How the “Lee Park Massacre” launched Steve Brooks’ career as a graphic designer from Willie Nelson
Illustration by Steve Brooks
TThe Lee Park “massacre” launched Steve Brooks’ career.
Brooks, who grew up in Oak Cliff and now lives in Kessler Park, was still a student at present-day University of North Texas in April 1970 when he made a poster to commemorate the clash between “hippies” and the police. during an afternoon concert. which resulted in dozens of arrests.
His poster caught the attention of Jerry Schultz, the owner of Gaz Pipe, who hired him to do art and advertise his business. Soon after, a Dallas advertising agency hired him as an art director.
âI decided that I didn’t need to be a student anymore since they appointed me art director,â he says. “But it was short-lived because they went bankrupt a few months later.”
He eventually graduated, but not before landing a job as an artist for Concerts West and starting his own business, S. Brooks Graphics, in the summer of 1971.
Brooks produced hundreds of posters and flyers for concerts at a time when all the great rock’n’roll bands had to play in Dallas because it was a hub of the vinyl record industry for all. South West.
Concerts West, which still exists within AEG, closed its Dallas office a few years later, but by then Willie Nelson was calling on Brooks. He had also seen the Lee Park massacre poster. From 1974, Willie Nelson and The Family became Brooks’ biggest customer.
One of the first jobs he did for Willie’s company, Me and Paul Productions, was a minimalist poster for the 4th of July picnic in Dripping Springs, featuring a pair of spurred sneakers.
Brooks designed the Willie logos, personal stationery, tour passes, ID cards, advertisements, posters and basically anything that said Willie Nelson on them in addition to an album art for years. years. He spent several months in Austin filming Pink Honeysuckle, and he made all the props with Buck Bonham’s name on it for that 1980 movie, including the bus, the T-shirts, and the posters.
âThese were some of the best times of my life working on this movie,â he says.
He traveled to Colorado with the group The Family around the same time and painted a teepee for Willie.
âWillie Nelson was awesome,â says Brooks. âHe always paid cash out of his pocket.
His boss at Me and Paul Productions was Paul English, Willie’s drummer and protector who ran most of the business for about 50 years. English, who lived in Dallas for about 40 years when he was not on the road, died in February 2020.
âHe was a real gentleman,â said Brooks. âI miss him terribly. “
Besides his work for the preeminent Texas singer, Brooks has also made a place for himself in Dallas history with his work in Buddy Magazine and The Iconoclast, two publications founded by Brent Lasalle Stein, aka Stoney Burns.
For the early 1970s alternative newspaper The Iconoclast, Brooks drew âhippie stuff,â he says. âBlack and white cartoons. Sometimes advertisements for customers.
Buddy started in 1973 and Burns ended up catching court system hell for his journalism, but that’s a different story. He died in 2011.
Brooks says Buddy, a publication that still exists, was a great place to work because it was like working for The Rolling Stone of Texas in the ’70s.
âHe was a real character,â Brooks says of Burns. “Kind of like a Hunter Thompson, but much more tame.”
Musicians and people in the music industry were passing by all the time, “and we had a really good party,” he says. “It was a good time.”
Brooks is now retired, but he still works for Gas Pipe, which he says has been one of his best customers over the years. He created the logo and signage and all the advertising you’ve ever seen for it.
He donated some of his work to UNT Libraries, which has a collection in his name. And he completes his retirement by selling part of his personal stash to serious Willie Nelson collectors.
Brooks graduated from Sunset High School in 1967. He and his wife Deborah have a grown son, Bryan. Brooks’ father, LaVere Brooks, was an architect who designed several homes and commercial buildings in our neighborhood.
He says he owes his career to Gas Pipe and Willie Nelson, and he is grateful to both of them.
âThe two major players in my life as an artist,â he says.