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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

Country Style was an entertainment column written by Russ Parsons for the Lubbock Avalanche Journal in the 1980s, a fertile time in Lubbock music history. He has graciously shared many of his articles with us at www.virtualubbock.com for our readers' enjoyment.
Russ Parsons currently is the food editor for the Los Angeles Times.

(posted on www.virtualubbock.com by permission of author)

"A fellow walked up to me and said 'How is it you can walk down the street and get a fantastic song and I can fly around the world and not get a line worth singing?" I told him, "Some people can walk around the block and see everything, some people can fly around the world and not see anything.'"
-- Tom T. Hall, as recalled by Butch Hancock

Wiry and rumpled with frazzled hair and a cowpoke's face, Butch Hancock looks like he stepped off the pages of a farm journal straight from an Ace Reid cartoon.
Until you look closely, that is. Then you notice the steel-blue eyes that seem to be looking through you. Not behind you, but inside you. Hancock is a very intense man.
In conversation, two of his favorite words are "energy" and "schemes," and it's unbelievable how many of each he has.
He is a songwriter. He is a performer. He is a recording artist who supervises each and every step in the making of his albums, from hiring the musicians, to trucking the records around in his van to distribute them. He's an architect. He's a tractor driver. He's a photographer and a popular Austin poster maker.
He has written many of Joe Ely's strongest songs, including the memorable (and contrasting) "Boxcars'' and "If You W ere A Bluebird." Jerry Jeff Walker has recorded
two more of his songs (songs that Ely also recorded): "Sucking a Big Bottle of Gin'' and "Standing at a Big Hotel."
His first album, "West Texas Waltzes and Dust-Blown Tractor Tunes," was recorded in Ely's living room. His new one, a double-set called "The Wind's Dominion," was produced at Caldwell Studios and is due out the second week of December.
"It was recorded in a pure cyclone of energy or something like it," Hancock said of the activity surrounding the double LP. "It was pretty fast and curious and there were a lot of good folks working on it."
The idea of somebody without a recording contract with a major company putting out an album is novel, at least. But a double album?
"I did that probably because all the songs relate to the whole scheme of the album," he explained. "That title cut, 'The Wind's Dominion,' is the scheme. Everywhere the wind goes, chasing in and out, getting run around by it too. All the songs have a pretty peculiar twist to them, it's a dimension or two removed from the West Texas album. I get into a lot of different areas of images rather than just West Texas. Really, just two of the songs relate specifically to West Texas, the rest of them relate in ways that are more into the psychology of living in 'Modren (sic) America.'
"I've got schemes for I don't know how many albums,'' he said."Part of the reason (for doing the double album) was I've got so durned many going that I'm going to have to start doing my albums two at a time to catch up with them. The next one is going to be one I dreamed about five years ago. In the dream it was the third album I'd done, so I'll stick with that. I trust a lot of my dreams and that was one I had real strong feelings about."
Undoubtedly the chairmen of the board at MCA, RCA and other music conglomerates have other methods, but this is Butch Hancock, and he seems to be traveling it a different direction.
"The idea of ideals is just not where I'm at." Hancock said. "The point is that most of the time it's not the situation or the accomplishment you want. That kind of ideal is so empty. It's the quality of the experience. That's not a matter of necessarily whether you're living up to those kind of situation goals like earning lots of money or recording 20 albums. They can mean so many different things from one moment to the next. Even when you have them right in hand.
"I try not to pin myself down to saying, 'Hey, that's my primary drive.' It may be for one night. Or it may be for one week or a month or a year, but it's subject to real hard change. Something else could come up so easily that I feel it's real important to me to at least open myself to things, because that's the thing that feeds the whole creative process."
One thing that feeds Hancock's creative process is those dreams. One song on his new album, "Once Followed by the Wind," came from a dream.
"I was sitting in this small room," Hancock remembered. "There was a fella in there, kind of bald-headed with big thick glasses on. What he was known for was that by telepathy, he could tell where any airplane was on earth. If you could tell him the flight number or describe the flight to him, he could tell you everything you needed to know about it. So I asked him about some flight.
"He said, 'Oh yes, that's right over Floydada right now, coming in to Lubbock.' " I said, 'Hey, that's pretty good,' then right about that time in the dream I had little flash about what the airplane looked like and I said, 'Is there any way you can show me a picture of what that airplane looked like?' I just want to check something out.'
"He said, 'Oh, just a minute.' Then he pulled out this box and flipped through these cards. They looked like the box tops to those model airplane kits you used buy. Each one had a different airplane on it. Well, he pulled one out and, sure enough, it was the airplane I had seen.
"He said, Hmmm, just a minute I've got something I want you to listen to.' It was this old rickety tape recorder and it was Jimmie Gilmore singing this song "Once Followed by the Wind.' He had this funky little strange band behind him that sounded like rubber bands stretched across cigar boxes. It was a very curious sound, ' such a beautiful melody. I woke up almost crying. You know, that misty-eyed feel you get sometimes out of dreams, then I suddenly realized, 'Gah, I've got to back in that dream.' It took me about two or three minutes, but when I got back into the dream again, there was the guy sitting there with his arms folded.
"He said, 'Well. how'd you like it?' It was all over.
"I said, 'Oh now, well, something happened. I wasn't paying attention. Is there anyway I could hear that again'."
"He said, 'Yeah, OK,' So he rewound it on the tape recorder - this is all in the dream you know. I sat there and waited while he rewound it and re-threaded tape. He replayed it and I got the song down of it…..
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More articles by Russ Parsons
Joe Ely, Buddy Holly & Joey Allen - Jimmie Gilmore - David Halley - Larry Welborn
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