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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."

buy the book

"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

-continued from page 1-
: I’d like for you to tell me about your book Zen and the Art of the Texas Two Step.

Tom X: Well, I made a discovery one time…I moved to Mexico and lived there for three years. And I discovered, being out there without my wife, that there was a sexual satisfaction available in dancing that was pretty karma-free; It didn’t get you in trouble. You can dance with somebody, and have some real good lovin’ without it causin’ anybody any trouble.

So that was the commercial aspect of my book: Turning guys on to what I call ‘Cool Sex’ - that is, where there’s no body fluids exchanged. ‘Cool Sex’ has a satisfying sexual aspect to it that is generally not recognized.

Most guys think of dancing as foreplay for ‘Hot Sex.’ But I’m saying that ‘Cool Sex’ is an end unto itself and it’s worth doing…And under some circumstances, it’s a better idea than ‘Hot Sex.’

Chris: Yea. [Laughs.]

Tom X: So that's the thrust of my book. I use dancing as a metaphor to hang my philosophy of life on. I take that opportunity to tell other men - not only to turn them on to this secret about dancing - but teach ‘em how to do it…How to get along with women, and things like that.
Because I always wished as I was growin’ older that there was some source of information to help guide me. So it’s a "man-to-man talking" book.
I just acted like I was talking to a friend as I wrote the book; And try to show The Truth. And I expose some things about my whole personality that I ain’t proud of.

Chris: Boy, I think I’ve lived that book. I mean, going to see The Maines Brothers... I mean, it was all happening out there on the dance floor. After high school, I quit doing athletics and so that was about the only exercise I ever got.

Tom X: The Maines Brothers’ used to play a regular Sunday afternoon/evening dance gig at The Cotton Club…on Sunday afternoon. That was a great party. They’d get a helluva good crowd out there on Sunday. It was so funny to be cruisin’ the quiet streets of Lubbock, and cruise out to The Cotton Club and walk in there and five or six hundred people were all in there dancing away.

Chris: They were kinda the "house band" out there for awhile? I mean, they were the best dance band in town. So how did The Maines Brothers get started playin’ out there? Have you known them pretty much their whole careers?

Tom X: Yea. I’ve known ‘em all their lives. They played out there because there wasn’t but two places in Lubbock to play; And the guy that had the other club didn’t get along with The Maines Brothers; or didn’t get along with their father. The Maines Brothers Band that you know - Their father and uncle didn’t get along with the guy that had the other club; And me and the Maines family has always been good friends. So it was about the only logical place for them to play.

Chris: And you had said that their daddy played and their uncle played. Did they ever sit in with you?

Tom X: Oh yea. They both sat in with me a lot.

Chris: But they were just casual players? They didn’t really work as professionals?

Tom X: They weren’t professional, no. There were very few real ‘professional musicians’ in those days in Lubbock because there wasn’t enough work.

I had the town pretty much sewed-up. The Maines Brothers gradually took over from what I was doin’ and then they became "The" band. The way they were for your generation, that’s they way I was for mine.

Chris: Did The Supernatural Family Band play in Lubbock mcuh? Or was that when you and your family were off living in New Mexico?

Tom X: That was when we was off. But we came back to Lubbock and played once in a while, when we’d come back to see the family.

The way The Supernatural Family Band worked is; It’s me and my wife and five kids. And I knew so many musicians that I'd just get some of the pro musicians to help me on certain jobs when I needed ‘em; also, they’d sit in with me on certain jobs when they weren’t workin’.

So my kids were getting to play music with the greatest musicians in the world-- which is what I was doin’ it for--was to let my kids play with professional musicians.

Chris: Do you wanta talk about your kids as musicians at all?

Tom X: Yea. The whole idea for The Supernatural Family Band for me was for my kids to learn my trade. I wanted them to get to where they could book a job, and get the equipment ready to play it, rehearse the songs, play the job, do the business end of the job - Learn the whole thing.

The Supernatural Family Band wasn’t out there to get rich and famous per se like most bands were - even though I had a really strong commercial band.; Because I had two sons that were nice looking guys and four beautiful women, we were really a commercial band. But I wasn’t doin’ things like they should be done to make it successful because I was wantin’ to teach my kids to be musicians and professionals.

An example that will illustrate the point is that when we would learn new song, we would learn new songs on the job. Me and Charlene would come up with the songs, and then we would just start playin’ it and let the kids do whatever they liked to do with the song. That was the way we taught ‘em.

Chris: That’s fun.

Tom X: We’d just let ‘em play whatever they wanted to, and me and Charlene would carry the job. Once they learned the song, we’d quit playin’ it and started playin’ something we didn’t know. So that was an ongoing thing. As soon as we learned one song we wouldn’t play that one anymore and we’d play something else more interesting.

Chris: Were y’all traveling a lot or were you staying in the Southwest or what?

Tom X: We traveled a lot. Mostly the Southwest because that’s my favorite part of the country. But we traveled all over the United States. We lived in Denver most of the time, or around the Denver area…We worked mostly in the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest.

Chris: Did y’all have a pretty big following? Or did y’all just play to whoever would show up?

Tom X: Yea. Well, it wasn’t so much as a following in that sense as it was: We was damn-near the only "good-time, country, party band" out there. There was a few hippie bands here and there but we were a big happening when we would come to town.

Chris: Who were your fans, would you say?

Tom X: It was all hippies…Mostly just a bunch of hippies. But there was a lot of big-money jobs. Of course, the biggest time we had was when we were in Colorado. We were "The" barbecue band in the whole state. Any big companies would throw a barbecue, they’d hire us to play because we looked like people wanted us to look. We looked like "Coloradans."

Chris: Yea. Definitely. I’ve seen a couple pictures of the band from then.

Tom X: There’s a church up in Denver -Saint Thomas -always had us for their Saint Patrick’s party ‘cause I could play Irish breakdowns on the fiddle. And we played a lot of high-class business parties and these ski-club parties and things like that.
We were the top band in Colorado for seven or eight years, at the same time that we were traveling to different parts of the country.

Chris: Let me ask you this: You have a lot of Spanish-style music in your music. And you were talkin’ earlier about living in Mexico for three years without your wife. What were you doin’ down there? What is your connection to Mexico?

Tom X: Well, first of all, I’d always like Mexican culture and Mexican music and the Mexican people. So this whole idea of Mexican stuff was comin’ from me, mainly. When we moved to northern New Mexico we were pretty much the only Anglos living in this little community of Cuesto north of Taos. My kids were going to school. My daughter had been exposed to the Spanish language by housekeepers we had in Lubbock, and she learned Spanish real quick.

Chris: Was that Traci?

Tom X: Traci, yep. She became fluent in Spanish, so she started learning Spanish songs off the jukeboxes in the cafes. She’d hear something and Traci would learn it. So we started playing a lot of Mexican music that way.

Chris: So what were you doin’ in Mexico? Do you mind me asking?

Tom X: After I stopped playin’, The Texana Dames started; My daughter Conni kinda took over the band. She started to do things different - which is a good idea. As the kids got older, I encouraged them to do things their own way. So Conni kinda took over the band. Me and the Playboys stopped, and I started doin’ other things.

I went into stand-up comedy. I was doing a comedy routine at one of the comedy clubs. At the intermission, my son had brought a guest, a lady from the T.E.A., the Texas Education Association, [sic]. And me and her were chatting and she said, "Is this what you wanta’ do? What would you rather be doin’ than this?"
I said, "I would rather be out in the Mexican Chihuahuan desert." So later on she said, "If you’re serious about that, I can get you a job in Presidio."

Presidio is a little ol’ town across the river. It’s really just a little ol’ Mexican town but they pay American wages for teachers. So she got me teaching E.S.L., "English as a Second Language." She got me a job teaching there at that school. We had been out there, and I loved it out there.

I didn’t like doing the comedy thing very much because it had a similar pit-fall to music. As a party-starter with the band, I noticed that I could be feeling bad and then the music starts, and it kinda would make everything alright.
But I was the party-starter; I’m the guy with the microphone, the fiddle, and the big white hat. It kinda comes with the party; I’m able to get it moving.
So in comedy, that same principle applies except that it’s a well-known thing with comedians: "If you’re feeling bad, don’t go on." The crowd will pick it up real quick if you’re feeling bad. So you do whatever it takes to get you feeling good before you go on.
I tried doing it straight; I tried doin’ it with marijuana, I tried with booze, and I tried with LSD. I tried it all ways. And that pitfall…It was even more intense in comedy than it was in music. Because the music will sooth your mind itself. But in comedy, you pretty well had to do something to get in "a good way" before you went out there.

Chris: Yea. That makes sense.

Tom X: So I was not enthused about that. So I went on out to Mexico and I lived in an ol’ trailer house out at the edge of the desert out there and had a wonderful experience. I did that for about three years.
When my step-father died, I moved back home to Lubbock to be with my momma. I’m an only child. My mother is still living by herself at 93.

Chris: So tell me - What is the "X" in Tom X?

Tom X: That’s for the "Unknown?"

Chris: That’s what I thought.
Is there anything else about Lubbock that I’m not touching on?

Tom X: I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Lubbock. We talked earlier about people that really like Lubbock and really don’t…And I’m kinda two ways about it.

I could kick myself sometimes when I think about how long I stayed in Lubbock; Because I didn’t realize how deprived in so many areas of life I was by being there. Because being born and raised in Lubbock, I didn’t really know what else was out there.
But I stayed there 40 years, so I can’t hardly bad-mouth it; After having lived there for years it would make me look bad.

The "South Plains Voodoo" is what some people refer to it as, whatever it is that brings you back to Lubbock and often holds you there.

My love-hate relationship with it is like this - And I don’t think it’s fair to talk about Lubbock as if it had a persona of its own - But if it did, I don’t like it.

There’s a certain mentality there that I didn’t like. When I was a young guy, the city cops and the city mentality seen in the newspaper...I got a pretty hard time, a real hard time. The cops would come after me, I think out of boredom because I was the only thing happening there. The cops watched my band real close and hassled us. I was always, it seemed, just fighting with the city at that time.

Chris: That authoritarian side? Or that "pickin’ on stuff that’s different"?

Tom X: Well, it’s kind of like when I was in Tech. I was an actor in this play for the season. And my night-club's competition planted whiskey in the ceiling of the restaurant of the club that I was operating; My competitor planted it there. And the County Attorney gone ahead and busted me. He just busted me and took me off to jail in one of those big flashy Paddy wagons.
And it prevented me from making a living, stopped me from being in the play at Tech, and in effect stopped my pursuit of my degree at that time. I think I was feeling discouraged because of that.

And then a few years later when I was in law school, friends of that same county attorney passed the word to me that, "He hopes I don’t have any hard feelings about that."
Well, Fuck you buddy! I do have hard feelings about that. It caused me a lot of trouble and it was a frame-up in the first place and that guy knew it was. But there was an election coming up and he was wanting to get publicity. And I was a good way to do it.

That kind of thing. But y’know, I can’t actually blame all that on Lubbock. Lubbock’s just a physical place. But any town where Dan Quayle and George Bush are the political heroes… That side of the town is what I don't like about Lubbock.

But that whole side of the town is necessary to produce the side of it that I enjoyed.

That’s what it is about Lubbock: Lubbock’s polarized. So that mentality that exists there that I don’t like is partly the cause of all of our own people that you and I know and love, that come out of that.

Chris: Maybe we could say the same thing about the whole world, looking on the bright side?

Tom X: That’s true. We could. Because that’s really what’s happening on the planet. We’re in duality, and they’re always gonna exist side-by-side.

Chris: Well, I think that’s the biggest ‘sickness’ or ‘psychosis’ or whatever that thing is that bothers people about Lubbock; That dualism…almost worshipping Two things instead of One thing, y’know? Giving "the Devil" as much power as "God." It’s like, "If it’s not you, then it’s The Other."

That’s a real thing in Lubbock that - I think; The people who express dislike for Lubbock - That’s a lot of it: That daulistic way of looking at the world. "If it's not what me and my kind think, then it must be wrong."

But…the world's changing; Lubbock will change too.

Tom X: It is. It’s a hell of a lot better place now than when I was growing up there. They got trees and water and beer, now.

Chris: [Laughs.] Yea, they do. All the beer you can drink. Even though you gotta wait in line at the Strip.
-END -

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Buy the book by author Christopher Oglesby
Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air:
Legends of West Texas Music

"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." - University of Texas Press

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