Famous TX country singer, songwriter dies in freak hunting accident

Photography by George Brainard, Austin, TX
Monday, January 20, 2014 - 7:45pm

A Texas country music singer has died after a freak accident during a hunting trip in Eldorado, Texas.

According to the The Schleicher County Sheriff's Office, musician Steven Fromholz was killed Monday after a gun fell out of an unzipped rifle case, hitting the ground, shooting Fromholz.

The following is from his website:

Why is a poet/songwriter,/entertainer/musician/humorist with a last name of “Fromholz”synonymous with the State of Texas? As one Austin reporter put it: “Fromholz was the only one of the ‘Outlaws" that remained in Texas when the great 'Progressive Country Scare’ was over; he’s as well known to Texans as Barton Springs is to Austin – and been here nearly as long!”

Steven John Fromholz was born in Temple, Texas, June 8, 1945, to Lt. Col. and Mrs. A.A. Fromholz. After being discharged from the Army, his father worked for Ford Motor Company and the family was transferred often. When he was 10 years old his parents divorced and Steven and little brother, James, lived and attended school (for extended periods of time) with their widowed maternal grandmother, Hirstine “Granny” Hughes in Kopperl, Bosque County, Texas and their older sister, Angela (who was married and ranching in Bosque County, Texas). Those memories of small town, central Texas were the inspiration for Fromholz’ song The Texas Trilogy, long recognized as the most definitive song ever written about the State of Texas. Entertainer Lyle Lovett recorded the three-part saga on his CD Step Inside This House, a tribute CD to his favorite Texas songwriters. The poetry/writing style Fromholz exhibits in The Texas Trilogy is taught in many classrooms as being authentic, Texas poetry, both in style and content. He is often invited to speak to college groups and poetry societies, not only about The Texas Trilogy but other examples of his historically oriented writing, such as Man With the Big Hat and Last Living Outlaw.

Steven’s mother eventually settled with her sons in Denton, Texas, where Steven graduated from high school and attended North Texas State University. Thereafter a stint in the U.S. Navy sent him to the west coast where he began to write poetry, music, play clubs and subsequently launched his music career after finishing his day’s work for Uncle Sam. It’s said that Steven and long-time friend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott cut a wide swath in the west coast music scene in those days!

Steven married, his daughter, Darcie Jane was born and upon being discharged from the Navy Fromholz moved his young family briefly to Arizona. When his marriage ended in divorce Fromholz moved on to Colorado where he teamed up with Dan McCrimmon and the pair performed as “Frummox.” They released one album in 1969 on the ABC Probe Label titled Frummox Here to There – today a valuable vinyl collector’s item. The duo eventually went separate ways and Fromholz accepted Stephen Stills’ invitation to play guitar and sing backup with the group that became “Manassas” on a world tour.

When Rock ‘N Roll wore thin on Fromholz he briefly returned to Colorado, married again and headed home to Texas; settling in Austin where his second daughter, Felicity Rose Fromholz was born. Steven Fromholz literally became a Texas legend during the ensuing Austin years, not only for his songwriting, poetry and performing, but as a community activist. In 1993 he organized a peaceful mooning of the KKK which made headlines all over the world, became a standard for opponents of the Klan and has been repeated over and over in the ensuing years by many activist groups.

Steven and his good friend, the late Molly Ivins, gathered up a group of friends and camped out on the steps of the Texas State Capitol when the powers-that-be threatened to arrest the homeless street people of Austin who were sleeping under bridges. They staged a peaceful “sleep in” complete with little camp fires and their efforts were very effective. No one was arrested and the homeless, thereafter, were able to keep sleeping where ever they could find a place to "crash."

In the 1980’s Fromholz began entertaining on rafting trips in the Big Bend area of Texas, subsequently becoming a river guide, white water expert, First Responder and EMT. He “ran the Grande”(Colorado River/Grand Canyon) in 2000 which is the ultimate accomplishment for whitewater guides and in 2005 Paddler Magazine voted him one of the 10 Best River Guides in America.

In addition to whitewater trips he began hosting trail rides into Mexico; becoming the first “Singing Cowboy”for LaJitas Stables in Terlingua, Texas. A long-time member of the American Legion in Brewster County, Texas (Big Bend), Fromholz is well known as an advocate for Texas Parks & Wildlife and promotes their programs, facilities and projects at every opportunity.

During his 40+ year career, Fromholz has recorded for ABC Probe, Capitol Records, Tried & True Records, Willie Nelson’s Lone Star Label, his own Felicity Records Label. In November, 2011 he released his latest CD “Steven Fromholz’ Texas Trilogy Goes to G’Nashville” on his own Laughing Bear Entertainment label.

Among well known entertainers that have recorded songs written by Steven Fromholz are John Denver, Hoyt Axton, Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson. Nelson recorded Fromholz’ I’d Have To Be Crazy with Steven singing backup and the record went to No. 2 nationally, remaining on the Billboard Charts for 13 consecutive weeks and garnering the songwriter two double platinum records. Steven says the song was ” too weird” to make it to No. 1. In the 1980’s he and eleven other well known Texas musicians were appointed by the Governor of Texas to represent the state in promoting Texas Music to the world.

Fromholz has appeared in numerous movies including Outlaw Blues, Cloak and Dagger and co-starred in the thriller Positive ID. He has worked extensively in theatre including starring roles in The Night Hank Williams Died, Woody Guthrie’s American Dream, Sweeny Todd, A Little Night Music and Fiddler on the Roof. His performance in Fiddler On The Roof was reviewed by Texas Monthly as “a most unlikely but magnificent Tevye!” Steven also starred in Bosque County, Texas– a stage play he co-authored with Don Toner based on Fromholz’ epic song The Texas Trilogy.

Beyond music and poetry Fromholz is known for donating his time and energy to charitable organizations in Texas – particularly those benefiting children and the indigent. He is also a strong advocate for stroke/closed-head injury organizations and often speaks/performs to those groups offering encouragement, information and faith-based messages.
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Steven Fromholz was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame in March, 2003 – and suffered a massive stroke less than 30 days later. After a three-year recuperative period, during which time he again learned to walk, talk, play guitar, sing – and literally re-invented himself – he returned to writing music, poetry and entertaining publicly. His doctors have declared him “a walking miracle!” Exactly four years to the very day after the stroke, Fromholz stood in the State Capitol of Texas Chambers and was named Poet Laureate of his beloved State of Texas.

During his Poet Laureate tenure he traveled the entire State of Texas presenting a poetry and music program he designed titled “Steven Fromholz’ Texas Poet Laureate Words & Music Program for Texas School Children.” Children all over Texas gained a whole new perspective on poetry, literature, music and the arts.

Fromholz has two daughters, Darcy and Felicity and is grandfather to Felicity's son Zoe. He lives in West Texas where he ranches with his companion Susan, and says he’s finally found his peaceful, beautiful, contented niche in the world. He is the consummate poet/singer/songwriter/entertainer and the ultimate Texas gentleman; a proven example of hardcore Texas grit and beloved by fans from babies to great, great, grandparents.

Recognized as one of Texas’ most approachable celebrities he is often asked for career advice by young entertainers. Some of his best advice was typical, bottom-line, down-to-earth Fromholz: “When you’re on stage change feet often or your back’ll go out!” A fellow musician, in a recent interview with the press, said (when Steven Fromholz name came up) -- "Hell, Fromholz IS Texas," and there's lots of folks who'll agree with him!

It’s said one’s peers and the press are good barometers of the public’s attitude toward any performer and that being said the following quotes are the ultimate tribute to Steven Fromholz:

“The music is a melange of country and folk with tender qualities, standing clearly in the great tradition of people like the late Townes Van Zandt or Steven Fromholz. Both these names were doubtlessly among those who made the Texan Outlaw Music great in the first place.” –( From a review by Michael Gasser).

“A spare but full-bodied rendition of Steven Fromholz’ regional classic “Texas Trilogy,” kicks off the second disc of “Step Inside This House,” Lyle Lovett’s loving tribute to his Lone Star influences. And despite stiff competition from the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Vince Bell and Guy Clark, the three movement suite may well be the most majestic moment on an album full of them – just as the Lovett version of Fromholz’ “Bears” is the collection’s most playful diversion. The real item is also a study in contrasts: aside from his work as a singer/songwriter, the longtime Austinite is part-time actor and a rafting guide. As is the case for anyone who’s lived a little, the years haven’t always been easy on Fromholz, and the hard mileage can show on-stage. But, in the end, if the songs – and the stories that accompany them – are all he has to fall back on, then fair enough. They’re timeless!” – (Hobart Rowland/Houston Press.)

“A great performer, Fromholz always struck me as one of the most talented – if not ambitious – of the progressive country bunch. A brilliant songwriter (I’d Have to Be Crazy,” “Dear Darcy,” “Bears”) , Fromholz has led a life that is rich and worthy of study. A
songwriter, performer, storyteller, actor, white water rafting guide, Fromholz has spent a lifetime doing it his way!” – (Louis Black/ Austin Chronicle.)

Steven Fromholz picks and chooses his appearances now and is no longer constantly on the road as in years past. He actually declares himself "semi-retired" meaning he now does what he wants to when he wants to! He says contentment has come watching sunrises, sunsets and feeding a bunch of hungry cows the most expensive hay he’s ever seen or heard of (due to the droughts in Texas.)

If one were going to sum up the life and career of Steven Fromholz to a stranger at this particular point in time; an article in Rolling Stone Magazine wherein a writer reviews Fromholz’ appearance at The Bottom Line Club in New York City says it best:

“Michael Martin Murphy’s songs of life on the range went over far better with the Yankee audience than his cowboy
jokes did, but he did have the disadvantage of being behind rapscallion Steven Fromholz in the batting order. ‘I can’t follow that,’ Murphey grumbled each time Fromholz polished off a nugget like ‘I Gave Her A Ring (She Gave Me the Finger).’

Few folks could have!”

Fromholz, who won the Texas Poet Laureate in 2007, was 68.
 

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