Sunday, November 22, 2009

William Albert Narum

Bill Narum ( January 11, 1947-November 18,2009)

e were just getting into our El Pastor tacos at Fonda San Miguel when my pants vibrated. It was Tolleson, the music lawyer that I've known since Armadillo days. It was Wednesday and the week had already been pretty full. I had met with the EUC on Monday in Executive Session and on Tuesday with the RMC in another executive session. In both Committees, we received endorsements for the Generation Plan that will provide the residents of Austin around 55% of their energy from Renewable energy and efficiency by 2020 at a cost of about 22%.

I told Dana as we walked to dinner that night, how happy I was, and I remarked that just about now would be the time for something terrible to happen.

"I have bad news,"says Tolleson.

I almost quipped back, "What is Ed even more dead?"

"Bill Narum died this afternoon while out at Acorn."

Acorn was the 20 acres out in Milam County that Bill and Paula and Dick had purchased the last time the world was ending back in the mid 70s. I pretty much started my renewable career out there building Dick's passive solar house.

At the time that the land was purchased, we all lived in a old cotton baron's mansion outside of Taylor where we had Herbie the Weather Scan in our living room and a giant coaxial cable running from there out to the head end of the Taylor Cable System, thanks to its owner Gillis Connelly.

Taylorvision was an out growth of the video group Space City Video, which had moved from Houston to shoot the shows at the Armadillo. But at Taylorvision, we shot the football games, the fourth of July picnics, and we actually sold advertising to the merchants in town. For several seasons, I was the basketball voice of the Ducks, calling one season with my infant son resting in my tummy pouch.

Bill was the leader and artistic director of this group of vidiots. I joined the group as my advertising agency in Austin went Everwuchawe, and I fell in with Dee, who would become the mother of my children, and partner during our young adult years.

It was from this giant house that Bill art directed the Video Primer, a seminal book of the Guerilla TV movement. The Austin Sun's graphics were born here as Nightbyrd came out for several weeks to focus Bill on his project.

The video commune consisted of Paula, Dee, Mike and Kathy and their family, Dick, Mitch, John, and a few others. We didn't just connect to Taylor's cable head, a group would also be dispatched weekly to the head-end of the cable in Austin, thus giving ACTV its first presence.

Bill was one of the most unusual combinations of scientist and artist I ever met. A trip through his web site will give you the amazing breath of his body of work.

He was not just a music artist, even though that may be how the story will be written. He, in fact, didn't do a lot of Armadillo Posters. He did do the first ZZ Top poster for Armadillo... I saw it last night on the mantle in his studio off 360 while visiting with his partner Gloria. True. his work with Bill and Billy and ZZ Top was exceptional. He designed their logo, their albums, their stages, their trucks, and he created their visual image. He also designed their web page presence.

Even though Bill did do the "Silver Haired Daddy " Threadgill album design for me, most of our work was in promoting renewable energy. Bill was the Art Director for Spectra, the official publication of the Texas Solar Energy Society in the early 80s. He illustrated one issue which covered every energy technology known and still not known in a beautiful work called the Compendium.

He helped design my solar gas station, an advanced electric vehicle, a 100% self sufficient solar double wide, a wind turbine, and all kinds of things as we worked together thinking and plotting a new world and future.

When I wrote Silver in the Mine for the City of Austin, Bill did the design and illustrations for the book. Like any good project, we almost strangled each other over it, getting over it before it went to press. Bill also helped with my three other books, most recently doing the basic layout for Beyond Light and Dark.

The last time we saw him was on the east side. We bumped into Tolleson on 11th street across from the Victory. He invited us to come inside. There was Bill. Soon, Hoover delivered his smothered Pork Chop special. We chatted for a good bit and left him and Mr. T. to do their legal work.

Many years ago, Paula, Bill's partner at the time, told me she asked Bill who was his best friend, and he apparently said it was me. I would have thought he would have said Macho, his good friend in radio at KLOL in Houston.

I talked to Dan last night from Bill's studio. (Captain Macho) He had called Gloria to see how she was doing.

He was out spending the night at Acorn trying to sinc in with the vibes of his longtime good friend. He told me he even talked to Bill on the day that would prove to be his last.

Bill had a jillion friends, and almost that many clients.

He was a genius.

He merged the world of art

with the art of being.

His daughters, Michelle and Nico,

his brother Jon, sisters Heidi and Wendy,

were graced to have been his family.

As were we all.

As were we all.




Blogger oZ said...

There will be gathering on S unday at the South Austin Museum of Art. Should start around 7:00.

More is planned next weekend at Threadgills and in January.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the great fortune to have been close to Bill; we had many adventures and I learned so much. Bill was truly extraordinary with a great mind and a myriad of skills. He was an innovator as well as a master of classic technique. The world has lost a creative force at a time when we really need out of the box thinking.

Some of the many memories that have flooded back

Bill's parents were extremely talented. His mom, Mary, a painter and sculptor, his dad, William, Bill, did water colors, but mostly he was one of the highest paid commercial artists in Houston, probably one of the highest in the US. For many years he drew all the pictures in the Sears catalog (before photos) hand drawn for quite a few years after I was with Bill.

When we needed money and Bill couldn't think of another way to get it, he would work a day for his dad drawing tires or whatever for the next catalog.

Bill and I were in a truck headed for one of the ZZ Top Texas Tour shows in the Panhandle. We had never seen tumble weed and we started picking it up and getting it in the back of the truck. When we arrived the local stage hands opened the truck and all of this tumble weed tumbled out...needless to say they were not as enchanted with the stuff as we were and said it wouldn't really get anyone excited to see it on stage. Yes as we looked around, it was everywhere.

Bill was a great shot; we ate at least one of everything edible around the Acorn. He could get dinner with a 22 caliber rifle with a clean shot to the head, small heads; like on squirrel, rabbit and armadillo.

Bill once made a prosthetic device for one of the chickens. He had accidentally shot its foot off and he felt bad about it. The chicken walked around with it for awhile, but in the end favored being a one footed chicken.

Papa Bill arranged for a famous art agent to see Bill and Jon's work. Signing with this guy meant a career that would include lots of money. The agent walked along the wall where Jon's beautiful skyscapes hung and exclaimed that they were wonderful, he appeared to suggest a deal would be made.

He then turned to the wall where Bill's sensational and varied work hung. There were landscapes, still lifes, portraiture, different color palettes, light application, heavy application of paint. The agent was excited and said that these are fantastic, he asked "how many of your kids work am I looking at?" Bill stepped up and said "they're all mine and I can do a thousand more of any style you think works for you."

The agent frowned and said "you would get bored," basically you cannot or would not be confined to a style and a subject matter.


4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Oz, for posting this fine remembrance of Bill on Earthfamilyalpha. He rocked.
Adios, mi viejo amigo con los ojos brillantes.

8:59 PM  
Blogger memo said...

Let's break this thread of bad news o.k.? I knew Bill forty five years or more ago in high school. We sat next to each other in a few classes and he was always poking me to show me something he had drawn while we supposed to be paying attention. HIs talent was evident even then, like something he was born to do, as natural as breathing. I moved away from the Houston area and lost touch with him only to come across him again in the Copper Canyon in 1991. We spent a couple of days exploring and promising to look each other up when he returned to Austin. Unfortunately we, for whatever reason, didn't reconnect. Two weeks ago I had a dream in which Bill appeared. It had a visual quality to it much like one of those days in Real when the light is so substantive that it almost feels like a liquid. Nothing was said in the dream but it was just very strange to me that he was in it. These threads that connect us are strong and they deserve our attention.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh god. Thank you. Thank you so much for giving us this history. My sister and I are both touched by your loving words. I'd write more, but I am crying now, lv Michelle

1:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

One More Story on the Acorn: This one showing off Bill's engineering and my hard work. I was digging a trench from almost the driveway easment onto the 18 acres to the tank?. O scoffed a little at the huge manual labor project Bill had assigned me. But it worked. It diverted quite a bit of water that flooded the property into the tank. And that and a French drain made the driveway on the property passable (well a lot of the time).


2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew him for twenty plus years and he was one of those artists who actually got things done and usually on deadline. Getting old is a strange thing and it will be interesting to see who is the last man standing.


8:03 PM  
Blogger oZ said...

I made a change tonight... world of being to art of being... seems more like the truth

8:06 PM  
Blogger oZ said...

Here's some other comments:

R.I.P. Bill

By Mickey Phoenix

November 19, 2009 2:36 PM | Link to this

What a wonderful lovely man..I am shocked and deeply saddened. Narum was definitely one of a kind..his versatile art abilities will never be matched..he could do anything..I will never forget our attempt to create an airbrush system that would allow us to dial in the colors..we called it BIG BERTHA..we did some great tee shirts and had a lot of fun..I will always be grateful for his friendship and support..God Bless his family and friends

By hank alrich

November 19, 2009 3:17 PM | Link to this

damn, this hurts. i’d worked with Bill starting back in the ‘70’s at AWHQ, right through this past weekend when he wrapped up the packaging graphics for a CD i just produced that will be the first new product on Armadillo Records in decades.

he gave me genius level help every time i turned to him for design work, and that is just the tip of the iceberg as far as Bill’s depth and breadth of knowledge.

from the title cut:

“a short time to sing here; such a long time gone”

RIP brother

8:12 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Host: Threadgill's
Type: Causes - Fundraiser
Network: Global
Date: Saturday, November 28, 2009
Time: 6:00pm - 10:00pm
Location: Threadgill's at 6416 North Lamar

This is the first event of several. The Poster Art Musuem is going to do a retrospective of his work in Jan - Feb with a celebration of his life one night.

Thank you for the kind words and hope to see you some time when I am in town. Lv M

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I remember something you once told me

And I'll be damned if it did not come true

Twenty thousand roads I went down, down, down

And they all lead me straight back home to you

(Gram Parsons, Return Of The Grievous Angel)

Bill & I bumped into each other periodically, but our history stopped being 'new' since the 90's. At my daughter's funeral two years ago, there he was, out of the blue. Bill's face looking at me with love. So please excuse the personal nature of this, but we all share our love & memories of Bill at this time.

Just wish I'd gone to MJO's birthday bash. I'd have seen Bill one more time.

It's raining. ... can't help but think back...

Beaumont, UofH, the Montrose neighborhood, Richmond Ave., Willard St., Doolittle's Subtleties, Flame, Anderson Fair Cafe, KLOL Mother's Family, Chapman, Fat Pantz, Lynn, Pacifica Radio, on-air poetry, Mitch, Marie, Johnnie Sue Ginger, Billy, Frank & Dusty, loops of feedback, psychedelia, Leonard, Capt. Macho, Don Sanders, Space City Video, Roberto Rosselini, Bruiser Barton & the Dry Heaves, Dr. John simulcast, Mance Lipscomb, Gram Parsons & Emmylou at Liberty Hall, Space City at AWHQ, Wilson, Tolleson, Kay, Jeannie, Bobby, Cash, Hedderman, beans 'n rice in the garden, Gaylen in the kitchen, Franklin on roller skates, Babyface Priest, Featherston, Willie crossing over, Commander Cody, Zappa, Buffy, Everwhuchaway, 509 Hearn, Max Stamp, C. Loving, Sheauxnough, G. Juke, Jerry Jeff, Balcones Fault, Mt. Bonnell, Taylorvision and the hippies in theTaylor Mansion with a cable to the tower, Paula from NYC, the Acorn, Schlorff, Turner, Brummage, the Glens, Robert Ayers. Michelle, Judy, Nico. Always something new, little bit scary, on the edge. I'm going under. You can't be gone, Bill. Because of you I took so many paths. I hated you sometimes for that. But we made it through all the years. Had to look for you, but you'd be there, quiet, in the darkened corner of the room, crouched, eyes shining like little flames. You'd be looking back. Dark now, in my heart, today, you gone. Those eyes. I knew they'd be flickering somewhere and any time I...... I miss you so much. Been a long strange trip, old friend. I stumbled onto your path with my 'hello world' credulous outlook and fell under the spell of a magically unusual man, artist, friend, with those eyes that looked back at me.

Haven't been the same since.


8:42 PM  
Blogger oZ said...

here's a few more artist comments:

"Bill Narum was a friend, colleague, role model and mentor. In those heady days at Sheauxnough he, along with Guy Juke, Micael Priest, and the other talents there, gave me my remedial art education.

"I'm stunned. It is hard to imagine Austin without Narum."Danny Garrett

"With Bill Narums passing we lost one of the most talented and generous members of the art community. He set the bar for the rest of us with amazing artistic abilities, incredible design sense and seemingly boundless technical knowledge. If you knew Bill was involved in a project it was going to be done exceptionally well and he inspired everyone involved to be at their best.

My first introduction to Bills art was the classic ZZ Top album covers and the monumental sets done for their concert tours in the 70s. If that wasnt enough, he created some of the most compelling concert posters from that time as well. When he wasnt experimenting with video, photography, painting at his easel he was living a fiercely brave adventurous life. If we ever had a Renaissance man in our midst, Bill was that guy. I wish I had told him all this to his face when I had the chance." Sam Yeates

"I first met Bill in Houston in 1968 while working at Space City News. I was doing artwork for SCN when Bill started coming around doing art for advertisers or whatever. I remember going to his apartment and he had a room set up as a "studio". I had met a real artist. That's how Bill always seemed to me, a real Artist. His style always seemed so clean, professional and commercial while also being really, really cool. Slick but funky. Down home uptown. Texas chicadelic.

"But most of all he was a wise, peaceful calm presence amongst whatever turmoil that was swirling around him. He was the third eye of the storm. A Buddha Bubba." Kerry Awn

3:54 PM  
Blogger JD said...

To all the loves he left behind:

For Sherry, Lynne, Paula, Yodi, Judy, Trudy, Jan, Anna, and Gloria

We were all so fortunate to share his life and his love. For years we shared his life. For life we will share his love.

And to the two who were forever in his heart:

Michelle and Nico

He left a tremendous part of himself in you forever! He lives in you...

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was my first love . He gave me the blessing of a child and brothers and sisters this only child had always wanted. My life was changed by him and he was woven into my soul. Happy trails to you sweet Bill till we meet again.
The number one wife of the Narum harem.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This last post was written late at night after a very long day. It is full of mistakes but does sound like a bitter ex . I gotten over being bitter and only felt a deep love for BILL. There was a long history of my attempt to make Bill be a better father by encouraging visitation and never taking him to court, when I was married to a Lawyer and could have easily done so , to pay what the court ordered. I did allow our child to spend time with him and made arragements for him to see her by taking her to him on numerous occasions. He on the other hand would not do much to make any effort to be with her. There were times he would not introduce her as his daughter as she was a teenager but used her as eye candy so he would not appear to be older She was taken to in- appropriate places as a teenager and give weed and God knows what else at a very earlier age which was a great influence on her life and thus cause her and our family in Houston major life changing problems and many expensive hours of therapy. Bill was never there for all the little events which make up a childs life .... you know the school performance , the softball games, the trips to the emergency room. He waS always informed of events but never made the attempt to be around. He would come to HOUSTON on many occasions and not even call to speak to her. As she grew older, she grew bitter and did call him a sperm doner but in reality that was all he was- as a father he was not but just that.
I think he did better with Nico but once again Michelle added to the abandonment issues and not feeling love. She had to deal with being replaced by another child.Luckly the girls did bond and are good friends.
Bill and I were at peace for many years and I am sadden by his death. He had incredible talent but as a mate to his many mates he didn't leave all good memories.As a father , a lot of emotional baggage . For any one to have the audacity to make a statement about my child was extemely upsetting and than not sign it shows a certain amount of cowardness and a lack of true knowledge and understanding of what the reality of the situation really is.
Genetics are amazing things becasue BILL had little to do for whom the girls have become but both are wonderful , smart , talented women who have alot of artistic talent. His grandchildren who he never took the time to know are also very talented.
Yes, he was a talented man but a man who never learn the importance of true family like the one he grew up in.
His parents were always in our lives even when BILL was not. They helped me many times when they were not required to, but because they love me , my child, my husband . His brothers and sisters remain to this day my sibilings.They were great grandparents.So you can see he did have a examples how a father and a family was suppose to be.
Bill lost out on what most of people consider important in life.A love and support of family life. A chance to share in the little daily things that make having a child one of the best parts of life as our children are the future and our true legacy. For the art and other work he did, he did nothing finer than to share his genes and yes be a "A SPERM DONOR' which left the world two incredible woman who will survive a lot longer than any other things he created no matter what any one thinks.
So yes they deserve a share of what little he left as they were part of who he truely was.His finest work of Art.

8:52 AM  
Blogger oZ said...

I removed a couple of comments tonight. They were not in the spirit of the post and they seemed hurtful.

Thanks for your understanding.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oz you are as smart and sweet as I remenber. Thank you for having this blog . Supid people who really don't know the true situation have caused more pain in a all ready painful situation.
Hope to see you in Jan.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was a good art friend. I shot a bunch of video of Bill before he died...

4:21 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

We were Friends

7:21 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

We were Friends

7:22 PM  

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