 am
Austin: Mediocre Music Capitol of the World
December 6, 2019 @ 10:38 am
You’re going to see the wrong bands.
December 6, 2019 @ 12:38 am
I’ve been living in Amsterdam for two yrs now it’s awesome
December 6, 2019 @ 8:21 am
So long Redd – you will sure be missed. You played on a CD I did 12 years ago and it’s the finest guitar work on any of my recordings by far. You are a phenom and a gentleman. Don’t be a stranger (besides, you already were one…)
December 6, 2019 @ 7:34 pm
the bottom line why most musicians and other people are leaving Austin is because of our Leftist-Marxist , City Counsel in which ALL the minority members are bigoted prejudiced racists, namely the brown supremacist ” Greg casar!
December 7, 2019 @ 11:59 am
Alejandro Escovedo. Big loss to Austin. Huge gift to Dallas
December 7, 2019 @ 12:04 pm
Love you Redd. You and your wife will be dearly missed. Shame the article doesn’t mention losing Alejandro Escovedo. Big loss to Austin. Huge gift to Dallas.
December 7, 2019 @ 10:16 pm
Alejandro just bought land in Driftwood. So I guess he’s moved back to the Austin area. Big loss to Dallas. Huge gift to Austin. He’s Back!
December 7, 2019 @ 8:34 pm
The Austin Blues Revue has a sustainable model for live music based on sound business principles.
With an eight piece veteran band, the project requires no payment from venues, guarantees musician wages 3-6X higher with venues making 200%-450% Avg. Revenue.
I urge you to check it out and get involved. We bring local businesses together with Austin’s Preeminent music artist.
Get involved in the sustainable music tribe. Musicians deserve a fair days pay for a fair nights work. While non profits run out of money and the City as impotent as my grandfather, we are selling out shows at top ticket prices in Austin.
No brag. Just getting word out. There is a way.
December 7, 2019 @ 10:19 pm
The demise of the Austin music scene has been greatly exaggerated. Some crackpot called it dead almost 4 years ago. Still going strong
December 10, 2019 @ 10:35 am
I couldn’t read through all the comments, but was there ever a determination that his reason was anything other than what he said? I didn’t and haven’t seen anything that ties his reason to the changes in Austin, unlike Dale, who made that exact point.
December 10, 2019 @ 7:59 pm
I learned a lot watching Redd through the years. Dang it that I got so old I can’t remember what I learned!
December 14, 2021 @ 10:55 pm
mag’n how we felt when he left Canada.