virtualubbock - Willis Cooper: in memoriam 1911-1997

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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

Transcript of:
"Roots Music" on KTXT
- featuring
Lanny Fiel
Lubbock Music: Part II – "Contemporary Sounds"
Guest: Rob Wiener, West Texas Music Historian

"What Turns Somebody On,Turns Somebody Off"
By Willis Cooper

He smokes some marijuana,
Drags on the wine;
Shows all the girls
A wonderful time.
He spends the money;
Fun at all costs.
What turns somebody on,
Turns somebody off.

He plays the horses
On the telephone line.
His luck’s running good;
Whew! He’s feeling fine!
He’s got connections;
Fun at all costs.
What turns somebody on,
Turns somebody off.

He’s turned twenty-three;
Man, he’s runnin’ wild.
An anxious mother wonders,
What happened to her child?
But He’s got connections;
Fun at all costs.
What turns somebody on,
Turns somebody off.

You can’t help but wonder
As the years roll by;
He’ll wonder what happened;
Man, he’ll wonder, why
He’s out of money;
Fun at all costs.
What turns somebody on,
Turns somebody off.

Lanny: That was "What Turns Somebody On, Turns Somebody Else Off" by Willis Cooper. And I wanta welcome Rob Weiner back to the roots music show. Rob…Thanks for coming out again.

Rob: Good to be here.

Lanny: We did last week a program with Rob on Lubbock Music: Part I, and that was "traditional sounds". That’s sounds of music that are more along the lines of…That you could connect back to old traditional tunes.
And we’re in a whole ‘nother vein this week.

Rob: Whole ‘nother genre you could say.

Lanny: And I hope you were listening to the words on that song. I had the cassette jacket just now. And we’re startin’ off with a real contrast here; This fellow Willis Cooper. I’ll just read a little bit off the cassette jacket :

"Willis Cooper was born outside of Matador, Texas, on April 6, 1911. He attended seventeen schools before graduating from high school. During the Depression he sold International Tractors; sang with The Green Lantern Boys in Denver, Colorado; and then spent most of the ‘Fifties and ‘Sixties raising sheep in New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas; Retired in Lubbock in 1979."

And this…Tell us a little bit about the group that was playing with him and how this album came about.

Rob: Well, it was really the brainchild of Tim Closs who is a guitar player and producer here in Lubbock. He used to play with the Strange Attractors. And he has been a fan of Willis’ for quite some time and, just kind of as a tribute to him, wanted to get together some musicians and put some of Willis’ poetry to music. And they did this whole cassette in one "Bang" session which took up one full day…Basically to allow residents of Lubbock and beyond to hear some of the genius of Willis Cooper and his ability to turn lines and put words together. Because Willis is a poet, more than anything else.

Lanny: Well, I know. I live a pretty sheltered existence here in The Hub City at this point. Even so, I have heard of Willis Cooper…

Rob: Yea. He’s legendary.

Lanny: I’ve had people have said something about him to me. I know a lot of stuff has happened down there at Main Street Saloon where there’s a lot of bands that get together and play. And he’s been down there and performed quite a bit.

Rob: Oh Yea. On any given day, in the afternoon you might be able to catch him. And you can walk up to him; he’s a very nice man, and he’ll write you a poem on the spot. Especially if you’re a pretty lady.

Lanny: Well, I guess that leaves me out on that. But uh…

Rob: [Laughs]

Lanny: Well, I think it’s real interesting that we’re starting this program out on "Contemporary Sounds in the Lubbock Music Scene," and we’re starting out with a man born in 1911. Goin’ way back…And it’s kind of a contrast.

But I was listening to the words on this song, and we start off singing about [in a muted tone] "smokin’ marijuana" and all of this stuff. And I thought, "Well, I hope we don’t offend anybody out there." And then, of course at the end he says: "You can’t help but wonder as the years roll by; He’ll wonder what happened; He’ll wonder why he’s out of money; Fun at all costs. What turns somebody on, Turns somebody off."

Rob: Yea. Exactly.

Lanny: He’s into, uh…Well, I just hope you listened to it. He’s got some good things to say.

Rob: And the name of this cassette is Fun At All Costs. And I really encourage anyone out there listening to seek this out. It’s quite good.

Lanny: Well, we’re gonna feature a lot of this sort of thing. And this…The music we’re gonna’ listen to today—in my estimation, I guess—These are a lot of the bands that are "Underground." You don’t hear a lot of ‘em unless you’re part of the "Scene," unless you’re part of, maybe, the "College" crowd or…

Rob: "Experimental" crowd… "Electronic Music" crowd…so forth…

Lanny: Yea. The people who are into this sort of thing. It’s eclectic and it’s not something you’re gonna see plastered on the newspaper and not hear on the radio. But it shows a segment of our society in Lubbock - of serious musicians and what they’re doin’….
-end of transcript-

Click on thumbnail for a poem handwritten by Willis Cooper and given to Gayla Klemett, former bartender at the Main Street Saloon.
(Thanks for sharing Gayla!)



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