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: I was just visiting with Tommy Hancock
yesterday, and he said that a lot of people may not know that
you're a very talented actress. He wanted me to ask you about
Kimmie Rhodes: Let's see
what can I tell you about
that? It's all so scattered; I mean, my acting career is a pretty
Chris: Briefly, what is the story?
KR: When I started writing this play, I realized I
was writing this kind of unconscious piece, y'know; I was trying
to "say something" through this play. It incorporated
a lot of the people from my family and my early childhood and
my experience growing up in Lubbock. I sort of based the characters
on a lot of that.
What happens is this little girl at the beginning gets her
assignment from this angel. Joe Sears played the angel. This
little girl gets her assignment from this angel. He tells her
that she has to go down and be born and take care of this pool-hustler,
rounder kind of a guy
be born, and be his daughter, and
help him find his place in life. 'Cause he's just sort of this
guy who's not getting to live his dreams in any way.
Then this angel, the last thing he says is as she's leaving West Texas Heaven is, "I'll be with you. I'll always be with you." He shows up as an "angel unaware" throughout the play; as Old Tom the Wino, and later as sort of a magic doll that she's been given - He comes to life and has got his whole circus scene.
Ann Richards said that she felt like she'd
just been part of a West Texas Fillini movie. [Laughs] 'Cause
it actually incorporates the audience at some points, too; Pretty
soon everybody's in the play including the audience. It was really
I think some of the best pieces you write are ones that you don't know why you're doing it, and you just start. Kinda like what you're doing with this book! [Laughs]. But you're trying to work something out personally through doing it, and there's a message involved; Usually it's a good message because you're trying to make a communication.
So that's what that was about.
Then I went on to write some more plays with Joe Sears, and
we formed a little community theater group here in town called
Stone Soup Productions. We did a play called Hillbilly Heaven.
And now Joe Sears and I are working on another play called Doin' Gods Chores, that we hope to have in production pretty soon in his theater in Cody, Wyoming that he just built. We're gonna do our play there in his theater.
Then I'm working on a couple of pieces on my own that are
one-act plays. One's called The Puppeteer. It's more like
Small Town Girl; It's somethin' I'm trying to work out,
I don't even know what.
Chris: That does sound scary.
KR: So I've been writing lots of plays musicals.
KR: Yea, and I don't know why that is.
Chris: Well, this has been coming up a lot lately for me Sharon and I talked about this; so much of the stuff that's coming from Lubbock: There's just a real spiritual base there, it seems like.
Jo Carol Pierce was talking to me about how people even use "biblical talk" there about things. Maybe is it because it's such a church-going community, that people are thinking about those issues more? Or what is it about Lubbock that seems to be making these people think about this? Or is that just a universal artists' theme?
KR: I don't really attribute my spirituality to going to church in Lubbock. My experience with going to church in Lubbock was sort of contrary to my spiritual beliefs. I mean, nothing bad against any of that, but I didn't really enjoy going to church when I was a kid. But I did sing. That is kind of how I got started singing.
Chris: Did you have to go to church a lot?
KR: No. It was very sporadic in my family [Laughs] whether we went to church or not. It was kind of dependent on the climate in the family at the time.
Chris: That's about average, I guess.
KR: But we always went to church for the music more
But my best memory of church was at Christmas when they would
do their Christmas recital. I was just totally in it for the
show-biz aspect of it. I would sing, and I got to be the page-turner
for the lady who played the piano.
Chris: Did your family play music? How did you get started? Did you know early on that you wanted to be in show-biz?
KR: I started singing and even kind of making up songs
when I was really young. My mom tells me she can remember me
just being really young and making up songs around the house.
And I also had a third grade teacher at Dupree
I could remember her name
who noticed that. I think her
name might have been Mrs. Davis; I'm not really sure.
I just have this theory: I think you kinda come to the party already knowing who you are, and you just grow up to be that as quickly as you can.
I think I just kinda jumped on it because as soon as I got
to where I could, I got started
.Even though I didn't have
any idea then; I was just a little kid singing.
Chris: He was a car salesman?
KR: He also owned a car dealership. Now here's a funny
thing for ya' - or I guess it's funny now - We lived in Wichita
Falls; My dad had a car dealership and a big tornado came and
blew everything away. So what did my dad do? He moved to Lubbock!
It's like 'out of the frying pan and into the fire!' So that's
what caused us to move to Lubbock
when I was about five years old.
Meanwhile, I grew up and then I moved to a family farm up in North Texas, near Wichita Falls again. And then another tornado came and blew Wichita Falls away!
They've kinda been following me all my life. Then juust recently, they had that tornado down by the Pedernales Well, that was less than a mile from my house! [Laughs]. I thought I was safe in Austin but I guess not! I've always been chased around by tornadoes.
So my dad always was in the car business, but I think that when the motor home business blew away for the last time, I think that pretty much put him out of it.
Chris: So he got you up performing to bring people in to the car dealership on the weekends?
KR: I'd sing. And then my dad and my brother and I
-maybe when I was in first or second grade or somethin' like
that -My dad organized us into a trio. He would sing bass, and
my brother would sing harmony, and then I kind of 'fronted"
Chris: This was just like a 'good deed' thing to do?
KR: Well, that was our 'gig.'
Chris: Was he trying to get you to practice?
KR: My daddy is a very good-hearted person and it was
'a good thing to do.'
But it was great for me because I got to get out of school
and go over and sing!
I remember my first gig with a microphone was the "Dupre Buffalo Bean Supper." I had a teacher who got me to sing "Get Along Little Dogies." I had on a little cowgirl hat. I think it's so funny because my main memory of that night is how bad the sound was. My first actual plugged-in performance had terrible sound. [Laughs]. I didn't know how to use the mic or anything. I guess I was in the third grade.
See, what happened to me was: I didn't plan on growing up to be a singer; I just was a singer. I just started singing, and I didn't question it or aspire to be a singer or anything. I just did that.
What I wanted to do was I wanted to grow up to be a florist.
I would take my lunch money and go by the flower shop and spend
my lunch money, so I could watch the ladies make the bouquet
of flowers. Then I'd take the flowers and give 'em to my teacher
or give 'em to somebody on the way to school. It wasn't about
the flowers; It was just about wanting to be a florist.
Chris: So that was in high school?
KR: No. I would have been about See, I had a baby when I was Well, there's sort of a gray area there where I was just this hippie-chick, and had a baby and got him old enough to stay with the babysitter or his dad or whatever. We moved to a farm in north Texas.
Chris: How old where you about then?
KR: I would have been about probably 19 by the time I got my first job as a florist. So then I was good-to-go, 'cause that was all I ever wanted to do. I did that for a lot of years.
And then what happened is, it sort of snuck back up me again.
There was never this big plan to grow up and be a performer.
Whereas a lot of people go, "I wanta be a guitar player,"
and they practice, and they get really good, and they have this
dream, and they become a guitar player.
Chris: A songwriter?
KR: Any kind of a writer. I just didn't know that.
Chris: You just had never picked up a pen to do it?
KR: Well, I had kinda done a little bit of that, y'know.
But I didn't think anything about it. I just didn't think of
myself as a writer; I just was doing it. I was just writing before
I realized that I was a writer.
Chris: What kind of farm was it?
KR: We grew produce.
Chris: Were you actually out there farming?
KR: Well, we decided that we were gonna move out of civilization and move to this farm, y'know; it was sort of during the earth-mama hippie days, the back-to-nature period. So we were doing that. It was really a great farm, and the rent was free! So at first we just started out gardening, and then it ballooned into farming, and then we had a greenhouse business.
But what happened was, my first husband Michael Rhodes and I started farming in the first year of a seven year drought on a dryland farm. So it kept not raining, kept not raining, kept not raining. And then the year we just couldn't go any more - just went broke and couldn't farm any more - was the end of the seven year drought, and it just started raining like crazy! I always say it was God's way of telling me I didn't have to be a squash picker.
Chris: I was gonna say: You've had a lot of disasters chasing you around.
KR: [Laughs] I was just out there asking for it, I guess. I don't know. I was just making it as I went along. I had been working as a florist, and then what I'd do is: I would take off in the summer - which is the slow period for florists in a small town - And we would farm, and then I'd go back to being a florist in the winter. We had a greenhouse business, and we did that. But meanwhile, while all that was going on, unbeknownst to me, I started writing songs, and learned to play the guitar. And I already knew how to sing. I just started singing again.
Chris: Were you writing Country songs, or just whatever came out?
KR: Well I was just makin' up melodies and stuff like that. Then what happened was I came to Austin and I met T.J. McFarland and Joe Gracey
Chris: Who is T.J. McFarland?
KR: He used to play in the T. Nickel House Band
in Lubbock with Joe and Jimmie and those guys.
KR: For you! For us it was just like yesterday! The first time I ever saw Joe was in a place called Alice's Restaurant -I think now it's called Mesquites. That was the first time I ever saw Joe. I sneaked over there with a friend 'cause I wasn't supposed to be there.
Chris: Was that before you moved off to the farm?
KR: Oh, way before that. Yea, that was way back there.
Chris: How did you know about him?
KR: I don't even know. I just went there with a friend.
Just one of those nights you go somewhere with a friend. The
reason how I knew about him is because he was standing right
there in the room playin'. He just happened to be were we went!
It's a little place.
Chris: Yea, You shouldn't have been out. [Laughs]
KR: Well, I always enjoyed the company of people that were older than me.
So what happened was, in '79 I came to Austin and T.J. McFarland
introduced me to my now-husband Joe Gracey. Joe Gracey had worked
at KOKE-FM here, which
was a very progressive radio station that played everything from
Lightin' Hopkins to Asleep at the Wheel. Gracey produced
Stevie Ray Vaughn's first record. He just had a little studio
in the basement of KOKE-FM.
Chris: So at this point, you were just writing for fun?
KR: Yea. I just kinda had a little group of first songs.
So met them and we just all loved each other and wanted to do
something, so I formed my first band, called Kimmie Rhodes &
the Jackalope Brothers. The Jackalope Brothers were Joe Gracey
and Bobbie Earl Smith. We started a band and we started makin'
my first record. That was the name of it: Kimmie Rhodes &
the Jackalope Brothers.
2007 Chris Oglesby
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