MP3 Ponty Bone & The Squeezetones - Fantasize
Listening to a Ponty Bone Album is like getting an invitation to a get-together that turns into a full-scale party, Texas style.
12 MP3 Songs
BLUES: Texas Style, ROCK: Americana
I''ve jammed with Ponty Bone several times on stage and off stage. It''s always fun to do. His versatile style is always energetic and precise.
Whenever we are both on stage, people feel and recognize the similarity of his playing and my playing. People recognize right away the heart he puts into his playing. I consider that is “Soul Accordion” playing. He can go from simple things to very progressive tunes. And with the blend of his accordion and his singing you can feel he is talking to his accordion and his accordion is responding to him.
In other words, he and his accordion really communicate. I would consider him the Real McCoy of soulful accordion playing.
- Flaco Jiménez, Courtesy of Virgin Records, May 2, 2001
Ponty Bone: King of Feel-Good Music
By C.J. Schoenrock/Lubbock Magazine
In "Cruising Paradise," playwright, actor, and musician Sam Shepard writes:
Â· "I slip Ponty Bone and the Squeezetones into the tape deck and roll up the tinted window... Things are turned around now... Cruising to the Squeezetones, I set the cruise control dead on 70... I love this open road."
Cruising to the Squeezetones... to where? to there. where''s there? it''s here. If it sounds Zen, it''s probably Ponty Bone. Not that he''s a Buddhist, you understand... this just sums up his philosophy of life. Life is to be met on its own terms. Then it''s to be lived and loved and shared with your friends, wherever you are/wherever they are. It''s an open road. That''s the message of his music. Consider the lyrics to one of Ponty''s favorite original compositions, "Easy As Pie:"
Â· "It''s easy as pie to skip a few pages when you''re leafin'' through the book of life, But when the angels come to fetch you, I just hope that they catch you Dancin'' and romancin''... It''s easy as pie. Keep dancin'' and romancin''...It''s easy as pie."
I met folk-rocker Ponty Bone in the early ''70s. He was in his backyard in Slaton, Texas, singing the happy blues with his accordion slung over one shoulderâalternating between flipping burgers on the grill and squeezing out tunes for his friends.
There were others making music there that dayâJimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock. Jesse Taylor was probably there, too... He usually was. They all had their guitars, the badge of a Lubbock singer/songwriter. But these present-day music icons were not who I remembered when I went home after meeting them all. It was Ponty Bone and his accordion who stole the show for me; it ''s Ponty and his accordion who have been stealing the show for me ever since. I''ve discovered that I''m not the only one.
All these Lubbock musicians have since released albums, made appearances on television and film, brought down the houses in the U.S. and Europe, and been heaped with accolades and awards from around the planet. Jimmie has been nominated twice for major Grammy Awards, Joe has become a true rock icon, revered by musicians as carrying on Buddy Holly''s torch of West Texas rock and roll, Jesse is considered the best blues rock guitarist in the world by people like Eric Clapton, and Butch is known as the Poet Laureate of West Texas. They are all musician''s musicians. But on that particular day in Slaton, they were all young and hungry and learning, and Ponty Bone was feeding them.
Ponty was the venerable maestro of folk/blues/rock among this stellar group of singer/songwriters from Lubbock. He was a bit older, had a family, some stability. In the mid-''60s, Ponty had moved to Phoenix, halfway between Lubbock and L.A., and their home had been a way-station for these struggling young musicians as they traveled back and forth, chasing fame and fortune... and the romance of music. (There was no major Austin music scene to move to because they hadn''t all moved down there yet to build it.) In Phoenix, Ponty was the first to have his own full-time band, New Moan Hey, and in 1968, he and then-wife Sarah, the lead singer, released an LP, Blues Harvest, and a 45 single.
They had regional success, but Ponty saw the vicissitudes of the music business and, in order to keep little ones fed, the need to have a day job. His best gig was as a draftsman, so he moved back to Lubbock. Thus, we find him in the early ''70s, flipping burgers, singing the blues, and writing songs like Flat Town Boogie.
Ponty grew up in San Antonio. His dad had him playing the accordion at five, but he rebelled to play trumpet in the high-school marching band, graduating in 1957. Moving to Houston and hanging curtains for a living by day, he listened to Lightnin'' Hopis play the clubs by night. He was in Houston in 1959, the day The Music died. He still remembers that day.
"I loved Buddy Holly," Ponty reflects about the influence on him and his music. "I felt like Buddy Holly and I would have had an awful lot in common." He is probably right. Peggy Sue likes Ponty a lot. And because there is dancing in her genes, she also loves his music. When she first heard his latest CD, Dig Us On The Road Somewhere!, her toes started tapping. By the third Squeezetones'' tune, Peggy Sue was up on her feet, dancing around the Lubbock Magazine office. Ponty Bone has that effect on people.
When Ponty came to Texas Tech in 1959, a career in music had not yet occurred to him. His passion at the time was art. He enrolled in architecture (a classmate of John Denver) but later switched his major to painting. He was good enough to actually sell some of his work. "There are some Ponty Bone originals floating around out there in Lubbock and Dallas," he acknowledges.
He fell in with a group I call the Philosopher-Gamblers. These hard-luck young men, like Lubbock itself and all it spawns, were an eclectic group. They liked to play poker, but there was no money to be made off each other; so they brought in unsuspecting young fraternity men for "a friendly game." While they worked at bilking the frat brothers out of dad''s money, the philosopher-gamblers would discuss art and literature, Nietzsche and Camus, Buckminster Fuller''s latest marvels... or football and the price of beer.
In 1964, Ponty met Jimmie Dale Gilmore through Bob Hamer, one of the philosopher-gamblers. "They wouldn''t let me play poker because I wasn''t good enough," Jimmie recounts, "but they let me sit in the corner and play my guitar and sing."
"At first," Jimmie continues, "they didn''t like the songs I knew, and I had to learn the ones they wanted to hear." Bob and Ponty taught him. Ponty wasn''t very good at poker, either, so he picked up his accordion and began playing with Jimmie. Ponty soon met Joe, Jesse, Butch, Angela, and all the other Lubbock musicians who later traveled the road between Lubbock and L.A.
After he had returned to Lubbock from Phoenix, Ponty played around town for parties, goat roasts, and weddings (a blues/rock Here Comes The Bride always makes a nice statement). He played some with Tommy Hancock. It was a magical time in Lubbock, with Tommy''s Cotton Club jumping, the Flatlanders beginning to form, musicians in and out of Lubbock constantly. Every party was a private concert by the people who were destined to become some of the world''s greatest musicians.
In 1973, I left for a teaching stint in North Carolina. At that time, jam boxes were new (it was the heyday of the 8-track), but I bought one and took with me one lone cassette tape... the tape of my going away party at which Ponty Bone and his accordion presided. Yes, it had the bad fiddle and guitar, the washboard, the spoons, the washtub bass, the blues harp, and even a couple of kazoos to distract an ear, but anyone should have been able to hear through the cacophony of sounds to the pure tunes of the accordion.
I would listen to that tape and could just feel Ponty''s fingers fly sensuously over the keys, subtly tickling the ivories in ways no piano player could. I shared my tape with my new friends and was laughed out of the room when I steadfastly maintained that someday Ponty Bone was going to be famous.
I came back home to Lubbock eventually (as we all do), and the night Ponty appeared on Austin City Limits for the first time, I was sure to call them up and gloat. I continue to do so whenever I can. I was particularly gratified to call on the night he appeared with Jimmie on Jay Leno''s Tonight Show.
As Joe began to put together his original Joe Ely Band, he asked Ponty to be a part of it in 1976. Ponty agreed, quit his day job, and has never looked back. He moved to Austin in 1980, playing with Joe until early 1983 when the band disbanded. There was constant critical acclaim in the national and international press for Ponty and his masterful presentation of hard rock/country/punk accordion when they toured with The Clash and opened for The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty.
Ponty Bone single handedly introduced accordions into rock music and reintroduced them back into contemporary folk music. Newsweek reported in 1978 that Ponty Bone''s "accordion playing is a revelation of how hip this instrument can sound." Rolling Stone and Spin magazines joined in that sentiment several times. By the late ''80s, there was a proliferation of rock and country accordionists. Ponty had made the accordion not just acceptable, but hot.
In 1982, before the original Joe Ely Band broke up, Robert Marquam, Ely''s drummer and Ponty''s roommate on the road (since deceased), helped Ponty start his own group, so they''d have gigs in between the Ely tours. Thus was born Ponty Bone and The Squeezetones.
The Squeezetones have been through many incarnations, from their first lineup with Ponty, Robert, Ely bass player Mike Robberson, all from Lubbock, and John X. Reed (lead guitarist from Amarillo who John Conquest of Third Coast Music says is the last living human who can play true Texas rock and roll...but he needs to hear The Texas BelAirs and George Tomsco of The Fireballs). The current line-up of The Squeezetones (with Spencer Jarmon on lead guitar, Cliff Hargrove on bass, and Justin Hess on drums) has been together continuously since 1993. They have developed an extraordinary, tight sound. They''re great.
In 1992, Austin''s La Zona Rosa hosted a Squeeztones reunion, with more than 70 people invitedâthe guest list reading like a "Who''s Who" of the Austin music scene. It included Lubbockites Jesse Taylor, Randy (R.C.) Banks, saxophonist Smokey Joe Miller, and the Texana Dames (Charlene Condray Hancock and her daughters Conni Hancock and Traci Lamar). Lubbock Gen-Xer David Holt, now with Storeyville, has also played Squeezetone gigs on lead guitar. Plenty of people from other parts of the world have joined them, too, including famed British country rocker, Wes McGhee, (with whom Ponty has toured in Great Britain) and the legendary Ronnie Lane (of Small Faces and The Faces, with Rod Stewart) who was the inspiration for The Keepers.
People ask whether Ponty Bone and The Squeezetones are Cajun, zydeco, tejano, country, folk, rock, or blues. The music is all those... and more. I''ve heard Ponty play everything from bluegrass to classical. When he plays and sings his original songs, it''s sometimes hard to tell what it is. But it''s always accessible. It''s always right there to be danced to, swayed with, smiled at or cried happily over. It''s just easier to call his music folk rock.
Like all the other Lubbock singer/songwriters, music stores never know which bin to put him in. It might cost him some gigs or a record deal, but Ponty is adamant. "I''m not gonna tell ''em I''m just zydeco or tejano or blues, but I refuse to say there''s not an accordion in the band. As the folk genre changes, I find my music fitting in better with the folk rock category." Or perhaps the folk rock category is just finally catching up with Ponty Bone and the Squeezetones'' music.
The recent nomination of Ponty Bone and The Squeezetones for the Kerrville Music Awards'' 1997 Band of the Year is indicative of this fit. The nominations for this most prestigious of folk music awards come from professionals in the folk music industry throughout the United States. The featured band at last year''s awards ceremonies, they have played to adoring throngs for years at the Kerrville Folk Festival. In recent years, the Squeezetones have played invitationals at Canada''s renowned Edmonton Folk Festival, the Blues Festival in Amsterdam, and music festivals in France, Great Britain, and Mexico.
The press and music critics give rave reviews for their albums Dig Us On The Road, Somewhere! (1996, Real World CD), My, My, Look At This (1987, Amazing Records), and Easy As Pie (1986, Amazing Records). Ponty also keeps his fingers in the pie with other bands. Whereas the accordion and the original tunes by Ponty are front and center with The Squeezetones, he plays sideman for the rock group, The Keepers, and the popular band with no name, made up of Jesse Taylor, John Reed and Ponty Bone. Ponty continues to get consistent accolades for his session work. In the Austin music industry, he is on everybody who is anybody''s albums.
Ponty''s stellar performances have won countless nominations, awards, and polls in Austin throughout the years. He is acclaimed for his musicianship, his singing and songwriting, and his showmanship. Most importantly, I think, Ponty Bone is best known and loved for making people feel extraordinarily goodâwhich is what music at its best does the best.
Ponty''s music is uplifting, inspiring, and just flat fun. It is almost impossible to feel down after hearing the Squeezetones. Their performances are at once informal and high energy. Ponty plays a lot of private parties for corporations, weddings, and fundraising events. For a time, he was shipping in crawfish to the clubs he played, especially in Canada, where they had never tasted the succulent Cajun delicacy. That''s Ponty... always thinking about what would make the experience better, easier, more pleasurable, more fun.
His involvement with every benefit concert known to mankind is legendary. In Lubbock, he helped make a reality the West Texas Musicians'' Homecoming Gospel Sing, launching the C.B. "Stubb" Stubblefield "Feed the World" Memorial Fund to Breedlove Dehydrated Foods in his good friend''s memory. In Austin, he is on the entertainment board for Musicians for M.S., to fight against multiple sclerosis, helps raise money for groups for victims of violent crimes and a battered women''s center, and he is a regular at the Mardi Gras fundraiser for the Children''s Miracle Network at Scott and White Hospital. Recently, he was MC for the Save Barton Springs fundraiser And he is always nice, no matter how busy, no matter what his own problems. Need a friendly smile and a cup of encouragement? Ponty Bone is the man to see.
Ponty never wanted an electronic keyboard, even though everyone told him he could market himself better if he would. But he liked the sound of an acoustic accordion, so he held fast. He thinks his stubbornness may have cost him some attention, particularly by labels who thought he wasn''t up with the times. No, he''s simply a purist. But now... watch out. There seems to be a marriage made in heaven in the works. Look for his new midi-accordion. He can play his squeezebox in the same old wayâfull open acousticâbut also add other synthesized sounds behind it. "People say, ''Man, you''re sounding good!'' and they don''t know that they heard a sax playing along. It''s wonderful," Ponty admits.
Ponty determined early on that he wanted to make the accordion accessible to people. "I work at being a little less excellent and a little more bluesy," he quips. The accessibility factor is why he allows his strap to fall off his shoulder as his eyes close and he plays a slow, blues riff. Next time you watch that strap fall, just see if it doesn''t make you want to grab the nearest accordion and play along. Like other maestros, Ponty Bone makes the difficult appear easy and the impossible a reality.
On his more than 15-year-stint here in West Texas, Ponty reflects, "Lubbock is the place that nurtured me musically and yet, gave me a lot of material for blues songs." Regardless of his birthplace, like folk giant Woodie Guthrie, Ponty Bone came of age as a musician here in West Texasâand his soul is pure Lubbock. In fact, Ponty has given us all the quintessential test of whether we are true Lubbockites.
At the West Texas Musicians'' Homecoming Bar-B-Que Music Fest last September, Ponty Bone and the Squeezetones were rocking out on Sunday night in front of Great Scott''s Bar-B-Que on FM1585. We were all still having fun after a weekend of more Lubbock music than a human being can stand.
As the last group at the Homecoming to play that night, The Squeezetones were on. Ponty''s accordion and Spencer''s lead guitar were taking rock and roll to a new level when the the law came by to tell us to turn down the volume, even though we were sitting next to a cotton field, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. But Scotty said, "Yes, sir," Ponty just nodded amiably and smiled, and the deputy, satisfied that he''d done his duty (even though absolutely nothing had changed), drove off happily. Ponty kept on playing, shook his head and laughed as if, after 20 years of being gone, it was coming back to him what Lubbock is all about. The music just got louder and he laughed harder till the song was over. He stood there, grinning and shaking his head while the audience was on its feet, yelling for more.
"Ahhh," he chuckled, "Don''t you just hate Lubbock?" "YES!!!!" the crowd screamed. "And don''t you just love Lubbock?" he laughed. "YESSSS!!!!!!!" the crowed roared. Ponty grinned and then declared. "If you can answer ''yes'' to both questions, then you''re a true Lubbockite."
Accordion King Ponty Bone
Mr. South Austin
by Lee Nichols/Austin Chronicle
If one were to choose a musician who is emblematic of South Austin, that person would simply have to play accordion. It''s only proper. South Austin is utterly funky. So are accordions. For many years, South Austin was shunned by the elite. So were accordions. Today, South Austin is suddenly becoming fashionable. One might argue that accordions are, too. And among the truly hip, South Austin was always cool -- just like accordions.
Someday, Bradley Williams, the accordion-wielding local behind the Gulf Coast Playboys, might be that South Austin musician, or perhaps some up-and-coming Tejano. But the youngsters haven''t finished paying their dues yet. They''ve still got years to log and countless out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere dancehalls to stoke into dance frenzies. No, the one accordionist who has earned the right to be called Mr. South Austin is Ponty Bone.
Bone has been kicking around South Austin (or thereabouts) since 1980, certainly a tenure long enough to earn his crown, and he currently holds court every Wednesday night at Jovita''s, a Southside music establishment and Mexican restaurant whose own funkiness pedigree is well-established and rivaled only by the Continental Club''s. And Bone isn''t representative of South Austin merely because of his accordion. It''s his career that makes him a standard-bearer of Austin as a whole -- a career that began in that unlikeliest of talent factories, Lubbock, and has seen the 59-year-old Bone reach for the brass ring with the Joe Ely Band and then come crashing back down to reality. He''s been through the booms, and he''s been through the busts. Ponty Bone has paid dues.
And he''s still paying them -- probably since he was five years old, which is when he first picked up the accordion. Actually, according to Bone himself, he''s been paying them since the day he was born.
"I''ve always had a love for things that appear to be opposite," says Bone, sitting in his tiny, typically South Austin apartment. "Certainly, the choice of instrument was interesting to me (it had a weird name), because I had already undergone all this childhood trauma about my name."
Yes, Ponty Bone is his real name.
"Ponty is not really on the birth certificate. That''s short for Deponta. But my dad was Ponty and I was Little Ponty, or Ponty Jr. Even my real name was a catastrophe, and certainly the ''Bone'' was amazingly difficult for people. You''d be surprised; the first time I was in England I took some cleaning in, and the lady said, ''Name?'' I says, ''Bone. B-O-N-E.'' And she says [in an icy, insulted tone], ''I can spell Bone.''
"I was used to spelling it. I don''t know whether I didn''t say it clearly enough or what, but for the first 30 or 40 years. ..."
He trails off.
"The first day of class, they would get to my name and then they''re looking out at the class and looking at this name, and I''m sitting there thinking, ''Oh ... my ... god, here we go again.'' Finally it''s like, ''Ban? Ponty?''
"So I learned to make a joke out of it and to get over the embarrassment of it pretty fast. I think that helped my musical career."
One needs that kind of humor to earn respect for an instrument that is derided in bumper stickers reading, "Play an Accordion -- Go to Jail. It''s the Law." One also needs that humor to get through the music business in general, especially the ups and downs that Bone has seen since the early Sixties. Earlier than that even, as a youth in San Antonio.
"I started playing accordion at the request of my dad when I was five years old, and I took lessons until I was 12. Then I quit taking lessons, and started playing trumpet in high school band. After high school, I started getting interested in music a lot, but all I played was the accordion, and I debated for years getting maybe a Hammond organ or this, that, or the other. I had a little technique on those instruments, but not like on the accordion. I had an uncanny ability to play stuff by ear on the accordion. So I found out about Clifton Chenier, and I started playing a lot of his music."
The real musical journey didn''t start in San Antonio, however, despite being a seemingly perfect locale for a career on the squeezebox. Nor would it really begin with some work-related trips to Louisiana, although both places did put Bone close to some of the R&B music that he loved ("Ray Charles was my god"). No, the real adventure started when Bone''s parents told him they had enough money to send him to college, and he went to Texas Tech in 1959 to study architecture. The official schooling didn''t work out, but schooling of another type did.
"I moved to Lubbock and met Jimmie Gilmore; he was about 18 and I was like 22 or more, I guess. I already had a wife, two kids, and a day job, and saw myself as a frustrated painter, who also played this ridiculous instrument that nobody took seriously. Jimmie said, ''You play accordion? That''s great, man! Bring it tonight, we''re having a jam. Well, the rest is history. I met Joe [Ely] and all those guys."
History, indeed. Bone would keep jamming off and on with Gilmore, Ely, and the rest, but would eventually head to Arizona, where he started what he considers his first real band. Destiny, however, had no intention of allowing him to stay out of Lubbock.
photograph by John Carrico
"So I rocked along there with my own band, but I was kind of having wife troubles. The first wife and I quit the music scene because the kids were getting older. And about that time, Joe started making his move there in Lubbock, his early move. People would ask me, ''Man, have you seen Joe''s new band?'' Eventually, I went out and saw them and I was just transported. He was doing Jimmie Rodgers, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joe Shaver, all this stuff, except real long versions with these just really spaced-out leads on steel guitar and saxophone. It was like rock, but it had all the stuff that Austin liked, all the improvisation, and all the mood-altering sort of stuff, and yet, it was Jimmie Rodgers music, and Waylon Jennings, and all this outlaw country kind of stuff.
"So Joe called me up and asked me to play with him, and after I told him two or three times that my accordion was in the pawn shop, he sent somebody by the house with the money to go get the accordion. And about that time, my marriage was breaking up, and right when it broke completely, Joe said he had his deal with MCA, and would I join the band? Well. That didn''t take no genius. I just looked up and thanked the good Lord and went on with what was obviously intended."
Listening to what the union produced, it''s easy to believe that some sort of divine intervention was involved. Over the next half-decade, Ely, and a band whose core was centered around steel guitarist Lloyd Maines, guitarist Jesse Taylor, and Bone pumped out five of the most riveting albums in the history of Texas and country-rock music: Joe Ely (1977), Honky Tonk Masquerade (''78), Down on the Drag (''79), Live Shots (recorded during Ely''s London tour opening for the Clash in 1980), and Musta Notta Gotta Lotta (''81).
Each album was guided by Ely''s manic, mesmerizing vocal delivery and the best songs that the Ely-Gilmore-Butch Hancock triumvirate could deliver, while the Lubbock firebrand''s musicians were far more than mere sidemen; in fact, it''s fair to say that all three Flatlanders might not be considered cornerstones of alt-country history if it weren''t for those Ely albums, what with Taylor grinding out raw, gutbucket blues guitar while Maines and Bone were literally redefining their instruments right there on the spot. Maines would soar into the stratosphere with wailing, psychedelic solos the likes of which had never before been produced by a steel, and Bone would weave in and out of Maines'' playing with lines that alternated between haunting and mind-blowing. As far as Bone''s playing was concerned, no one ever demonstrated so emphatically that the much-maligned accordion can be a rock & roll instrument.
"Once I started traveling with Joe, and seeing the music business firsthand, I felt like that was what I was meant to do. Obviously, I did it good. And not only did it good, but I enjoyed it -- I mean the very worst of it. If you don''t have an appreciation of irony, you really shouldn''t get into rock & roll. You have to have an appreciation of the humor that God must find in some guy that could have been an architect driving 400 miles to make $150 or $300."
According to Bone, as great and genre-defining as those albums were, only Live Shots captured the true feel of the band. Anyone who never saw the band live might have trouble believing it could sound any better, but Bone insists it was.
"The albums, frankly, in retrospect, I''d have to be the first to admit that we never really quite pulled off the live sound. [Live] was so much better. Joe is so charismatic. I mean he doesn''t even have to sing, and when he does sing, he''s just great. The band had that great combination, yet we all were real different, so there was a little tension; we all wanted our piece of the meat. We all loved each other, and yet, when it came time to play, we were all trying to show out. We had such a great time. Joe could barely control it sometimes."
Eventually, perhaps Ely decided it was too much to control, and the band dissolved in 1983, Ely''s managers telling the band to take a hiatus, which to Bone and the others meant they''d pretty much been fired."I went and got a day job. Hadn''t had one for six years. Then drummer [Robert Marquam] died, and that set everyone back psychically.
"[Robert] was also my drummer. The Squeezetones had started the year before. He had been my roommate on the road, and I''d be telling him, ''You know, I wish we had a little band.'' So Robert called me up and said, ''Hey, my cousin''s taking over this little bar. We ought to get our band together and play.'' The next day I saw it in the paper. Robert had took it on himself to book for all the Mondays. We had Blue Mondays at the Aus-Tex Lounge."
So began the new incarnation of Ponty Bone. This new group didn''t have the otherworldly craziness of Ely''s band; they were something far more cozy. The Squeezetones were a living-room kind of band, one that could bounce between Cajun, zydeco, conjunto, blues, and rock -- anything that could fit in an accordion. Of course, Bone had just spent the previous six years redefining which musics were included in that.
"The first gig was packed, probably on the strength of the Ely band connection. By the way, I don''t have any trouble with that. I don''t have any trouble resting on those laurels a little bit. I wish it meant more."
Laurels seldom pay the bills, however, and the next decade and a half, 1981-1995, were both hard and fruitful at the same time.
"When the [Ely] band broke up, I had a bunch of gigs coming up, and I owned a bunch of great equipment, and it didn''t take me long to figure out that I was going to have to commit to Ponty Bone & the Squeezetones or get rid of a bunch of my stuff. It was easy to get work, so I started getting work and working all the time. Of course, it wasn''t enough to live on, so I got a day job too.
"For the next six years, I appeared to be a musician. But when people saw me eating breakfast at midafternoon at El Mercado on a weekday, I had been at work for six or seven hours. And when people saw me in Europe, I had worked 40-hour weeks, two of them in a week, so that I could take off to go to Europe. I''d work all day and then go to the studio all night. I was young and able to do it without much problem back then. It was good for me. I don''t regret it."
The work paid off with two albums: Easy as Pie (1986) and My, My, Look at This (1987). Appropriately enough, they were on the record label that was probably most emblematic of Austin music at that time, Amazing Records, with its now-defunct label motto: "If it''s a hit, it''s Amazing!" Backed by a solid band that included Austin stalwarts R.C. Banks on guitar and Freddy "Steady" Krc on drums, several of the songs were later combined on his 1995 CD, Dig Us on the Road Sometime.
"In 1989, I lost that day job, and we were going pretty good, so I decided, ''Well, let''s just start touring. I know we''ll make it!''"
"Well, you may remember, ''89 was what they now refer to as ''The Bust.'' We went out for two years and lost money at an alarming rate, but played to enthusiastic audiences. My circuit was from here west; I went all the way to Northern Cal, played Arizona, New Mexico. Made a lot of friends in the business.
"You know, it''s amazing," Bone says, not meaning the pun. "Give credit where it''s due. [Amazing! owner] Jim Yanaway and Randy Banks, [engineer] Eddie Habib and myself, those first two albums are still selling. I don''t mean just selling, I mean people telling me things like, well, like a guy told me that his brother, an old man that died, was buried with his CD of Ponty Bone & the Squeezetones!
"You wait all your life to hear that! People come and tell me, ''You know, I like your album, but my five-year-old listens to that one song incessantly -- knows every word, and sings along and dances!'' People tell me, ''Man, after everybody leaves and we close this place up and clean it, we put your CD on real loud to clean the restaurant, to mop to, because it''s so energetic.''
"We did a good job, and thank God, because no one ever noticed me after that."
After touring with the Clash, those may seem like modest things to get excited about, but Bone is comfortable with where he''s at. He''s working on a new album, and recently laid down a track for the upcoming Blaze Foley tribute. He says he''s just patiently waiting for his time to roll back around.
"I like to think the band is real hot right now," says Bone. "Playing weekly at Jovita''s gig is a godsend. That''s how Charlie Parker got great. It''s great rehearsal time, but in front of an audience.
"There''s not a real clamor for guys my age playing accordion, but I feel like what''s in store for me will be highly unusual when it comes, and might involve some aspect of my career that I don''t expect. Maybe it will be for my longevity rather than my technique. But maybe someday, after playing for so long, I''ll be so good that I''ll be like a Don Walser, and I''ll be ready when it comes."