Shaidri was born in Austin, Texas, and grew up in a small town in the mountains of northern California. Never aspiring to be one of the cool kids, she began studying classical violin when she was three. She loved nothing more as a child than to learn every song on an old bluegrass album. She spent her teenage years singing with a women’s a capella Celtic quartet (getting invaluable experience with four-part harmonies). Her restless nature has had her working on tour boats in Alaska, tending bar and working at racetracks in Kentucky, and going from summers in Hawaii to winters in Colorado – always bringing her fiddle and guitar along for the ride. She found her way back to Austin in search of warmer weather and the chance to play more music.
“I started playing classical violin at three as part of my ongoing childhood mission to do everything my big sister did. I branched out to old-timey fiddle tunes at six, and subsequently did some fiddle contests and performances with big sister Mylie. I started playing guitar when I was sixteen when I realized that I would not always have the benefit of my father to play backup for me. I took piano lessons for a year or so but then realized they do not travel well. So I put off my piano education until I stopped moving to a different state every six months. I’ve played and sung in a gospel group in Kentucky, a country band in Hawaii, and with whatever was going on wherever I happened to be. I have always felt that music is what makes life worthwhile, and I can live off a good song for at least a week. There’s probably more I could say, but unfortunately my parents let me study whatever I wanted as a child and I spent all my time learning aforementioned folk music and little of it writing.”
Shaidri is also Vice President of Operations for Go Dance!, the finest social dance instruction studio in Austin, Texas.
Hank was born at a very young age in Riverside, California, where his parents had a forty-acre spread of irrigated pastureland surrounded by burgeoning suburbia. When he was ten years old the city usurped that property via imminent domain and the agricultural acreage gave way to a new grade school for suburban children. Hank’s family moved north in the Central Valley, settling on a thousand acres outside of Lincoln CA. He enjoyed a lot of freedom to roam across ranch land in that region, setting in place his life-long appreciation for rural settings and rural life.
Heading into his freshman year of high school Hank asked his folks for a guitar for his upcoming birthday. The Kingston Trio and Elvis Presley were all over entertainment and news media, stimulating music was flowing from the radios, and like many youngsters, Hank thought all that looked pretty exciting.
“We went to Sears Roebuck and bought a dark sunburst Silvertone flat top with chipboard case for $29.95. I think the model name was “Deadknot”. It sounded like some amalgam of cardboard and Chiclets, and you could slide a finger between the strings and the fingerboard without losing flesh. (Tell you what: cheap guitars today are a lot better than they used to be.) Mom said I’d never learn to play it. I’m still trying to prove her wrong.”
By 1962 he had a much better guitar, a Gibson SJN, and during that summer before his senior year he found employment as the resident folksinger at a Lake Tahoe coffeehouse. The job description was to perform six sets a night, seven nights a week, for over eleven weeks.
“That proved a strenuous but appropriate introduction to the performing side of the music business. I lost weight that summer. But I also learned a lot. Wish I could remember what it was!”
Post high school Hank began studies at Dartmouth College. He didn’t do all that well. With no clear idea of what he wanted to do he kept being distracted from his intended studies by music. His record collection was growing, in many directions. He’d heard Doc Watson on Dartmouth’s campus station, and all of a sudden folk music had gotten a lot deeper.
Fate would intervene in the spring of 1965 with an automobile wreck. Injuries prevented him from returning for the spring trimester, and while healing he contemplated his direction. Meanwhile, Uncle Sam would surreptitiously and immediately begin plotting Hank’s short term future.
In June of 1966 he arrived at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, to begin his two-year shift in the US Army, eventually to be trained as an Emergency X-Ray Technician. With his wife at that time, Diana, a fine singer and musician, he performed at local venues and private parties, on local radio and TV, and in the forefront of war resistance gatherings.
He purchased a reel-to-reel tape recorder and a couple of microphones, and began learning about audio recording, which led to an interest in music production. Upon discharge from the Army in 1968, he began to record others both live and in a music room at home. By 1970 Hank had a pair of ReVox stereo recorders, a handful of mics, a primitive Altec mixer, and a reasonably portable monitoring system. People were beginning to ask him to produce their recordings.
His house in San Antonio had become an energetic cultural center, inhabited by musicians, poets, painters, sculptors, and dancers. It was often home to Mance Lipscomb, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and others when they played in that wonderful city.
A small roots music scene began to develop around Monday night music sessions, eventually giving birth to Tiger Balm, a band that defined eclectic. Seven band members with thirty-plus instruments would journey through string band, jug band, bluegrass, country, swing, blues, and rock music in the course of a performance. Though defying typical music business marketing principles, Tiger Balm began to develop a following in central Texas. The band was irreverent but polite, and its bizarrely broad repertoire meant there was something on the menu for nearly any musical taste.
“People seemed to have a lot of fun at Tiger Balm shows. Our inherent goofiness often proved distracting enough for us to get away with some unusual presentations. Imagine me with a beard and long hair, wearing sandals with Dayglo socks, one orange, one lime green, a gaudy paisley cowboy shirt, standing in the sun on a flatbed truck earnestly singing a jugband version of ‘Okie from Muskogee’ to a crowd that was mostly Texas rednecks, getting solid applause all around, and living to tell you this.”
Hank recorded nearly every Tiger Balm performance, and post-gig, most of the band members would gather to critique their night’s work. In early 1971 he would engineer and co-produce the demos that led to Kinky Friedman’s major label contract, with Tiger Balm, billed as The Texas Jewboys, providing the core of musical support.
Live music kept bringing Hank to Austin, to the 11th Door, the Vulcan Gas Company, and concerts at the Municipal Auditorium. Kenneth Threadgill, Mance Lipscomb, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Shiva’s Head Band, Johnny Winter, Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth, Robert Shaw, Miles Davis, and many others made the drive worthwhile.
In the fall of 1970 Tiger Balm banjoist Bill Brooks, who had moved to Austin to attend UT, stopped by the new successor to the Vulcan Gas Company, Armadillo World Headquarters, with a live Tiger Balm demo tape. A few days later Eddie Wilson and Bobby Hedderman booked the band to open the first-ever New Year’s Eve celebration at AWHQ. The gig was a three-night run, and Tiger Balm was received with fervor every night. Eddie Wilson took a liking to the band, booking it to open Shiva’s Head Band shows around south and central Texas. Things were going swimmingly until late summer, when the band decided to take a break, which became dissolution, its members heading different directions.
In early 1972 Hank was traveling in British Columbia when he learned Shiva’s Head Band was looking for a new guitarist. He wrote Wilson offering his services, unaware that Eddie no longer managed the band. Eddie gave the letter to leader Spencer Perskin who invited Hank to come to Austin and join the band. Some things work better in theory than in practice, and Hank’s tenure with Shiva’s was short, roughly six weeks. But he was hooked on Austin, and would in time perform with Balcones Fault, Diamond Rio, Cedar Frost, and the Armadillo Stars, and build the recording studio Onion Audio inside AWHQ. In November of 1976 he took over the reins from Eddie Wilson as general manager of Armadillo World Headquarters.
The famous concert hall was struggling for its life, powered only by shoulder-to-the-wheel diehards who would eventually find themselves thirteen weekly paychecks behind. Hank led the team that gradually nurtured the world famous concert hall back to health, working through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and in the process putting Austin, Texas on the international live music map. Long term success seemed within reach when in 1980 the landlord reneged on his verbal promise of right of first refusal to allow Armadillo to make a matching offer should he ever wish to sell the property.
“That was painful. We’d been promised a shot at it if the deal came down, but the deal was done by the time we learned of it.”
The wrecking ball claimed the concert hall in early 1981, and in 1983 Hank and his current wife, Lanis, and their children left Austin’s quickening urban environment for Plumas County in the mountains of northeastern California. He and Lanis home-schooled the kids, while Hank offered audio recording, music production and sound reinforcement services, in addition to performing solo and in a variety of ensembles.
In 2002 Hank’s daughter Mylie, proprietor of Go Dance!, Austin’s premier dance studio, asked him to handle sound for the studio’s showcase events. This sparked biannual trips to Austin, which brought Hank back together with Eddie Wilson, now the successful patriarch of Threadgill’s restaurants. Their collaboration continues on many fronts. In context, Eddie gave Hank & Shaidri their first Austin booking in June of 2008.
In 2010 Bruce Willenzik, proprietor of The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, engaged Hank to consult regarding production of the music portion of this internationally respected arts, crafts, and music festival. That work continues to bring improvements noticeable both to audiences and performers, and Hank is now Production Director for the music component of the Bazaar.
Hank splits his time between his mountain home and his musical home, playing solo and with the swing trio Now & Then around northeastern California, and performing with Shaidri in and out of Austin. He continues his consulting work, and is looking for artists with whom to work as producer.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with artists in the studio, particularly advocating for them to be able to make the recording they want while encouraging them to strive for their very best delivery. That kind of work is mutually satisfying on many levels.”