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 Oglesby Interviews
I'm not really sure how Kent and I met. He's about my age. He's been playing in Lubbock for about as long as I've been going out. I guess the first time I ever saw his band - The Texas BelAires - is when they where sharing a regular gig with a band in Lubbock called Squarehead who I was tight with in the late '80s. Later (early '90s?), I remember hanging out one afternoon with Kent at The Continental Club in Austin; He was shooting pool with Jesse "Guitar" Taylor and Eddy Patterson of Stubb's Austin; joined them in a game on a lazy afternoon.
However, this interview was brought together by David Keller and Tanya So, two of the most die-hard creators and advocates of art and music in Lubbock. They were roommates of Kent's brother Kevin Mings at the time, in the house where Texas Blues legend Angela Strehli grew up. I can't begin to explain how helpful and loving David and Tanya were to me whenever I first came home to Lubbock to write my book.
Kent and I were to meet for the interview at J. Patrick O'Malley's, a tiny pub--right across University Avenue from Texas Tech University--where I had spent much time in college. (It since has changed names, after almost twenty years). The BelAires had the regular Monday night gig there that season.
I was waiting for Kent to show up for sound-check. It was
mid-afternoon, and I remember a group of college girls and one
guy came in.
When I left J. Pat's at 1:00 o'clock that night, that
same group of girls was Rockin' and Rollin' like their mothers
would not imagine they ever could.
I didn't worry for the girls' safety; I'm sure they got a ride home that night.
is a sketch I made during the
Mings: We were at O.L. Slaton Junior High. There were these two little ol girls; set of twins. They looked like they were ten years old. Actually, I was at Lubbock High; Kevin & Wes [Kent's brothers] met these two little girls at Slaton - and everybody kinda made fun of em, because they were smaller and not pretty, yknow....I think they mighta asked if we knew were to get some pot one time. And of course we did.
But you know, I kinda felt sorry for em a little
bit. And I thought, "Well, these girls cant be bad."
And we got to be real good friends with em, started hangin
out with em. They were 14 or 15; they was a year or two
younger than us. They looked a lot younger. This was 76
Ponty had come in and took custody of the children so they
moved in with Ponty. Naturally we just migrated over to Pontys
house. Had no idea who he was. And, hell, I didnt have
any idea who Joe Ely
was - let alone this guy.
Then we started getting together to go to these shows; cause
Ponty had his kids and hed be doing the Tornado Jams and all that ... So we started
to go to these shows and there was Jesse
["Guitar" Taylor] playin, and Joe,
and Ponty - Man, what a band!
And this is kinda weird that just from that kinda
chance meeting with those two girls
Had no idea who they
were...And then started hangin around Ponty and Jesse,
goin to all those shows....
Chris: Well, did you know you wanted to write songs and perform before you met all those guys?
Mings: Oh yea! I had a song book when I was about 8 years old.
Chris: But it was just the girls that made you want to go these shows? You didnt know who these guys in the band were?
Mings: No, no. And I had kinda gotten side-tracked. Being poor, I knew I couldnt make no money playin music so I was leanin toward law. I was on the debate team and did all that. When I was about 17, I read some books and met a couple of people that turned me against that and made me really wanta get back into writing. I started getting back into this music stuff, and I said, "Now Im back full circle where I wanted it to be." So I started playing guitar and writing songs
But it was really Ponty and Jesse and Joe - Seein them up there "Live" - that re-kindled what I knew I always wanted to do.
Chris: Did you play in any bands in high school?
Mings: No, man, I never did even
I never learned
to play guitar until I was almost eighteen years old.
Joel Searsey taught me my first chords on guitar. Ive known Joel since junior high. Joel was in my crowd when I met Samara.
Chris: Tell me about Joel cause he was an interesting
Mings: I met Joel at Lubbock High. We used to call
him "Stoned Joel." He was a nut, man.. So I started
hangin out with him. He was another one of those "lost
souls" that nobody would hang around with. For some reason
just Im attracted to those kinda people because theyre
In the high school setting, a "real
cool cat" like that
They dont stand a chance,
Man. Like Samara and Rachel - Real cool girls but they didnt
stand a chance in the high school scene, man!
Chris: Do you think that has anything to do with music?
Mings: Well, Im sure it does. Because see, Joel was a third generation musician. His daddy was a professional musician, and his granddaddy. And Samara and Rachel grew up with Ponty, and he was a professional musician.
I dont know what happened to me. None of my folks were professional musicians. Of course they were very musical. But it was all in the church.
Chris: [Lubbock music historian] Rob Weiner said to me recently, "The Bel-Aires might be looked at as the Bad Boys of Lubbock music, but they had their roots in gospel music," And he didnt elaborate on that. Whats the story with your gospel roots?
Mings: See, my folks divorced when I was about 7 years
old. There were six kids; We had three girls and then three boys,
in that order. The three boys - we were the youngest so we went
to live with our grandparents cause mom couldnt take
care of us
The first times, learning to sing Mom played the piano, and we all sang. And Ma-maw was always hummin hymns while shes doing dishes.
Chris: So you were singin three times a week?
Mings: Aw, man! We were at church three times a week, and then if we had a revival it was FIVE nights a week. But you always had Sunday school and church on Sunday morning. Training meeting on Sunday night. Wednesday prayer meeting on Wednesday. So thats three times a week we was in church.
Chris: Did that have anything to do with you wanting to play guitar, or is that totally different things?
Mings: No. But it had a lot to do with the way that I think...Yknow, 'cause I read The Bible a lot. Its a very poetic book, and its got a lot of hidden meanings; I seemed to realize that early on. So it really intrigued me - yknow, about the stuff behind whats written in The Bible.
Chris: Its hard to talk about this whole Lubbock music thing without at least throwin in something about The Bible [Laughs].
Mings: Right. Its West Texas.
Chris: Did yall - you and your brothers - start playing music at the same time?
Mings: Pretty much. I played guitar for about a year. And we got Wesley a bass guitar. Kevin had got some drums. If I started guitar when I was about 17, by the time I was about 18 they had picked up instruments, and we had a little four-piece combo with Joel - a little garage band; We never did do any gigs. Wed play in our backyard til the cops came...
Chris: Tell me about your gig tonight.
Mings: Its a pretty wild crowd on Monday here. Sometimes they dont come in at all. But most the times theres a big crowd usually comes in about 11:00 - 11:30. These fraternities have their chapter meetings on Monday nights, too. So after their chapter meetings, they all come out here and party. But last week we didnt have much of a crowd at all...So I dont know.
We used to play at The Spoon a lot. Man, wed have a line out the door...I mean, once there was a line out the door during a snowstorm, at one oclock in the mornin. Some times you just have great nights over there.
Chris: Ive had some good nights, man.
Mings: Any more though, theres so many more clubs that have opened up with that Buddy Holly District. You got the Conference Café and Bleachers: two killer sports bars. That knocks a lot of em out. And you got the Daiquiri Bar over there. And you got the martini bar and you got Kyle Abernathys and you got Stubb's and yknow
But if you look, man, theres a deal like about every
ten or fifteen years out here. Cause you had Buddy Holly
or fifteen years after he died, you had ol Waylon
Jennings come right out of here; out of Littlefield....Made
it big. And it wasnt just Waylon either. Goddamn, you had
all kind of pickers in Waylons period comin out..
About another fifteen years, Ely starts hittin it. And
not just Ely, either. You had Butch, and Jimmie, and Jesse and
all these at the same time.
Chris: [Laughs] Thats what Im trying to figure out.
Mings: It may be kinda like droughts and flood years. Yknow, you get your drought years, for six-seven years, and then, Bam! You got three years of flood.
I remember them Ely Band days. Thats the days when I was watchin them. They had just got done with that Clash tour and that Live Shots! Album and they had just made the move to Austin. See, thats what got me, right there, man [pointing to a photo of the panther/guitar tattoo on Jesse Taylors bulging right bicep].
Chris: The tattoo.
Mings: When I was a kid, Id stand there by the
stage and Id watch that sombitch
Jesse had the tattoos and hed have
a sleeveless shirt and the biceps, and hed be sweatin.
Jesse just sweats like a pig. I mean the first song...Hes
drenched. Dude, Im not lyin, Man!
I thought, "Man, I want a band like that! I want a band like that."
Jesse volunteered to play on our album, for nothing but air fare and meals.
So theres all these people down there at the studio and
they were watchin Jesses in the booth playin.
And I mean hes just cuttin some chops, Man. I mean!
this little lady - the money person -she was goin, "Where
did you get this guy?" I think they were from New Mexico.
Theyre older folks. They really had no idea who Jesse Taylor
was. All they knew is they had to spend $250 to get him up from
Austin, and "What the hell is this?"
Chris: So he basically just did it for the plane ticket?
Mings: Yea well, we set up a couple of gigs in town with him and paid him, so he made a little money. He told me a year ago, when I first started this project; he goes, "Man, I want to record on your album." He says, "Man, I work really cheap. For you guys, I work for nothin!" Well, "Hell, yea! Jess!" So we flew him in and flew him out. Got him a couple of gigs while he was here. Got a little money in his pocket.
is a sketch I made of an old sign
- thanks to Tanya So for the pictures of Kent and The Texas BelAires -
2007 Chris Oglesby
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