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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."

buy the book

"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

continued from page 1

Chris: I frequently describe Lubbock as like an old girlfriend who - after you've broken up, you still love ‘em, and you don’t want anybody else talkin' bad about ‘em but - You just can’t live in the same place with ‘em.
You wanta’ check in on ‘em every now-and-then; Give ‘em a call, see how they’re doin’. You don’t want anybody else treatin’ ‘em bad...But you don’t want to live in the same house with them.
That's kinda’ the way I look at Lubbock. [Laughs]

JHA: Well, it’s funny, ‘cause I can drive by some of those beautiful homes in Lubbock that are all manicured - totally different than what we have in Santa Fe - And I can actually slip into that thing of goin’, "Well, I could do that."

I mean, when you say, "Lubbock’s where I want my ashes scattered." [Laughs] It’s a weird deal, y’know? It’s pretty ingrained in you, and there’s a pride to it, y’know.

I can remember tellin’ people, "You’ve got to come to Lubbock!" They'd fly in from L.A. - They’d get off the plane and there’d be a sandstorm, and they’d just look at you like, "What?" [Laughs]

You would really have this pride where you’d wanta’ show ‘em "Lubbock. Then you’d drive down some desolate street and try to explain to them: How incredible this place is! Y’know?

Chris: That’s what I’m doing with this book idea. I’m tryin’ to explain to everybody how incredible Lubbock is.

I have to tell you…After you’d called me to come meet you, I rewatched True Stories with some friends who had never seen it. And it’s sort of startling; The fact that somebody like David Byrne - who is not from Lubbock, so far removed from it - would come and be able to make that movie about West Texas. I mean, that movie reminded me more of "the Real Lubbock" than anything else I’ve ever seen. [Laughs] Because the people there - inside all those little tract houses - are just totally bizarre like that.

JHA: Well, y’know, I tried to get David to do just one more scene - somethin’ happened and we didn’t get to do it, but he wanted to do it.
It was about...I had gone to sorority party once...That was my first real rebellion; Going to every sorority rush party just so that I could say, "No" to them all. My goal in life was for every one of ‘em to ask me to be in ‘em so I could turn 'em all down, ‘cause I hated ‘em so much. I’d just kiss ass and act just as charming as I possibly could, and changed clothes about every second, until they all asked me to be in the sorority and then I said, "No." [Laughs] That was my first "great act of rebellion."
I was the only girl I knew that I ran around with that didn’t pledge a sorority.

Oh, God! I hated it all! And what was I gonna’ tell you about? Oh, God. I lost my train of thought but…

Chris: I did too. I was engrossed.

JHA: Oh! True Stories! See, I went to this house for a rush party that was on19th [Street]. The guy whose house it was had been all over the world and he’d shot all these animals… [Laughs]…So there was a house full of all these stuffed dead animals. Our motif for that particular party was a "Jungle Attire." We all wore jungle lookin’ clothes and went for a brunch at this guy’s house that was full of stuffed animals. [Laughs]
I wrote this whole scene for True Stories to be shot in that house and called and asked if we could do it, and they even said, "Yes." Then it didn’t happen for some reason; I forget. [Laughs]

In Fried Green Tomatoes I sort of got that room, when I got to do my sex sessions in with all the animals in the room…

Chris: Oh, my gosh! I forgot that you were in that!

JHA: I was the sex therapist.

Chris: God! I know! I’ve seen that movie.

JHA: David looks at everything like a child who is very fascinated by everything. I think that was why he was so able to capture that.

Chris: It is uncanny. When I watch True Stories with friends from Lubbock, they always have the same reaction. Like, in the movie when the wind is blowin’ and the camera is driving down the street past all the tract houses and David Byrne is sayin’, "I wonder who lives in there?" And then, all of a sudden, it comes to the edge of the town and you see him in a big empty field envisioning, "Here’s where more houses will be..."

Terry was talking to me about going out to the dirt with a circle of cars and everybody having a big dance or fist fights out there, and we did the same thing, I was tellin’ him...

JHA: I’ll never forget this…We all had been out all afternoon at somebody’s house dancin’. And then, right at sunset, we drove our cars way out Slide Road somewhere to a cotton field. We didn’t plan it. It’s like it happened as a vision.
I’ve written this in a screenplay that I’ve done:

We all got out of the car, and picked a furrow and walked toward the sunset, and I bet there was like 25 or 30 of us. We walked real slow down these furrows until the sun completely set and then we all sat down. So there was a line of us in the furrows, all settin' down.
Then we all walked back, and we parked our cars in a circle. We put the headlights in the middle and then we would dance in the headlights. We would put blankets in the trunk, and we’d have the trunk door up - of those big ol’ cars, y’know - and we’d all lay in the trunks and kiss on each other.
Isn’t that amazing?

When we got tired of neckin’, then we’d go dance.

Chris: It’s always, "Goin’ out to those cotton fields."

JHA: Nothing! Nothing out there at all! Yea.

Chris: We used to go out and park our car out on one of those dirt roads. We’d have guys and girls both; it didn't matter. Everybody did it.… We’d be out drinkin’ or partyin’ and at some point - And it wasn’t always at the end of the evening - We’d go out there and take off all our clothes and go runnin’ down the dirt road in the middle of the night with the canopy of stars, where it’s just like: "You and your eyes, runnin’ through the empty void of space"…Ultimate freedom! [Laughs] And then we’d always laugh and have a great time, and then we’d go back into town and do whatever. But that was just something we always did. One time we all got together and took pictures of us out on these old railroad tracks all standin’ in our underwear ‘cause to kinda’ commemorate it. [Laughs].
I mean, what’s that all about? For some reason…It’s just somethin’ to do.

JHA: It’s about the freedom. It’s about the space. It’s like when you stand on that horizon and you could see all around you in every direction. You could feel like a minute speck of nothin’ in the universe; Nothin’. And at the same time, feel like you are the Center of the Universe.

Chris: That was well said by way; I like that.

JHA: You realized you’re nothing in the scheme of things under that vast, Big Sky; Where you see the whole world around you - And yet you’re in the center of it.

Chris: It’s like, George Harrison said on Sgt. Pepper's ; You realize: "Life goes on within you and without you." You really experience that in a first hand manner.

JHA: Exactly!

Also, my mother always told me something when I was a kid; She always said, "Never forget it! You’re no better - and you’re no worse - than anybody else."

Chris: I think a lot of people who come from Lubbock get that message.
I think that is a significant part of this story. In Lubbock, you’re so far out there that people there don’t really expect anybody else to do anything for them.
That’s one reason why they’re so politically conservative, I think. "Well, why should we be helpin’ other people out? Nobody really helps us out."

JHA: "Nobody helped me!" I mean, I heard this a million times. "I’ve been the one that helps. I’m always the one that helps. Nobody has helped me!"

Chris: I know. But it does give them sort of a personal pride in what they’re doin’,
a certain confidence.

JHA: Well, people in Lubbock are proud of who they are.
It’s sorta’ like: "If you don’t like me, to hell with you. This is who I am!"

You go out to California, and everybody is tryin’ to be something else.
In Lubbock, people are being who they really are.
[Laughs]. They’re not trying to be something else.

Chris: That is the truth. And you don’t have to go too far out of your way to be individualistic there. They make it pretty clear what "normal" is in Lubbock.

JHA: I see it as a town of massive contradiction.

Chris: I like that about "paradox" that you pointed out; the stark contradictions. That was really good, because that is true in Lubbock.
And I think that paradox causes you to be very personally reflective.
It drives you kooky. [Laughs & sighs]

JHA: You would want to be different. You were sort of applauded for being different...In a way; The way we always had to tell stories and top everybody else's.

It’s so weird. It is weird. I mean, seriously...I’ve tried to think of it, too: "What it was about Lubbock."

Chris: The "storytelling" thing, too. I think because civilization seems so far away from you out there, you’ve gotta’ have this immediate reaction. I think that’s an explanation for all the music that comes from Lubbock, too. Music is an immediate type of creative activity, where everybody can join in at one time and interact.

Because otherwise, you’re very lonely out there. It’s real easy to go crazy....It’s real easy to drink too much in Lubbock, because it just seems like you just gotta’ get out of the house and interact with others or go just go crazy! And the only place that there is anybody is out in a bar. Unless it’s Wednesday night or Sunday night; then you can go to church. But otherwise, you’re just sittin’ around by yourself…Goin’ kooky

JHA: Yea. You gotta’ do something.

I’ll tell you something else that was upsetting to me, too: When I did my play in Lubbock, I said to my mother that there wasn’t a big attendance - I’ve usually had good luck doing theatre stuff...
My mother said, "First of all, nobody thinks that a one-woman show would be interesting. They could hear you say all that at home."
And the other thing she said, "The last time you did something in Lubbock -which was about 10 years ago -You cussed. Nobody’s gonna’ put up with that in Lubbock." Even though everybody there cusses.

I said, "Did it matter that the character that cussed was a complete and total angel? That she was the biggest do-gooder-type character in the world? Cussed a blue streak like a sailor."
My mother says, "No. Because you can’t get past that."
And I said, "If you don’t try to get past that, you never learn anything about anybody."
And, uh…God! That was upsetting to me!

When that guy from The Avalanche Journal - Bill Kerns - He did the most thoughtful interview with me. He said to me, "How does it feel to be pre-judged?"
I thought that was kinda’ an usual question.
I said, "It upsets me a lot if people don’t stay with you through the whole thing. To see what you're actually trying to do and say."
It’s just those stereotyped things that I guess you come against.

Chris: I’m reading a book that my mom gave me for some totally unknown reason. I have no idea why she gave it to me. She just handed me this book. [Laughs]
Anyway, it was written in the ‘50s,by some Old Testament scholar; It's called The Kingdom of God. It was about what the idea in the Bible of what the "Kingdom of God" actually is. People are always talkin’ about it and wantin’ it to "Come."
But, "What is it?"
The author summarizes the history of the Hebrew people with the prophets always telling them, "You’re screwin’ up. You’re not actin’ like God wants you to." And then gettin’ jacked by the Persians or the Babylonians.

He was describing what it was like in that area of the world at the time that those events were happening- 300, 400 B.C. - And the descriptive words he used really reminded me of people in Lubbock; They were so "xenophobic" and so bound to the law - "You CANNOT violate the law!" Because they were so concerned with preserving this idea that they had that, y’know, God was gonna’ smite them.
‘Cause they had gotten their asses kicked for so long from everyone else around them; And that they had kinda’ turned into sorta’ hateful nasty people at that time, who might kill an otherwise perfectly nice person like Jesus who wasn't obeying the rules they way they thought they should be obeyed. [Laughs].

It seems that description: That it’s the same kind of environment in Lubbock:
They’re out there in the desert; They’re getting their ass kicked by tornadoes and weather all the time.
It’s like they feel like, "We gotta’ be ‘GOOD.’ And we can’t put up with any tomfoolery at all…or else we’re just gonna’ get wiped off the face of the earth."

JHA: It’s that thing of not reading a book because it’s so scary to have someone else’s opinion in your head; Because you know you don’t believe whatever it is, and you don’t want to tempt yourself.

Chris: And the Rock-n-Roll thing; The whole record burnin’ thing…The people who are out there lookin’ for "the Devil"...Well, you can surefind the Devil if your out there looking for him! You see the horrible things that happen when those kinda’ people start loking for the Devil everywhere.…
Terry mentioned to me seeing a big record burning with a preacher; And the same thing happened when I was in 8th grade there in Lubbock. A bunch of people went off to Baptist church camp. They told all the girls that wanted to be cheerleaders in 9th grade that, "You can’t be wearin’ those short skirts because you’re tempting the boys and that’s gonna’ cause them to go to Hell and you’ll go to Hell, also. You can’t be listening to ANY Rock-n-Roll music because it’ll make you wanta’ dance, and that’ll make you wanta’ have sex, and that’ll cause you to go to Hell." And that whole thing. And everybody came back and a whole bunch of people - a lot of my friends - were just wacked out for a long time.
I really think it caused much more damage in people’s minds. It caused people to think, "Well, I’m bad, and therefore...Well, I’m out there havin’ sex anyway, and they just told me I’m bad and so...Fuck it! I’m already goin’ to Hell."

JHA: Yea. "So now I’m really bad!"

Chris: It’s really sad. It causes a lot of that kind of pain.

But I think all that - also - leads to the type of character like Terry or Joe...Always sayin’, "I can’t put up with that kinda’ stuff;" Who's not afraid to question some of those crazy rules that just serve to scare people.

JHA: Terry actually ran away from Lubbock with a vengeance. But I didn’t. I went with him; But I wasn’t running away. I was very happy in Lubbock, and I wasn’t running away from anything.
But it’s funny; the more exposed I was to other things, open to other things, then the more threatening I became to my family. They’ve certainly never understood.

...People have a whole lot of the same needs. It takes so much courage to live a life. It’s something you don’t hear talked about very much anymore. But just to live a life; It has to be such a courageous endeavor for every single person. Because of what we all are gonna’ go through and nobody escapes it.
And I think there’s a general value system with the people I knew in Lubbock, and it was pretty clear…

I said in my play, y’know, that...I said, "Everything has its opposites. Everybody knows that there’s horrible times and fantastic times. And 'Real Good' and 'Real Evil.' And total right and total wrong and not much else in between worth mentioning." [Laughs] But every single thing in Lubbock had its opposite. So there’s this kind of "Right thing" you get there, and then you forge something other on your own.

Chris: I think that because we’re talking about this realm that is devoid of everything but the people who live out there - where all you really have is human lifes to deal with - I think that’s part of the answer to this Lubbock phenomenon: It’s a place where people really seem to know how to live, and they are not separating themselves from that "moment of contact" with life; Really deciding they need "to live."

There are just so many people from there with these fantastic stories and great lives. I have such a great life…And I feel that everything I’ve done up to this moment has been so fantastic, and it has been so incredibly bizarre; I think a lot of it is from being from Lubbock...

JHA: I think about childhood there; It was a magic adventure. The weather is so harsh; When it would turn ugly, the teachers would pull the blinds down so we couldn’t see outside, it’d be so bad...So we wouldn’t get scared. Turn on all the lights.
And we would put bandanas on, and go out. I’d stay all day long just gorging on the wind and that sand, y’know. Dig a hole by the railroad tracks and put a potato in it and cook it all day long out in the sandstorm by myself, and wait and wait and wait all day for it to cook. Y'know...Be out there pretending I was on the lam, a hobo or something.

It’s that kind of thing: I don’t know, it’s all those things that make you.

Chris: You have to pretend, and you have to create yourself - from the inside. There's nothing there forming you from the outside.

JHA: I'd wait for the sky-writing plane to fly by. And it was just such a huge event, when you’d see up there in cursive "Coca-Cola", y’know? Just like, MAJOR event!
There was just so much magic to that stark landscape, and what you did in it. It was very inventive. It certainly made a bunch of musicians and actors and writers!

I've got to tell you one more thing. I don’t know if you can use this but I will tell you this funny thing:
Every once in a while, my mother will call and say, "You should be sellin’ real estate. You’d really make a million dollars selling real estate." Something like that...instead of writing plays. You never get acceptance, ‘cause you’re doing something that’s so foreign that they really don’t understand.
But my mother and I went over to visit our friend Tony - a neighbor that I love; He lived across the street from us the whole time I was a kid and in high school. I always loved Tony. So we were standing in the hall - Tony and my mother and I - at Tony’s house…And Tony says, "Oh, Jo Harvey! I saw you in Fried Green Tomatoes."
And my mother looks at Tony and said, "Tony, did you know Joe Hair?"
Tony goes, "Yea. Why? Did something happen to Joe Hair?"
Now, for your information information - Joe Hair was one of my favorite friends of my family’s because he sold shoes at Jones Roberts Shoe Store, and he rigged a contest there when I was a kid so I could win the donkey that they were giving away. So I just worshipped this man Joe Hair my whole life ‘cause he let me win this donkey.
So Tony says to my mother, "Did something happen to Joe Hair?"
And my mother goes, "Joe Hair was watching Jo Harvey in Fried Green Tomatoes; And he said to his wife, ‘Why, There’s Jo Harvey!’ And then he died of a heart attack!"

Chris: Is that true?

JHA: [Nods vigorously] Can you believe it? [Laughs] It’s like my mother is telling me; She springs on me - Not only did this man that I love die! But it’s like she was telling me, "Joe Hair died because of what you do!" [Laughs] It was like she was saying my acting in that movie shocked him into having a heart attack!

I was just like…Whoa!!! [Laughs more]

Chris: For bein’ such a load of sunshine, you’ve sure told me some sad stories.
[also laughing]

JHA: [Laughing still] "I killed Joe Hair!"|
-End of interview-
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Buy the book by author Christopher Oglesby
Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air:
Legends of West Texas Music

"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." - University of Texas Press

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