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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

When in Austin,
Texas Honey Ham Company

-continued from page 1-
Chris: "Doing something together; sharing an experience with other people." That’s one of my theories why there’s been so much production of music from Lubbock; For me - and I hear this from a lot of people – that environment out there really is conducive for creating loneliness, feeling separated from the rest of the world and from other people. You really get stuck in your own head there because - as we were saying - there’s not a lot of other things stimulating you there. For me, and a lot of people, I think the only refuge is to go out of your house at night, and go to a place where there’s a room full of people sharing this kind of intimate, sensual, exciting experience.

I think that experience that you first had there at Main Street Saloon, seeing Donnie Allison & John Sprott and all those guys playing, you had a sensual experience regarding the music. That’s why I went out to that, to share that with people - just to sense you're alive.

Trent: Just to add to that, because I’ve thought about this quite a bit: You were isolated, being in Lubbock, from the rest of Texas and the rest of the real world, with little pockets of culture coming in occasionally. But we would do with them what we would. It makes a pretty decent test market, because we are so isolated.
Then you take an ultra-conservative community, which has never really dealt well with people of the arts or people that are "sensitive"…And you put a pocket of those musicians and artists in a town where there’s not really an arts community that’s organized, then you - if you're an artist- are really isolated!

When you do get a group of people together that are like that, there is a sense of rebellion…which is a GREAT feeling! And nothin’ wrong with it!

Some of the best, most exciting, greatest moments in my youth was "rebelling" and that feeling of "I’m free! I’m doing what I want to do!"
You really get a sense of that in Lubbock, because you’ve got that double-isolation there. Boy, I’ve still never experienced the fulfillment of that more than at Main Street Saloon - which holds maybe 200 people packed to the gills - with a band up there, turned up all the way, and just everybody having a great time.
And nobody got killed. And there was no one in particularly strange clothes; There weren’t any "fashion statements" being made. It was just Lubbock folk having a great ol’ time, really enjoying themselves.

: Y’all were doing - in the Squarehead days - a combo-gig thing with the BelAirs; How did you end up hooking up with the Mings brothers?

Trent: We drank together. That's kind of how it all starts.

Chris: With those guys, for sure. [Laughs.]

Trent: We played some of the same venues. They were doing a lot of original stuff and had a unique act - with the stand-up bass and all that. And we were playing original music - but we couldn’t cover a whole night with just originals, and neither could they. We started talking about, "Man, wouldn’t it be great if we could get up there and play just a set of our stuff?"
‘Cause we were wanting that: "Know me for Me, and not for who I can sound like," kinda deal.
We drank together, and thought we were gonna be Stars, and just decided to do it that way. Also, as a way to make some money -- to double-bill – ‘cause we wanted to make money, too. Sometimes we’d open and sometimes they’d open.
At the end, me and Fillipone started Pale & Thin; so we had an acoustic act that we opened up with, and then the BelAirs came on and did their gig, and then Squarehead would play their gig. So we’d do a 3-bill out of one. We actually played together, kinda crossed over; they did some of our songs and we did some of theirs, and that was fun.
But we were so drunk, we didn’t really know what we were doin’ so it wasn’t really all that great. It was a great time.
The Mings Brothers partied so hard that we couldn’t keep up with ‘em. [Laughs].

Chris: That doesn’t surprise me too much. They’ve been banned from a lot of bars in Lubbock; pretty rowdy.

So what was your first recording experience? I know y'all did the Squarehead album that y’all did at Caldwell’s.

Trent: That’s actually about 3 or 4 recordings later. I started - with the Intentions - recording in a trailer house…It was actually at a Christian music, little recording station in Lubbock. They started in a little trailer house, and they had a cheap recording studio. It didn’t sound very good, but we had a great time. They were shocked when we brought in a case of beer. We recorded 2 or 3 originals and 6 or 7 other tunes, Buddy Holly & Beatles tunes. I’ve got the recording somewhere.

Then we recorded with Broadway Studios which was owned by Wally Moyers.

Chris: Wally Moyers - the steel-guitar player.

Trent: Yea. He owns Broadway Studios. Then we recorded at Caldwell Studios with Mark Murray. Did you know him? He played with The Mosquito Bites, a great musician and a great engineer. We recorded with him and did a couple of little singles to release on the Texas Tech radio station. That was Squarehead.
Squarehead ultimately did "Bean," the album, with Mark as the engineer and co-producer. And Lloyd Maines - I worked with him some on that album.

After Squarehead had ended, I wrote & recorded some jingles, and Lloyd played with me on some of those. I guess I hired him out, and Lloyd played steel guitar on a couple of jingles that are still playing in Lubbock. He’s a phenomenal steel guitar player.

Chris: It’s very important in Lubbock to have that small community of people there who are always supporting that music. There aren't many of those people, but the one's that are there are so important.

Trent: You know what? When I got out of Squarehead and started trying to do jingles as a way to go, I went and talked to Don Caldwell, and I told him I wanted to write some jingles for him. Don told me not to get within 50 feet of the jingle business. He wasn’t interested in it at all and didn’t think I should get into it. One particular firm at that time had kinda wrapped up the jingle business there. I did do a few of ‘em and I realized that there wasn’t a living in it. And Don did tell me not to mess with it.

Chris: What was his theory there?

Trent: Lubbock is the size town that if you’ve got a real outstanding advertising firm and you’ve got a pretty outstanding marketing person on the jingle side, then there’s that kind of that "good ol’ boy" thing; They got it pretty wrapped up.

Chris: So you weren’t gonna be able to make a living doing that.

Trent: No. And that was their goal. At the time, I called a guy named David Alderson and told him that I had contracted with an Italian restaurant called Orlando’s and I said, " I got the jingle, got it written, got the musicians lined up, I just need a place to record it and some direction." And they wouldn’t even talk to me. They didn’t want me in their business. Not because it was me, but they didn’t want anybody in their business. That pretty much soured me on writing jingles.

Chris: So when you left Lubbock, had you just kind of given up on the whole music thing? When did that dry up?

Trent: Somewhere along the way after I had my third child.

As much as the parents and friends of the parents - the community you grew up with - loves you and wants you to do what you want to do, they’ve got certain standards; "By the age of 25, you ought to be in your first job, movin' up, living in a certain neighborhood, driving a certain car."
That’s one of the things in Lubbock that is not isolated to Lubbock but is a BIG DEAL in Lubbock; "Are you moving along according to that scale?"

Chris: You’re material possessions are very apparent in Lubbock, for sure. Everyone notices them.

Trent: That’s right. And I wasn’t moving in that direction, at least at quickly as I think some of those people wanted me to. So they began to question me on it.

Chris: That’s family or just people in the community?

Trent: Family, and friends of the parents. I mean, when you’re as involved in the community as my parents were, you’ve got tons of people who know ‘em. Dad’s big in real estate, big in the church, big in The Kiwanis; Dad’s got a big heart and does a lot of stuff in the community. But people started saying to him, "What’s your son doing?"
That began to weigh on me somewhat; plus I wanted to provide for my kids. And y’know what? Playing at Main Street Saloon wasn’t gonna do it!
But I also couldn’t hold down a regular career and be free enough mentally and spiritually and otherwise to really write and grow in that area. So it was either a starve or go get a "regular job" kinda deal. And so I did eventually make that decision.

Chris: And that’s when you left town?

Trent: No. I sold cars for a little while until I decided what I was gonna do. And then I got my real estate license and sold real estate with my dad. Then I got an opportunity to own a restaurant.
Just "business" in general suppressed any artistic urges…

Chris: Were you feeling that it was something you just oughta be doin’?

Trent: That was it; It was an obligation thing. So I thought, "The time that I’m putting into all this stuff is not worth the money; So what I need to do is figure out a way to make more money with less time. I ended up getting hired and went to Alabama for a franchise opportunity with a restaurant. Once again, the time and the stress factor that were involved didn’t allow me to be involved with my kids like I wanted to…or with my wife, or anything else. Then I went to "corporate"; I got an offer from a corporation, and we were making more money than we ever had made, living nicer than we’d ever lived. But it was more time away and less time with the kids, more responsibility.

Then I realized that I didn’t even own a guitar anymore! Somewhere along the way I had sold it; I don’t even remember what for. And one day, I just snapped and told Diane, "I’m just not happy." And I was sure she was thinkin’, "Oh my God! He’s gonna divorce me!"
I just said, "I’m not happy." And she said, "Well, what do you wanta do?"
And I said, "I wanta play music."
Diane goes, "Well, Let’s do it!" So we filled out a plan, gave two weeks notice and quit our jobs…

Chris: And that’s when you moved back here to Austin. I remember - when I heard that you were moving back here without a job or place to live or anything - thinking, "Oh God! He’s gonna move back here to try make it into the music business in Austin? There’s A LOT of people trying to make it here!"

Trent: Well, that was just naïve. But I did.

Chris: I think it’s a really great story. Tell me what you ended up having to do when you moved here to Austin with your family.

Trent: It’s stupid to do something like that, but I’m really not a planner. That’s one of my weaknesses. But that was what I wanted to do.
Diane and I have always worked together and been real flexible with what we do with our lives…So we packed up the U-Haul and came here, and I was shocked at Austin’s size, the real estate prices, everything.
It had been four or five years since I had been here and Austin had changed a lot. So we got here and checked into a hotel; had three or four thousand dollars in contingency funds to live on. And we ate those up in about a week! We just couldn’t find a place. I mean, we couldn’t find a place that we were satisfied living in for what we could afford.

Chris: A lot of musicians in Austin have that problem now.

Trent: Especially with kids. Because if it was just Diane and I, we could live on top of a restaurant. But when you have kids, you gotta give ‘em at least a decent environment to live in: a yard, not a lot of crime, and all of that.
We ended up living at Emma Long Park on Lake Austin for awhile in a tent. We got the tent out of storage and lived out there at the park for about a month. We actually lived there for 18 days, then we had to move to another park because of the time limit, and then we moved back after a couple of days.

I had started writing again while we were still in Alabama. Right before I made this decision I was singing songs in my head, getting’ some tunes goin’. Once I told Diane that I wanted to get back into music, we went and bought a guitar and I wrote two or three songs before we left town.
When we were living out at the lake, that’s all we did; We just sat there and wrote songs and played music. No TV, no radio, no air conditioning.

Once we got in the house, I just kept playing. This is the interesting part: I found a guitar player; He waited tables with me- and he played the acoustic guitar pretty good; I liked his attitude and everything else. He wrote a few songs so we played together a little bit. His name is Greg Moses.

Then I started looking for a bassist. Diane came to me one night and said, "How’s your search for a bassist going?"
I said, "Well, not very good to tell you the truth. I look in the [Austin] Chronicle and there’s 18 people selling basses and 18 bands looking for bassists. There’s just not any bassists in this town. I don’t know what I’m gonna do."

My wife asked me, "Can I have a shot?" Now, Diane plays the flute, she plays the piano, but she’d never played the bass; And she’s taking care of my kids and all of that. But I said, "Yea, you can give it a shot."
So I made her a tape, played some of the songs that I had written and said, "Here you go." And I was gonna be pretty strict on her because I really didn’t think it was gonna work.

Chris: How was she planning on teaching herself to play?

Trent: I don’t have any idea; Except at the time, she had already purchased a bass - which I did not know about!
She practiced all day. She home schooled the kids and played bass until I got home. I was working two jobs, so I was probably working 80 hours a week. I’d get home, play the guitar a little while and go to bed. And after about two weeks she said, "I’m ready to try out." So I sat her down, and I’d play a couple songs; She had already wrote the bass parts for 'em and did the whole nine yards!

Ever since then Diane’s been playing in the band. She’s started writing her own music and playing the guitar, too. She’s turning out to be really strong.

Chris: Did you ever - all that time you were married - think that she’d ever want to be "in the band?"

Trent: No. She was "my groupie!"

Chris: What about your music? What would we hear if we go hear Something Johnson play?

Trent: I tell ya’ what, this is the hardest question to answer.

Chris: I know. It’s hard to describe music.

Trent: Well, not even that…Because my range is so wide. I don’t put any barriers on the musicians that I play with, and I don’t put barriers on myself when I’m writing.
Of course, I’m influenced by anything from a commercial that I hear on the radio, to the way that somebody treats me at work, or something that happens that day, to the music that I listened to when I was a little kid, to what I heard just today for the first time. There are so many…what do I wanta call those things?…There are so many things that affect you…What’s that word?…STIMULI!…that I write based on the how I’m feeling at the time…
So there are songs that - if you heard ‘em isolated - you’d say, "He’s an old-school Country songwriter;" and there’s stuff that you would hear and think, "That’s something new I’ve never heard before;" to "That sounds like some old early-‘60s to late-‘50s stuff"…
There’s not a whole lot of boundaries on it, except that I don’t use a lot of effects and things like that. It’s pretty raw music. There’s a lot of harmonies, usually an acoustic guitar involved. It’s kind of funny ‘cause I couldn’t tell you: It’s Rock-n-Roll in a way, and there’s some Country in a way, and then there’s some that you might think in-between.
The one thing I’m not into is "Defining things." Once again, that's the reason that’s a hard question to answer: "What kind of music do you play?"

Without being a smart-ass, I just say, "Music!"

Chris: That’s perfect. I think that’s what "Lubbock music" is. That’s one of the reasons you don’t hear it on the radio a lot, because people listen to -say- Jimmie Gilmore and think, "What the hell is that?"

Trent: It’s hard to categorize it. "Where do you put it?"

Chris: "We can’t put that on the Country station," but you sure as hell can’t put it on the Rock-n-Roll station.

Trent: You can put it on 107.1 [Austin’s KGSR].

Chris: That’s about it. And that’s why all those artists love that station, because it’s about the only place that you get to hear that.

    So let’s get back to Lubbock. I just want to get some feelings about growing up in Lubbock and how music got in your soul.

Trent: It’s interesting because I got introduced to music somewhere along the way, and I started playing it, loved it, and I pursued it. I was drawn that direction, and the older I’ve gotten, the more concrete it has become. You go through "money" and "responsibility" and all that. But ultimately as art and a form of expression, its in you; If music’s really what you enjoy doing, then you make the adjustments. There’s a sacrifice somewhere and you make the sacrifices and get adjusted. I’m kind of to the point where I’m definitely not satisfied but I’m real happy with the direction I’m going.

But when you brought that up, I started thinking, y’know, my mom dated Mac Davis back at Lubbock High, and my dad was in the same class as Buddy Holly! Mac Davis was a sophomore that year, dating my mom who was a cheerleader. So Buddy Holly went off and did his thing, and Mac Davis went off and did his thing, and my dad stayed and did his thing...

Part of the struggle for Lubbock musicians who stay there is that there’s not a big enough musical and artistic community - there a lot more per capita that are forced to make a choice, versus living a double lifestyle.

Chris: You have to either live - what is in the view of the community - that kind of "loser artist" lifestyle, or you have to be the Number One band in town, and that isn’t gonna last forever. A few people can make a living in Lubbock, like John Sprott. But you have to be willing to be kind of a "weirdo" like John Sprott does.

Trent: Right. And he’s beyond even your average guitarist.

Chris: Right. He could be a "big fish in another pond"; He just decided to be the "Best Guitar Player in Lubbock."

Trent: Well, look at us - You and me! We’re in Austin. And there’s a reason for it. Even though we still have fond memories and still think Lubbock is a pretty cool town, there’s more opportunity and less oppression here in Austin, so we can live a little freer and just get together as Lubbockites every now and then and reminisce.

Chris: Do you ever miss Living in Lubbock? I mean, it was crazy and a lot wilder.
I know I couldn’t live that way on a daily basis and survive in the real world.

Trent: The biggest difference between Austin and Lubbock to me is; You’ll have a lot more tattoos and body piercing and weird clothes here in Austin, but you have a lot more strange thought and unique thought up there in Lubbock than you do here.
Because a lot of it here is "pop culture" and "avante garde;" What your supposed to do here. Whereas in Lubbock, you’re just not supposed to do that! If you do any of that in Lubbock, you’re exorcising yourself from the community, whereas here you’re becoming part of the community when you're avante garde. In Lubbock, its still a pain in the ass to be weird. Here, everybody is, and that's cool.

Chris: Do you want end on something positive? How about some fond memory?

Trent: Well, I’ll tell ya’; The best thing about Lubbock is that - even today - you’re kids can get out of school and get on their bike, doesn’t even have a lock on it necessarily, ride down the block to their friend’s house, play to just before night fall. Ride a mile or two to get home. Show up just as the sun is setting, and mom’s not worried about ‘em. Supper’s on the table because Mom doesn’t necessarily have to work. You show up at supper and you eat and talk about the day. I mean, "Family" is still king there. It’s still a great place to raise kids, and to grow up.

    But you know what? You just gotta be prepared to have your kids listen to music and decide they wanta go that direction and move on down the road!

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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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