Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Go ahead and rip up that order. He won't be able to afford it."

Stevie Ray Vaughan's mother, calling on his behalf, phoned Manny Gammage to let him know.

Before the record deals, the Rolling Stone write-ups, the half-dozen Grammys - Vaughan was just a seventeen year-old kid who wanted a fancy cowboy hat.

Gammage's wife, Norma, knew that.

Instead of trashing the ticket she'd just penned, she operated on stubborn faith.

And a young Vaughan, his first hand-crafted high-roller in hand, found a special message stamped inside...

 Made especially for SRV.

The gesture wasn't buried in Vaughan's memory, or his fame.

Nearly two decades later (and two months before his untimely passing), he'd tell Leno - and the world -  about Manny Gammage and his custom cappers.

Manny's youngest daughter, Joella Gammage Torres, recalls that story with particular pride. Though celebrities and politicians are a dime a dozen at Texas Hatters.

The walls, drenched in proof, do the bragging... Ronald Reagan. Robert Duvall. Penelope Cruz. Hank Williams, Jr. Willie Nelson. George H. George W. Chuck Norris. Colt McCoy.

Her father's apprentice until his passing in 1995, Joella now runs the family business alongside her husband, David, and son, Joel. Sewing, cutting, steaming, shaping. Second-nature for the third generation master-hatter, who's as quick to whip out nicknames as she is a tape measure.

"Seven and a quarter? Long Oval. Six and seven-eigths... that'd make you Skinny Egg. My son, oh, at least you don't have his! He's Bullet Head." 

It's had a few different names, moved a few different places... Pasadena to Buda. Austin to Abilene.

"You're never gonna move outside of Texas, Dad. So why don't you just call it Texas Hatters and you'll never have to change it again." 

One savvy piece of advice and ninety-something years later, this hatting legend - now right off Hwy 183 in Lockhart - remains a Lone Star treasure. And should be for generations to come, says Joella. The Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise too high. A Gammage family mantra. 

1 comment:

  1. Brooke! You are such a great writer! Keep it up. Miss ya!