Tuesday, May 19, 2020

TexProgBlog Wrangle, Tuesday edition

The Texas Progressive Alliance gives a virtual salute to the class of 2020 as it brings you this week's roundup of the best of the Lone Star left from last week.

Today we'll open with a breaking development in the Harris County clerk replacement selection story.

With GOP officials fearful of a blue November wave, AG Ken Paxton continues to lead the charge against voting, particularly in the state's metropolitan areas.

As the US Senate contest heats up, John Cornyn's propensity to mimic Trump's bad habit of nicknaming opponents quickly comes back to haunt him.

And David Collins has the very latest on the status of the Texas Green Party's candidates and the lawsuit that will settle the issue of whether they -- and the Texas Libertarian Party's candidates -- will have to pay filing fees to appear on the November ballot.

Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast has a criminal justice news roundup.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. at the TexTrib via Progrexas reports that the Texas Workforce Commission had planned to modernize its outdated computer system, but then the pandemic struck.

Mary Lou Ketchum, a substitute teacher in San Antonio, has been calling the Texas Workforce Commission for six weeks and still hasn’t been able to talk to a representative.

Ketchum, 59, filed a claim in early April and was denied, but she thought she’d be eligible for unemployment benefits under the federal coronavirus relief bill, which extends unemployment eligibility to part-time workers. After appealing the decision, she said she is still waiting to hear back.

She said the commission’s website is “primitive” and outdated. Pages load extremely slowly, and whenever she uses the backspace key, the system logs her out, she said.

“It definitely has put a strain on me,” Ketchum said. “I went to the food bank -- I never thought I’d ever have to do that.”

A couple of ecological news updates: The Texas Living Waters Project interprets a SCOTUS decision having to do with the Clean Water Act.

And more reporting about the lives of working people.

And some notable passings with Texas connections.

A 1994 interview with Little Richard in the HouChron allowed him to reminisce about his early years playing in Houston.

He credits Houston's robust R&B scene in the early 1950s as his starting point.

"We played on Lyons Avenue at a club called the Club Matinee," Richard said. "We had a quartet called the Tempo Toppers, and I was the lead singer."

Even in those early days, Little Richard's appearance was as much of a box-office draw as his music.

"Everybody would come to see me because I wore this wild hair, and my complexion was reddish. I think they thought I was an Indian or something. They would pack the club. Houston was really beautiful back then," he said. "I remember the Shamrock Hotel."

In a recent Bayou City History column reprinted from 1955, Sig Byrd recalled the music scene -- and more -- on Lyons Avenue.

Under the branding-iron Texas sun, the corner of Lyons and Hill, Times Square of the Bloody Fifth (Ward), drowses and stirs and drowses again. But let the sun go down behind the Lewis Undertaking Parlor -- “You overtake him, honey; I’ll undertake him” -- and the corner comes alive. It becomes Pearl Harbor, heart of the city to the people who named this town Heavenly Houston.

Pearl Harbor, named that by a weary homicide detective who once had to investigate, in one night, 11 killings in a radius of one block from Lyons and Hill.

By eight bells, Pearl Harbor is a revolving stage, a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. But you can’t go there at night. Or you can, but you won’t. You can hear it though. Each workday night at 8, Henry Atlas, owner of the Atlas Radio and Record Shop, corner Lyons and Hill, sits down at a broadcasting console in his store. Through a corner of plate glass he can watch the languid tumult of the dusty night unfold in at least three dimensions, while he produces a marvelous radio program called Jive Session.

There’s a piano waiting behind the console, in case live talent drops in. Among the vocalists and musicians who have appeared live on Jive Session are Duke Ellington, Ivory Joe Hunter, Earl Hines, Johnny Hodges, Buster Cartwright, the Ward Singers, the Soul Steerers, the Pilgrim Travelers, the Angelics, the Clouds of Joy and the Stars of Harmony.

Lyons and Jensen, October 1956

“This is Henry Atlas speaking from the word-famous corner of Lyons and Hill. Dig me with a boogie beat and let the good times roll.”
Henry is a white man who loves the people of the Bloody Fifth. And they love him. He spins a biscuit on one of two turntables. Ray Charles singing “I Got a Woman All the Way Across Town.”
The music goes round and round. It comes out of a loudspeaker on the corner, over the cart of Oscar the peanut vendor, echoing against the walls of the Busy Bee Barbershop and a gumbo house. The Atlas Jive Session comes out of speakers all over town via Radio Morales, KLVL, 1480 kilocycles. And when the show begins the characters of the Ward drift down to the Harbor.

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