Rag Radio: Austin in the Roaring Twenties with Historian Richard Zelade

Richard Zelade, is the author of Austin in the Jazz Age, a period after World War I also known as the Roaring Twenties that exploded with artistic energy and often scandalous social and sexual experimentation.


Today, Austin, Texas, has captured the nation’s imagination. The state capital has also become known as the “live music capital of the world” — and for its freewheeling “Austin Weird” culture. But in the Roaring Twenties, Austin was also a major center of creative activity. Thorne Dreyer‘s guest, historian and folklorist Richard Zelade, is the author of Austin in the Jazz Age, a period after World War I that exploded with creative energy and social experimentation.

Zelade writes that, “As heady as the Austin music and arts scene is today, it has not equaled the explosion of talent that marked Austin’s Jazz Age,” which also produced national and international stars. Richard addresses the “vehement rejection of the status quo that typified the era, scandalizing Austin and Texas at large as [the artists] introduced a freewheeling, individualistic attitude that now defines the city,” with much of it based on the teeming University of Texas campus.

On the show we discuss the Austin scene in the ’20s, even comparing it to the cultural fervent that took place in Austin in the ’60s when the city was a birthplace for that era’s revolutionary new counterculture — with both eras also featuring a more liberated role for women and a pushing of sexual boundaries. We also discuss Richard’s 2014 book, “Guytown by Gaslight,” about a slightly earlier era when Austin’s seedy First Ward was home to a thriving red light district, replete with gambling, vice, and colorful characters.

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Richard Zelade is a multi-disciplinary historian who has written several books and whose writing has appeared in publications like Texas Monthly, Texas Parks & Wildlife, People, and Southern Living.

Rag Radio Host and Producer Thorne Dreyer was a pioneer of the ’60s underground press movement and a leader in SDS and the New Left, and managed Pacifica Radio’s KPFT-FM in Houston. Dreyer edits The Rag Blog, an Internet news magazine with an international following, and is a director of the New Journalism Project. Rag Radio engineer and associate producer is Tracey Schulz.

Rag Radio is produced in the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, an all-volunteer, cooperatively-run community radio station in Austin, Texas, in association with The Rag Blog and the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The syndicated show is broadcast (and streamed) live Fridays, 2-3 p.m. (CDT) on KOOP, and is later rebroadcast and streamed on WFTE-FM in Mt. Cobb and Scranton, PA., on Houston Pacifica’s KPFT HD-3 90.1, and by KKRN, 88.5-FM in Round Mountain, CA — and as a featured podcast at VT. Contact: [email protected].



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