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."
Chris: You were telling me earlier about you and Eddie Beethoven travelling to New York together; what were y'all doing?
Joe: Literally, we were sitting around the International
House of Pancakes
this was kinda' after the Flatlanders
kinda' fell apart, and I had just been out kinda' jumpin' freight
trains around the country.
Chris: What year was this? Do you remember?
Joe: This was '73, I guess? Or '72?
This gal gave
us a ride to Amarillo the next day, and we got there about sundown
and a freight train came in about midnight headed to Texarkana
and we jumped on the train and headed out, got to Texarkana the
next day. Tried to figure out how to get from there on up and
a big cold front came through.
Chris: What were you doing?
Joe: We had no money. We were homeless. We were literally just seeing the country. I tried to play a few shows; I mean, a few pass the hat things in cafes, bowling alleys, tittie bars.
Chris: But y'all were just traveling.
Joe: We were just traveling, just seeing the world. We had no money, not a penny. Not even anything to trade for money or anything, except maybe play music somewhere and maybe pass the hat. We were cold, stone sober when we decided this, drinking coffee. It was like a mission. It was like reading a Jack Kerouac book and deciding "Well, I hadn't been there."
Chris: Right, well, I know what you're talking about. I was trying to get the picture of what was happening on the road.
Joe: Anyway, we started heading north from Vicksburg, up through Memphis, Toledo, Pittsburgh, and it just got colder & colder and we ended up realizing about the time we got up to Ohio that the leaves had already fallen off the trees.
Chris: Who is Eddie Beethoven? How did you know him? What was his story?
Joe: Eddie Beethoven was around...He had come into
town...I don't know where exactly he came from. I think he grew
up in Sacramento, California, and came to Lubbock, I think to
go to school.
Chris: I know Shakin' Tonight is his song
Joe: Shakin' Tonight, and then Cool Rockin' Loretta. We wrote that one together. He came up with "Cool rockin' Loretta" and I came up with the chorus. And I recorded another one of his songs let's see Don't Put a Lock on My Heart. I guess I've recorded three or four of his songs all together. So we just started hangin' out.
Chris: Naturally gravitated.
Joe: Yea, getting in the same trouble. And we ended up just going up to New York together. He stayed up there for about three months and then he got a job as a ginseng hunter. He went and hunted wild ginseng at night with a bow and arrow in the mountains of Virginia. He said the wild ginseng up there always grew where this phosphorescent algae was, where logs would rot and this phosphorescent algae would grow and you'd shoot an arrow at it at night and then come back the next day and find your arrows and get the wild ginseng.
Chris: Wow! That's wild!
Joe: He was just a real amazing cat...Then he became
a maple syrup tapper up in Vermont for awhile. He came back to
Lubbock a little sooner than I did.
Chris: Any you can think of?
Joe: A lot of the ones from the first album; things
Blues and Gambler's Bride and I can't remember
Things just happened in my life, I guess because I was out looking for "where the well was"; that well that people drew from. Followed Woody Guthrie's tracks across the West and followed the old Blues guys down through the South. And then being out on the West Coast during all the big hippie days. I was out there during the summer of love and ended up hooking up with Muhammad Ali out there, and came back into Lubbock and that's when I got drafted.
Chris: Wait, when was that?
Joe: In the '60s, the late '60s.
Chris: So that was before the Flatlanders.
Joe: Yea. That was before the Flatlanders. I kinda'
jumped backwards. But you know, all of my travels were just kinda'
getting out of Lubbock to see where these things
came from that I was interested in; Things like how songs got
written, and why Henry Miller wrote about New York City and about
Paris. I ended up going over to Europe for about six months;
just, you know, had to go out and really see the world.
Chris: Well, you're lookin' at someone who can relate. That's why I'm here.
Joe: [Laughs] Yea, anybody that ever came from there knows that feeling: that big ol' sky and that kind of lunatic desolation; what the wind does to you the way it rubs the branch against the screen all night long and just grates on your nerves and the dust blows and the static electricity makes the hair stick up on your arms and on the back of your neck. You kind of get pissed off because it's just blowing all the time and you're eating all this dust!
Chris: It causes you to retreat inside, too. It causes you either - like Terry Allen says - to get into a car and head out as fast as you can, or else to find something that is right in the deepest part of the universe down inside, too. It really causes you to reflect back on yourself.
Joe: Yea, I know. Its almost a Zen thing because it would make you crazy but at the same time you knew you had to deal with it and so you dealt with it in whatever way you could.
Joe: Stubbs came into my life at a time when, after
quitting the circus, I had decided it was time to stop rambling
and take all of my rambles and put 'em into context, into some
kind of form.
The band started rehearsing more, learning more songs. We added a drummer. Experimented with different kinds of musicians. And pretty soon we got it to where we could start playing the big honky-tonks and packin' 'em in. And literally within a year, from the time I decided to go put that thing together, within one year I had a recording contract with MCA Records.
It was funny how that decision process of leavin' and becoming a homeless hobo out there in America, and then coming back and just sitting down at the Broadway Drugs down there on Broadway & University, sittin' having a cup of coffee and all of a sudden I just realized one day it was time; time to start putting this stuff together.
So that was the beginning of moving from traveling and rambling
into what I have been doing now for quite few years, almost twenty
years. But then I look back at the last period of years &
I see all these distinct pieces of time of losing my self, finding
myself, still always on a search, looking to see where things
came from, how they were made, what you had to put up with in
order to do all the things you really wanted to do, all the shit
you had to put up with.
It was all kinda like leaving Lubbock, coming back to Lubbock...that process of tearing away from the mother ship and at the same time being attracted back there for some insane kind of reason. Kind of almost like you had to go back because you couldn't believe that it was really still there. Every time. Even this weekend I went back there. I couldn't believe that it was really
Chris: Lubbock ?
Joe: Really Lubbock. Yea. It's such a strange planet.
It's a very strange planet.
While I never fail to receive positive vibes in response to
inquiries about Stubb, I can never seem to get a direct answer
from anyone regarding particular anecdotes. A question about
Stubb always seems to elicit emotions of Awe and Adoration and
Respect for the man who's mantra was "There Will Be No
BAD Talk or LOUD
Talk in This PLACE."
If you'll notice his response; the first word out of his mouth is indeed "Stubb." He begins with "Stubbs came into my life when..." but he never mentions Stubb again. He begins to reveal his deepest motivation toward his career in music. When he thinks of Stubb, he is taken back to that moment his dreams coalesced, and we start to get a Real Answer about how this "Lubbock Music thing" occurs.
Ely is taken back to that moment he discovered what Form the product of his rambling and searching would take. But we don't see Stubb's influence; we just feel it. Stubb was there, somewhere. But, like in life, Stubb remained content to be the spiritual force Behind the music.
From that afternoon he gave a ride in his big Cadillac to a young hitchhiking Jesse "Guitar" Taylor, through the legendary Sunday Night Jams on the east-side of Lubbock and "The Great East Broadway Onion Championship of 1978," the Tornado Jams, and continuing on post-mortem with his legacy Stubb's Barbecue & Live Music in downtown Austin, the Heart of Texas Music.
Stubb has nourished the bodies and has nurtured the souls
of more than one generation of West Texans and musicians from
around the world.
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2007 Chris Oglesby
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