SXSWORLD November 2012


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Destined To Be: Brent Grulke and SXSW Made the Perfect Match by Peter Blackstock Brent Grulke worked for SXSW in its very fi rst year back in 1987 and spent the last 17 years of his life as its Creative Director. However, a look back at some of the defi ning points in his life sheds light on how he gathered the experience and built the character that made him one of the most valuable and beloved members of the SXSW family. Beverly Grulke's three sons. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Omaha, where Brent's brothers Brian and Brad were born in 1962 and 1966, respectively. A June 1962 photo of a 17-month-old Brent showed him sitting on his father's lap engrossed in a copy of Th e Ford Almanac. "Every year that I can remember, he got a World Almanac for Christmas," Brad remembers. "And he'd just sit and look at the thing the rest of the day. He wouldn't even open the rest of his presents. And he would read it; he wouldn't just fl ip through it." 1961 Brent William Grulke was born on January 25 in North Platte, Nebraska, the fi rst of Lawrence and 1970. During this time, Brent began assembling what would become a massive record collection. Th e fi rst was the Beatles' "Come Together" b/w "Something," which eight-year-old Brent asked his mother to buy for him at a department store in 1969. A year later, with his own money he bought Glen Campbell's Try A Little Kindness. In Omaha, elementary-schoolers Brian and Brent attended what Brian thinks was their fi rst concert: Th e Osmonds, with Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods opening. Th e boys "had very supportive parents," Brian says. "Th ey gave Brent the freedom to become what ever he wanted to be." 1968 Th e Grulkes moved to Palatine, Illinois, then to Columbia, Mississippi, and fi nally back to Omaha in might expect of a boy in Texas, he played football: "He was not a good athlete, but the coaches praised him for his hustle," Brian says. His attention was increasingly drawn to music. "We'd ride our bikes for miles and miles to go to a real record store," Brian recalls. After Brent got old enough to drive, Brad remembers him "carrying around these big 8-track-tape suitcases. He'd have two of these 36-pack cases sitting in the back seat." Brian remembers Brent taking him along to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for the fi rst Texxas Jam in 1978 (with 1974 12 Th e family moved to Spring, Texas, a north Houston suburb, just before Brent began high school. As one SXSW ORLD / N OVEMBER 2012 Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Heart and others), and to the Summit in Houston, where they saw Th e Who and Bruce Springsteen. Little did Brent know that he'd be introducing Pete Townshend as SXSW keynote speaker in 2007, and helping to bring Springsteen to SXSW 2012. shortly after meeting at a freshman dorm, eventually renting a house next to a cemetery in East Austin. "It was kind of rough then," Drown recalls. "Our back yard shared an alley with the tombstone cutter." Th e house next door was occupied by members of hardcore Austin punk bands the Dicks and the Jeff ersons, and Brent, who was learning the basics of sound production as a Radio-Television-Film major at UT, fell in with them. In 1982, he befriended a couple of classmates who wrote for student newspaper Th e Daily Texan, and soon he was writing about music regularly. 1979 the Austin Chronicle, where he became a music writer. As an engi- neer, he earned a fl edgling production credit with new-wavers Max & the Makeups, and gained broader notice when he co-produced, with Jeff Smith, an 18-track compilation LP called Bands on the Block. Th e album provided key early exposure for Zeitgeist (later known as the Reivers), True Believers, Doctors' Mob and the Wild Seeds, who became defi nitive bands of their era in Austin. Grulke eventually ended up touring with all of them as a sound engineer and road man- ager. He put in enough hours to become well aware that "a band's life on the road is really hard," as he explained to Susan Shepard in a 2001 interview. "And a road manager's job generally means that you're the fi rst one up and the last one to bed." When not on the road, he often could be found behind the sound board at Austin music venues such as Liberty Lunch and the Continental Club. 1984 Brent graduated from UT with experience as both a writer and a sound engineer. Th e former led him to sound and managing the stage. Around the same time, his pals the Wild Seeds had a minor hit with "I'm Sorry, I Can't Rock You All Night Long," a song Brent co-wrote with band leader Michael Hall, 1987 At the Continental Club, Brent had his fi rst expe- rience working for South By Southwest, running Brent moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas. He and Paul Drown became roommates COURTESY OF KRISTEN BROCK GRULKE DAVID FOX

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