Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends
of West Texas Music
"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."
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Chris: Thats one of the other stories Im tryin to tell, too: How a lot of the Austin music scenes current status is because of a lot of these people from Lubbock.
JDG: There was a lot of crossover between them. The people that were "Folk-Rock" kinda oriented people mixing with the Blues and Rock-n-Roll people; Thats sort of what the Austin music scene was. And hard-core country
First, I started just kinda coming down here occasionally and then being back in Lubbock
Chris: This was after yall had done the Flatlanders?
JDG: No. This is way before that. What I was really gettin at was that, in one sense, The Hub City Movers was something of an extension or a development of the T. Nickel House Band. Ysee the member-elements? At the beginning, T.J. played in The Hub City Movers, but there was one period when the T. Nickel House Band became a trio of me, John Reed, and T.J. McFarland. We played around in Austin, and then that dissolved and fell apart. I played bass, John played guitar, and T.J. played drums.
Chris: Stand-up bass?
JDG: No. Electric. I wasnt very good. But we
had a following because we had a lot of friends. Most of the
time, yknow, our audience was also our friends; The people
that heard us at the gigs were also the people that we were all
Chris: Hes an Austin guy, right?
JDG: Hes actually from San Antonio but we met him in Austin .And Ed Vizzard who was a San Antonio guy but now an Austin guy. Ed played saxophone And Ike River - hes dead now - Ike became the lead guitar player, so at one point we had John X. and Ike. That was really a mish-mash.
Chris: What was the music like?
JDG: It was insane! It was a psychedelic Country Folk Rock band We were real sloppy; We never rehearsed which was partly my fault. We were all just crazy, doing too many drugs. It was just a good-time, crazy thing. We became the last house-band at the Vulcan Gas Company, so we played every Wednesday night at The Vulcan. There was a band called Whistler that we used to go hear at an old place called Bonnies over in East Austin. It was an outdoor barbecue joint; its been gone a long, long time. We would go watch that gig and then we would go play our gig late. That would be the supper gig; wed all hang out there and get drunk, and then go play our gig.
Around that time, the Vulcan Gas Company finally crashed. In the mean time, wed become friends with Jim Franklin, the artist. So Eddie Wilson - who founded the Armadillo World Headquarters - was at a Hub City Movers gig at a place called The Cactus, a place that burned down later on. Franklin was there and Eddie was there. Somewhere during the break we went outside back in the alley, and Eddie saw the armory. He later went and checked on it, and it became the Armadillo World Headquarters. I believe the Cactus was right on the current spot of Threadgills.
Chris: So the Hub City Movers show was integral in the creation of The Armadillo World Headquarters?
JDG: Well, No. That was just the timing of it. See,
we already were friends with that crowd. It just so happened
that that was the night; in the evolution from the Vulcan Gas
Company to the Armadillo World Headquarters, and we were part
little circle of friends.
Charlie Sauer was also in the Hub City Movers the bass player.
Chris: And who is he?
JDG: Hes still around Austin; hes a computer guy now. Actually, he and Angela were old friends. In fact, at one point Angela and Lewis Cowdrey had a band with Jesse Taylor and T.J. And I played with them for a little short period of time. They actually tried to get me to come to California with them, because they set up shop in California.
Chris: At that became Sunnyland Special?
JDG: That was Sunnyland Special. I played bass with them but I didnt want to leave Austin at that time. So I stayed in Austin to do the Hub City Movers when Sunnyland Special went to California. I guess I was a short-term member of Sunnyland Special.
Chris: You were in Austin for no other reason than it was just the best place to be in Texas at the time?
JDG: I had so many friends here; A lot of Lubbock friends who werent musicians. In our circle of friends, the music was always a real important part but we never were exclusively a "musicians gang."
Chris: Sure. It was people that were reading and talking about things
JDG: Right. Creative people that were interested in just everything. We were anti-war activists but we never were very politically oriented, in the sense of joining any groups or anything, but we were "Anti-Vietnam War." But in lots of ways, a lot of us were friends before the Vietnam War happened. That did bring a larger circle of friends together with that as something we held in common. But it wasnt the cause of our group forming.
JDG: Things just started changing for me, personally - my whole perspective. The stuff I was reading and becoming interested in was all shifting around. Thats the kind of stuff that I really dont want to get into because theres no simple, one-conversation way to talk about all that...
Chris: Thats cool. I know what youre saying; So stay away from all of that
JDG: But I went back to Lubbock. As it happened, Butch and I had been friends since we were twelve years old at Atkins Junior High School and then all the way through. Butch had been living out in San Francisco, Joe had been in Europe, and I had been down in Austin mainly, for the preceding year or so.
Chris: Were you all pretty much doing similar things?
JDG: No, not really. Butch was working for an architect as a photographer. Butch ended up being within one hour of getting his degree from Texas Tech in architecture, and then finally he just hated the academic-bureaucratic world so much that he blew it off. I had been in Austin doing The Hub City Movers thing. And Joe was touring Europe with a show called Stomp; It was kind of a revue: music and theater.
But it so happened that we all came back to Lubbock within
a few days of each other. So I was hanging out with both of them,
but separately. They didnt know each other then, but I
kept telling Joe, "You gotta meet this old friend of mine
thats been writing some really good songs." So finally,
one night I took him over to Butchs house, and from that
night on, the sparks that kinda flew off of that have affected
my life and all of our lives ever since.
Chris: Ill say it is!
JDG: And some short time after Butch and Joe and I started hanging out together, Tony Pearson -- who is one of my best friends from high school -- was playing mandolin, and Tony introduced me to Tommy Hancock. I had actually met Tommy before but had really never known him. Tony took us over to his house, and in that period we started hanging out with the Hancock clan. So that sort of marked another platform, another stepping-off place.
We called ourselves The Supernatural Playboys, which was based on - One of the friends in the group had started a health food store: The Supernatural Food Company.
Chris: I think Tommy told me that story: Youd sit around the old pot-belly stove there and play hillbilly music.
JDG: Yea. So later on, oddly enough, the Nashville people when that came about didnt wanta use that name "Supernatural Playboys."
Chris: It does sound a little funky for Nashville.
JDG: So, stupidly I think, we decided to agree with em about that.
Chris: So thats where the name "Flatlanders" came from? Yall changed it for the label?
JDG: We changed it at that time, while were there.
We said, "Okay, we gotta find a better name. Blah, blah,
Thats how that happened. The original record was "Jimmie
Dale and the Flatlanders." I was actually the only one that
really signed the contract with them, which was dumb on my part.
But as it turned out, its just what happened. I really
cant say that was stupid - That was just what went on at
Chris: Okay. So you had that experience in Nashville but it turned out, at the time, to not be a very good experience. Is that why the Flatlanders broke up?
JDG: Those guys in Nashville didnt have the slightest inkling that they could have made a huge splash with us, because it was in the realm of what Poco and The Flying Burrito Brothers and all of that the amalgam of Country with the kinda Folk-Rock-Hippie world
Chris: The Byrds Right.
JDG: They could have done that with "the real thing," but they didnt know what was going on at all. All they knew was that they liked this music but they couldnt figure out any possible way of marketing it. They were dumb.
Chris: How did they get ahold of it? Did yall send these demos off?
JDG: No. We met Sylvester Rice through Nubby Madison who had become a friend; Hes a building contractor. As a matter of fact, he built Monterey High School. And Syl -- who was friends with all the K-triple-L guys and The Maines Brothers and Don Caldwell and those guys Syl was more kinda tied in with the radio world of Lubbock, and we werent at all. Syl introduced us to Country Lou Dee Lou Driver, who was on KDAV in Lubbock He and Syl organized us making these tapes in Odessa.
We knew nothing about the music business. Joe was the one that knew the most about it, but he had no connection really with the Country music world; He had been more involved with the Rock world.
They didnt know how to market The Flatlanders.
They had gotten this "little treasure" but
really ironic, because its the sort of thing that if they
had treated us right they could have ended up having me and Butch
and Joe as allies. But they just blew it.
Chris: It was just The Supernatural Playboys!
JDG: Yea. It was a joke! You can tell from the name of the band: It was just for fun. It was just silly.
Chris: Well, its startling music. People listen to it and its not what they expect to hear, I think. Or people dont even know exactly what it is, I think.
JDG: Yea. Even still its like that. Its such a weird mix of different elements.
Chris: And yall are still doing that. Yall are writing a bunch of new songs now, right? Are yall are gonna do a Flatlanders album in the future some day?
JDG: Theres a good chance of it. But were not setting that as our goal, because that would be counter to they way this deal works.
Chris: I understand. Its just that - Now youve got a lot of people that want that & expect it from you.
JDG: And the chances are very good that well do that; But thats not the driving thing for us doing that.
Chris: So its just for fun now?
JDG: Yea. And were all experienced enough now to know that, if something did come of it, it would be useful; It would help us out.
Chris: That is the way you make your living.
JDG: Yea. But the real point now is that Joe and Butch and I like working together, and we wanta do something that we really enjoy doing.
Chris: Now that youve all got some more free-time to spend together
JDG: Exactly. And a little more understanding both of the business and of ourselves. We work together better than we did when we were younger.
Chris: I heard yall say this at a show yall did when you first started performing together again, that it just got silly and goofy when yall were together, and all the songs just became about silly, goofy things.
JDG: Yea. We never were really serious about writing together until this last phase. Which is good because we all have improved musically and in every way. Plus, the fact that all three of us were able to basically become successful independent of each other Joe more so than us, but Butch and I both have done our own thing to the point that weve all established ourselves as independent entities.
Chris: You do have credit where credit is due, for sure.
JDG: But also we enjoy working together, and theres a magic to it that even now is greater than the individual pieces. I just feel like were extremely blessed and lucky to have that. A lot of people of our age that are just burned out and dont really have any avenue to do anything different. But with us, its like, "Oh, wow! Were still The Flatlanders! We still can do that any time we want to and thats always fun!"
The Flatlanders was, in that sense, a much later derivative
of the T. Nickel House Band. It still was me and Joe...In
fact, in most of that period when the Flatlanders were living
together, we didnt have lots of gigs.
Chris: So the "band" was just primarily for the recording session?
JDG: Yea, right. [Laughs.] Although, we lived in a
house together and played.
Looking at it like making a family tree or something See, Guy Juke came into the picture in that Flatlanders time in Lubbock, like in 71 or something like that; He became a friend of the gang. Its almost like that same little circle from even before the T. Nickel House Band, in a way, still sort of exists. Its just bigger and bigger, more and more
We used tell people that the Flatlanders theres really probably 30 people that could legitimately claim to be members of the Flatlanders, but they werent the ones that were there when we did the recording. So that group on the recording became stamped as who the Flatlanders were. Most people dont even know about Tony and Steve, yknow. Its just Butch and Joe and I are the only ones that are thought of as the Flatlanders. Thats a misperception of the historical facts.
Chris: I hear Jesse Taylor was a Flatlander.
JDG: He was! Jesse actually was. And since Jesse was one of the original members of the T. Nickel House Band, in one sense, The Joe Ely Band was another extension of it ..In a way of looking at it. Its also completely different, because it was deliberately tailored to a different style of music.
Chris: Right. But Joes done a lot of Jimmie Dale Gilmore songs.
JDG: Right. In one sense, Joe continued my musical career for me in the period when I wasnt doing any professional music.
Chris: What were you doing then?
JDG: Thats when I lived in Denver.
Chris: So that was when you were off doing "personal things."
JDG: [Laughs] Yea.
Chris: So you basically werent doing any music for a long period of time
JDG: I was doing music but I wasnt doing it professionally.
I still was playing a lot and had made a lot of friends in Colorado,
but I dropped out of "the music business." I didnt
drop out of music; I dropped out of the music business.
Chris: Was After Awhile your first album when you came back?
JDG: No. I made two albums on the Hightone label. Joe produced the first one.
Chris: Was that when you first came back?
JDG: No. I was
here for five years or so before that. That was like the mid-8os.
I came back in 1980. About 85 or 87 or so was when
we did that.
And then I did the two Hightone albums. Joe produced the first one, and Lloyd Maines and Bruce Romberg produced the second one.
Chris: What was the name of that one?
JDG: The second one was just called Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The first one was called Fair and Square.
Chris: Back in 94, I saw Johnny Cash here in Austin at the Frank Erwin Center, and you opened for him. You apologized to the audience that you were a little nervous and explained that you had once seen Johnny Cash perform in Lubbock and Elvis had opened for him. Tell me that story.
JDG: Yea. Elvis opened for Johnny Cash. Like I said, my dad loved music, and he took me and my sister I would have been probably twelve years old or something like that, or younger At least they were "co-billed." I dont really know if Johnny Cash was the headliner over Elvis but they were at least equal at the time, and Elvis played first.
Chris: So you saw Elvis open for Johnny Cash, and there you were - years later - opening for Johnny Cash, also!
JDG: [Laughs] Yea. But the point was that particular night had had such an impact on me: I was a little kid and I saw Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash both just knock the walls out of the Fair Park Coliseum! Later on Terry told me that his dad Sled Allen produced that show.
I guess one other thing that ties in. Terrys a little
bit older than me. When I was in high school, one night at a
Halloween carnival at Monterey High School, I went in this one
room and there was this guy in there playing the piano. He was
playing his own songs!
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2007 Chris Oglesby
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