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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

Chris Oglesby
Wade Parks
Lubbock; 11/20/00

Chris: Wade, I’d like to start with you telling me about the how you learned to play the guitar.

Wade: My friend Boone Law…His dad’s a judge [Laughs] "Judge Law"...Boone started writin’ songs and gettin’ into that Folk singer/songwriter scene by goin’ to The Kerrville Folk Festival and hookin’ up with that crowd. He’s from Belton but that was after he came out here to go to Tech.

My brother Russell met Boone working at the Rec-Center at Tech. They worked in the Outdoor Program and took a bunch of trips together, and my brother was like, "Man, you gotta meet this guy! He’s bad-ass. You gotta hear him play and sing. He does some cool songs!"

Russell had turned me on to Jerry Jeff [Walker] and Robert Earl [Keen]’s early stuff in the late 80s. Russell came out here to go to Graduate School at Tech. He’s two years older than me. We got to hanging around with Boone and drank a lot of beer [Laughs]. Anyway, the more we hung out with him, Boone was like, "Man, Russell, we need to get him a guitar." So we get me a guitar. That was the "Big Idea." I said, "What if I can’t even play?"

Chris: Just to hang out? So it would be more fun for both of you?

Wade: Just to hang out with Boone. Yea, ‘cause we would start singing along with Boone, and he would go, "Man! You should get a guitar! It’s not hard!" 
So all we we’re doin’ was banging on our guitars together.

When we took our first trip to San Luis [Potosi, Mexico], we were two White guys walking around with guitars so all the Mariachi bands would come up and go, "Hey, you guys got nice guitars, Man!" 
    "Well, it’s just an Alvarez." And then I think, "Well, then again, I DID pay like a hundred and fifty bucks for it."
But we did a lot of walking around the plazas. Someone told us "Don’t take any tips because you might get in trouble." But we never had a problem with that.
I said, "I don’t think anybody is gonna walk by and pay us. We’re just sitting around playing songs to one another." It was fun though. Boone wrote a bunch of songs. Boone even put out an album of his stuff. He turned me on to Townes Van Zandt and a lot of those guys.

Chris: So you came to Tech from Houston…Why?

Wade: My mom and dad are from Floydada, just like an hour north and east of here. Dad went to Tech, and they lived in Lubbock for awhile. I still have two aunts and uncles that live up here. So I got lots of cousins and family here.

Chris: So did you grow up kinda knowin’ you were gonna go to Tech?

Wade: Not really. Russell went to A&M undergraduate. Leigh came out here, my older sister -- (It’s just us three). She came out here and she said, "Wade, when you’re ready to go to college, you need to come up here and check this place out, ‘cause its fun." She kinda put the idea in my head, now that I think about it…She knew it was a neat place.

Chris: You grew up in Houston, went all through high school there, and then you came up here. And you met Boone when you were a sophomore?

Wade: Probably when I was a sophomore…or junior. Well, it took me the "eight-year chunk of time" to do college. I went about two years and then I was off for like three, three and a half, and then I finished up. So it was on my second round of college. I had been managing the Copper Caboose on 4th Street, over by the Stadium. [A local pool hall, game room, restaurant and saloon]. That’s what I was doing "on my hiatus." I used to book the Tejano bands there.

Chris: So get me farther down the line closer to where we are now.

Wade: Boone got me to where I at least could strum a song. We just kinda started having big nights where everybody would come by and there’d be 8 or 9 guitars.
Then I met another group of guitar players after Boone left. That was my friend Allyn Sorsby. He’s got an album out of all his own stuff. We kinda started hanging around mostly at the house. Then we got up the nerve to go to an Open Jam, and that was fun.

Chris: So this was all just for kicks, basically? It’s a social thing to do.

Wade: Yea. Just with buddies that we met that play music. That’s what’s most fun…bangin’ around, I guess. Just passing the time. Cheap entertainment. An "experience," I guess.

Chris: Alright, I got it. That’s exactly what it is; You don’t have to get too complicated or deep.

Now you’ve got a pretty hot band goin’, these days; How’d you get to where you’re actually getting together a band?

Wade: I was doing a lot of solo stuff here in town at Ichabod’s, the old No Frill’s Grill, and then it was On Broadway.
That building’s vacant now…Again. It should be something real solid there. Anyway, sorry…

Chris: No. That’s okay. That’s a real deal. I mean, why the hell does a place like that right next to campus always have to close down?

Wade: I don’t know. But Tech has more of them than any other college I’ve seen - places near campus that would just be the optimum place to build a dance-hall, or club or whatever, that just go to crap. I don’t know why that is.

Chris: It’s unbelievable! That whole neighborhood in that "Tech Ghetto" is just famous for being trashy.

Wade: Anyway...You asked about the band. That same group that we started pickin’ guitars together around the house, we started watching The Robin Griffin Band. And we saw Cary Swinney at Great Scott’s Barbecue. I was doing some gigs with guy named Ryan Corpening. It was just us two doing guitars, acoustic stuff. He’s killer; He’s Hot! You should see him play. He lives in Amarillo now playing with a guy up there. Me and Ryan were playing, and that’s about the time when Robin Griffin left town. Basically, Ingrid Kaiter - Buddy Holly's niece - started coming and singing with Robin's band, and that band stayed together.

I mean, I’m the "New Guy." These guys have been together for some time.

Chris: So your band now is basically the old Robin Griffin Band?

Wade: Basically. Now, we’re not doing the same music at all. Jay [Hattaway] and Shawn [Bailey] and Matthew [McLarty] - These guys are good! They sound like a totally different band when they play with me than when they play with Ingrid or Robin. But that’s what they had been doin’, and they asked me if I wanted to play with 'em, and that was that.

Chris: Just because y’all had been hanging out and picking together for some time and they needed a new front-guy, or what?

Wade: Yea. We went to "The Chicken Ranch" a few times over there; Have you been over there? It’s where Jay lives and then Mark Philbrick lives on the corresponding corner, and in the adjoining backyard is an old chicken coop, and they got just the structure still up - the framework of the old chicken pen - but they’ve pioneered the shit out of it! They’ve got some old games that you can play, and they’ve got different areas that have couches. That have a room that’s called "The Gallery;" They’ve got some art up in there. It’s just a makeshift structure. It’s cool. You should go see it. Anyway, they have huge parties over there. There’s always someone sitting around playing there; Guys that Philbrick knows that you never see playing out on a stage anywhere. There’s a guy named Bill Winters - I’ve only seen him play over there in that little backyard, in that little setting, but he’s just Country, flat-ass pickin’.

Chris: So you were hanging out at The Chicken Ranch…

Wade: Yea. Did you ever go to Juan in a Million? That was the first place I saw Robin Griffin. It was him, and Tony Adams, and Braxton Howle – the old Robin Griffin Band -- and I was the only one there; It was just me and the bartender.

Tony really didn’t want to play, and Robin was sayin’, "We’re playing!" And I was just sitting there drinking my beer, waiting to see what was gonna happen. So Robin talked them into playing, and I was like, "Man! That’s GOOD music!"

My buddies and I didn’t even know that existed here. We had heard so much about everything goin’ on with all the Austin bands and how hot all that shit is down there. We kept thinking, "We should go to Austin. Imagine the bands!" Now, since then, it’s like, "There’s a lot of good bands down there but there’s a lot of places to play."

Chris: So you were here in college and your first discovery of the music scene here was the Robin Griffin Band. And later on Robin's new band asked you to join them. Were they looking to form a Country band that plays the kind of stuff your playing? Who’s picking your set list?

Wade: We’re doing songs that I’ve played for awhile. Jay called me and said, "We’re just wondering if you wanted to get together and play some music." And I said, "Great! Cool! We usually pick on Thursdays and Fridays and sometimes on Tuesdays." I started telling him when we all get together and was like, "Why don’t y’all just come on by? Or are y’all gonna be getting together at The Chicken Ranch?" Like, "When do you wanta hang out and play?"
And Jay was like, "Uh…Nah, Man. We wanta put a combo together."
And I went, "Really?" So that was funny. I thought he meant like "We’re getting together tomorrow night; Bring some beer." [Laughs].

Chris: So how did you become the Wade Parks Band?

Wade: We went over and actually sat in the backyard over at Jay’s, and said, "Let’s play some songs." They had kinda heard a couple of songs that I play; like I was doin’ "I’ve been to Georgia on a Fast Train"…I love that one.

Chris: Yea. That’s a great song. I love the Billy Joe Shaver, I love the Townes; I love the songs that you cover.

Wade: Well, I try to pick…If I’m gonna do a cover song…I mean, I don’t mind doing like a "Mustang Sally"…Well, I don’t even know "Mustang Sally," but that’s the one I bring up lately: I tell ’em, "We’re not gonna do ‘Mustang Sally,’ and we’re probably not gonna do ‘Brown Eyed Girl’," that’s what I tell ‘em. I’d rather play something and say, "Hey you might never’ve heard this but this guy is pretty good. You should hear this."

Chris: Are you doing your own songs?

Wade: I don’t have that many…yet. But we’re trying to do the ones of mine that we’ve worked up. I think we’re up to 9 of mine. I think I have about 14. [Laughs].

Chris: How long have you been doing this?

Wade: I’ve only been coming up with songs for about the last two years. Our first gig as a band was at a Chili Cook-Off Jam, which we were the first in a line-up of about 20 some-odd bands.

Chris: So you were playing at like eleven in the morning?

Wade: Yea. On a cotton gin stage. That was in the summer. And then in August we opened for Terry Allen. That was our next gig. [Laughs]. Jay knows Larry Simmons who owns Liquid 2000 and The Red Door, in the Depot District; he’s very involved down there.
Jay had told him, "We’ve got a band together, if you need anybody to come in and play." And the next week Larry called and said, "I got Terry Allen playin’. Do you wanta open for him?"

Chris: Did Terry get a chance to see your show?

Wade: After we finished, I was sitting there still shaking. And Terry's out on the stage and goes, "How ‘bout that Wade Parks Bunch?" And I was just like, "Aaah!" I mean, I think we did well.

We do Townes' "White Freight Liner"; I love that song…We do Billy Joe Shaver’s "I’m Gonna Live Forever" and "Georgia on a Fast Train." We do a Fred Eaglesmith song "Freight Train." "I wish I was a freight train" the risk of wearing out train songs. I just like the sound of train songs. That chukachukachukachukachuka… We don’t go at it like that the whole time. Of course, mine songs are all slow. [Laughs].
We’re only doing some originals. But the things that have turn me on have been watching people do only originals, so I really would like to get enough material to angle it that way. But I just kinda wanta go play, too - pretty bad.

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