Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Robert Shaw - Texas Barrelhouse Piano
After he moved his store to Manor Road in the 50s, Shaw and his “Stop n’ Swat” became the center of the Blackland community. “When my father would drive around,” said Shaw’s daughter, “he’d know every single person on the street.” In his grocery and barbeque stop, located where the “El Gringo” restaurant stands today, Shaw catered to the local community and also attracted collegiates and politicians from the West side of the city. He practiced his playing skills daily on an upright piano he kept in the back room, preserving the old style of “boogie woogie” music he had played before settling down. In 1963, a music historian discovered Shaw’s skills in his store and persuaded him to record an album. With his album “Texas Barrelhouse Piano,” later re-titled “Ma Grinder,” Shaw brought back a crisp version of the Santa Fe circuit’s boogie woogie style, recording the old signatures as if the 1930s hadn’t ended. The hippy, folk, and blues musicians of the 1960s admired Shaw’s skills and the Austin music scene embraced him once more. After performing with Janis Joplin in ’66 and playing in 14 Kerrville Folk Festivals, Robert Shaw suffered a heart attack in 1976. In 1985, the Blackland community laid Shaw to rest after a funeral service at Ebenezer Baptist, recognizing the man who had fostered the neighborhood’s growth while preserving its music on a back room piano.