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Margaret Moser, Matriarch Of Austin Music, Dies At 63

Martha Grenon

Margaret Moser, the Mother of Austin’s Music Scene, has died at age 63 after a long bout with colon cancer.

A stalwart in the music scene in the days before the city was known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Moser was instrumental in molding the city's reputation. She wrote for the Austin Chronicle for 33 years and founded the Austin Music Awards.

Born in 1954, the San Antonio native arrived in Austin in 1973 – eventually trading the psychedelic, Summer of Love trappings of her San Antonio youth for the beer-swilling of the nascent Austin punk scene a few years later. She became a fixture at the Rome Inn, Raul’s, Club Foot, the Armadillo, Liberty Lunch and Antone’s. Then, she became a self-admitted, unrepentant groupie.

Her choice wasn’t guided solely by lustful leanings. She wanted to get a piece of the action in a way that, as she told Joe Nick Patoski earlier this year, women had never had.

“I wanted to see what they were seeing, in the way they were seeing it," she said. "It didn't necessarily mean I wanted to be the singer, the guitarist, or the center of attention. I just wanted to know where that came from, where that power came from, where that passion came from.

Read Joe Nick Patoski's profile on Margaret Moser for NPR here.

"For me, it came from words and the way they blended into music in my head. It's so powerful. And as a girl, I couldn't talk about it to anybody. Guys could talk about this stuff."

It was a lifestyle of peaks, sure, but it had plenty of valleys, as well.

“It wasn't all limos and laminates,” she wrote for the Chronicle in 2000. “But it sure beat Saturday night on Sixth Street.”

In 1976, Moser began managing the office of the Austin Sun – answering the telephone and cleaning toilets.

She got her first scoop with a profile of Randy California from the band Spirit, and later took over the paper’s “Backstage” column, a column that she later brought to the Chronicle in 1981, after the Sun burned out.

It was at the Chronicle that Moser came into her own. She formed her own posse, the Texas Blondes; she dipped her toe into performing with the Jam and Jelly Dancers; she hosted a local music-minded TV show; and she used her writing to become a consummate booster of Austin’s music scene, Patoski remembers:

Along the way Moser matured into a mother hen, encouraging and mentoring new musicians and new music people freshly arrived from somewhere else, schooling them in the local ways, making sure they understood Austin was where you came to express yourself and not hold back. 

Moser was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013. It was in her later years she steeped herself in history – a passion that she honed at the Chronicle, Patoski notes.

She taught a course at UT Austin on Austin's music history entitled "Home with the Armadillo,” in which she recounted the music from the days of Tonkawan percussion to Spanish incursions into Central Texas to the days of Paul Ray and the Cobras. (It should be noted Moser wore her high school dropout status as a badge of honor). And, after she moved back to San Antonio in 2014, she opened the South Texas Museum of Popular Culture, which rolled out an exhibition on blues legend Robert Johnson’s San Antonio recordings last year.

Credit Todd Wolfson
Margaret Moser with KUTX's Jody Denberg in San Antonio in 2017.

Shortly before bowing out as director of the Austin Music Awards, which she helped found in 1983, to make the trek down I-35, she spoke to KUTX’s Jody Denberg about her departure, about her post-Chronicle future and about one of her favorite moments as the head of the AMA’s: Bruce Springsteen’s surprise performance at the ceremony’s 30th anniversary, just two years before she left.

“You know, it's hard to beat the Boss coming in standing up with all of our locals,” she said. “Because that was the affirmation that what we did was right.”

Moser died at her home in San Antonio on Friday night. 

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