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New downtown mural captures spirit of pioneering Austin musicians

Celebrated local artist and music journalist collaborate to tell story of ‘unsung heroes’ on a Red River corner

A man in ball cap, T-shirt and jeans in front of a yellow brick wall with a mural  of two men
Tim Kerr and his newest mural, at Ninth and Red River streets
Joe Salinas

It was impossible not to stop and check out the images as they flew past on Facebook feeds: Tim Kerr, it seemed, was working on a new mural, and it was a doozy.

For those unfamiliar with Kerr’s work (he calls what he does “self-expression” rather than using more specific descriptors), he’s a pioneer in his own right. A musician and producer, he helped blaze the path that led Austin’s blues- and hippie-music roots-rock forward with essential bands including Big Boys, Bad Mutha Goose, and Poison 13, bringing it all back around with groups such as Jack o’ Fire and the Lord High Fixers and not giving up the funk at any point in time.

Kerr also influenced several genres of late 20th-century music far beyond Austin’s borders, producing records for now-iconic upstart record labels such as Touch & Go, Estrus, Sympathy For The Record Industry, In The Red, Sub Pop, and Kill Rock Stars.

A newer generation of Austinites (or newer arrivals) might be more familiar with another facet of Kerr’s self-expression: his paintings and murals, frequently of musicians, baseball players, historic figures, and creative activism—all of which more often than not depict unsung, subterranean cultural heroes, art doing double duty as rescued history.

That is certainly the case with his latest—a collaboration with longtime local music journalist Michael Corcoran, who did the historical research, commissioned by Public City. Now gracing the corner of Ninth and Red River Streets is a gorgeous and moving homage to what Corcoran calls the “Unsung Pioneers of Austin Music” (you can read their full histories here, though there’s quite a bit of it on the wall itself). It gives Austin music trailblazers such as Ernie Mae Miller, Camilo Cantu, and Arizona Dranes their due—and it is, in fact, a doozy.

Unsung Pioneers of Austin Music Mural []