AD: So Miss Lavelle, how did you get your start in the music business?
LW: I came to Houston in the mid 1950s when I was about thirteen years old. I had started singing spirituals in my church. Well, I was singing spirituals ever since I was about ten or twelve years old. I came to Houston. I got with some bands like
Clarence Hollimon and his brother and some more people around in Houston. And I started trying to sing because I wasn’t singing. I couldn’t carry a tune in a paper bag. Everybody would laugh at me. “Get on out. You can’t sing. You ain’t ever gonna be nothin’.” But I kept on going. I kept on going. When I got about sixteen or seventeen years old, I started singing with Johnny Copeland. I know you’ve heard of him. This is where I got my start. So I started going out of town with him. I wrote a song called, “If I Could Be With You” and he liked it so well that he had taken it to
Don Robey at Duke Records. And they liked it, so I recorded that and I had to get something else to go with it, so I went and wrote some more songs. And I also wrote “Lead Me On” for Bobby Bland. But I sold it for $100, but it’s back to me now. And it started that way. I recorded two songs on 45’s. They did pretty good. So I went on the road with B.B. King. After I came back, I went to Atlanta, Georgia. And I worked in
the Royal Peacock with people like the Isley Brothers, James Brown, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, and all these people I could tell you, but that’s enough right
there. So after that, I came back to Houston and I stayed about four or five years, then I moved to Austin. Just out of a clear blue sky, I moved to Austin. Then I moved back to Houston. Then they called me to record for Antones in l992. And that’s how they started. Clifford Antone, he had a club downtown at that time, so I came to Austin and started working for him. It did pretty good. My first CD for him was Miss Lavelle. The thing about it is, he did a whole lot to help me, you know what I mean, Clifford did. Clifford Antone did a whole lot to help me. It’s like everybody knows Clifford Antone. When he had that club downtown on Sixth Street, way down there, it was really great. Everybody, Angela Strehli, Lou Ann Barton, everybody was there. It was really great. Then I moved back to Houston again. And then I moved back and this is the second scene. I moved back here. I got a booking agent and a manager here. All the stuff that I did was all organized for me to move back here, so that’s why I’m here. And ever since then, I’ve been recording for Antones. But then I did this last CD, “Into The Mystic,” that was the last one for them. I’m working around Austin and different places. I’ve been to Paris and Greece and Oslo. All overseas.
AD: They loved you in Paris. We read about the President really digging you.
LW: You did? The Mayor? Yeah, the Mayor of Paris. I got the Otis Redding award. I got that award in Paris. That was a great thing. So since then, I’ve gotten a lot of awards. I got the Hall of Fame here in Austin. You know, a whole lot of stuff. And I’m loving what I’m doing, you know what I mean? And I appreciate you taking time to come and think of me and put me in your paper.
AD: It’s not every day that we get to talk to a legend.
LW: You are wonderful people and that’s all I can say. You are just marvelous and I love you.
AD: What is the most important or stand out thing that you’ve learned in the music business over the years?
LW: What I’ve really learned in the music business is to try to keep yourself going first. Just trust in God. Try to keep yourself going. I’m a writer, too, you know. It’s important to keep writing all the time as well as sing. Another thing is your audience and your fans. I just appreciate them so much and I just want to tell them I love them to death. You know, they are so good and so loyal to me. They come to see me wherever I am and it’s so beautiful. The main thing is to learn how to treat people. The main thing is appealing to the audiences and singing to the audiences, not for yourself. Letting them know you love them and getting things out there that they will like to come to see you. You have to keep pushing. You’ve got to keep getting things out there that’s really something that they’re going to pay attention to. They’re going to come see you for that particular thing that you do. They love that. Over and over, they’re going to come back to see you again. Because they like that one particular thing. And the main thing about it too is that you have to love everybody, regardless of what. And I do love everybody, I do. I love everybody no matter what. And you know, I feel bad about some of the things that happen to some of us black musicians here. We do not get the attention that we need from the club owners and from people that are over the music here in Austin. We need a little more concern, we need a little more respect. Yeah, I’m a legend. And I appreciate everybody at Saxon Pub because everybody there likes me. They would give me a gig in a moment. I just respect them for that and I love the atmosphere of the club. But it’s just some clubs, it’s like they don’t like me or something. It’s like it’s something that I did to them, and I haven’t done anything to anybody. I respect them. I call and it’s like so and so ain’t here or we’re booked up or whatever. It really hurts me because I’m treated like that. They’re looking over me. I’m nothing. And I’m supposed to be a legend, but they walk over me like I’m not there. And I’m not the only one that they’re walking over. There are a lot of black people that they’re walking over. And they should just take heed and not walk over us when they’re paying attention to everybody else but us. We are the ones that started the thing, got the thing going. And I love all music. You understand what I’m saying? I love all music. And I think that we are not getting the right recognition that we should get. We’re not being recognized. I’m not, a lot more people, are not being recognized because we are black.
AD: It’s beautiful how with the adversity and trouble, you’ve still become a legend here in town. You still do what you do. We respect that completely. Regardless of all the obstacles you’ve been able to face, you’ve still come out ahead and above, which is remarkable. We see that, too. Facing the obstacles makes us better and stronger. It’s beautiful.
LW: I know you face obstacles. It makes you stronger. It does. It’s an odd thing that happened to me. I don’t try to take anything from anybody. Somebody’s always trying to take something away from me. I don’t know why. Why you want to take something away from me? Why you want to do that? This was God given. God gave this to me. I know some people hate me for no reason at all, for maybe a word that I said in my song, for maybe a song I sang, they think I’m talking about them. I don’t be thinking about them. I’m writing a song to my feelings, for healing my hurt, for healing my heart, maybe for something that somebody did to me years ago.
AD: What do you think about the changes you’ve seen here in Austin? I’m sure you’ve seen it change a lot over the years. What do you think about that?
LW: I think it’s a big change here in Austin. I think everything here has changed in Austin. Austin isn’t like it used to be. It’s a good city, but it’s not as great as it used to be. I like Austin, but it’s just not like it used to be. The music scene has changed. There are not too many music houses to play. There’s a lot of confusion going on. The technological world has made it get lost. It’s not what it used to be. I’m hoping it will come back to what it used to be. Somebody was saying about three and a half years ago that I was singing too much blues. They didn’t want to come and see me because I was singing too many blues. So, oh well. I laughed. And they want to stick my age up in my face. That I’m too old to do this, I’m too old to do that. All they want to do is to talk about how old I am. And they want to do this to bring me down. I’m a lover of Austin. I’m a lover of what’s going on with the world and everything. All I’m going to do is to do the best I can and keep being strong. I love my fans and my friends here. I’ve got some good friends here. I love where I live and my surroundings. You’re protected here. That’s one thing I like. I like the feeling of people taking care of the city. I appreciate the hospitals and the doctors. There are really some good doctors here. Thanks to everybody who are trying to do what they can for the older people.
AD: What advice would you give musicians just starting out?
LW: I would give them three or four different advices. First of all, don’t use drugs. Don’t get mixed up in the drug scene. And the second thing is to keep on pushing, keep on going and don’t let nothing stop you. Don’t let nothing stand in your way. Keep going and try to keep your mind straight. Keep playing and keep
pushing and you’re going to make it. That’s it. That is it. And be strong.
AD: What can we expect next from Lavelle White?
LW: Well, I’m looking for a new recording company to record for. I have a lot of new stuff that I’ve written. I have a lot of stuff that I didn’t get on this last CD that I did, “Into the Mystic.” I’ve got a lot of stuff written by me that they didn’t put on there, a lot of stuff that no one else has ever heard that I’ve written. I’ve got a lot of music. A lot of stuff. Because I’m somebody that writes every day, every week some words come to me and I write them down. I keep going. I keep my mind open to the next door that might be open and knock on it for the opportunity that I know is going to come and wait for that opportunity. Because everybody has got to wait for the opportunity. The world is made in a revolving situation. It goes around just like this cup is right here. And when your time comes and you can do what you want to do, it’s going to stop and you’re going to do that. And this is what we’ve got to realize. You can’t push and rush anything. Sometimes you’ve just got to stop and let it happen, you know. You’ve got to let it happen. And this is it. All you’ve got to do is be strong and say, hey, think positive. I know it’s going to happen for me, but when? I’m going to try and wait and see. That’s it.
AD: Is there anything else that you want to add?
LW: I want to say to all of the musicians here and everybody, hey guys, I love you, and I love my band and everything. And I want to say to all of my fans, I love you and I’ll never let you down. I know you ain’t going to let me down. Make sure you always think of me. And I think of you. And God bless. Love you. *