Truly one of Texas own, the passing of Junior Medlow was merely the exclamation point at the end of a lifelong shout of joy. His long musical career had a powerful influence on Texas music, including Chris Duarte and John Jordan. Junior was as real as it gets, and then some!
In August of 1953, Larry Medlow Williams, Jr,. was born in Lubbock, the panhandle of Texas. Larry was always active in the church and Gospel music was a major influence growing up. He played for many years in the late 60s and moved to Austin in 1973 to pursue his musical career. He played in a band called Showdown and after a few years joined the Cobras, one of Austins most influential bands. The Cobras pre-dated the Fabulous Thunderbirds with their cookin R&B. Stevie Ray Vaughan was a member of the band when Paul Ray was the lead vocalist in the mid-70s. When Paul Ray had to leave the group, Stevie struck out on his own, too. The Cobras regrouped with Denny Freeman on guitar and Junior Medlow on vocals and rhythm guitar. Stevie Ray opened many shows for the Cobras. Junior Medlow was with them from 1978-84.
Theres a very rare mini-LP of the Cobras called Caught Live on Big Money Records. Recorded at the Continental Club, it has two elements that were always present in every band Medlow was in: a red-hot guitarist and a tough horn section. After the break-up of the Cobras in 1984, Medlow went back to Lubbock for awhile.
Juniors passion for music brought him back to Austin in 1986. During that time, Chris Duarte had struck out on his own with his group The Bad Boys. With Jeff Hodges on drums, Paul Babb on bass, Sandy Allen on keyboards and Chris, The Bad Boys had made quite a name for themselves in Austin. One night at The Black Cat Lounge, Junior Medlow stopped by to check them out. He was really impressed by Chriss authenticity and soul. The two of them ended up jamming together and things really clicked. Some local promoters had scraped up some money to make an album of The Bad Boys. Recording was at SRS Studios in the summer of 86. Chris asked Junior to sit in on some cuts. The chemistry was there. The Bad Boys were the perfect band for Junior Medlow. Well known from his Cobra days, by the end of 1986 he had joined the band where it became Junior Medlow and The Bad Boys. They quickly tore up Austin and became the baddest band in town, winning the Austin Chronicle Music Awards several years in a row.
A Jr. Medlow & The Bad Boys show was a real rollercoaster ride through several styles of music. Larry Medlow came from the great tradition of Black American music, combining his soul, blues, funk, and gospel influences with his own experiences to create a unique style of high-energy, soulful R&B. He also wrote many great songs during this time which became Bad Boys standards. The Bad Boys would open with some jazz or a killer shuffle, then Junior would hit the stage and lay down blues, soul, or funk. Chriss guitar solos would veer off into shades of jazz, brush up against Hendrix or stop you with the blues. Songs like Mannish Boy or Juniors You Really Make Me Happy could often stretch out for ten minutes or more. When Donny Silverman or Alex Coke joined in on horns it was fully-loaded! By 1988 John Jordan was also in the band. Jr. Medlow & The Bad Boys played until early 1990, when a variety of reasons caused the group to go their own ways. Junior wanted to take a more pumped-up horns approach and Chris wanted to strike out on his own. They remained close friends always after that.
Junior went back to Lubbock and created Tornado Alley. With Dave Hale on guitar and a 3-piece horn section to boot, Junior pursued his funked-up, rhythmic soul. Larry came closer to God after moving home and incorporated His positive energy into the music even more.
In 1993, longtime fan and friend Tom McMickle got the money together to record an album of Junior Medlow material. Called Thrill For Thrill, it is sadly, other than the Cobras mini-LP and a couple live cuts on a rare Local Licks Live album, the only official release of him. It is a fantastic recording and features Chris Duarte sitting in on one cut. Throughout this time he kept performing with the same boundless spiritual energy that he always had. He often sat in with the Chris Duarte Group when they played in the Lubbock/Abilene area. The audiences were treated to some very hot sets as Medlow would do stuff from The Bad Boys days. He and his band, Tornado Alley, also went to Europe and performed at blues festivals.
It was in June of 1994 that Medlow was diagnosed with lung cancer. That didnt stop him from performing in the slightest. He continued to perform all the way to the end, always with a positive outlook and big heart. By 1997 the cancer had spread. He still performed when he had the energy, sitting in with the Chris Duarte Group in February down in Buffalo Gap, Texas. Chris played him a rough mix of Cleopatra which pleased Junior to no end. This song is one of Jr. Medlows best and really kick-starts the new CDG album!.
Larry Medlow Williams, Jr. passed away peacefully in his sleep on April 17, 1997. Chris was one of the pallbearers at his funeral. The services at Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in Lubbock were a joyous send-off, with no less than five Reverends, a gospel choir and so many friends and family that not everyone could fit into the church.
Junior Medlow was such a talent and its a great loss that he wasnt recorded more than he was. His music always makes me smile when I hear it. It was with Junior Medlow & The Bad Boys that I first heard a searing new guitar player named Chris Duarte, for which Ill always be grateful to Junior for.