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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

Stories from our friends on Facebook

Chris Oglesby's virtualubbock has a Fan Page on Facebook, where readers can share some of their favorite Lubbock music memories. Here are some highlights from our friends:

Discussion Topic
We have all experienced the magic of great west Texas music. Please share your favorite Lubbock music moment. Were you at the Tornado Jams? Remember the Cotton Club, Fat Dawg's, PJ Belly's, and Main Street Saloon? Did a Joe Ely show change your life? Did you meet your spouse at a Planet's show? Did you sweat you ass off dancing to the Maines Brothers Band? A night of fuzzy memories partying with Elvis the Busboy? Did you blow your mind on Air Biscuit? Did you get lucky at a Thrift Store Cowboys show? Has Cary Swinney made you laugh until you could not breath? Share the magic, share the love.

David Muñoz
The Ely Effect

I was pretending to be a student at the University of Texas, and not doing a very good job at it. I'd gone from being a big fish in very small pond in high school to being a miniscule little guppy on the 40 Acres--and I was floundering. Worst thing about it was, I knew I was struggling, and I was too scared to ask for help, too dumb to even know where to begin, and to proud to take the first step in investigating. A lethal combination.

In my hometown, music was segregated, and I don't mean by color. It was the late 70s, before the sickening conglomeration of corporate radio, and the airwaves there were stilled ruled by those far-reaching AM waves. For us, it was KOPY out of Alice, Texas--and the music was country. Old country: Haggard, Cash, Ferlin Husky, Ray Price, Porter Waggoner, Dolly Parton before she got thin. That's what I could hear, so that's what I listened to. The FM rock station in Corpus Christi was 85 miles away, and I saw the red stereo button on my Western Auto-bought stereo light up maybe twice the whole time I was growing up.

So the kickers listened to country, the stoners listened to Ozzy, and I met them somewhere in the middle by listening to KTSA-AM in San Antonio every now and again. I thought I was being broadminded, doing that--but it never occurred to me you could dig more than one genre. Pretty distinct musical lines--you didn't cross over.

So I come to Austin to go to school, and I do my share of bouncing around. The Back Room becomes a regular stop, particularly when a blues band called Louis and the Legends are playing. I hear something in their electric blues revival stuff that gets to me, and keeps me coming back. The event, the connection that comes from seeing music performed live starts to get under my skin. I start to listen more, i start to learn more. I spend more time on the Undergraduate Library's second floor, because they played music that came through headphones in little study cubicles. I requested Pink Floyd's music a lot, as I recall...

So Halloween night rolls around, and there's a show in the Texas Union ballroom. I didn't recognize the singer; I was really more interested in the cute coeds who'd be there in costume than anything else. Seemed like a good way to forget my self-inflicted scholastic troubles, so I paid my seven bucks and wandered in.

The band was nothing I'd ever seen before--or heard. A longhaired, ponytailed accordion player, splitting time between the squeezebox and a little electric keyboard set up on a stand. A massive, tattooed guitar player, hair slicked back and glistening like the crystal chandelier hanging from the ballroom's ceiling. And a dark-eyed lead singer, hair up in a medium sized pompadour, in a silk shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots, beating the hell out of an electric guitar.

And then Joe Ely starts to sing.

The room erupts into noise, the energy starts to rise, a visceral, living thing that flows from the back of the room to the front of the stage and back again. It hits Ely on the bandstand and ricochets back, multiplied by his aura. It was nothing I'd ever heard before--this weird amalgamation of country music stories over a hard rocking musical score, punctuated by accordian filligrees. I was hearing all the musical barriers I'd grown up with being broken, watched them being shattered before my very eyes, witnessing something new and original and beautiful. I forgot about the costumed coeds.

I sang with Joe Ely that night, when he came off the stage and wandered into the audience. It was easy to pick up the chorus to 'Cool Rockin' Loretta;' when he stuck that mike in my face, 'my, my, my/ain't she fine...' came unbidden--and in tune. That was the moment, right there and then, where the magic happened for me.

I left the show, dazed, muttering to myself: "That was a rock and roll show. That was a rock and roll show. That was a rock and roll show..." My musical outlook from then on was set--there was no reason to impose barriers; I could love what I wanted to love. And while I haven't always been the most avid record collector in the world, my tastes run the gamut--and there's always some kind of connection to Ely, or Lubbock, or Austin, or Texas in the tunes that feel right to me. Somehow, someone on the records I dig has some weird six degrees of separation thing going on with those musical lay lines, those nexuses of thought and energy and power.

So that's why I call it, my own musical maturation, a result of the Ely Effect.

February 2, 2009
NOTE: David Muñoz is a writer, editor, and photographer living in Austin, Texas. He can play Butch Hancock's "Row of Dominoes"' almost all the way through on the guitar.

Larry Simmons
My favorite moment

...The Planets where ever they played. I was there at Main St for Joe's first band, the greatest night... all the Tornado Jams, the Clash at the Roxx and other thangs I've done along the way but...pound for pound, sheer great entertainment and dance till you drop fun was any where the Planets played. Fat Dawgs was their home but they did a thang for me at Peaches ...the hippest gay bar in Lubbock, the album cover is a poster Fish made for me promoting them at Peaches. It was a killer night and they ruled...to me they still do.
February 12, 2009
Larry Simmons Sorry Chris to go on like this...The 4th street bar that was Rox became Stewarts (Raider Country ?) for a while. On Pearl Harbor Day 1984 I think...The Planets did a show...Kamikazee Productions...James Jester...Godfather of All Things Cool in Lubbock introduced the band dressed in a Patton uniform ...like the movie start and it still sends chills...Great expectation chills... up my spine. I betcha they lost $ and did not care. Jester is an unsung hero here in Lubbock...a true hidden hero.
February 14, 2009
NOTE: Larry Simmons is co-owner and mager of Tornado Gallery at 19th & Buddy Holly Ave.; previously Simmons was a long-time club manager and music promoter in Lubbock.

Lesley Loper
Flatland magic
was witnessed on Friday (or was it Saturday??) nights at Great Scott's BBQ in the mid-90s. On most nights, you had Cary Swinney, Texas BelAirs and Paul Bullock plying their craft in front of a mix of hippies, cowboys and high school kids. I was the group in high school.

I wish I had known exactly what greatness I was seeing there on stage, but being from Lubbock, it was a regular occurence of great music at a number of places around town. Another one that stands out, that doesn't get talked about much is Kyle Abernathy at On Broadway, then his own place at Key 88 Cafe.
February 23, 2009

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