"Texas Born, Texas Grew"
Good Music Never Dies
Old Dogs, New Tricks
When I was 14 years old I taught my self to play guitar, and started to write what were, really bad songs. But, the angst of adolescence would not let me stop trying. As my craft grew, I dreamed of emerging from my room to a stage. I was terrified, but that had never stopped me before. In Houston, around 1972, all folk singer/songwriters worth their salt had to first break down one person and one door – Mama Carrick at Sand Mountain. Taking a deep breath I arrived one night and asked to play a “guest set.” Without breaking her poker face, she said “yes.” Not long after starting to play there, Bob Oldrieve came in one night. He approached me and asked if I would be interested in exploring playing with him and his good friend, Bill Bertinot. From the moment I sat down with them, I knew that playing solo had become past tense. The fullness of three instruments and the harmonies sparked a fire in me. When they eventually brought in Joe Lindley and Richard Jacob, I thought I would die of excitement, and drive. I never imagined that we would share stages with many of the greats of country music and fill concert halls on our own.
Later on, I played with a few other bands, but absolutely nothing lived up to the uniqueness of Dogtooth Violet. Our sound, multi-instrumentation, and our harmonies had been one of those exclusive chemistries that many musicians, over a lifetime of playing, pray for. I knew that I had been blessed to have experienced it. So many never get the chance. So, when Norie Guthrie asked us to participate in the Rice University concert, helping Rice celebrate her archival project, we jumped at the chance to see if we still “had it.” None of us had played together in over 35 years but, as we rehearsed under an old oak, just minutes before the concert, it happened. The incantation returned. We barely missed a lick and the unique sound of these three voices, blending that one and only sound, surged from a former time.
I know these guys so well on stage that I know when they will take their next breath. That, my friends, is priceless. Why waste something so prodigious? Now, here we are, all grown up and having a spectacular time, and loving sharing it with ask of you again.
The reincarnation of Dogtooth Violet has been a process. In the summer of 2000 five of the original members played a private party at Tim Leatherwood’s Anderson Fair. It was a reunion of sorts but missing was guitarist and steel player Bill Bertinot. He had been a creative and essential part of our sound and we wanted to do it again, in concert and with Bill.
Seventeen years later we were still waiting for an opportunity. There had been a few nudges along the way. Film director Bruce Bryant had always been a close friend and patron of the band. Early on he filmed a nascent Dogtooth Violet for his TV show and booked us into The Sweetheart of Texas Concert Hall and Saloon. Later in 2001 he included a cameo of the band performing at The Anderson Fair Block Party in his documentary “For The Sake of a Song” about the legendary Houston venue.
Second, it was author Vicki Welch Ayo who asked us to contribute photos for her 2014 offering “The Boys of Houston ll – Deep in the Heart.” She was chronicling Houston’s vibrant music scene in the 1970’s. It was again an honor and you could say a little reminder
But, the catalyst for bringing us back together has been Norie Guthrie at Rice University. I was first contacted by Norie in 2016, asking if we wished to contribute DTV memorabilia to a music archive they were creating (Houston Folk Music Archive.) We sent her photos, press clippings and other pieces of our story.
Then in early 2017 it was Norie again wondering if we might have an interest in performing a couple of songs for a celebration of the archive. It would be that November and we would be joined by some of our contemporaries who helped forge a highly creative era in Houston’s history.
When I told the others; everyone was in. Bill Bertinot came from Kentucky and RJ Jacob from Missouri. That November five of the original members were on stage together with the exception of our dear friend and bass player Marty Smith who passed in 2003. Two days later and with one day rehearsal we played a house party giving us a chance to extend this reunion.
Sometimes it’s just someone reminding you that your past was noteworthy and for a couple of songs would you do it again. It helped us rediscover the joy we had in making music together. So Thank You Bruce and Vickie and finally, Thank You Norie!
I bought my first guitar at age 7 in Sulphur Springs, Texas. Riding my Stingray bike downtown, I stopped in front of a small dingy second hand store, and there it was; a Silvertone electric guitar with only 2 strings. My Grandmother gave me the $17 to buy it. I learned to play a lot of songs on 2 strings until I managed to finally add the other ones. I was hooked and eventually got so loud my parents built a room off the garage and moved me into it. They were very supportive even hauling me to gigs in bars and honky tonks where I was underage. Several bands followed but when I hooked up with these talented musicians, it finally felt like family. We were a band without a name, but we finally settled on Dogtooth Violet and the rest is history. As we wrote new songs, we figured out what instruments would sound best, bought them and learned to play them. We created, performed, traveled, lived and dreamed together. Initially we were all acoustic. We soon became a loud, unique, hard driving country folk rock band. The timing was perfect. Early influences included Poco, The Eagles, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Doug Kershaw and others. I’ve had the privilege of playing with some pretty amazing musical geniuses. Dogtooth has also been blessed with the support of talented music promoters like Bruce Bryant at Sweetheart of Texas and Tim Leatherwood of Anderson Fair, and the late Dale Adamson and Bob Claypool.
It’s been great fun playing together again. Also telling old war stories like the time Jimmy Page and Robert Plant read one of our reviews and came backstage after a gig. They heard that we were worth hearing. WOW.
I hope the crowd enjoys the evening as much as I’ve enjoyed the experience of reconnecting and playing music again with my dear friends.
When I turned 11 a kid in my neighborhood decided to start a band. I enthusiastically asked to join only to discover it required playing an instrument – which I didn’t! So, I bought a guitar, took some lessons (forgot all about that band) but then a few months later ran into Bob Oldreive. We’ve been playing ever since!
When Dogtooth was formed in 1974 we were six young, creative musician/songwriters riding the wave of this brand new musical genre – “Country Rock”. There were no rules, we just made things up as we went along. Looking back, this was indeed a one of a kind experience; supporting one another’s individuality and blending it into a flavor burst of Texas, Country Rock, Cajun and Americana. Fiddle, Pedal Steel, washboard, guitars and harmonies! Yum!
The Dogtooth Violet band mates are truly special people. There’s nothing like a live Dogtooth Violet concert!
Sometime in August of 2017 I heard from Bob Oldreive about an invitation we received to perform at Rice University that November as part of an induction ceremony into the Houston Folk Music Archives. The five remaining, original members of the band had not performed together since the early 80s.
We showed up at Rice, did a sound check, rehearsed in the bushes for about 10 minutes and performed two songs from our album with acoustic instruments. I used a Cajon.
The magic was still there. The harmonies tight as ever.
We decided shortly after that we needed to re-issue the album in digital formats and start performing again.
And here we are…
And on bass...
Coming out of Tyler, TX in 1965, Layton DePenning started his musical career playing frat houses while attending classes at The University of Texas, Austin. In 1969 he penned and performed his first hit song, "Visions", released on Sonobeat Records with Austin’s Lavender Hill Express.
DePenning was heavily involved in the creation of the "progressive country scene" in Texas in the early 1970s working with the likes of Willie Nelson, Rusty Wier, Michael Martin Murphy, Jerry Jeff Walker and BW Stevenson, on whose hit album, "My Maria", he appeared in 1974. He currently works as guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with Denim and is the owner of Elmo’s Lab recording studio in Buda, TX .
Marty was a founding member of DTV. We loved playing with him because he was also a drummer and a keyboard player and could play in the pocket but played melodically and musically.
Our last gig with Marty was at Anderson Fair in August of 2000. Bill couldn’t make that one but the rest of us were there. Marty always kept us in stitches. We miss him a lot and will never be able to fully replace him.
He passed away in 2003 after a long illness.