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Austin taps Roky Erickson as first ‘music ambassador’

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Austin, the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World,” now has an ambassador to sing the city’s praises.

The City of Austin’s music promotion arm has named psychedelic rock pioneer Roky (pronounced “rocky”) Erickson as its first “music ambassador.” Mayor Lee Leffingwell said Erickson “will promote Austin’s local talent to markets around the world.”

The announcement of Erickson’s appointment came just before the start of this year’s South by Southwest interactive, music and film festival in Austin.

Erickson’s first assignment as music ambassador: Headlining a music festival in Adelaide, Australia, one of Austin’s sister cities. He also is set to perform in three other cities in Australia: Meredith, Melbourne and Marrickville. He’s scheduled to return to Austin during SXSW for a show March 16 at Threadgill’s, just south of downtown Austin.

Erickson is part of the city’s Creative Ambassadors Program. The program designates Austin artists who travel overseas, either independently or on city-sponsored trips, to tout the city’s creative culture.

The 64-year-old musician founded the 13th Floor Elevators in the 1960s and influenced many artists with his groundbreaking psychedelic rock music.

Erickson’s current concert tour with son Jegar is supposed to be part of a documentary titled “Two-Headed Dog.” The 2005 documentary “You’re Gonna Miss Me” chronicled Erickson’s rise as a musician and his fall as a human, including his 1969 bust for marijuana possession and his stints in mental hospitals.

As described by IMDb.com, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” details Erickson’s status “as a psychedelic hero, his lengthy institutionalization, his descent into poverty and filth, and his brother’s struggle with their religious mother to improve Roky’s care.”

Erickson vanished from the music scene for many years but gradually bounced back. In 2010, Erickson released the album “True Love Cast Out All Evil.”

In a recent piece published by the Dallas Observer, former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins lauded Erickson. He wrote that Erickson’s “genius is of the rare and somewhat frightening type. His music is some of the most beautiful and haunting you will ever hear. His voice is like no one else’s anywhere.”

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