“BEAUMONT”, I told the man behind the Dollar Car Rentals counter at Houston airport when he asked me, “where y’all heading”? He raised his eyebrows ever so slightly. I began to have doubts but reprimanded myself: there’s no way back, Beaumont it’ll be! And I switched on the engine of the sleek rental Chevrolet. The wheels turned, and there I was, heading east on the I-10.
Beaumont is a small town in south-east Texas, not the most common stopover visitors to the Lone Star state. Austin, the city of Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughn, is far more enticing. So is San Antonio. But they would come later. Beaumont was where I chose to spend the first few nights of my Texas trip.
The reason was simple: I wanted to visit the region that produced two of my rock heroes: Johnny Winter (1944-2014) and Janis Joplin (1943-1970). Winter was born in Leland, Mississippi, but raised in Beaumont, while Joplin was born and raised in the neighbouring town of Port Anthony. I was curious to see how the undoubtedly conservative (I mean, this is small-town Texas) citizens of both places had honoured the controversial stars, one a magnificent blues guitarist with albinism, the other a ferocious singer and feminist role model. Both with histories of serious substance abuse...
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