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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

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.
We were sitting at the House of Pancakes one night and decided over a cup of coffee that we wanted to watch the leaves change color in New England. We had like five dollars between us and not a care in the world and our only goal was to get to New England to watch the leaves change.

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.
Man, it got so cold! It was like freezing cold (this was like the end of October or somethin') and got so cold that we decided, "To Hell with New England," and we headed south: Shreveport, Bossier City, and waited out the cold front.
We went back on our journey again and said, "Well, let's go onto New England then." Caught another freight over to Vicksburg, Mississippi…

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.
I met him around the time The Flatlanders were getting together. He was kinda' just a free-form poet who just wrote all the time and was pretty much one of those guys where everything he said kinda' put a kink in your head. It was like he twisted everything to where you just wondered where he got everything. He's really a totally brilliant guy. And he started making up songs with the rest of us.

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.
I stayed up in New York about six months just living down in Greenwich Village. Never really got anything going there. Never got any paying gigs or anything. Had a lot of fun just learning. I was doing a lot of writing then. Wrote a lot of songs.

Chris: Any you can think of?

Joe: A lot of the ones from the first album; things like Johnny's Blues and Gambler's Bride and I can't remember what all.
And then I came back from New York in the spring, the next year, I guess spring of '74. I wasn't back in Lubbock two days when the Ringling Brothers Circus came through, and I joined the circus. So I was off again.

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' following…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.

Because I knew if I got back to Lubbock - and I'd always spring back there - I knew I would be coming back to that same desolate emptiness. I realize now it was real important to me: That desolation and that emptiness was important because it was something I had to fill up. That was one of our theories about why Lubbock had so many people come out of there was because there was so much emptiness out there to fill up that you had to reach out extra far to find the source where things came from.

And it was funny: Some of the best stuff I ever wrote was in Lubbock because when I'd get back there from my travels there was this kind of empty desolation that I could fill if I picked up a pen and started writing down something, or picked up a guitar and started playin'. Those were the things that helped me fill it. Otherwise, I would have just gone off the deep end, you know?

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.

Chris: Do you got anything about Stubb you'd like to share with me?

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.
I got ol' Ricky Bob Hulett, a guitar player, and I had met Lloyd [Maines]. I got Lloyd together and Don Caldwell and a bass player, Greg Wright, and we started putting these songs into a form; Songs that I had written on the road and songs of Butch [Hancock]'s from the Flatlander days and songs that I had written traveling around Europe.
I was sick of just ramblin' and sleeping under bridges and on couches and anywhere I could. I was ready to put it all into a form.
And for me, Lubbock was the place to do it because there were so many musicians there, and I always knew that. I always knew the greatest musicians were in Lubbock, so I went back there and rounded up a band with the sole intention of going out and playing those songs.
We put together a set of probably twenty-five songs; went down to Main Street Saloon and started playing every weekend. Within about three weekends, we had about 300 people in there packed just as tight as they could get in every night we played.

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.
And running into guys like Terry and seeing that he put up with the same shit only he went in kinda a different direction. He went to L.A; He kind of went off following more art than music, and I went off following more music than art. But we both had the same interests and just kind of developed in different way. And then guys like Jimmie and Butch, watching them blossom.

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.
-end of interview-

One final observation I'd like to make herein regarding the man named Mr. Christopher B. Stubblefield or "C.B.," but mostly known as "Stubbs" or just "Stubb": The Stubb Legend is a truly deep one. One must dive down deep to really come to understand this amazing Man who was more than a man; Stubbs was also a Force of Inspiration for many of Texas' most heralded artists.

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."
However for example, above I ask Joe one direct question: "Do you got anything about Stubb you’d like to share with me?"

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.
But, like the prophets of old, we know more about Stubb's message than his deeds.
Stubb never tooted his own horn; he just helped others toot their own.

Do you like what you just read?
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

buy the book

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