“It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll” in Tennessee and Texas

By Wittliff staff member, Library Specialist, Sherri Turner-Herrmann.

Rock and roll hit me like a freight train early on. When I was 8, my cousin introduced me to Alice Cooper and that’s when the first train hit. Shock rock, hard rock, heavy metal and punk! Alice Cooper, KISS, Judas Priest, ACDC, Van Halen, Cheap Trick, Blondie, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones were all coming down the track at full speed ready to rip my small East Tennessee world apart!

I wasn’t old enough to go to clubs, nor had I ever seen an “indie” music newspaper before. Remember, we’re talking East Tennessee here. But I devoured issue after issue of the mainstream music rags Cream, Circus and Hit Parader and Rolling Stone (purchased at the A&P with my parent’s hard-earned money), plastered my bedroom walls with band posters, drew album covers and fell asleep every night with a stack of LPs on my stereo. I would dream about rock bands and going to live shows. Watching Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special was as close as I could get to my favorite bands, but my parents wouldn’t let me stay up late to watch the show.

Then, FINALLY, I was old enough for my first, true rock and roll rite of passage – a live rock concert. The freight train turned bullet train when KISS rolled into Knoxville, Tennessee. I was a goner at fourteen.

Fast forward decades later, I find myself in Texas reliving those years thanks to my job at The Wittliff Collections and Ron Young’s indie rock magazine It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll. Young and his staff chronicled the hard rock, metal, new wave and punk scene in the San Antonio/Austin area during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Once again, I found myself devouring issue after issue of a rock magazine. There, on every page, were my rock gods playing in clubs that I so desperately wanted to frequent as a kid growing up in East Tennessee. Staff photographers Clyde Kimsey, Robbin Cresswell and others captured the bands and the club scene just as I had imagined it – graphic and raw. Like the music, the writing was hard, fast and loud. Way down in San Antonio, Texas, Ron Young and his renegade band of writers and photographers were my kindred spirits. They were doing important work. They were in the rock and roll trenches same as me.

Whether you need something to take your mind off these uncertain times or you just want to relive some bygone rocking years, do yourself a favor and check out the digital issues of Ron Young’s It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll on the Wittliff’s website. A very metal horns up to The Wittliff Collections and Its Only Rock ‘N’ Roll for bringing my rock and roll journey full circle.

Click here to browse the “It‘s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll”digital archive.