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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."

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"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


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Chris Oglesby interviews
Lynda Kay Parker
of Lonesome Spurs
December 27, 2007

Via telephone from Oglesby's home; Parker from studio in Venice, CA

Lynda: Before we start, I always have to remind people how to spell my name; it's with a "y".

Chris: Well, that's a good place to start. On the self-titled album by Lonesome Spursthere is a song which you wrote entitled "He Spelled My Name Wrong." And it seems that might be easy to do in your case. Listening to the lyrics of that song, it obviously is a song inspired by an incident from your years living in Lubbock. Tell me about your connections to Lubbock, how you came to be there at Texas Tech, and maybe end up with how you wrote that particular song, which mentions J. Pat's bar that many Texas Tech grads will remember as being right across University Avenue.

Lynda: What got me to Lubbock in the first place, when I graduated from high school I had the choice of either going to SMU, which is my father's alma mater, and living at home with my parents in Dallas, or go to my mother's alma mater Texas Tech, which is a six hour drive from Dallas. I guess I was in need of a little freedom so I chose the school six hours away from home.

Chris: I believe a lot of kids who grew up in Dallas and Houston end up at Texas Tech for that very reason; to go to college as far away from parents as possible and still be in state.

Lynda: I think so, too. Also, Tech is a lot more reasonably priced, and I wasn't able to get a big enough scholarship to go to SMU. Since I was putting myself through school, it seemed that Tech was my best option. And I couldn't be more glad that I ended up in Lubbock. It was the perfect path for me, in the most bizarre of ways. The biggest thing about Lubbock is that it was kind of a safe-zone for me to find myself because I sure was searching.

Chris: Why was Lubbock a safe-zone for you? Because you were far from home?

Lynda: Being away from home, certainly. But there is something about Lubbock...the simplicity of the town. Pretty much all you do there, other than go to school, is just get drunk and make music or something similar to otherwise occupy yourself.

Chris: There are a couple of lines in the chorus of that song about "when you're livin' in Lubbock any man will do," and later "Damn desperation, when any man will do…"

Lynda: I used to spend a lot of time at J. Pat's [J. Patrick O'Malley's, now defunct]. That song is actually inspired by a few different relationships but there was one guy in particular it was really based on, this frat guy I was going out with when I made my brief foray into that world. It was such a weird situation because I thought the guy was really dry and funny and all of his friends were very confused by our relationship and didn't understand why I was going out with him; they told me the guy was kind of an idiot. Apparently I mistook his deadpan face for dry humor. That is a really hard situation to describe in a song, by the way; it's kind of an esoteric concept, mistaking stupidity for wit. Maybe I can blame it on the liquor. I don't know what I was thinking but I woke up from that relationship and realized he was like Chauncey Gardener in "Being There." What ultimately happened was that he had this one problem; whenever he would drink, he liked to throw beer bottles and see how close he could get to my head without hitting me. It only took twice in one night of that happening for me to run away. The next day, he decided he ought to give me some roses to apologize. They were the shittiest looking dozen roses I have ever seen and they were in a plastic to-go cup from J. Pat's. There was a card that said he was so sorry, but he spelled my name with an "i". I was horrified. We had been going out for about eight or nine months at that time; on top of almost killing me with a beer bottle and giving me these sad looking roses, he couldn't even spell my name.

Chris: That says something about your life in Lubbock; that is a great rockabilly song and it is almost word for word a true story.

Lynda: It really is. I didn't have a good reaction to the sad flowers, didn't feel that was good enough to make up for somebody throwing beer bottles at or near my head. That was not my idea of a good relationship. What ended up happening is I found out he had had an ongoing thing with a girl I had been living in Stangel Hall with who would go to J. Pat's with me. So it all came back to J. Pat's and that was really funny to me. That actually is a very true song, because the way we had gotten together is that I had wrecked a friend's car when he pulled up and I knew him from a class we had been in together; this good looking guy in his nice car and decked out in his cowboy gear looking all cute, and he was polite and kind that day, then the whole thing went to shit. But anyway, I got a great song out of it.

Chris: You mentioned that you came to Tech because your mother had graduated from there and I remember when you were in school you that lived for awhile with your grandmother over by Tech Terrace Park. Did your mother grow up in Lubbock?

Lynda: Yes, my mother grew up in that very same house at 23rd and Indiana, and her parents grew up there, too. My grandparents owned a restaurant in downtown Lubbock called the Hot Shot Café, on Main Street right across from the jail. My grandfather's father owned it before that; it was in a different location until the tornado took it out and they built it back across from the jail. Hot Shot Café was an institution in Lubbock Texas for fifty-five years. My grandfather got ill when I was about fourteen and he died before I was at Tech; my grandmother tried to keep the café open a little longer but sold out back in the early Eighties. There names were Buck and Ola Peveto. Buck would go in about three in the morning to make all the pies and chili from scratch; they were open for breakfast, lunch, and early dinner. Since they were right across from the jail, frequently when prisoners were released, the first meal they would have was right across the street at the Hot Shot Café.

Chris: I understand that your mother was at Lubbock High School at the same time as Buddy Holly. Were they friends or acquaintances? Did you ever hear any stories from your mom about what she thought of Buddy Holly?

Lynda: My mom is a crack-up and she always just tells it like it is. I do remember asking her about Buddy Holly one-time. She did know him. I told my mom that I thought it was so cool that she went to school with Buddy Holly, and she said, "Well, yeah. I went to high school with him but he was a little weird."

Chris: Lynda, I don't know if you've read my bookyet, but in it I mention that nearly every single person I have spoken with who knew Buddy Holly in high school says the exact same thing. "He was weird." And that is about all they ever have to say about him.

Lynda: That was my mom's opinion. I don't believe she was really a fan of Buddy Holly's music because that is really the only statement she ever made about him one way or the other. Yes, my mom knew Buddy Holly but I got the impression that they didn't hang out in the same circles.

Chris: We should make full disclosure that you and I knew each other in college. You say you were paying your way through school with scholarships and you must have done well because I know you were in the honors program, and later we were at Tech Law School together. When we reconnected recently, you told me how I may have contributed to your "career-change" to singer/songwriter musician, and I wouldn't mind if you retold that story now because I'm involved.

Lynda: I would love to relay that story. You and Hal [Nelson] and I used to go out and get drunk together all the time. One night, we had tried to get some other friends to come out and play but no one else was up for us. So the three of us ended up drinking back at your place that night and we got into a game of poker. We got bored of the poker and Hal said instead "Let's write a song." I said that I didn't know how to write a song and you were the one who said, "Oh, it's easy. You just start singing and something comes out." Hal always had his guitar with him and he breaks it out and you just started singing about whatever was going on at that moment and you said, "See, I've done it." And I remember taking over and writing down everything we came up with that night. I still have that somewhere. I wish I could remember off the top of my head how it went. But I frequently remember that night as the first time I ever sat down to write a song, and it was with you and Hal Nelson.

Chris: I do remember at the time being pleasantly surprised that your voice is quite beautiful. And I also remember that you almost immediately took charge of the songwriting process that night, that it pretty much became your song by the time we were finished.

Lynda: Let me tell one more brief story about you, from when we were in law school. I remember one time you giving me a ride home from the Oyster Bar and you picked up this crack-addicted stripper who was hitchhiking and gave her a ride to where ever she was going. I was totally terrified and you just assured me that she wouldn't hurt us.

Chris: I was always picking up hitchhikers in Lubbock, and I did it to earn good karma, because there were frequently times when I walked home from the bar wishing someone would give me a ride, and I always did have uncanny luck with that. I always figured if someone needed a ride in Lubbock, I would help them out because Lubbock is not at all pedestrian friendly.

Lynda: I didn't mean to interrupt your questions with personal stories…

Chris: That's okay; let's continue. Tell me about that rodeo queen outfit you wear on stage.

Lynda: That outfit I wear when performing with the Lonesome Spurs. I have worn it other times, but typically that's my Lonesome Spurs outfit. I got it from my mom, who had it since the 1960's when she was still living in Lubbock. I always imagined it was her rodeo queen outfit but I'm not sure where she got it; I think it may have belonged originally to a cousin of hers. That thing is the most classic suit I had ever seen, so I told my mom, "This must be mine." I'll tell you a funny thing: those pants were actually made to go on the other way but I wear them backwards, because I love the design and wanted it in the front; so I just flipped 'em around the other way.

Chris: We've talked about the general flavor of your time in Lubbock and how that might affect writing rockabilly songs. Coincidentally, our paths continued along the same way; after we got out of law school we both ended up immediately in Austin. That was right about the time the movie "Slacker" had come out, and that was the story of our lives; the professional job market was weak in Austin and we were going through a long series of unsuccessful interviews and working various odd subsistence jobs. The last time I saw you in Austin, before you moved to California to start your music career, you and I were both on the original bartending staff when Stubb's Bar-BQ first opened in Austin during South by Southwest Festival in 1996. Shortly thereafter, once the club got up and rolling, those of us who were working there because we were friends with the owners promptly lost our jobs to the more professional bartenders. And I have not seen you since. Tell me first how you came to be working at Stubb's and then tell me how you got to California where you are now.

Lynda: First of all, I had quit being interested in doing anything regarding the practice of law not too long after I graduated from law school. I moved to Austin hoping to just work a mindless job because I didn't want to think too hard for awhile. I got a job cocktail waitressing at Cedar Street and shortly thereafter realized that the bartenders were making a hell of a lot more money than me. A girlfriend of mine was going to work at Stubb's and offered to help me get a job tending bar. I knew of Stubb's from Lubbock because I went to the opening of the latter incarnation of Stubb's in Lubbock when it was over by the Depot, with all the glitter on the walls. So I got that job at Stubb's, and you and I were working in the drink trailer out in the backyard. Do you remember that I didn't know how to mix any drinks at all? I remember that I had to ask you how to make a margarita! So not only did you teach me about songwriting, Chris Oglesby, but you taught me how to mix drinks.

Chris: I guess some might say that I led you down the path to perdition but others might think I saved your soul; what do you think?

Lynda: I think you saved my soul because otherwise I would have been so clueless in my life now without knowing either of those things.

Chris: On the Lonesome SpursCD, there is a line in the third song, "Other Side of Farewell," that says "Will they let me come home if I don't like what I find on the other side?" You wrote that song, and it sounds pretty autobiographical; do they miss you at home?

Lynda: I don't know. I would like to think so. I think the creative path I have chosen has been a little confusing for my family. They don't understand how I could have gone through all that law school stuff and then just carry around a guitar for a living. They wonder what is wrong with me.

Chris: Kind of like the way everyone did about Buddy Holly. Do you have a quick answer to that? Do you like what you found "on the other side of farewell?" Why do you carry around a guitar and a suitcase that you use for a trap set?

Lynda: I really didn't have a choice. I was going down a really personally destructive path doing all these things that I didn't like, such as law school. I realized that I would be a hell of a lot happier if I did something that I really love. So I had to make that choice and draw that line in the sand; I am taking this creative path and it's the best decision I ever made in my life. There is no place I would rather be than where I am right now, which is making music and plowing forward with that. It certainly hasn't been an easy choice by any means. But it was the best choice, really the only choice for me.

Chris: Let's talk some more about that path you have chosen. There is another song on the CD called "My Home," which you wrote. In it, you have dreams of going to California where the weather is warm. Tell me about how you got from bartending at Stubb's in Austin to California, performing original music and recording.

Lynda: Having moved to Austin after graduating from law school, Austin is such a great place to grow creatively because the town has a great sense of humor and there is something creative going on all the time. I chose the creative path and started only doing jobs which supported that creativity. I was doing a lot of acting at that time. I was in several plays; I did some drama but I really enjoy doing comedy. When I had gone about as far as I could go with my acting in Austin, I got some opportunities to go out to California for some jobs.
Actually, there is a lot of truth in the songs I wrote on the album. I wrote "Other Side of Farewell" about my journey from Texas to California. I really had a hard time making the transition to living among a really different breed of people. They don't say hello to you when you walk down the street like they do in Texas. It was a really hard thing for me to adjust to. It felt like I was really all alone. Californians, all they want to know is, "What do you do, and what you can do for me?" I just wasn't used to that philosophy being from Texas. In Texas, you say "Hi" to someone you don't know; you strike up a conversation at the grocery store just for the hell of it. You just don't do that out here. I don't think I'll ever get used to that aspect of living in California. And it's almost dangerous to do that out here; it seems like the only people who respond to you are total creeps. I'll never let go of that side of me but I've had to learn that it is reserved for a real special place, and that is in Texas.
The song "My Home" is actually based on a moment when I was sitting on the porch, living in this really crappy apartment in Austin, struggling to make a living there, and I just knew that it was time for me to go. When I moved to California, the first place I found that I liked was Venice Beach, because it was like Austin by the water. I've lived in Venice Beach now for eleven years. My favorite place to be out here is in the middle of the sand on the beach, with nothing in front of me but the ocean and I can hardly hear the city noise behind me. I guess I still need my wide-open spaces.

Chris: Do you want to talk about your husband? How long have you been married?

Lynda: I was married in August 2005 to Jonny Edwards, better known as Jonny Coffin. He is the founder and creator of Coffin Cases, which is a popular line of coffin shaped guitar cases and bass cases. I help him some with the company; my biggest job is to check out the models and make sure they meet both girl and guy standards.

Chris: That brings up another issue. We've talked some about your songwriting and your rockabilly music; you also definitely have a good sense of stage style. To what do you attribute your style consciousness?

Lynda: Totally to my mom. I look so much like my mother it is eerie. Her name is Mary Lynn. My mom instilled a strict sense of style; we just weren't allowed to leave the house without looking nice. And I do mean, "not allowed." As I got older and focusing on my career, it just came natural to take what mom taught me about looking my best.

Chris: One of the more significant stylistic aspects of Lynda Kay is your unique drum set and guitar. Talk about your unusual instruments and how you came to play.

Lynda: Sure. Let me give some background. As I mentioned, I moved out to L.A. originally to pursue acting. I joined the Screen Actors Guild and there was already a Lynda Parker, so I started using my middle name too, and that's where the name "Lynda Kay" came from...it just kinda stuck. Although I had some decent parts here and there, my acting career mostly consisted of driving around in an un-air-conditioned car in LA traffic from one audition to another. But at least I learned the layout of the city. I quickly got disenchanted with that world and the people in that community and realized the acting business is more annoying than creative, so I went back to my first love--singing. My father had instilled in me at really young age a love for music. He played me Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams, instructing me that it was good music and what I should be listening to. I will be forever indebted to my dad for that. So I had this classic music ringing in my head when I had decided to pursue music. I experimented with a few different styles and genres of music but pretty quickly came back around to the old-school honky-tonk rockabilly roots music; that is really where my heart is. I've played with a lot of different musicians in L.A. from a lot of different places. There is something unique to country music from Texas because it has a real blues feel to it, whereas Nashville country sounds more bluegrass. I like the Texas country blues.
When I started writing my own songs, I didn't necessarily know where they were coming from or where they were going; they were all over the place in regard to style and genre. Then one day, I just decided to put together a band. My original idea was to coordinate all my creative talents, including the acting, comedy, and music into a modernized cabaret show. I found out that it was a lot easier to book my own shows than it was to get cast in acting roles. I did that for a long time.

During that time, I started learning to play guitar. At first I bought a ukulele, and I loved that but it is a tough instrument to take seriously. It's hard to get away from the fact that the ukulele is a campy instrument; and I love blues so much and there is nothing bluesy about a ukulele. But I liked the simplicity of it. A friend of mine was helping me chart out some songs, and he had a tenor guitar which is a four-string guitar and I thought that was very cool. I like the high overtones of the tenor guitar, which are interesting because you don't get those overtones with a regular six-string. I have such a low singing voice, and I like the high overtones with my low voice; I think it's such a cool combination. I also like how simple it is to play chords. I felt that I could take on that instrument and learn a lot of songs really quickly. I started researching tenor guitars and finding out more about them, about all the different manufacturers, and my love for them kept growing and I started collecting tenor guitars. I just got a new one for Christmas which was custom built for me entirely by hand by a ninety year old man from New Braunfels, Texas, named Everett Fulton. It is the most magnificent instrument I have ever heard in my life.
When I was first learning, I taught myself guitar a chord at a time. Over time, I got to where I knew a bunch of songs. About then, I lost the lucrative Internet job which I had in their legal department; I had been working as a paralegal but making fantastic money. The job had a lot of flexibility and that's how I got my band going originally; I had been making enough money at my day-job to hire the musicians for my band. When I lost that job and couldn't afford the band anymore, by that time I had learned enough songs on guitar that I realized, what the hell, I can play by myself now. I didn't want to be a coffee house folksinger; I wanted to have some rhythm and beat, music with an edge to it. I had been a tap dancer when I was a little a kid, so I thought I would take up tap dancing again. I did one gig, and only one, where I sang and did the beat with taps on my shoes. It was horrible but great. It taught me many things, first of them being: singing and playing guitar while tap dancing ain't that cool; also, it was freakin' hard. I knew then that I needed some percussion which I could carry around with me and lug down to Venice Beach so I could busk down there.

Chris: Pardon me; I am unfamiliar with the term "busk." What does that mean?

Lynda: Busking is where you go out on the street, open up your case, and play for tips.

Chris: I'm surprised I have never heard that word before but I am certainly glad you taught it to me. I wonder if most people who busk even know that is word?

Lynda: Probably not; that may be my education and good breeding showing; don't tell anybody. But I like that word "busk." That is how the suitcase drum was born. I needed something to carry all my junk in, and I rigged a bass drum peddle on my old Samsonite suitcase. The suitcase became my rhythm. I would take my rig down to the beach to play and sing, and I quickly discovered there is a lot of crazy politics down on the boardwalk about where you stand.

Chris: I've always wondered about that…

Lynda: Oh, yeah. I didn't know what I was doing and I pissed off a masseuse, a painter, and a tarot card reader. It's different now because there is a system for reserving a space for certain blocks of time but when I was doing it, you had to get there before seven in the morning to get a good spot. Some people had the same spot everyday and they were really intense about it. I had no idea there were all these unspoken rules involved in busking. But I did learn quick.
I play with the suitcase when I'm performing by myself. I also play my suitcase with Danny B. Harvey, my partner in the Lonesome Spurs

Chris: How did y'all meet?

Lynda: Danny is a great guitar player and has played with a bunch of different folks. He also plays with Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead and Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats in a band called the Head Cat, which is Lemmy doing rockabilly metal style; hard to describe but they are great. Danny also plays with Nancy Sinatra whenever she performs, which is not often any more. He also has recorded some solo albums.
Danny was producing Wanda Jackson's latest album at the time we met. Wanda Jackson was the Queen of Rockabilly; she was the only chick singing rock in that early Elvis era, besides Janis Martin; they were the only two women who really achieved any notoriety. Wanda did the song "Mean, Mean Man" and "Let's Have a Party." While Danny was producing that album, he saw me singing with another guitar player one night, and he asked me to sing background vocals on Wanda Jackson's record. I thought that would be a really cool thing because I really like Wanda. She has always been a big inspiration to me because she doesn't have a real sweet voice; she has a tough voice. I have always been a big Wanda Jackson fan; I don't remember when I first heard her but probably from my dad.
Lonesome Spurs has a specialized sound because it is just the two of us. Danny plays Merle Travis style where he plays the bass lines with his thumb and the leads with his fingers. He plays different parts of the song simultaneously so it comes out a complete sound. People are so surprised when they hear our music; and we recorded the album as close as possible to what we sound like live. There aren't a lot of overdubs. But there are no other musicians on the record; it's just us two playing the songs. I am the rhythm section and Danny plays the leads.

Chris: Do you like to listen to a lot of music? Do you have a big record collection?

Lynda: I like to listen to all kinds of music, and I have a pretty extensive collection, from Wanda Jackson, of course, and Elvis, Patsy Cline. Willie Nelson is a big influence on me. So is Janis Joplin; Janis is a huge influence on me. She sang with such passion and truth in her voice, besides having a great tone and cool style. She really sang from the heart and that is what rings most true to me with Janis's music. Johnny Cash is a big influence; he's a great storyteller, as is Willie. Outside of country music, I love Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, a lot of the old cats. And of course, Buddy Holly; Buddy Holly is a big influence as well. And I should mention that I love Tom Waits.

Chris: This is the point in the interview when I'll ask if there is anything I didn't ask which you would like to talk about, and try to relate it to your connections to Lubbock, since that's what virtualubbock is all about.

Lynda: Although I am still playing with the Lonesome Spurs, I am working on a solo album right now. I wanted to do something that was an homage to old-school country with a real Patsy and Roy Orbison sound. Roy is another favorite of mine. Their records had all the beautiful string arrangements and layered parts. All the songs I am doing are original songs I wrote but it all in that classic old style. I wrote two of the songs with my husband; one is called "Dream My Darling" and the other is called "I Don't Know Why." Those are my favorite songs on the album. All the songs are written and, in fact, I am in the studio today just taking a break to do this interview. I am working with a producer whose name is Mike Butler; he plays with Billy Bob Thornton's band.

Chris: I think I've told you that Billy Bob came out with Billy Gibbons to the book release party we had a Stubb's. At what studio are y'all recording?

Lynda: We are doing most of the tracks here at Mike's studio, getting the composition and arrangements ready. We're going to record the strings and overdubs over at Capitol, to give it that nice full-groomed sound that they have and you can't beat that. Relating back to Lubbock and Texas, this album is completely inspired by Texas roots music, absolutely.

Chris: Do you have any albums in addition to the Lonesome Spurs and this newest one you are working on?

Lynda: The Lonesome Spurs is coming out with a new album that will be released in the UK mid-spring or early summer. It's a cover album, where we did all our favorite cover songs, like "Lonesome Town" and Patsy Cline's "Got a Lot of Rhythm," Johnny Cash's "Train of Love," a cool version of "House of the Rising Sun" which is more like Bob Dylan's version.

Chris: So I take it you have a following in Europe; what is your experience with European fans of your music?

Lynda: In November we went over to Denmark and Sweden, which was Lonesome Spurs first trip to Europe and we were so well received. I was really blown away. The people over there have such an appreciation of American roots music, more so than people over here do. They really appreciate authenticity and they responded so well to us. The way we were invited over is that there is a record store in Sweden where our album was selling really well, so they put on a festival and we were the headliner, and that was great.

Chris: How does that happen? Were they playing you on the radio over there? How did they find your music?

Lynda: Our first record came out on a label called Cleopatra Records. It was mostly released in the United States but they license it out to a few other labels overseas. I honestly don't know, because the label didn't either, how this one record store found out about us. It was probably through MySpace, I imagine, because that's how we got the initial contact from them is an e-mail to our MySpace page. That's how we found out that we even had a following over there. Now our following has started to grow in the UK, Italy, Spain, and France although we have never been to any of those places. Its really nice that those people are familiar with our music. We did sell a lot of CDs and we have souvenir belt buckets which we sold a lot of, too.

Chris: I have got to get me one of those belt buckles. Maybe when I see you next time you come to Austin to play.



Lynda Kay and Lonesome Spurs

LyndaKay performs "Live" in Austin, 3/13/08; video by c. oglesby

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