Brenda Schlaudt Nicholas, who died June 18 after fighting lymphoma and then leukemia, came to Austin from Port Arthur along with her friend Clifford Antone in the 1970s and helped him start the original Antone’s nightclub downtown. It was there that she met Johnny Nicholas, and after they got married, they opened the Hill Top Cafe, a restaurant and music venue in Cherry Spring near Fredericksburg. The Hill Top has been a Hill Country destination for 35 years.
Here in Austin, Johnny has been a longtime fixture in the Wednesday happy-hour slot at the Saxon Pub, which is where those who knew and loved Brenda will gather on Sunday, June 26, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. for a public memorial event. Proceeds from the door and a silent auction, which includes items donated by close family friend Eric Clapton, will help to cover expenses the Nicholases incurred with alternative cancer therapy programs in recent years.
The lineup makes it clear just how beloved Brenda was by a wide range of Austin musicians. Performing will be Marcia Ball, Butch Hancock, Augie Meyers, Earl Poole Ball, Denny Freeman, Willy & Cody Braun of Reckless Kelly, Malford Milligan, David Grissom, Floyd Domino, Ernie Durawa, Walt Wilkins, Red Young, Clay McClinton, and Johnny Nicholas & Hell Bent.
“She was a great mother, a great wife and quite a restaurateur,” Saxon Pub owner Joe Ables said Monday, recalling always being “welcomed warmly” by Brenda at the Hill Top. “She lived for the place, and made it what it is.”