Rag Radio: Famed Armadillo Artist Jim Franklin & Writer Alice Embree: Remembering ‘The Rag’ as It Turns 50!

Celebrating Austin's Legendary Underground Newspaper

Jim Franklin

Our guests, famed armadillo artist Jim Franklin, and writer and longtime peace and justice activist Alice Embree are both veterans of Austin’s historic ’60s-’70s underground newspaper, The Rag — the paper that made Austin weird as is Rag Radio host Thorne Dreyer, who was the paper’s original “funnel” (non-authoritarian editor!).

The Rag — which has seen digital-age rebirth in The Rag Blog and Rag Radio is being honored with a “50th Anniversary Reunion and Public Celebration” at multiple venues in Austin on October 13-16. (The slogan: “50 Years and Still Raising Hell!”) Find details about the big happenings here: http://www.theragblog.com/.

Rag cover by Jim Franklin.

Published from 1966 to 1977, The Rag was one of the first, longest-lasting, and most influential of the ’60s-era underground newspapers, and is credited with playing a major role in making Austin weird. Historian Laurence Leamer cited The Rag as “one of the few legendary undergrounds” and the Austin Chronicle‘s Kevin Brass called the paper “a firebrand little troublemaker” that was “a seminal influence in the national underground press movement.”

Called the “Michelangelo of armadillo art,” surrealist graphic artist Jim Franklin almost single-handedly transformed the lowly armadillo into a symbol for the Texas counterculture. According to Robert Lemmo of High Times, Franklin “catapulted to countercultural fame when his obsessively detailed and surrealistic armadillos began to fill the pages of an underground weekly called The Rag. The armadillo became a folk hero the likes of which hadn’t been seen in Texas since Davy Crockett days.” Also an accomplished painter who studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, Jim helped found Vulcan Gas Company, Austin’s first psychedelic/roots music hall, and was later resident artist and emcee (in wild costumes) at the famed rock venue, Armadillo World Headquarters. Shelton’s armadillo art graced many a Rag cover during the papers’ 11-year run.

Longtime peace and justice activist Alice Embree was a founder of The Rag in 1966, and worked with the paper during much of its life. Alice was also a contributor to Sisterhood is Powerful, a 1970 anthology of writings about women’s liberation, and was a founder of Red River Women’s Press in Austin. She later served as a strategic planner for the Texas child support program. Alice is associate editor at The Rag Blog, is a director of the New Journalism Project, and was an editor and publisher of the new book, Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Paper.

ragradio250x250Rag 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 host and producer of Rag Radio, Thorne Dreyer, is a prominent Austin-based activist and writer who was a pioneer of the ’60s underground press movement. The show’s engineer and co-producer is Tracey Schulz and the staff photographer is Roger Baker. The syndicated show is broadcast (and streamed) live Fridays, 2-3 p.m. (Central) on KOOP in Austin, is streamed live at Radio Free America, and is later rebroadcast and streamed on WFTE-FM in Mt. Cobb and Scranton, PA., on Houston Pacifica’s KPFT HD-3 90.1-FM, and by KKRN, 88.5-FM in Round Mountain, CA — and is a featured podcast at VT. All Rag Radio podcasts can be found at the Internet Archive. Contact: ragradio@koop.org.


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