Henry Gonzalez 1951-2016
South Pop: Armadillo Art Squad
“SouthPop founder and father, Henry Gonzalez. The unoffical mayor of South Austin… the keeper and sharer of the stories that make Austin great.”
Henry Gonzalez was born into a South Texas family of graphic artists and has studied art at some of the best state universities in Texas. Primarily known for his murals and outdoor art installations, since 1972 he was part of the Armadillo Art Squad at the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters- a group of young artists who created all the posters, handbills and print ads that promoted the performances at the club. After the club closed, Henry spent time as the stage manager for the Austin Opera House and for the AFM free concert series.
He continued to create artwork and worked in a production capacity on the road with touring bands until 2004 when the South Austin Popular Culture Center was founded. Since that time he has been the Facility Manager, overseeing the building, hanging the exhibits and acting as exhibit guide. His year-round project is the Memorial Wall that includes photographs of people who have had an impact on Austin culture and have passed away. The project culminates each October 30th with a Dia De Los Muertos celebration at the Center.
Formerly: “South Austin Museum of Popular Culture” (Video)
We encourage all of Henry’s fans and friends to come by the Center and enjoy his beautiful work in this beautiful weather. It’s a day Henry would have definitely spent outside hard at work creating sculptures and murals for you all to enjoy. On our memorial wall, a special tribute has sprung up, and we look forward to seeing it grow over the next few days until we can get something more permanent put together.
Thank you all for your kind words and support during this time. It means so much to us and his family to hear good stories from the community Henry kept alive all these years. Please keep them coming!
“Great Musician, Greater Artist, Greatest Friend to All. Now Resides on His Own Wall. We’ll Miss You. R.I.P.”
Henry Gonzalez 1951-2016
“Henry Gonzalez might have died in November 1975 outside the Armadillo World Headquarters. The stocky young employee had bounced a belligerent patron from the ‘Dillo who then swore to return and kill him. Late that night, the stranger reappeared with a gun – ready, aim, fire – but the bullet missed Gonzalez and swiftly ended the life of his friend and fellow poster artist Ken Featherston.
Gonzalez lived another 41 years, until Monday when he died of cancer after a two-year bout of illness. He was 65 and had dedicated his life to Austin’s music and art culture as a muralist, poster artist, and jack-of-all-trades in the concert production world – including stage manager of the Austin Opera House.
“I’ve been a hired gun for pretty much all the big shows since the early Seventies,” Gonzalez told the Chronicle last May. “My forte was stage – setting up the frontlines, all the equipment, lighting, special effects.”
Gonzalez worked Stevie Ray Vaughan‘s final tour. After the six-string superstar perished in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin, Henry was tasked with driving his friend’s gear back to Austin.
“I was driving the van with Stevie’s guitar across the country and on every radio station they were playing his music. I couldn’t stop crying,” Gonzalez once confided.
Gonzalez came to Austin from South Texas with his sweetheart Leea Mechling, and both became essential characters in the Armadillo crew. ‘Dillo owner Eddie Wilson called him the “backbone of the Armadillo Art Squad,” and Uranium Savages frontman and painting peer Kerry Awn cited his friend’s geniality.
“Henry was our scene’s ‘Mexican.’ I mean that in the highest form of praise I can muster,” wrote Awn. “He did the ‘shit’ work – the labor, the behind-the-scenes work that most would never do. He got in there and got his hands dirty and his clothes splattered with paint and his body cut and bruised from physical labor. He was there to serve in his quiet, humble, happy-go-lucky attitude.”
Gonzalez’s final gig was gatekeeper of Austin history at the South Austin Popular Culture Center on South Lamar, where in addition to drawing armadillos and guarding the existential secrets of sacred number “709,” his duties included maintaining a vast altar to Austin’s departed musicians and artists.
No one deserves placement on that wall more than Henry Gonzalez.”