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‘Her Teeth Are Stained But Her Heart Is Pure’

By Molly Ivins
(This article first appeared in The Dallas Times Herald on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 1987)

Austin – When in the course of human events one is called upon to explain Lubbock art, the oxymoron, to San Francisco, the city of sophisticates, one might well take a dive.

Duty called. Some outfit in San Francisco is putting on a program in April entitled "The Texans’ Project," which consists of a bunch of Lubbock artists and musicians doing art and music. In my semi-official capacity as a person supposedly capable of explaining Texas to normal people, this theater asked me to explain to San Franciscans why so many great musicians come from Lubbock. How fortunate that I know:

Because there is nothing else to do in Lubbock.

Except perhaps for Wednesday Fellowship Night.

This is not a cheap shot at Lubbock. This is fact.

Another reason there is so much music in Lubbock is because people there know what sin is. Lubbock is a godly place, so it follows as night the day that there should be a lot of country music and down-home rock, with their consequent and probably inevitable accompaniment of drinking and dancing and other forms of enjoyable sin. The sheer beauty of having something as clear-cut as Lubbock to rebel against is almost enough to make me move there.

What is a teenager in San Francisco to rebel against, for pity’s sake? Their parents are all so busy trying to be non-judgmental, it’s no wonder they take to dyeing their hair green. But Lubbock will by-God let you know what sin is. So you can go out and do it, and enjoy it.

Lubbock is full of They-Sayers and They Say that if you sin long enough, you will become An Example to Us All. However, if you should become sufficiently rich and famous in the process, they will also put you in the Lubbock Music Hall of Fame – along with Buddy Holly, Bob Wills, Waylon Jennings, Mac Davis, Joe Ely and the like.

Also, we should give a little credit to the musical history of Lubbock, which for many years harbored the late lamented Cotton Club, the finest honky-tonk in all of West Texas. Kent Hance, the former congressman from Lubbock who fell into Republicanism and came to electoral grief, reports, "When I was in college we went to the Cotton Club to dance, to pick up girls and to drink beer out of Coca-Cola cups in case a minister came in, and it would embarrass him and you both. Outside they had soap and water so you could wash that stamp off your hand when you left at the end of the night, so it wouldn’t show Sunday morning at church.

"The dancin’ started at 9, and everbody’d dance until 11:30 and then everbody’d go out to the parkin’ lot and fistfight or somethin’ else and then go back in to dance until 2. Which is how a whole lot of great cheatin’ songs and tragedy love songs came to be written."

Good Lord, Lubbock, Texas. Well, about 88.3 percent of the world thee is sky, and if you are used to that, it feels like freedom and everywhere else feels like jail. I have no idea what that has to do with Lubbock art, but maybe someone can think of a connection. I should probably explain more to the people in San Francisco about Lubbock weather, but I reckon hearing Joe Ely is close to a Lubbock tornado, and he’ll be out there.

It is extremely difficult to develop either pretensions or affectations in Lubbock. Without getting laughed out of town. Which probably does account for a lot about the music. Lubbock is sometimes called "the Hub City of the Plains" – actually the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce is the only thing that ever calls it that – and I think it was Jimmie Gilmore who once observed, "Plain is the opposite of fancy."

Hance says the failures of Lubbock music deserve some attention, too. "Not everybody from Lubbock has been able to sing well. I knew a guy from Matador named Robin Dorsey who wanted to be a country-western writer. He wrote a song about his girlfriend, who was from Muleshoe, called ‘Her Teeth Are Stained But Her Heart Is Pure.’ And she quit him. And he had her name, Patty, tattooed on his arm which ever after cut down on his social life because we always had to fix him up with girls named Patty. So he wrote a tragedy love song about it, "I Don’t Know Whether to Kill Myself or Go Bowling."

One of my favorite Lubbock songs that never made it big is "I Wish I Was in Dixie Tonight, But She’s Out of Town." The others are all to dirty to print.

So, come April, San Francisco will meet Lubbock. Lord have mercy. I just don’t think those people out there are ready.

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