John Inmon: Gober to Gruene Hall
Temple guitarist was a big part of Cosmic Cowboy music scene.
The Lost Gonzo Band, featuring lead guitarist John Inmon, was an outlaw-country force in Austin that helped launch the music successes of Jerry Jeff Walker, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Michael Martin Murphey. The band also recorded three albums on their own and toured nationally. Courtesy photo
DAVID STONE | JULY 9, 2022
If a young John Inmon hadn’t paid a visit to Temple’s Gober Party House in the mid 1960s, Texas’ burgeoning outlaw country music scene might have sounded a bit different.
That’s because Inmon was one of the founding members of the Lost Gonzo Band that played, recorded and toured with the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jerry Jeff Walker, Gary P. Nunn and Michael Martin Murphey.
The Lost Gonzos were part of a new breed of rock-infused progressive country that took America by storm.
But let’s back up a bit — back to the days of Temple sock hops and teen parties.
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“I was an Army brat, and we moved around a lot,” Inmon said this week. “ In 1960, we moved to Heidelberg, Germany, which was the European headquarters for the US Army. We moved there in August and the Berlin Wall went up in October. Being in Heidelberg during the Cold War, it felt like we were just minutes from being vaporized.”
“There was no real English radio or TV in Germany at the time, so us kids would listen to a powerful radio station out of Luxembourg. They played rock ’n’ roll, and we were glued.”
“My sister had a boyfriend who played in a band called The Furies,” Inmon recalled. “He taught me my first chord, and I’ve had a guitar in my hands ever since.”
“I was 16 when my family moved to Temple from San Francisco. We had lived in multiple places, but that move was a big change for me.”
Before the move to Central Texas, Inmon had been playing in a Bay-area surf band.
“I loved Chuck Berry and Freddie King, and I was playing surf music such as Wipeout,” he recalled. “When the Beatles came out, I started playing their stuff. I played guitar and the drums — I was immersed in music.”
Inmon’s rock ’n’ roll life took a dramatic turn when his dad was transferred to Fort Hood and the family relocated to Temple.
“I started looking around for people who had an interest in music,” Inmon said of his first days in Temple. “I couldn’t find anyone interested at first, but one day I decided to go to a dance at Gober Party House.”
“There was a local band playing the party,” Inmon said. “They called themselves The Wanderers — Billy Booth played guitar. They played rock, country and of course some slow dance songs. I started playing with them.”
But The Wanderers weren’t the only band Inmon met at Gober.
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“There was a band called The Chevelles,” he said. “They were older and they played well. Donny Dolan was the drummer, and we decided Frank Kalenda could sing, and besides his parents would let us rehearse at their house. Ronnie Miller played bass. Ronnie ended up marrying my sister, and they live in Salado.”
The young group met an organist at Gober named Johnny Schwertner, and he joined the band.
“We were off to the races,” Inmon recalled. “We went down to Austin and did some auditions, and we started playing frat parties and The Jade Room on San Jacinto. We played The Beatles and a lot of Top 10 stuff. We weren’t crazy about it, but it’s what kids wanted to hear.”
The Chevelles continued to play in the Temple area as well, making the circuit of SPJST halls and playing the Mini Putt on General Bruce Drive.
“There weren’t that many places to play in Bell County at the time, but we were doing OK. Things changed, though, when we got a gig in Beyersville.”
There wasn’t much to Beyersville — there’s still not. But the town a few miles southeast of Taylor did have a popular nightclub that fancied local music.
“I think they charged $1 a head to get in to see a band,” Inmon said. “That’s not a lot, but the owner gave the cover charge to the band. They would draw 300, 400, sometimes more depending on who was on stage. A four-person band could walk out of there with $100 each. Remember, this was the 1960s — you could get a steak dinner for 3 bucks.”
Inmon and company relocated to Austin, which had become a magnet for young musicians.
“It was a cheap place to live, it had the prettiest girls in Texas and there were a lot of gigs.”
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The late 60s weren’t all fun, games and live music. There also was a thing called the Vietnam War, and it took its toll on the band.
“Frank got drafted and went to Vietnam,” Inmon said, his voice dropping in volume. “So Donnie and I joined a band called Plymouth Rock. We were playing the Action Club in North Austin, and we got to talking to a couple guys from the band Genesee. We decided to go in that direction.”
“Genesee lived in a band house on City Park Road. It was a big house that was up on a bluff and overlooked Austin,” he said. “It had big, open rooms and no neighbors — the perfect place to jam — so we cranked it up.”
“BW Stevenson would stop by — so would Rusty Weir and Jerry Jeff,” he said. “Gary P. Nunn, Bob Livingston and I started playing together and there was a definite chemistry. We decided to form a band.”
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The original Lost Gonzo Band formed in 1973 and featured Nunn, Livingston and Inmon, along with drummer Michael McGeary. Donnie Dolan replaced McGeary as the drummer after a few months, and years later Freddie Krc stepped into that role.
The band wrote, recorded and performed its own music, but they also were in demand to back up songwriters such as Jerry Jeff Walker and Michael Murphey.
“Jerry Jeff Walker released Viva Terlingua in 1973, and we were part of that. We played with Jerry Jeff until 1977 and then got our own recording contract and made three albums. We were a legit band and packed venues such as The Armadillo (World Headquarters). We played coast to coast.”
Bob Livingston and Ray Wylie Hubbard had been in a band together that blended comedy with music — Cowboy Twinkies. After the Gonzo’s broke up, Inmon headed to Oklahoma City and joined up.
“It worked out well,” Inmon said. “Ray wanted to rock ’n’ roll, so we did country rock for three or four years. We were a good band, and we traveled the country.”
Inmon returned to Texas in the 1980s and played with Walker, then Weir. He also toured with Delbert McClinton, played in Omar & The Howlers for two years, and recorded more than 50 songs with legendary Texas musician Townes Van Zandt.
“Townes and I made a lot of music,” Inmon said. “Unfortunately, very few songs were ever released.”
During his days with Delbert McClinton, the band toured with Huey Lewis & The News for a summer.
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The 1990s found Inmon back with Jerry Jeff Walker, but that fell apart in 2001.
“I started playing with Larry Joe Taylor at that time. We mostly played in Port Aransas. We were a party band, and I was trying to slow down with that scene so I left after a couple years.”
But he wasn’t done with music — he would go on to play with the popular Jimmy LaFave for about a dozen years.
Last year, the Gonzo guys decided to put together a reunion. It would mark the first time in nine years that the original members would share the same stage.
“The show was at Gruene Hall, and it was the fourth-largest crowd in Gruene history,” Inmon said. “We have another reunion coming up July 30 at Luckenbach. We will be at a music festival in New Mexico later this year and another gig at Gruene Hall in October.”
“It’s funny, we’re really not a band any more. I have my recording studio, and everyone has their own bands and their own worlds. Freddy (Krc) has a record company and manages several bands.”
“These new shows are special events acts,” he said. “We are being sold as a premium band at a high price. We do two or three rehearsals before each gig, then do the show. Then we pretty much go our separate ways.”
Temple and Belton haven’t always been connected by the concrete freeway we know as I-35. The two cities were first linked by a dirt road and later by a narrow brick highway locals called “The Pike.”
The halfway point was a place called Midway, which during its heyday served as the county fairgrounds where entertainment ranged from horse racing and stickball to pickling and pie-baking contests.
From the early 1900s until the early 1920s, Midway also was the site of “car barns” for the Temple-to-Belton Interurban trolley system. In 1923, when the interurban went into receivership, the storage tournament and the fairgrounds were leased by the Ku Klux Klan.
Midway also was a Saturday night and Sunday afternoon tourist spot for Bell County residents who came and filled bottles of artesian water piped from bubbling springs. The water had a revolting smell but was thought to have curative powers — internal if drunk and external if a person stood in a small pool.
On this day in 1783, Domingo Cabello y Robles, Spanish governor of Texas, issued a bando, or ordinance, imposing strict guidelines for the roundup, branding, and export of unbranded cattle. At the time, the province was in the midst of a protracted livestock controversy. Cattle rustling between vecinos and missions, depletion of cattle through wasteful slaughter and excessive exports, and noncompliance with an ordinance of January 1778 were holdovers from the administration of Cabello's predecessor, Juan María de Ripperdá. Enforcing existing regulations and preventing illegal exports became Cabello's major concerns. Cabello's enforcement of livestock regulations resulted in much animosity from ranchers. Soon after his departure from the province in 1787, the ranchers filed a memorial against Cabello charging him with arbitrary and unjust decrees and misrepresentations that denied them rights to unbranded cattle. The case did not adversely affect his career, for by 1797 Cabello had reached the rank of field marshall.
Today’s best bets
Sami Show: Arts & Crafts market at Bell County Expo Center Assembly Hall. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Unplugged Game Day at Temple Public Library. 2 to 4 p.m. Take a Risk, Monopolize on the fun, Checkers out (too far?) all we have to offer at our monthly all-ages board game group. Play new board games, or grab an old favorite, meet new folks, and have an overall good time. Whether you're into Settlers of Catan, Magic the Gathering, or Scrabble, we have you covered.
Live music at Barrow Brewing. 4 p.m. Summer Lecture Series at 2 p.m.
Texas Barbecue Festival at Schoepf’s. Texas Barbecue presents it's 1st Annual Texas Barbecue Festival featuring many of the Top 25 BBQ Joints in Texas from it's 2022 list. Tickets are limited to 300 and the cost is $75 per person. At the show you will get to sample food from the Top 25, hear live music (to be announced soon), other vendors, sample some wineries, and more details coming soon.
Martian Folk live at Fire Street Pizza in Belton. Noon.
Summer Lecture Series at 2 p.m. at Barrow Brewing Co. Live music TBD
Monday, July 11
Sweatin’ With The Oldies at Sammons Community Center. 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Join Kathy Patterson as she leads these extremely popular exercise sessions designed especially for those with mobility issues or who have difficulty standing while exercising. Slow stretches and comfortable balance exercises, while seated or in contact with a chair, will help tone and strengthen muscles to increase mobility and flexibility. Gradual use of hand weights and stretch bands is also incorporated. Easily adaptable for those with physical limitations. Two convenient session times to choose from. For more information, call 254.298.5403.
Trash to Treasure Totes, Sammons Community Center. 1 p.m. Go green and create a unique tote bag from plastic bags! Becca Bash will be teaching this fun and creative way to recycle and reuse those endless plastic grocery bags that get stashed away to create a beautiful, one-of-a-kind bag that could have a variety of uses. Watch that bag evolve into your own creation. Knowledge of basic crochet stitch is encouraged. A size K crochet hook is recommended. For more information, call 254.298.5403.
$1 Summer movies at The Beltonian Theatre. 10 a.m., 1, p.m. 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday. The Lego Movie 2
Tuesday, July 12
Tai Chi at Sammons Community Center. 3 p.m. This ancient Chinese exercise and martial art promote vitality, balance, strength, and longevity. Using special breathing techniques and slow, precise physical movements, Tai Chi can help curtail arthritis, respiratory disease, and high blood pressure. Regular practice of this “Moving Meditation” also provides health benefits of stress reduction, mental alertness, and increased energy. This on-going course is adaptable for all levels of mobility. Led by Christopher Dow, who has practiced this and related Chi Kung exercise forms for 42 years. For more information, call 254.298.5403.
Summer Fun for Early Learners at Bell County Museum. 10 a.m. to noon. Kids 6 years and younger are invited to the museum with their families to explore the engaging interactive exhibits and participate in fun activities and crafts. Each day will have a special theme of activities: Today is Archaeology. The events are come and go and completely FREE!
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