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
"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
Traveling With The
by Chelsea Roe, contributing
Roe is a contributing writer for virtualubbock.com. She lives
and writes about her life in Lubbock.
The Polk Street Music Festival was the next day and my friend
Phillip and I were about to make the 124 mile drive from Lubbock
to Amarillo, Texas. The Band was playing at the headlining bar.
As a music columnist writing about the everyday lives of musicians
and the music they make was my life. There are ten rules to follow
when traveling with the band.
Rule One- Fill up your gas tank while you still have cash:
We had $38.00 to get us through the street festival and whatever
was left by the end of the weekend to get us back. The gas gauge
in my Honda Civic packed tight with bags and musical equipment
read a quarter full. I knew we would not make it there so we
stopped on our way out of town at a shell gas station. We put
$15.00 in the tank and bought a pack of cigarettes. Always thinking
of something else, Phil, The Band's lead singer and my sole partner
for the drive, picked up an apple from the bin at the cash register.
We headed out on the road.
Rule Two- Do not forget a pipe or a smoking device of some
Driving north on I-27 the vast fields of dirt and oil rigs bored
us. We just stared blankly at our bleak surroundings. There were
hardly any trees in sight and the red-brown color of the dirt
was not amusing, nor were the enormous tumbleweeds crossing the
pavement in front of us. We had bought a gram sack of bud before
we left but had absent mindedly forgotten to pack a pipe. Phil
may not be the most aqueous friend that I have but he does have
his moments of brilliance. He held up the apple as if to suggest
it was the cure-all to our boredom. I thought he was crazy.
I drove the car and Phil carved out a hole in the top of the
apple, another into its side. Handing it to me first I now realized
the apple was meant to be our replacement pipe. He had placed
enough bud for one hit at a time in the top hole. The smoke passing
through our organic pipe tasted deliciously sweet.
Rule Three- Do not be afraid to make a fool of yourself:
Entertainers have no shame. Most of them will force that on you
as well. I was never particularly good at cutting loose, but
on the road, I always feel spiritually free. We were listening
to our mutual love, Ray Lamontagne, and Phil was attempting to
channel Robert Plant as he sang. Our group of friends tease him
for sharing a hairstyle with the Led Zeppelin vocalist. I was
quietly humming along the best I could muster.
"You just need to have more confidence in yourself,"
he told me. "Come on," he paused and I was starting
to feel the bug of annoyance and I just looked at him with no
response. "Sing with me," he said. I knew the only
way to shut him up was to do what he wanted. So I did. There
we were driving down I-27 singing like fools to each other. The
windows were rolled down and our semi-harmonic voices were carried
across the flat plains by the wind.
Rule Four- Make sure that you are comfortable with complete
Phillip's drummer, Beau, lived in Amarillo where he and his wife
also ran a bar called Burberry's. The Band was accustomed to
playing in the town. We pulled into the alleyway behind Burberry's
noticing that it had been raining. Phil and I stepped out of
my car and into muddy puddles next to the doors. A few feet down
the small space from where we had parked the back door of our
destination was open. There was a Rastaman was squatting down
against the dumpster near the metal door. His dreads we perfect.
He was wearing red, yellow and green and he was singing for anyone
"Let us burn one, from end to end.
And pass is over to me my friend.
Burn it long, but burn it slow,
to light me up before I go.
If you dont like my fire, then dont come around.
Cause I'm gonna burn one down.
Yes I'm gonna burn one down"
Though I know that probablly wasn't the song he was singing
those are the lyrics I associate with the Rastaman everytime
I think back on that moment. Beyond the sound of his voice I
could hear the pitter patter of the water from the gutters and
a guitarist playing in the bar next door. The blues wailed from
the electric guitar; long, depressive notes drenched with emotional
content, pleading for a break from the sadness that consumed
it's owner's heart.
I can also remember the sound of the neon lights in the alley
buzzing softly in my ear and the smell of rain still fresh on
the air. At the back door of the bar Wayne, the Rastaman and
the bar's kitchen manager, lit up the joint he'd been holding.
He passed it to me as he and Phil caught up. I was holding the
largest spliff I had ever seen. I puffed on the treat from my
Once we entered through the back door of Burberry's The Band
began to set up their equipment on the stage and I leaned on
the wooden railing surrounding it. I listened to The Band tune
up their instruments starting with a steady beat from Beau's
kick drum. Thump, Thump, Thump. Each time the metal rod would
hit the drum head Phil would adjust the sound board; the bass
deepening and sounding more like thunder with each turn of a
knob. As I mingled with the cats on the staff who approached
and introduced themselves to me, I realized they were just as
enthralled with watching the process as I was.
Later that night Phil took me to his long time friend Katie's
house. She wasn't home but he had the key so we unloaded our
bags and his guitars. When Katie arrived from work he introduced
me to the girl I had only heard stories about until now. It was
her that made the road feel like home. Katie insisted that we
were to be fed, showered and by the time we left for the bar
that night well lifted once again.
Rule Five- The less money you bring the less you will spend
I have always fancied myself a whiskey drinker. I am however
nothing of a conessiour. Firewater is the preferred drink of
most of my friends so ironically after the first night in Amarillo,
I found myself thanking God I did not have more than $12.00 left.
My whole savings would have gone straight to hooch: whiskey and
coke, whiskey sours, and straight whiskey shots. I had even brought
with us in my bag a bottle of Forty-Creek because we were poor
Rule Six- Bring an extra pack of cigarettes that you hide
Not only do a large number of musicians drink whiskey heavily
but most smoke heavily as well. They are also dead broke. Not
having any money means not being able to buy cigarettes. This
in turn means if you have them around they will be bummed. They
are a communal commodity. By the time day two rolled around I
was still poor and my cigarettes had played a disappearing act.
I was well aware that I would be the one supplying smokes to
my friends so I was smart enough to have hidden an extra pack
in my bag next to the bottle of Forty Creek. Once again I found
myself thanking God as I opened up my new pack and lit up a square.
Rule Seven- Either be open to experimentation with drugs
or be strongly prepared to say no:
People love to hand out drugs to musicians. When they find out
that you're with The Band they want to make sure you feel good
too. During the festival I was running the merchandise table
while The Bans was playing. Fans were constantly approaching
me. Men and women were sending me shots. Katie was handing me
painkillers to pop every couple of hours along with a shot to
wash it down. A random person would pass me a joint from one
side of the room while someone on the other side offered me cocaine
or LSD. I'm a fairly strong willed person so I took what they
gave me and stuck it in my pocket as not to be rude. My friends
could have a field day later if they so chose. To say I didn't
indulge a little would be a lie. However, I've learned that on
the road you must know when to say, "NO MORE".
Rule Eight- Expect unusual sleeping habits:
The bars close at 2:00 am. Patrons are gone by 3:00 am. The Band
finishes packing up around 4:00 am. This is how time runs in
the industry. If it is 4:00 am by the time you get home it will
be 6:00 am or 7:00 am by the time things begin to settle down,
if at all.
We arrived back at Katie's place sloppy drunk at 4:30 am. This
is when everyone decided that they were hungry. None of us had
any more money to buy food. We had been smoking cigarettes to
help dull the hunger pains. We turned to Scott for help. Scott
helps Phil with anything The Band needs and has been a friend
for a long time. Every time I had met him he had been a nice
guy. he drunkenly brought home six bags of Waffle House to feed
his starving musician friends. For the next two hours we ate
Waffle House and smoked from Katie's glass pipe on her living
room floor. The Band, Katie, Scott and I discussed how much fun
the festival had been, laughing at ourselves for our foolish
antics. The boys had felt great playing and the girls had felt
great dancing barefoot around in front of the boys. We all felt
great. We needed nothing from the world but each other and our
Once I could tell the substances were beginning to wear off I
looked at the clock and realized it was nearly seven in the morning.
I removed my sweaty clothing and threw on pajamas. I curled up
in a ball on the couch to sleep. That morning I dreamed I was
on the stage singing, not Phillip.
Rule Nine- There will be downtime so bring a book or some
other source of entertainment:
At one in the afternoon I had a killer hangover. I could still
smell the whiskey in the room. The Band was passed out in a pile
on the floor with no sign of waking soon. I knew they would sleep
all day long. I rummaged through my bag again and found my beloved
copy of On the Road.
I read until after three when the boys finally started to wake
from the dead. "Morning sunshines!" I said. They grunted.
To The Band 3:00 pm is early morning still. If Kerouac hadn't
been there to entertain me, surely I would have died of boredom.
Rule Ten- Never Fear the Road:
Phil was staying in Amarillo that night. This festival had been
the first leg of many shows they were to play on the road. I
grudgingly had to be home for work the next morning and I was
beginning to get nervous. I had to drive two hours home by myself
with barely any gas in my tank and no money to fix the problem.
Sure that I would not make it back I kept wondering what to do
if I was stuck on the side of the road alone in the dark. I was
starving and feinding for a cigarette, but my pack was empty.
The only thing I could do was pray to God again. I asked for
I packed my things into my car. Beau approached me handing me
money for a tank of gas and $35 dollars to show his gratitude
for running their merchandise table at the show. He thanked me
for supporting them over the course of the year we had been friends.
I felt guilty knowing he was broke too. I told Phillip and Beau
to break a leg.
I could not leave town without first stopping for another pack
of squares. On the road I stopped at gas station. Looking at
the crumpled bills Beau had just given me, I thought, things
really do always work themselves out.
Articles by Chelsea Roe - Chelsea Roe is the music critic for the Daily
Toreador at Texas Tech University
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