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
"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
Sharon: I told
Joe I was coming
over here to meet with you and have some tea, and we were gonna
talk about Lubbock. I didnt know what questions you were
gonna ask me or anything, but I presumed you were gonna say something
like people always say, "Why is Lubbock the way it is?"
or "Why does Lubbock even exist?"
Chris: Thats the general idea.
Sharon: "Why? Why, why, why, why?"
So this is a little story that goes with what Im fixinta
I was at the stove the other day. I was cooking, and I was chopping
these carrots to put in to sauté, and one of em
fell off and rolled down onto floor underneath the icebox. Which
means that when that carrot is there underneath the icebox, that
can start a whole new world - of insects or whatever. Or it could
even attract a little mouse. And then there you are: The mouse
feeds a little and then the whole thing
sort of like a theory, I think, some people have about how the
But its also I think how Lubbock began. Joe said that somebody
was going through there in a covered wagon and their wheel broke
and got stuck, and they could never get out. And thats
how come Lubbock is where it is. [Laughs] Because somebody got
Chris: Its real easy to get stuck there, too.
As much as people want to get away, a lot of times people just
get stuck going back there.
Sharon: I have a whole history of Lubbock, like four
volumes; Its incredible to read. And it says in there that
in the beginning, this city was set up to be real protective.
You know, thats a very harsh country
up there, and during the time that all of that was being settled,
it was VERY harsh landscape, and water was not very available,
It was just really difficult. And so when they got Lubbock somehow started
settling, the people wanted it to be very protected from all
outside elements and people
And to me, always when I lived in Lubbock, it always felt like
a fort. You know that circle that goes around Lubbock? [Loop 289] I
always felt actually pretty safe there. And when I would go out
into the world
You know how people would always go out into the world and always
come back to Lubbock?
Sharon: Its because its really safe and
its really protected there.
Chris: It is. Lubbock is a bastion; youre right.
Sharon: Maybe its not the most gorgeous place
but I think one of the things that we all learned to appreciate
was: Maybe it didnt have a lot of trees but it has some
of the most incredible skies Ive ever seen. And when I
moved down here, I actually missed those skies. I missed those
sunsets cause they were INCREDIBLE! I mean, some days wed
just go out and that was our entertainment! You know?
So I dont know what angle youre goin at with
Chris: Im trying to answer a "What causes
all these artistic searchers?"
Im trying to get
to "what causes that" among that community in Lubbock.
One of the things that I think is common among a lot of Lubbock
people, I kept hearing with your name involved is "having
a knack for creating events and fun situations."
Whereas people in other parts of the world might be able to just
sit back and take things in, in Lubbock one really has to take
charge of things if you want anything to happen.
Ive heard a lot of stories about events you organized.
Id like to hear about some of those things: "Ways
to have fun or to create in Lubbock." That creative
process is what Im looking at. What causes somebody
to get those juices flowing?
Sharon: Ive thought about this - First of all,
the thing that was really important in Lubbock was "The Group;" a group of friends.
Without that group, I dont think anybody really would have
done anything what they did.
For instance, Stubbs and
Milosevich; He was a very close friend of Stubbs.
They together attracted groups of artists. Paul's wife Debbie Milosevich knew Terry Allen through her brother, and
Debbie introduced Terry to Stubb and Paul and this whole group
of people. Terry & Jo Harvey had been out in California,
and they came back into this whole circle of people that were
gathering. Like Jesse
The musicians were attracted to Stubbs.
Then these musicians, needless to say, attracted many girls.
So there was much love there; yknow, the romance which
attracted all these girls, and then all of their families and
all of their friends. Like Tommy
Hancock and his family were musicians, and that attracted
people. Thats how all that happened.
I think people forget this but we were all 19, 20, 21 and
there was a little bit of a spiritual quest going on through
the music. Like Butch [Hancock]
[Gilmore] and Tommy Hancock and Joe and all of us would
jump in a van and drive over to New Mexico to go up to the Lama
Foundation and learn how to Sufi dance. Steve
Wesson learned to play the saw and brought it back
and wed all do this circle of Sufi dancing in Tech Terrace Park, right
in front of where Paul Milosevich lived.
happened was this "thing goin on
music and all this romantic conglomerated mess where everybody
was falling in love with everybody else
Chris: Was this in the late 60s?
Sharon: Im talking about the 70s
when I met Joe that was in 67 and this whole
era from 67 on and this whole group of people that were
coming together. It was incredible! I cant call it
"Underground" because it is very difficult to be "Underground"
in Lubbock. [Laughs] Except for the prairie dogs.
Im just kind of giving you the whole ambiance of the whole
thing so youll know that theres this whole group
of people involved and theres all these wonderful people.
And everybody was real attracted to each other and just amazed
at each others musical ability or their character or personality.
We all really liked each other.
From the very beginning, from the first time I met Joe I was
in love. There was a time "Before Joe"
and a time "After Joe." When I met Joe, he had come
back from L.A. and his hair was down to his waist or below.
I had heard him play at Alices
Restaurant, in the
alley, across from the college; Its called Mesquite's
now.. That was Alices Restaurant.
Thats how long Ive been away from there! He
was playing his drums, his harmonica, and his guitar up there
in the very top part. He had a little solo concert goin
on. Thats where I first heard him and met him.
Truly, my life changed after that; I was not the same and I fell
madly in love with him. From that point on, everything that I
did and everything that I created was focused towards my love
for Joe. Period. That is why I am in Austin today.
Chris: Tommy Hancock was saying to me this morning
a very nice thing; He said that he thought you were one of the
most creative, artistic women that he knows and that sometimes
you may not get enough credit for it because youre with
Joe. So what are some of your artistic endeavors or creative
things youve done?
Sharon: [Laughs] I dont know how he could possibly
Chris: Lots of people have said that to me, so there
must be something to it.
Sharon: I would just mainly do things that would be
fun; I just like conjure things up in my head
Well for instance, heres one thing - All my group of friends
had left Lubbock to go different places when I was about 22 or
21; I was in Lubbock, and I was all alone. I was living for a
very short time at my parents house, and I suddenly realized
that I had to make my own friends. So I made five
human-sized dolls. They were dancing dolls cause
I love to dance. They became the 5 Muses. Theres Gremaldi
and Calliope and I cant remember the other names. But I
made these dolls, and then I had little cocktail parties. They
were like my friends.
I didnt have a whole lot of money then; So I found some
sparkly, satin material in the alley. I put it on these really
pretty amazing life-sized dolls; And they became my friends.
And before I knew it, by making these dolls, and just accepting
that these were gonna be my little group of friends, all of a
sudden everybody returned to Lubbock. I had so many friends!
And they all loved my dolls! They thought it was wonderful, and
we all started having parties. Before I knew it, I didnt
have any time to sew any more and make dolls because we had all
these friends, doing all this stuff.
Its sort of like "You
can make your dreams happen"
Instead of just going out and
like killing myself, I decided to do something. Cause loneliness
is a horrible feeling and if you let it get to you, it will KILL
you! I think thats another thing in Lubbock: People would
become lonely, and thats why so many people attracted each
other; Because they didnt want to be lonely.
Did you ever see that 20s movie - I think its
a silent film - called "The Wind"? Its about
this lady thats left in this little shack that reminds
me of Snyder during a dust storm
out in the fields. Shes
left in this little house, and the wind starts blowing and the
dust blows. And shes there all by herself, and she literally
goes crazy cause shes out in all this wind.
Chris: Im glad you said. That loneliness is a
very real thing for me. Ive always felt that loneliness
there in Lubbock. Whereas in Austin, I don't really ever feel
Sharon: You look at all these things from a psychological
point of view - We were all just trying to be happy
is essentially what we are trying to do today: To be happy. And
we want everybody else to be happy.
I would try to get Joes attention, because in the 70s
he had attracted about 55 girlfriends. So to be attracted to
somebody like that was a BIG commitment on my part. I mean, you
either had to be totally nuts or truly in love with
this guy, or you just wouldnt put up with it. So I would
try to do things to attract his attention.
One of them was when they did a photo-shoot at Stubbs
Barbecue for one of his album covers. All the
girls came and all the musicians were there, and I thought, "Well,
Im just gonna blend in with the wallpaper if I dont
do anything." So I wore my roller-skates over there, and
played pool. Because I had roller-skates on, I got my picture
taken. But it also got Joes attention! Because he liked
to roller skate, too. He was a really good roller-skater and
so was I.
Chris: And youre so tall
Sharon: I was REALLY tall when I walked in on those
Chris: Now, talking about being at Stubb's
and getting Joe's attention: Weren't you the cause of "the Great East Broadway Onion Championship of
1978." Do you wanta give your version of
Sharon: I was very cocky back then. Thank God were
not like we used to be! I guess, it caused them to write a song
and have a big tournament, so fine.
There was all this group of people that had gathered at Stubbs
because Tom T. Hall was there. And they were in the backroom,
playing pool - where not very many people could go. Everybody
else was out in the front just sitting there, listening to the
Yknow, how you kind of wait around for the
Big Concert to begin and it wont happen?
Joe and I werent really a "cemented item" then.
I mean, we were going with each periodically but I wasnt
really livin with him at the time. So I was still kinda
looking for his full attention. So I went to the back and then
the front, go to the back and then the front
I go, "Im just gonna go and get that white ball and
hide it in my back pocket. And then they wont be able to
play pool, and theyll HAVE to come out and play music!"
So I went back
there and I snuck the cue-ball and put it in my back pocket and
just kinda sashayed out of the back room into the front
that theyd come on out. And they never did.
When I went back there, they had the onion sack open and they
were playing pool with the onions. And I said, "Why are
they playing pool with these onions?"
And Stubb said, "Oh, I dont know. They couldnt
find the cue-ball so they just went ahead."
I realized: "That didnt work."
Chris: [Laughs] They were still gonna do whatever they wanted
We could continue to talk about Stubb. Do you wanta talk about
Stubb getting his barbecue
sauce company started?
Sharon: Yea. First of all, he was not healthy. He had
a complicated thing with his heart and diabetes. The whole thing
was when they would give him medicine for his diabetes it would
screw up his heart, and when he would take his heart medicine
it would screw up his diabetes. And he didnt understand
the diet thing. Hed try but he really didnt understand
it. He was really having a difficult time down here in Austin.
Plus, he had the restaurant,
and he had rats in his restaurant. And his rent at that little
bitty house was like a thousand and two-hundred a month. It was
just a very difficult time for him. He would come every week
because Joe is like his really close friend and
Stubbs would need money and of course we would come up with it
and give it to him, almost every week. We had been audited by
the IRS and trying to keep above ground.
So I thought maybe we could figger out something
bound to be a way where Stubbs could make some money and he wouldnt
feel so defeated all the time by his health and his financial
I knew from way back
When you taste something that tastes
really good and you think, "Gah, they should bottle this!"
I had always thought that about Stubb's barbecue sauce
kept telling Stubbs that really thats what he should do
He would make big batches of it for big barbecue parties, so
Id see that he could make these big tubs of it.
It was near Christmas and he didnt have any Christmas money.
So I said, "Lets get some bottles. You come out, and
well set the whole thing up in our kitchen. My friend Kimmie Rhodes
knows how to can, so we can make it safe."
So Kimmie came out and we bottled up these Mason jars. Apple
computers had just come out, so Joe was experimenting with all
these graphics. So he made a little label, and we printed it
out. I mean, Joes like a genius on that computer. So he
made the labels and we printed them up and cut em out with
little scissors, and glued em on the Mason jars.
Kimmie and I got on the phone and got some customers for Stubbs,
a bunch of people who wanted to buy this barbecue sauce for gifts
The deal was that if they bought it, they would get it delivered
to their doorstep by Kimmie and
me, and Stubbs would drive us over there. He was the chauffeur.
We got to drive around in his Cadillac. We would deliver it to
their work places. This was right before Christmas Kimmie
and I dressed up in matching white semi-formals, made out of
white lace, and cowboy hats that we put little corsages on.
Shes like about 5 feet tall and Im about 6 feet tall,
so we looked very funny. When wed deliver the barbecue
sauce, wed walk in looking like this with our boom-box
playing The Chipmunk Song.
We were having a great time! And Stubbs was happy. That day,
I think, we must have brought in $200 selling barbecue sauce.
I gave the money to Stubbs and I said, "Stubbs, Look! This
is just one day! This is what you can do with your barbecue sauce.
People love it!" So he got he understood that. Because he
had this handful of money, he could see the reality of it. Then
the next day we went out and delivered some more - we worked
all that week - and pretty soon and he had made like a thousand
Then he got the idea to open his own little factory and rented
a little place over on Ben White. He started collecting whiskey
bottles cause he didnt wanta buy the Mason jars.
"We got these free whiskey bottles!" And they were
pretty; He was a very artistic person. So hed go get all
of these whiskey bottles and put his barbecue sauce in it.
Chris: I remember them: the Jack Daniels and Crown
Sharon: Yes. He had a factory goin over there.
I gave him a desk that we had for his business. So it was kinda
like half-assed bein done, but it was being done. He was
selling his sauce to all kinds of people, or hed give it
away or whatever.
John Scott appears. We were
gonna have a business meeting in our backyard. And then John
Scott showed up one day with his brief case. And Stubbs says,
"This is our new President of my Barbecue!"
I knew then that this was gonna take a whole different avenue
and would truly become successful, which I was really happy about.
I was happy to let go of whatever we had started
knew that it had to be done. So when John Scott came in and he
knew what he was doing and could take it the highest limit
To me, the whole thing made me so happy. And Stubb was very sick;
I think he passed out at one of the grocery stores where he was
doing a little demonstration But when he got to see that
barbecue sauce on those shelves, it was like his dream come true.
Chris: And its around the world now. It's pretty much
the number one selling barbecue sauce around.
Sharon: I know. And Stubb always said, "I wants
to feed the world!" It would make him happy.
Stubbs had his ups and downs; I think because of his illness
that it made him kind of crazy. But
in the sense of Buddhism, Stubb was a true bodhisattva, because
he truly cared for other people. We learned a lot from him.
I think everybody learned many lessons from
him. People would come in and would be attracted to him, and
something would happen. Suddenly the whole group of people would
become involved in this problem and we would learn huge lessons
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