The other great Austin, Texas band of the mid-60’s was the Wig: Rusty Wier (drums, vocals), Benny Rowe (lead guitar), John Richardson (guitar), Jess Yaryan (bass) and Billy Wilmont (keyboards).
Benny Rowe had been in an earlier version of the band known as the Wigs that had toured Europe.
The 45 version of “Drive It Home” is phenomenal, but the live version makes the studio cut seem tame in comparison! The live recording was done at the Jade Room, one of their regular spots.
The flipside of the Goyle 45 is “To Have Never Loved at All”, a good ballad I hadn’t paid much attention to until someone requested to hear it so I made a transfer. The Wig released “Drive It Home” / “To Have Never Loved at All” in November 1966.
“Crackin’ Up” is as exciting as any song cut in the mid-60s. The opening guitar riff is unforgettable for one thing. Rusty Wier’s drumming propels the song, his vocals are confident and Benny Rowe’s guitar solo is intense.
Wier wrote “Crackin’ Up”. The flip is “Bluescene.” It came out on two labels, BlacKnight and Empire. The BlacKnight single is rare enough and came out in May of ’67, but the Empire ones seems even harder to find – one copy I’ve seen was issued on yellow vinyl – anyone have a scan of that?
I don’t have a release date for the Empire version – it may have actually come later than the Blacknight.
There are more live tracks along with both sides of an early unreleased 45, “Little By Little” and “Forever And A Day” that I haven’t heard yet.
After the Wig broke up, Yaryan and Wier formed the Lavender Hill Express, blending country and pop sounds. A lot of information on that group can be found on the Sonobeat site.
I just heard Randy Wier passed away after battling cancer. The Austin360 site had an obituary but it has been taken down. Tommy Taylor had written a comment on an Austin Chronicle article for a personal take on Rusty’s influence on the Austin music scene, but that is now down too. I hope Mr. Taylor does not mind my reproducing his letter here:
On reading this week’s article concerning Rusty Wier and his passing, I couldn’t help but make note of the incorrectness of a portion of the story [“Off the Record,” Music, Oct. 16]. Rusty Wier did not join Gary P. Nunn’s Lavender Hill Express. The Lavender Hill Express was formed as a “supergroup” featuring the best guys from many other top local groups. Leonard Arnold from Felicity (Don Henley), Jess Yaryan and Rusty Wier from the Wig, Layton DePenning from Baby Cakes.
Gary P. Nunn was not even in the Lavender Hill Express originally. The original keyboardist was Johnny Schwertner. The group was a year into its tenure before Gary came on the scene. It was Rusty Wier’s Lavender Hill Express from the get-go.
I was disappointed in the size and content of the article. This man was at the very heart and very beginning of everything that this music community now holds dear and prides itself upon. While I realize that the 2002 article pretty much covered the main points [“I Before E,” Music, May 31, 2002], Rusty Wier deserves the cover once again. The passing of these luminaries in our local music community needs top attention, even though they may no longer be at the height of their careers or as popular with the kiddies as the latest flavor of the month.
Rusty Wier was an Austin icon. He had the first major label record contract ever awarded to an Austin artist. He was the first person in Austin to stand out from the crowd of players in bands, to be recognized as an individual, even as a drummer. Rusty Wier and the Wig held the No. 1 slot with their two-sided single “Drive It Home”/”To Have Never Loved at All” for several weeks in 1966-67 on K-NOW, the only radio station in town that played popular music, above groups like the Beatles.
In Austin, Texas, before Rusty Wier, there was nothing.
Rusty Wier’s official site, www.rustywier.com (now also defunct) had more on his career, and many photos, including some I’ve reproduced here.