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Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music
by Christopher Oglesby
Published by the University of Texas Press:
"As a whole, the interviews create a portrait not only of Lubbock's musicians and artists, but also of the musical community that has sustained them, including venues such as the legendary Cotton Club and the original Stubb's Barbecue. This kaleidoscopic portrait of the West Texas music scene gets to the heart of what it takes to create art in an isolated, often inhospitable environment. As Oglesby says, "Necessity is the mother of creation. Lubbock needed beauty, poetry, humor, and it needed to get up and shake its communal ass a bit or go mad from loneliness and boredom; so Lubbock created the amazing likes of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Terry Allen, and Joe Ely."

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"Indeed, Oglesby's introduction of more than two dozen musicians who called Lubbock home should be required reading not only for music fans, but for Lubbock residents and anyone thinking about moving here. On these pages, music becomes a part of Lubbock's living history."
- William Kerns, Lubbock Avalanche Journal

Chris Oglesby Interviews
Doug Smith
Montelongo’s Mexican Restaurant
Clovis Highway, Lubbock; 5/15/00

To all the outside world, Doug Smith may appear to be a "redneck." He literally does have a red neck; his rosy skin burns easy out there in the Petersberg, Texas sun. Doug's home outside Petersberg is northeast of Lubbock County, about ten miles from the old country church where his daddy grew up going.
However, when I met him at a favorite Mexican restaurant we have in common, the first thing Doug said to me was, "I'm sure glad to see that you have long hair."
"Why's that," I asked, pleased but puzzled.
"I just feel like I can trust a guy with long hair."

Doug Smith may look, sound, and even occasionally smell like a redneck, but I'm here to tell ya' - Doug Smith ain't no redneck. This man has got the soul of Mozart and the heart of Stubbs.

Petersberg is mostly cotton fields, more absolutely plum full of nothing than Lubbock is; Plenty of room for the soul and sound of Doug Smith - West Texas' Premiere Composer and Pianist. No dispute that Doug owns that title, although Doug says, "I prefer to call myself a piano player; Out here in West Texas, if an ol' boy says he's a pianist, folks tend to look at ya awful funny…"

Chris: Doug Smith, thanks for inviting me out to Montelongo’s.

Doug: Sure! You ate like a pig. [Laughs]. That’s one thing we have in common.

Chris: Tell me about when you got started playing piano as a kid.

Doug: I started playin' when I was two years old. It was on a little organ that’s about a couple foot long; a little Wurlitzer. I still have it in my studio at home.
It belonged to my aunt.

It was around Christmas time. As a toddler, they didn’t want me - obviously - messin’ around with the instruments, so my grandmother - it's beautiful to hear her tell the story - She says they were all in the kitchen. She was cookin’ some food. She said they heard this music comin’ out of the hall, y’know.
Everybody just kind of had this dumb-founded look on their face. They all went into the bedroom, and there I was playing music.

The weird thing about it - to hear them tell it; and to my knowledge - I’ve always played music. I’ve never remembered not playing, as long as I’ve lived.

They say that I was playin’ two note chords with my left hand and melodies with my right when I was two years old. There was no sittin’ down and experimentation about, trying to get the sound.
They said, "It was music; tunes comin’ out of that thing."

Chris: Were these tunes that you were making up? Or were they things that you had heard?

Doug: They were things that I had heard like Christmas songs, melodies, nursery rhyme songs; things that I had heard as a baby.
"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" was the first thing that I ever did, I think. And very recognizably putting the melodies and the chords together with the left hand.

So when that happened, my aunt obviously gave me the organ. I took it home, and I was just infatuated with the thing.

I gave my first concert on that organ in the first grade. I was six years old. I could remember it like it was yesterday, y’know. It was at Purple Sage elementary school in Kermit. My teacher had come over to the house - her and my mom were friends - and she heard me playin’. She asked me, "Would you be willin’ to play for the class?"
I said, "Sure, Man! Yea. Absolutely."

That was on Friday. On Monday, I took my organ up there. And - Man - I was scared to death ‘cause she told the class that I was gonna play music, y’know. I got up there and got my rig set up and began to play.
Well, to make a long story short: By the end of the day, every elementary schoolteacher in Purple Sage had brought their class in for me to play for twenty or thirty minutes. So at the end of the day, I had played the whole day…
And I was like, "Man, this is cool!"

The neatest thing that I remember about it is; At the end of that day, when I was walking out to where my mom would come get me, I was walkin’ out to that car and fourth and fifth graders were comin’ up and goin’, "Hey, Smith, that was cool, Man. That was really cool."

Chris: Awesome.

Doug: And so right then, I connected with the fact that: "Hey! This music thing connects me with people in a way that there is no other medium to make that connection with."

To this day, everybody I’m connected with - even yourself - is because of this music; through this music. That’s the neatest thing. I’ve met the greatest people in my life as a result of people that love music- me makin’ it, composin’ it, and performin’ it; And other people benefiting from the exchange; y’know…the people that witness it.

Chris: One of the ideas I’m pursuin' is this idea of, "Knowing Yourself and Following Your Dreams." So I think it's great that you're aware of how music has brought those blessings into your life.

Are you able tomake a living off of your piano playing?

Doug: Sometimes it’s very meek. But - Yes. That’s all I do; It’s exclusively music.

Sometimes I do shows. I just came off of a show at the Cactus Theater here in Lubbock.
I’ll play here in Lubbock about three or four times a year…Just because I don’t want to wear my welcome out.

But mostly recording; Through my records is mainly how I earn my livelihood, at this point….

Chris: Do you do shows outside of Texas? Who is your audience?

Doug: Well…I’m not sure about that. [Laughs] Actually, most of my work - performancewise - has been Texas, New Mexico, a little bit in Colorado.
But, to this point, I’ve been so consumed with getting all my melodies down and copyrighted.

See, I cannot read or write music. I’ve never had a piano lesson in my life. So it is crucial that I get my copyrights. Everything that comes through, I sit down, get it in structured form, copyright it, and then publish it all myself, too. I also own my own publishing company, obviously. I publish all my music myself as an independent publisher.

Chris: How are you distributing yourself. Once again, who knows about you? Who do you play for? How are you makin’ a living doin’ it?

: Mostly through my records. Hastings Records carries my stuff. And my web-site. I’m sellin’ records over the web.
It’s really a slow, kind of an "up-and-down" kind of an affair. I have months that I do great; I have a lot of live performances come in. And then I’ll have months that I’ll barely scrape by. It’s definitely a "growing audience;" You know what I mean? Hopefully this web-site’s gonna really help with the expansion of it.

Chris: Since you’re talking about your web-site: I went and looked at it before I came and met you; I saw on your web-page that you really feel that the music is "in" you, and that your music is comin’ "from God."

Explain yourself; I mean, how are you "hearing God?" What’s comin’ from God? Do you know what I’m sayin’?

Doug: I know exactly what you’re sayin’. It’s a very difficult question…The reason I give the credit to God is because…Like I told you awhile ago; When I was not even two years old, I just began this musical thing. I sat down and I just did it.

Chris: Yea. That’s pretty miraculous. [Laughs.]

Doug: Exactly! In itself.
And so…I hear the music. Right now, I hear the music. I got this tune goin’ through my head that I’ve been workin’ on. It’s just in the forefront - right now - right here…[Audibly strikes himself on the forehead with the open palm of his hand]…y’know?
So I figger, the same way Michael Jordan was "anointed" to play basketball, I was "anointed" for piano and this music that I compose.

Now, the reason I say "it comes from God" is because…If…

If I think about, "Who to give the credit to?" I can’t go to a piano teacher, or any person; an instructor at the college, a professor, or someone with a doctorate degree in music. None of these people.
This comes from "The Divine…It’s "divine intervention."

It’s coming from the Divine Source. I believe that...Because I can’t give "a human" credit.

That’s been my assumption my whole life, is that is had to come from God; just like Mozart’s work, Beethoven’s work, Bach’s work, all the Masters.
These guys…They can’t really take the credit for doin’ it, y’know? God anointed it - through these men - to be shared with the world. I feel exactly the same way with mine.

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Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air:
Legends of West Texas Music

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