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
PB: A lot of people think
I grew up in Lubbock; But I really grew up in San Antonio. The
first time I ever went out to that part of the world at all was
to go to Texas Tech. And on the way up there, somewhere north
of Midland, we encountered these migrating hordes of tarantulas,
bigger than a mans head. The body of it was about as big
as a fist. Horrible! Theyre walking across the highway
in broad daylight, and theres nothing to do but just run
over a few. When your tires rolled over em, they went plkkcrrssstd.
You couldnt dodge em all.
Chris: I was gonna say, "Thats quite ominous." Did that psychologically set you for coming into Lubbock?
PB: How could it not? At that time in my life, I look back on it now as if I was lookin at life through a veil and didnt really participate in it much; I didnt really have a clue yet.
Chris: This was before you came to Lubbock?
PB: Up until I was about 36 years old. [Laughs]. I was just kind of following the path of least resistance.
Chris: So your experience in Lubbock has affected you a great deal; So much that people even think youre from Lubbock. How long did you live in Lubbock?
PB: I spent 15 years there, on two separate stretches; Six years the first time - A very interesting six years. I was in college the first three of those. Then I married a Lubbock girl and settled into life there. Me and my wife had twins after about two years; I had a day job; a car, a TV
Chris: You told me earlier that you were calling yourself "a painter" when you first moved to Lubbock...
PB: That was really when I was in college. But I thought
of myself as some sort of artist long after college. I really
have thought of myself as "a character in a novel,"
all my life. At that time, I just knew I was different.
See, I was in architecture in college; then I switched to art. But my dad was real technical and retentive, and I sort of inherited that as a mirror image of my other side. Im a Libra, and Ive just had this lifelong fascination with the entire spectrum - both ends of the poles.
Chris: The accordion is a very technical instrument.
PB: There you have it! My dad started me on the accordion
when I was five years old. And he immediately taught me that,
"Im paying a quarter for these lessons, and youre
gonna practice an hour a day. And when your next lesson comes
up, youre gonna have your lesson ready to impress your
teacher." And of course, I immediately - at the age of five
- say, "No! Im not gonna."
But the technical part of the accordion that you referred to; If you learn that when youre 5 to 12, its not a problem at all. Because youre just a machine then, and youre soaking up information; You can learn so much like kids today with these computers.
Chris: So you were lucky. Not a lot of people start the accordion at age five.
PB: I was very lucky, even though I hated it.
Chris: How did that happen? Did your dad play accordian?
PB: No. Dad never told me when he was alive, but his father and his two uncles were musicians. They had a band in north Texas called The Bone Brothers. I found it out from my Aunt Inez. She produced a clipping from the newspaper about where theyd interviewed ol A.P. Bone and all about his early days as a musician. The point of this article was that sometimes they wouldnt agree on a certain harmony note to go with the main note, and theyd go outside and fight over it and whoever won was the way they went!
So I think my father realized right off that I was an artist,
and he didnt really want to encourage that. But he wanted
me to learn things, and he wanted me to have music as something
for leisure. He basically wanted me to be well-rounded.
Chris: You had been in Lubbock going to Tech, got married and had twins, and you were working as a surveyor and a draftsman.
PB: About that time is when I met Joe [Ely] and Jimmie [Gilmore] and everybody. Me and my wife moved to Phoenix and began to be the sort of midway point for all the Lubbock bunch who were constantly trekking back and forth to California.
Chris: I've heard a story about Jesse Taylor comin out to your place when he was 16 years old; Whats your connection with Jesse Taylor?
PB: While we were livin in Phoenix, we took trips
constantly; Any excuse to come back to Texas - to visit her folks
in Lubbock; or come down and hear some of our friends play in
Austin - We would do it. When we started a band, the first thing
we did was come to Austin and play the Vulcan Gas Company.
Chris: Who was in that band?
PB: Sarah - the lady I was married to at the time. And we had a young guitar player named Dana Smith. We had a couple of different bass players, and a couple of different drummers. We put this band together in Arizona.
Jesse as a young man looked very mature for his age; He was already playin in Black bars and just blowin everybodys mind by how he good he was. Of course, hes completely self-taught.
So I came to Lubbock on one of those trips, and I met Lewis
Cowdrey and Angela
Strehli who had a Blues band called Sunnyland
Chris: Should we come back to Lubbock? You came back to Lubbock when?
PB: 71. First of all, I moved to Slaton. Well,
actually first of all, I came to Austin and saw Lewis. And Lewis,
at this point, had just met Jimmie Vaughn, who had just
come down from Dallas; They were starting a band called The
Storm, and Lewis wanted me to be in it. He said, "How
many nights a week do you feel like working?"
Chris: So you went back to that technical, surveyor thing? Thats interesting.
PB: I had done some of that in Phoenix, obviously, because I had these twins. We all had to eat. As a matter of fact, we had to have a little extra money because we were in a band. Youd think youd be making some extra money cause youre in a band. But every musician within the sound of my voice KNOWS that, in fact, it takes money to have a band.
1971. Ive got my old job back. Weve moved to Slaton,
Texas, cause it was so cheap to live out there.
In 76, my first marriage went on the rocks, and Im
out in the front street playing Frisbee with my twins. And Joe Ely drives up on his bicycle. He says, "Hey,
Ponty. It looks like MCA is gonna do my first album. Listen,
were getting together tonight over at my house on 9th Street;
Man, get your accordion and come over there and jam with us!
I got some songs I want you to play on the album."
Well, the next 6 and half years is history because I took the job. I had decided to completely quit drinking because it was a real challenge to play with Lloyd. I quit that day job, and we started touring. I was about to buy the surveying company, and - to make a long story short - I went on the road with Joe Ely instead!
Chris: Wow! Its that Libra thing.
PB: Yea. It was about that time that I realized that
I was still alive, and I had these interesting thoughts. I
began to start keeping a journal- contemplating the idea
of whether I had any control over my future or not.
From day one in Lubbock - the first
time, when I was a college student - I immediately began meeting
larger than life characters. I immediately met a Black
Bluesman who would come to my house and play. This guy was like
a Lighting Hopkins! He was a yardman who lived in the alley of
some apartments. In the alley! And such a beautiful guy! Smoked
a pipe....He loved us. We always had wine. Me and my brother
had a house there on 14th and S.
Chris: And whats his story, in a nutshell?
PB: . When I first met Grover Lewis he was a graduate student in English. And he was very, very well known on campus for being an intellectual with a circle of friends that partied. And immediately you know me, little naive little under-graduate Im hangin with him and a bunch of guys like that.
Chris: What would we know him for now? What did he go on to do?
PB: Well, he went on to be a writer. He lived in Los Angeles. He was on everybodys list in the 70s. He passed on early of some life-threatening disease he had all his life; He was almost blind. He wore real thick glasses but he could hardly see. He wrote quite a few interesting things in Rolling Stone in the early 70s.
I agree with your thinkin about
Lubbock being unusual. Although skeptics will say, "Ah,
yknow! You read other authors; Its the same wherever
they grew up. What youre really celebrating is your passage
and the things you know. Every town is the same
I am always amazed, when I mention Lubbock to other musicians
I work with in Austin; they say, "Oh, did you live in Lubbock?"
Lubbocks always been a lucrative market. A lot of great bands came out of Lubbock. And a lot of great bands came to Lubbock. A lot of em were there because of, "something a little bit more on the intellectual side of the equation." Like being in a band, or going to Texas Tech, or having some kind of a connection with the arts...
Chris: See - Thats the kind of thing that people would laugh at; If they read: "This intellectual thing in Lubbock" A lot of people would laugh about that. But you know that its true
PB: Of course its true!
Chris: Cause you will meet some strange person
- some brilliant artist - who lives down the street from you,
and think, "How has this person survived in Lubbock for
all these years?
PB: I agree. Lubbock has got a uniqueness about it.
2007 Chris Oglesby
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