Article and Photos by Sista Irie, Austin, Texas
Austin loves Stephen Marley! That says a lot for a city known as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Music is as prevalent as the air one breathes, yet Stephen Marley stands out as a city favorite. Although, Austin is known internationally for music, the city is also sprinkled with older neighborhoods close to downtown, and once reserved for African American and Hispanic residents. Gentrification has boomed on the ‘East Side’ like white on rice. What makes Austin unique and charming are the historical remnants of the old black west that are now a critical piece of the city’s musical evolution. The Scoot Inn is a perfect blend of ‘roots,’ where roots of reggae meets roots of the historical black west.
In the 1860’s, former slaves from Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi settled in Austin. Two brothers Sam & Raiford Mason created a small viable community on the “East Side” known as Masontown. Many stores, clubs, and restaurants sprung forth after the end of the Civil War.
In 1871, shortly after the railroad arrived, Sam and Nancy Wilson opened a mercantile next to the tracks where gambling, drinking and all things of desire could be found (legal or otherwise). East Austin continued to thrive. In 1955, Aubrey Ivey (AKA as Scoot) and wife Hattie bought the store and it became ‘The Scoot Inn.’ This quaint country style building has the feel of an old Western boarding house decorated with saloon style wallpaper and parlor rooms extending in all directions from an old time bar.
The Scoot Inn was the perfect setting for a Stephen Marley acoustic performance. A well packed audience of diverse race and lifestyles gathered in the outside yard where an old wooden stage completed a down-home sense of family. A favorite local talent ‘Mobley’ opened to a crowd of his fans. The crowd suddenly grew large even though the night was cold, a mere 53 degrees, with a horizontal shower of rain adding to the mystique and draw of reggae roots.
Stephen arrived onstage to a wildly cheering crowd and nestled down behind the congas where his sweet voice began to blend songs of Bob’s fame with personal favorites like Mind Control, Traffic Jam and Revelation Party. Behind Stephen sat iconic musicians such as Squidly Cole (drum), Christopher Meredith (bassist), Ranoy Gordon (guitar), and Nicholas Laraque (flute). The stage burst with strobing colorful lights, a light smoky veil drifted through the air while Stephen’s golden lion statue perched behind with glowing firey eyes. The crowd was quickly mesmerized and fell into a transcendental state with the heartbeat of the nyabinghi drum. The hypnotic spell of reggae is a smooth vessel for delivering poignant messages designed to incite deep understanding of life.
“I’m living my life, but the struggles ahead
(Struggles ahead, struggles ahead)
See I can’t look back now-
But I can’t forget (I cannot forget)
No longer shall we live our lives in fear
We got to keep pushing on, moving full steam ahead
Fly Natty Dread…
Cuz tonight we gonna have a celebration of life….” Revelation Party, Stephen Marley
Interestingly enough, the tropical roots of reggae looked right at home in the environment of a western saloon. The ghost of the past could be felt overlooking the changes in our society that now invites racial unity and diversity. Reggae music and especially the legacy of the Marley’s continues to guide the future with love, peace and unity into the future 36 years after the passing of Bob Marley.