Lou Neff Point, one of Austin’s scenic stops on Town Lake running trail, is home to beloved Austin musician Woode Wood.
Story by Rebecca Sostek
Photos by Beverly Perez
Walkers, joggers and cyclists often stop at Lou Neff Point to say hello to Woode, who is stationed just around the corner from the Point. Woode almost always greets these visitors by using their first name, and if he does not know them, he introduces himself for next time. Woode also plays for passengers on Zilker Park’s train every time it passes behind his nook. Although he is well-known by thousands, his long journey to fame started with Ann Richards and an acoustic guitar.
The 60-year-old musician started pursuing a music career at the age of 36. Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, Woode says he always dreamt of becoming a musician. “I heard melodies in my head when I was a baby and when I got into my teens, I loved Mick Jagger,” Woode says. “I would prance around the house listening to ‘Brown Sugar’ on the radio.” Woode says that his inability to play an instrument discouraged him from further pursuing his dream. However, the opportunity to learn how to play the guitar presented itself when he was a chef at a high-end restaurant in Key West, Florida.
The musician clearly remembers the day he learned his first chord. “It was March 5 of 1992,” Woode says. “I played all night. Later that night, I wrote my first song. A week later I bought my first guitar.” After that evening, Woode quickly quit cooking and has not looked back since then. “Now I have twenty guitars and do nothing but music.”
After he began pursuing music full time, Woode decided to relocate to a city with a thriving music scene. He considered New York and Los Angeles, but then he saw Ann Richards on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. “In her whole eight-minute segment, all she did was talk about the Austin music scene,” Woode said. “I pointed at the TV and thought, ‘that’s where I’m moving.” To honor Richards’ impact on his career, he wrote the song “Miss Ann,” and dedicated it to her. “I told Ann personally that, as long as I was living, I was going to tell people that she was the reason I moved to Austin,” Woode says.
When Woode got to Austin in 1994, he says getting noticed was the hardest part. “I started playing six to eight open mics a week and slowly formed a band,” Woode says. “I didn’t break out until 2004. I was putting out a record a year, but it just wasn’t firing until then.”
In 2004, Woode began what he refers to as an “experiment” on his music career. At the time, he was only able to book gigs at small clubs scattered around Austin, but not venues that would bring him large audiences. “So I said you know what, I’m going to create my own venue,” Woode says.”I’m going to go somewhere where I can play to thousands of people a day.” Woode ultimately ended up just around the corner from Lou Neff Point. The guitarist says that he purposely placed himself away from central attractions at the lake. “I never put myself in a place where people go to,” Woode says. “I’m not going to impose myself on a destination. At Woode’s Point, they can run by it and if they want to stop they can, or they can get water and not be disturbed by me.”
Woode originally thought that playing at Town Lake would be a short-term experiment to help get his name and music out to the public, but over time, the trial became something bigger. “I slowly realized that this is not a stepping stone,” Woode says. “This is something that, for as long as I’m in town, I’m going to come do.” Woode can be found at his point nearly every day of the week. It is the only location that he plays at for free.
Overall, Woode has had little doubt about his career as a musician. “Before I played, all I did was chase girls and draw a paycheck,” Woode says. "I was drowning and music saved me. Every day when I lift my head off the pillow, I know what I’ll be doing all day long.”
Woode hopes that all those who run by him have something as important to them as music is to him. “I hope that you pursue whatever it is you love with every fiber in your being, the only thing that can actually stop you is you,” Woode says.
Woode has completed a sixteen-state tour and is preparing to go on his second tour soon. Check out his website for more information and keep your eyes and ears peeled for him on your next trip around the lake.