by John Wenz
Nebraska's biggest commodity is seemingly cult bands and artists — those who fall short of success, and stay out the limelight. Some fade back into obscurity, while others establish a following that carries on past their music.
But perhaps of the cult figures, the cultest of all was Charlie Burton. He's the record collector's Nebraskan, with a national reputation … but a small and vocal fanbase. He has the roots rock chops that land him in seedy Austin bars when not floating around the Zoo Bar. His name is not always known in his native Lincoln, but any search of Nebraska music will yield it again and again. But to many, he was just the curmudgeonly manager of the downtown Lincoln Homer's (RIP).
But beyond that is a rich, 40-some years of making music, never straying far from a rockabilly / country / blues / punk fusion, as informed by late-'60s Detroit rock as Sam Phillips' original Sun Studios lot.
He started out his rock years as a country music critic for Rolling Stone in 1969, but by 1972, he found himself wanting to make music, rather than write about it. He picked up work with a variety of groups, eventually landing on Rock Therapy, which released the now famous single "Rock and Roll Behavior," praised by rock critics and landing at No. 4 in the 1977 Pazz and Jop poll through Village Voice.
And then he never really stopped. I mean, sure, Rock Therapy eventually did. But Burton kept going, releasing albums of material throughout the 1980s, and starting up with a new band, the Texas Twelve Step. But I don't know, maybe the Hiccups are more your style. Or maybe it's the Dorothy Lynch Mob.
Regardless, creeping in the corners — and transcending the frequently frustrating college "cool" scene of Lincoln bands — Burton has continued on throughout the years, releasing solid, sardonic music, with feet on Americana ground and tongue firmly in cheek.
The above video is a concert film from around 1981, aired on NET's 33rd Street Sessions — as close as we got to an Austin City Limits in the No Coast region. The other two parts (and some Crap Detectors footage) can be found on this YouTube page.