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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

At last!
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Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music
by Christopher Oglesby

The Original Underground Draft Introduction to
Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air
by Chris Oglesby - 1997

    What appears below is the product of one extended "Kerouacian" writing effort in December of 1997. When I first developed the idea to explore the phenomena of Lubbock music, art, and creativity, I sat down at my desk and cranked out what you will read below in one sitting. I was writing what I had in my heart; And - like Kerouac - I am loath to go back and try to fix something that was a product of pure inspiration. 
Call it laziness or pride, but I am content with sharing this essay here as it is, in all its joyful messiness. -

Jesus used to tell them: "No prophet goes without honor, except in his own country and among his own kin, and in his own home!" 
And He was able to perform no mighty work there, except that he did cure a few by laying hands on them. 
And he marveled at their unbelief. And he went out among the villages, teaching in a circuit."    -- Mark 6: 4-6

As a writer, and reader, I have always held the opening sentence of any work to be of importance as it sets the subliminal tone and theme for the work. This is true because first impressions are frequently difficult to overcome. Frequently we humans have a great deal of difficulty in adjusting our reactions to what is happening Now rather than based on sensations of prior experience. Our brain has a built in memory loop, called "reflex," to help us deal with the magnitude of information emanating toward us from the universe, an endless sea of information, at every moment. This reflex ability, perfected in the animal kingdom, enables us to react quickly to certain easily identifiable situations. 
However, we are humans and unique among animals in that we are compelled to know Truth, the "why" and "how" and "what" of things. We are humans, part animal and part spirit (How can we deny this spirit, today at the beginning of the Twenty-first Century?) We seek an experience which is broader than right now, an experience based immensely on past wisdom regarding those eternal questions, Why? How? What?; And also, projection of our perceptions into the future to literally create the environments in which we will live. We travel time in our minds.
However, when we submit to the animal skill of reflex, we forget that it was twenty-five hundred years ago when Heraclitus taught the rest of us that we can never step in the same river twice. "All is flux, nothing stays the same," that old Greek observed. "Nothing endures but change." That is a poetic way of telling us what science has now demonstrated: No single event to be experienced is exactly like any other; all phenomena are unique.
Reflex is useful but not always demonstrative of the truth of a situation. And this is God in the universe: Many faces of God--All in One. This is the Latin meaning of the word uni-verse: "turning into the One." We forget this, often, in our daily lives because we need reflex just to get a rest from experiencing the face of God, which consists of our entire universe and which is too overwhelming for human beings dwelling in this material world. And because reflex is so powerful, as a writer I prize the craft of the first sentence of any written work.

This is why I am now compelled, at the beginning of a work on West Texas music, to begin with words that are not my own, words from the Gospels, and to explain the significance of that choice. The topic being the amazing legacy of arguably the premiere musical genius of the electronic recording age of music: Buddy Holly. The legacy is alive in the west Texas musical offspring of Buddy Holly. When considering the source of that legacy--being a West Texan myself and a product of that environment of which I will now be writing--that verse from The Bible keeps resounding in my mind:
"No prophet goes without honor, except in his own country and among his own kin, and in his own home!"

For Buddy Holly was certainly a prophet of this age which has become so underscored by recorded and broadcasted music. The woof of the Twentieth Century fabric has been laid with the vibrations of recorded music of the Rock-and-Roll age. Our minds, regardless of geography and language, are amok with the sounds of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan (senseless to continue the almost infinite list; reader comprehends the idea); All who attribute their musical careers to the inspiration of Buddy Holly.

When I consider only Buddy’s voice--his crazy, vibrating, giggling voice--When I hear Buddy’s voice now on digital compact disk and attempt to listen as I am listening for the first time, like Heraclitus, trying to experience Buddy in the same way the first teenagers of the ‘Fifties--among them the topics of this work, young men named Joe, Jimmie Dale, Butch, Terry--When I hear Buddy’s voice, I think, "How did Norman Petty, or any presumably sane American, believe that that sound, that absolutely crazy hiccup with no effort to overcome one of the truest regional accents ever captured; How did anyone (Buddy included) believe that sound would become, for lack of a more poetic word, well, "Popular," unprecedentedly, amazingly popular? Or popularity’s Twentieth Century American synonym: "commercially successful."

Buddy himself knew his sound would be a success because he knew--Really knew--the music. And he knew his soul. This is the substance of a prophet: one who experiences God in creation and feels God’s voice in the very fibers of his essence to a point of such intensity that he must share what he feels, sees, hears with the world. People want to hear what such a person says because they want to see the truths they feel hidden deep in their own souls reflected in the world they perceive around them. Often, the most revered people are people who are being the truest to their own selves. I contend that one does not become a prophet by relying on reflex. One becomes a prophet by hearing the unique messages of his times and expressing them; broadcasting the ripples into the future. To rely on reflex is to live with the ghosts of the past and this is not the nature of a prophet.
One who knows Twentieth Century music must agree that Buddy was certainly one of the visionaries of the fledgling recording industry. Buddy Holly harnessed, created, a sound which would shake the foundations of America and the world at the cusp of Ages, and he literally invented many of the techniques still used in the recording industry today. However, establishing Buddy Holly as a Rock-and-Roll prophet is not my concern in this work and surely not necessary. The legacy of Buddy Holly is now firmly entrenched in the pantheon of the American psyche. Merely hum one of the most played singles of all times: "The Day the Music Died;" Buddy Holly lives, certainly. Go to undeniable geniuses such as McCartney, Jagger and Richards, the late Garcia, go to their accounts of Buddy Holly for authority regarding the issue of Buddy Holly’s position among the musical prophets. I will rest on such authority.

My topic herein is the Genesis of prophets, people who express truth. Or if the term prophet is too exalted for the powers I will examine [address this question to each individual for personal reaction]. The topic is, at the very least, the genesis of "Genius." Here I examine the question of why so many creative geniuses--And certainly "genius" is an appropriate description of my subjects herein--Why such magnitude of creative genius arises from such an unlikely location as Lubbock, Texas? I am seeking the answer to the question: Why the disproportionate generation of genius artists in such an isolated, xenophobic, conservative, agricultural area such as the South Plains region of West Texas? 

For, as the reader will discover, Lubbock, Texas, did not lose its fertility for the creation of genius when Buddy Holly hatched from its yolk. A generation of genius, the vanguard of which--Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, and Terry Allen--has emerged from Lubbock to become the major force in the dissemination of a sound gaining in popularity and what is known as--not the Lubbock Sound--but The Austin Sound. I will examine the origins of the creative force behind these artists--Ely, Gilmore, Hancock, & Allen, among many others--and why the artists (prophets?) had to go south to Austin, or beyond; down that road which goes on forever and where the party never ends (nod to Bro. Robt. E. Keen), to earn an audience and a name for their sound. Thus my thesis begins seminally, simply: 
Lubbock is a great place to be from.

Therefore, I who feel the opening sentence of any work to be of utmost importance sublimated my own desire as a writer to create my own words for opening this account, and I commenced the work with that quotation from the Gospels:
"No prophet goes without honor, except in his own country and among his own kin, and in his own home!"

For we speak of the Austin Sound, not the Lubbock sound.

Lubbock has certainly been guilty, in the past, of not honoring its prophets. That truth is changing, now that a generation has grown since the brief life and sudden death of Buddy Holly. There is, indeed some amount of rising pride in the hearts of West Texans regarding the region’s creative fertility and the community has, post-mortem, honored Buddy in many ways.  But it is easy to make heroes out of the dead because the dead can be whatever we want them to be; History is alive only in our collective minds and is more easily conformed to our tastes than events of the present which can be shocking and terrifying if viewed from the position of ignorance of what is happening. 

I, a child of Lubbock, wish to bring honor to our living geniuses and recognition to their role in The Austin Sound, ever becoming a universally pleasing sound.
Is it these same forces which created the genius of which I write that compels me to quote scripture at the outset of this work? For The Holy Bible, as a living power and entity vast in scope and history, is undeniably a powerful force in that environment which is our topic, the "Hub of the South Plains," Lubbock, Texas.
I contend The Bible is "Holy" because it truly contains the mind of God, in that just about anything under the sun can be found in its pages. Humanity can see truth in the Bible because all truths in our minds seem to be reflected in its pages. 
For instance, the one ultimate which I perceive being: There is a truth to be known, a true force greater than us all But, moreover, No one of us is all-powerful and therefore no one of us can truly know the entire truth. 
We must rely on faith, hope, and above all else love to survive. As Ringo sang: "All together now!" 

Omniscience is truly reserved for the mind of God. But I contend that all truth can be found in the pages of The Bible (though not to the exclusion of all other works!) simply because that book encompasses such a vast scope of truths. The pages of the Bible can support almost any proposition, no matter how dubious or inspirational. Other commentators have illustrated how the Bible has been used to justify warfare, slavery, genocide, misogyny (to the point of witch burning), self-flagellation, and evidence for cannibalism ("Eat my body? What’s that all about?" I once heard a young, satirical priest posit).... Need I go on?
  The Bible is the ultimate resource because it can be cited to support any perceived truth in the "Group Mind." Those impulses listed immediate above reside in the human soul and are real forces, and when felt, must be sanctified or else communities espousing such values will go insane looking for meaning in apparently insane behavior. "The Bible says so," is the worlds greatest defense and justification; and in the best of times, those "Camelot" times, it is also an inspirational mantra. (There’s a lot of miraculous stuff in that book named in Greek simply as The Book.) Reliance on The Bible is a comfort for those going along with whatever is going on at the time; only the truly demented act outside of some sort of faith in some higher force.

In the Twentieth Century, almost nothing The Beatles said to a generation waiting for prophets lies outside the realm of what was said by Jesus himself. No wonder, as John Lennon was harangued for noting, The Beatles were more popular than Jesus at that time: The Beatles were saying the same things people needed to hear, (i.e. All you need is Love) speaking the truth. And The Beatles were on television, right in front of everyone’s faces. And they were cute and fun and funny. The captains of Jesus' team had gotten ugly and mean at some point in the last two thousand years We all need external assurance that our minds are correct; very few seek to do what they see as outright evil. Indeed, war and misogyny and slavery have all been perpetrated by the most pious of communities. Hitler really believed the Jews to be "evil" and he even found Biblical support for this idea; insane but common behavior for all who rely on reaction and reflex and fear of the unusual and the unknown.

Jesus himself was crucified for blaspheming what the pious religious leaders of the community perceived to be "The Truth." The supposed good guys, the Pharisees--who were the reactionary conservatives of their time--killed the person we in the west claim brought us our greatest truths, Jesus of Nazareth.
What is "Truth" in the human sense--due to our very incomplete knowledge of the universe even in the Age of Science--can be whatever the beholder perceives. We humans do create the world we live in. 

At the recent occasion of the passing of James Stewart, I considered the significance of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life; and it occurred to me the message was: "The world that George Bailey lived in--from the confines of small town to the scope of the national mind--was a function of the will of all the minds of his community plus his own intentions." George Bailey lived in a world different from that which existed without him because the world was partly his creation; remove his will as to how the world should be and the product is Pottersville, imperfect and brutal. We truly all create our world together, jointly and severally. We are all different for a reason. "I may not be normal but nobody is," sings Willie Nelson. All our living minds are the individual cells in the brain of God. We, collectively, are the creative force: The mind of a Community. So truth is the perception of that group mind, and that is why that one book, among many, The Bible has been such an enduring force: It can support, give credence and spiritual force to just about any conclusion the group mind may hold. 

And with this observation we can begin this search to answer the question: "Why the disproportionate creative genius from unlikely Lubbock?" We will examine the mind of the community and we can begin, in Lubbock, with The Bible.
Rather, it would be impossible to begin this observation of regional talent without considering the effects of The Bible on a community when the community in question is Lubbock, Texas. And reflex. Reflex: Immediate reaction without the process of consideration of all circumstances. This reflex is the heart of reaction and therefore Reactionary-ism, which is reaction carried to extreme and is equal to McCarthyism and witch burnings. Now we begin to explore that group mind. Yes, now we set the stage.

In beginning this work, one of the first people I contacted was John Scott, an old acquaintance of mine from Lubbock and the current operator of a significant legacy of Lubbock, Stubb’s Bar-BQ, a remarkable music venue in downtown Austin. His excitement was piqued when I described the project to answer this question that has been posed by many other observers of Texas music before me: Why such genius from Lubbock?
John Scott offered me his preliminary observation based on physics, a modern day religion. "For every action there is a reaction," said Scott, "and, you know what I’m talking about, Chris: It seems so much of the action in Lubbock is based on that, you know, Church of Christ thing" and, reader, that thing will be discussed below; We will see who the Pharisees really are among us.
I responded, "That ‘Black-and-White’ thing: "This is right and that is wrong ," and differences are severe and obvious; ‘Yes’- ‘No’, binary thinking." Scott agreed. "Yea, and when that kind of pressure is the action, then the re-action is to go to the opposite extreme and, in Lubbock, the extreme has no boundaries, [referring to the literal lack of any boundaries but the endless horizon in West Texas ]. I think the music of Joe [Ely] and the rest comes from that reaction." I agreed with Scott’s sentiment but I question the action and the re-action he identifies because of the action of which he spoke, the "Black-and-White thing," which we may be able to equate with the pharisaic point of view. John Scott, in fact, was describing what political scientists and psychologists term professionally as Reactionaryism, that "reflex" of which I have addressed.
  As I see it, Reactionaryism is the Devil’s play toy because "God is Now," and the Devil rules over the shadowy ghosts of the past and the ferocious demons of the future where reactionaries live.  Oh, Lubbock, you pray for piety, when divinity is your true desire! Awake! And truly see the wonder of the multi-faceted countenance of God! It lies not on the empty horizon but in the spirit and mind and body of all life!
Focus: The community mind can achieve anything if the focus on the desired goal is clear enough. Pyramids were built because the completed pyramid was of utmost importance to the minds of those who built them. John Kennedy lit the American mind on the idea of sending a man to the moon and safely returning him before the end of a decade; and it happened! But even in the process many were not always clear on "Why send a man to the moon?" The answer seemed obvious, as astronaut Neil Armstrong observed:
"I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of human the nature of his deep inner soul. Yes, we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream." 
And witness the very birth of a Nation, The Spirit of ‘76: A Force, an Entity all in itself; an harmony of European reason and the American Spirit of Freedom innate in this very land, the land of the Red Man. "Spirit," I suppose is the concept that best describes this "group Focus" concept of which I write. Anyone who has been to a Willie Nelson Picnic, a Grateful Dead show, or a Pentecostal revival knows of what I speak.

I recall the summer of ‘80, the beginning of the Reagan years, after many of my teenage peers returned from First Baptist Church Camp. In Lubbock, a land of "Black-and-White," the social structure exists for an individual in one of two places: the churches or the honky-tonk bars. To be a success in Lubbock means mastering one of these two realms. First Baptist Church and Broadway Church of Christ are the gathering places for many of the commercial, social, and political elite. "Networking" is done at church. Business partners go to church together. And this church social structure is where the children of those who are good-looking, successful and materially privileged in Lubbock find themselves. 
As a teenager in the ‘Eighties, it was "cool" to go to First Baptist Church and Broadway Church of Christ because that was were all the local success stories congregated. Baptist Church Camp was where all the best looking, best athletes, and most popular kids spent the summer of 1980. These are kids who wanted to be, and pretty much were, popular and successful, like their parents. These are cheerleaders and class officers and athletes, the cream of the crop as far as Texas mentality goes. But the Devil was on the mind of the Baptists that summer. 
These kids, seventh, eighth and ninth graders, were all brought together to eat together, sleep communally, sing good-feeling songs, and play together, supposedly a good ol’ time. However, after the gospel music was finished, these kids were all informed by their spiritual guides that The Devil existed everywhere, especially in Rock-and Roll music. "Back-masking" and "subliminal messaging" were seen as the Devil’s medium in Rock-and-Roll.
  Many demonstrations were given to uphold this assertion. Records would be played backwards to demonstrate how the Devil would communicate subliminally such messages as "Satan is my sweet lord" and "Decide to smoke marijuana." The idea is that the mind plays music backwards and forwards, and all other ways presumably, so the mind subconsciously picks up these "demonic" messages. If you buy that, you’ve then got to find these messages in the backwards played music, an easier task back then; vinyl record players were still state-of-the-art. However, mostly all that was heard was exactly what one would expect, garbled, backwards sounding music.

But witness the power of group imagination! We have all played the cloud game: Someone looks up into the clouds and believes he sees the shape of a rabbit or the faces on Mount Rushmore or whatever. He indicates to his friend sitting just next to him: "Look up there! See the rabbit!" The other looks and after contemplation, in fact, does see the rabbit. Now, the rabbit is not really up there in the sky. God is not trying to reveal rabbit-ness in the form of water vapor; But one person imagined the sight, and projected that image into the other’s mind by the power of his suggestion. Both want to see the rabbit, and so it was there in both of their minds.Group focus: Like mass visions of the Virgin Mary, like at Fatima. Something happened there in Portugal at the beginning of this century. Everybody saw something and decided it was "The Virgin" but the reports were all versions funneled through this group mind experience. For the people of Fatima, the only rational explanation to the bizarre events of that summer before World War I was the appearance of the Holy Virgin. But no one knows what really happened outside the mind of the witnesses. Fatima was truly a phenomenon of the human mind.

Back in Lubbock, during the summer of ‘80, the focus at Baptist Church Camp was finding the Devil in Rock-and-Roll; and the Devil was found. A good example of this kind of twisted thinking going on that summer lies in the "Paul is dead" scare. The logic was thus: Paul McCartney is barefooted on the cover of the Abbey Road album and, "as everyone knows," people are buried barefooted. Supposedly, if you play parts of Abbey Road backwards, you can hear the words "Paul is dead" repeated; (If you’re listening hard enough for it, and someone else told you it was there. I mean, who are the fucked-up people looking for this stuff in the first place?) Therefore, this is evidence that The Beatles, who "everyone knows are into Satanism and witchcraft, actually murdered Paul McCartney and cast an incantation so that a demon would enter his body," among other equally bizarre beliefs. Supposed studies of Paul McCartney’s voice patterns were cited to show, "undeniably," that young Paul McCartney was actually a walking corpse possessed by a demonic force. 

Welcome to the summer of Nineteen-eighty in Lubbock, Texas. Looks a lot like Arthur Miller’s Salem in The Crucible, doesn’t it?
The Church wanted to find the Devil somewhere in Rock-and-Roll because Rock-and-Roll, this bizarre, foreign, high-energy, freely expressive form, was still strange and new, at least to the reactionary class of people in Lubbock who never accepted their own Buddy Holly. And that summer I learned that if you look for the Devil long enough, you will surely find him. 
Want to see the Devil and he may look right back at you from the mirror. If you want to find the chaos created by witches, you will find it. Many of the teenagers in Lubbock spent the Fall agonizing over whether to play sports or lead cheers as the short uniforms would tempt each other to think about sex; or whether to shatter all their record albums because the Devil lived therein. Let me tell you, witnessing an album breaking party is damn frightening.
As we shall see, while one aspect of the Spirit of the Lubbock community lies so deeply in the realm of reflex; Because Lubbock is a land of no natural boundaries, in the vast emptiness of the South Plains, there also is limitless room for creation of New, Free spirits. While part of the mind of Lubbock is caught in fear of the environment and the loneliness of isolation, many of the people who settled in West Texas brought with them the true American spirit of rugged individualism. 

Being isolated from the rest of the nation by endless miles of empty prairie, many West Texans discovered that if any joy was to be found in life, it was to come from deep inside the individual heart, mind and soul.

Molly Ivins, the outspoken Texas journalist, once addressed the question of why so many musicians hail from Lubbock. She attributed it to all the "they-sayers," as in "They say this, and they say that." Ivins, in her 1987 article titled "Lubbock: Her Teeth Are Stained But Her Heart is Pure", pointed out that in Lubbock there are so many people saying what is right and what is wrong that it is extremely easy for any iconoclast to discover what is "wrong" and perfect it. Perfect it well enough, Ivins added, and Lubbock will honor you on the "West Texas Walk of Fame" featuring a life-size statue of Buddy Holly himself. ‘Tis true: Become a commercial success, like Waylon Jennings, and you will be a prophet honored at home. Behave like Waylon Jennings and avoid material wealth and fame and you will be condemned to fiery pits of hell. In other words (Well, let’s be up-front, these are MY words) when Ivins speaks of "they-sayers," she is speaking of that class which still exists, the Pharisees, the self-pious lackeys of The Man. "The Empire never died," to quote novelist Philip K. Dick.

The mother of a good friend from my youth--I’ll call her M.--grew up a few years older than Waylon in Littlefield, just northwest of Lubbock a few miles. I remember her account of how, after the death of her father, M. was the eldest sibling in her home and took on much of the responsibility of helping her mother raise the younger siblings. M.’s younger brother, who was interested in Rock-and-Roll music, was socializing with a young Waylon Jennings. (This was before Waylon moved to Lubbock as a Deejay for KDAV and became a member of Buddy Holly’s band.) My friend’s mother, M., once told me how she would never allow Waylon in their home after their daddy died as Waylon "had already been married and divorced from a girl of terrible reputation and was nothing but a greaser and a hood."
And I know from experience that many in Littlefield, and Lubbock, who knew the man personally before his fame, still feel that way about the man, although his music is now immortal and beloved by many in West Texas. Moreover, M. was a good-hearted, charitable woman, a "good girl." I really like M. a lot. For the most part, this is true of that entire "church-goer" crowd in Lubbock: They are good people who want to do what they have been told is right. 
But don’t forget: the Pharisees were THE religious leaders and also, therefore, the local government leaders in Jerusalem at the arrival of Christ and, as an order, were concerned primarily with conformity, rectitude, and purity.  Oh Lubbock! We pray for piety when we really seek the divine!

For every action there is indeed a reaction but, in the realm of human sociology, Hegel has written, the product of these two forces creates an entirely new Synthesis. I contend that this "Black & White" thing mentioned above, this action-reaction, this dialectic, when left only as the forces of Black and White in a mindless, un-contemplative, binary, "On-Off", "Yes-No" system, this system serves only to create preachers, cops, thugs, and losers. That’s the system Hitler tried to create. "The Good of the Sterile, Secure Nation Uber Alles;" this concept of "good" which exists only in the mind of the insane who cannot even see what is really good for striking out against all he perceives as different from himself and therefore evil.  But, like the black and white of the Yin-Yang, blend this conflicting dynamic with the force of spirit, the Human factor, that force observed as the phenomena of "Genius", throw the creative-genius-of-life factor into the function of this dialectic and this is the beginning of that new synthesis. This is what makes us human; this is the manifestation of evolution at the human level. "We stand on the shoulders of giants."
As John Scott, heir to the Stubb’s Bar BQ legacy which will be discussed below, noted, that "Black and White thing" is a lot of the action in Lubbock. Lubbock is the home of the largest Church of Christ in the world. I guess Lubbock is to the arch-fundamentalist Church of Christ what Salt Lake City is to the Mormons. In the 1992 presidential election, Republican George Bush’s margin of victory in the entire State of Texas was nearly numerically equal to his margin of victory in Lubbock County alone, establishing Lubbock County as the most Republican county in Texas. Bush simply creamed Bill Clinton in Lubbock, while they were pretty much neck-and-neck everywhere else in the state. For Bush, truly "Everything was all right in Lubbock," as he once stated when commenting on the status of the nation.
I can't confirm this but I’ve heard it cited that Lubbock has more churches per capita than any other city in America. I have also heard it cited that Lubbock has the highest teenage pregnancy rate of any county in Texas, a state in the top five of teenage pregnancy statistics. Tell a kid not to do something enough and he’ll figure out that it must be fun for some reason. Witness Waylon Jennings.
However, throw in an individual who sees truth a little differently than the rest of us, someone with that creative genius factor which is the subject herein, and we have Synthesis, a New Creation. There’s some argument as to how much credit should be given to Buddy Holly for "creating" the Rock and Roll phenomena at the middle of the American Century but everyone must acknowledge that "a whole bunch" is no exaggeration. And Buddy was just being himself. Moreover, as touched on above, there is the uniqueness of the land of West Texas. Life and spirit come from the land. For people everywhere, it is impossible to completely separate ourselves from the environments in which we live. In Lubbock, the land literally is a land of boundless horizon. The only place I ever have a sensation of space similar to being on the endlessly flat plains of West Texas is that of being in the middle of the ocean, far, far from land, while the sea is perfectly calm: Endless horizon for three hundred and sixty degrees. Like being on an island.

Lubbock is an island in the middle of a prairie so flat that, as it is said in the common, colorful West Texas exaggeration, "If you stand on a coffee can, you can see the Rocky Mountains" (which are over 250 miles away). As a matter of fact, on a clear night, when atop the tallest building in Lubbock, not 15 stories high, you can, literally, see the lights of Amarillo, one hundred and ten miles to the north, over the curve of the earth, literally beyond the horizon. 
I’m telling you, it’s flat in Lubbock. Eighty-five percent of what one sees there is sky. My sister used to live in a small home outside Lubbock on a small piece of land with some horses and goats and her kids. I recall standing out there and seeing summer storm clouds sweep in from the North, feeling there was nothing between where I was standing and Canada. When you’re out there, you are literally the tallest vertical object around. You are all that is between the land below and the sky above. Standing there in that vast empty sea of prairie, it’s easy to see the face of God staring back. I contend that kind of isolation tends to cause one of two reactions. One being that "Black and White thing," created by uncertainty in one’s place in that vast void, and thus an obeisance to a severe Nordic god who threatens destruction if his will is not obeyed; A tornado comes down on you in Lubbock and there is no place to go, nothing to do in the face of such awesome environmental force but pray and promise God you won’t fuck up anymore. However, germinate this vast tabula rasa with the genius of human creative spirit and genius has truly found a fecund mother.

The land is devoid of any features for external stimulation and gives limitless room to the projections of an individual seeking truth.
"Nothing else to do," is the frequent answer to the question, "Why such musical genius from Lubbock?" 
This sensation of no natural external stimulation--like in the Sinai desert for the biblical holy people--can cause an individual to journey into the hidden spaces inside the human heart and mind, perhaps to discover marvelous mysteries hidden deep within the spirit of mankind. No external beauty other than the blank palette of blue sky causes a search for beauty and truth deep inside the minds and hearts of those with creative tendencies. 
Stimulation must come from within because there sure is nothing outside there on the plains to stimulate the mind, nothing other than the fear of survival in that vast island of prairie.

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. And so Lubbock created Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Terry Allen, and Joe Ely. And the never-ending wind blows them down that never-ending road of the Human Spirit.

On one the first days of my quest to write this story of Lubbock music, I spoke with Jesse "Guitar" Taylor," the Gangster of Love," Joe Ely’s frequent guitar player and the first white man to ever play at the original Stubb’s Bar BQ in East Lubbock. I told him about being young and going with my dad to Stubb’s on East Broadway.  My dad was the basketball recruiter at Texas Tech during the late ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies and brought the first Negro collegiate basketball players to Lubbock in ‘69. In addition, Dad also has been cited in books on the subject of barbecue as one of the foremost authorities on back road barbecue joints. So my dad had no fear of venturing to "the East Side" (which means the "Black side" of town in Lubbock) in search of the best barbecue in West Texas.
  Very few other white people ever made the journey to the east side of Lubbock to visit Stubb’s, at least not until Jesse Taylor started rocking the joint with his Sunday night jams. Being over there in the "dark-side" of one of the "waspiest" white towns in America, I remember thinking, even as a youth, "Hey there’s something cool here, and why does no one else in Lubbock know about it or acknowledge it?"
I told all this to Jesse Taylor during our first phone conversation and Jesse agreed. "Shit, sometimes I think that Lubbock will never change." Jesse responded. "They don’t know what genius they have from right there in Lubbock. They could have built recording studios and turned Lubbock into the Nashville of Texas Music but they just turn their backs."
However, interestingly, he added: "But Austin is almost the same. I mean it’s not at all like Lubbock in that Austin is very open-minded and liberal and all that; But even in Austin, the people here don’t have any idea how much all us guys from Lubbock have done. I’ll go out and tour with Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen and I’ll get back to Austin and walk down the street, and people come up to me and say ‘Hey, Jesse, why haven’t you been playing down at the Saxon lately?’ People just don’t know what they have here."::: No prophet goes without honor, except in his own country and among his own kin, and in his own home!

I began with a quote from nearly two millennia ago and from across two continents. I’ll conclude the introduction to this book on the phenomena of Lubbock's font of creativity with words from a song by Hank Williams, Jr., the son of another prophet unhonored at home, a quote closer in time and proximity to the subject at hand, West Texas-Style music. Bocephus says in the song If You Want to Get to Heaven:

"I never read it in a book, I never saw it in a show
But I heard it in the country on my pick-up radio:
...If you want to get to heaven, you've got to raise a little hell."

Anyone who has seen a performance by Joe Ely, the Lord of the Highway, has lived that sentiment.

Do you like what you just read?
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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