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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

Chris Oglesby Interviews
Bob Livingston
The Artplex - Texas Music International
Austin; 12/4/00

 Bob Livingston was instrumental in the creation of the Austin "Cosmic Cowboy" Movement, as Jerry Jeff Walker's "Gonzo Compadre", an early partner of Michael Martin Murphey, and a long-time devotee of the Kerrville Folk Festival. Bob is active in many boards & committees in Texas regarding music and arts, including on the Board of Directors of the Texas Music Museum.

Chris: Bob, I didn’t even know until Lloyd Maines told me that you grew up in Lubbock and went to Lubbock High School. The only other thing I knew about you was the fact that you’d been playing with Jerry Jeff [Walker] for a long time, and that you’re a big part of the "Austin Music Scene", been around here along time. So maybe you can give me a little bit of your history of how you got from Lubbock to being a musician down here in Austin?

Bob: I went to Lubbock High School and graduated in 1967, the Summer of Love. I was a football player, actually; and Freddie Akers was my football coach, who ended up coming to the University of Texas.

An interesting fella there was Rob Layne. Robbie Layne wasn’t a musician but he was a music lover. He was the son of the famous Detroit Lions quarterback Bobbie Layne…

Chris: Oh, Bobby Layne! Well, I definitely know who that is! Bobby Layne was a big icon to me growing up in Lubbock. He lived right across the street from where I went to elementary school. He's a legend.

Bob: Well, Rob was his son and was the quarterback at Lubbock High School. Ropbbie was just a complete over-the-top craze-o…one of these, y’know, "go to Vegas every weekend to see Elvis" kinda guys...

Chris: His dad was famous for that, too.

Bob: His dad was famous for that; Oh Yea! So Robbie was pretty "out there." I think that he unfortunately died of an overdose - or something like that- not too long ago.

But Robbie was a giant fan of and goods friends with Ely. And he was a friend of mine; We played football together. In any case, music was always a big part of our deal.

People say about Lubbock that everybody that comes out of there is either a musician or a dope dealer or something like that. And that’s true to a certain extent, because Lubbock is just so…like when I was there, it was dry. There was no way to even get a beer.

And, by God, then I didn’t even think of getting a beer. I was a goodie-good kid; my parents both worked for the First Methodist Church in Lubbock. My father was the Activities Director and my mother was the General Secretary of the church. So I grew up in this church environment, but at the same time I had these thoughts of rebellion like other "preacher’s kids" do.

…And I remember an interesting thing about my church that I just flashed on: There was this organist – Dorothea Barrett was her name – She played the organ for the church…I don’t know if you’ve ever went into the First Methodist Church but its humongous, and it had this pipe organ - One of the biggest in the world! And that rose window is one of the biggest in the world!

So Dorothea Barrett would play every afternoon, and I’d come down there and listen to her sometimes and would notice a few people kind of sitting around in the back.

And years later…Okay, first let me tell you this: When I first met Joe Ely, he was nekkid. He was living in this house, and he and a bunch of people were all Day-Glo body painting each other, and Ely answered the door nekkid!

Years later…I had gotten a little tape recorder like you have…I was walking around at one of those Tornado Jams in Lubbock and doing these little interviews for fun. I walked up to Ely and said, "Joe Ely, when I first met you, you were nekkid!" That was my lead in for this little interview thing I was doin’.
And Ely said, "Yes, I believe I was nekkid." [Laughs].
So in this interview that I did with him, somehow he mentioned the name Dorothea Barrett. So...come to find out - Joe’s older than me, believe it or not - See, one day back when I was a kid, suddenly Dorothea Barrett was no longer at this church. My parents worked there and they didn’t want to talk about it, and I never thought much about what happened.
So it's years later and Ely brings up this Dorothea Barrett; How he and his friends used to drop Acid and go down to the First Methodist Church and sit there in the back and listen to her play Bach! So when I was a kid and would come in there and listen to her play, that was Ely and who knows who all else sitting in the back of the church on Acid listening to Dorothea Barett play Bach on that big pipe organ, too!

Ely was definitely what would be considered a "Lubbock hippie". He was getting in trouble a lot. He hung out with Lance Copland - who was the meanest kid in Lubbock, who would just beat people half to death - and they were big buddies. He was almost like a hoodlum. But then he grew his hair down to his knees and, y’know, would walk around town with one leg painted red and one leg painted white…stuff like that…

Chris: Just asking for it.

Bob: Just asking for it! And then he got in a band…
But anyway, he was talking about this Dorothea Barrett. He said that and she got busted for smoking pot and the church fired her. That's why my parents never would talk about it.

And pot…"What’s pot?" Or reefer…"What’s reefer?" I mean, when I was a kid, I didn’t know shit! I would just hear peripherally people talk about this stuff…Like "Reefer Madness."

Another music thing that happened at the church - For me: What kinda blew my mind was one Sunday night when I snuck out of church and went down into the basement where they had this big television set; I turned it on and watched the Ed Sullivan Show with The Beatles for the first time. It just blew my mind to the max!

So I’m like all by myself in the church basement - because I had heard that these guys The Beatles were gonna be on, and I gotta see what it was all about, just like everybody else. You can always remember where you were...What struck me - not only was their music incredible - but, of course, their hair!
I got that big Beatles Anthology book recently and they were talking about how their hair was as big as anything about ‘em. And by God, it was! Also, Fess Parker, when he played Davey Crockett, he had long hair. In Lubbock, everybody had to have a flattop or you would get beat up. So here was The Beatles looking like Davey Crockett! It was like a combination of Davey Crockett and music, so I was like, "YES!"

So I got into it. My first band was called the New Grutchley Go-Fastees. Me and Robbie Gamble; Rob Gamble was "Papa Jelly Belly."

Chris: Oh, Yea, Right! P.J. Belly!

Bob: Me and Robbie Gamble and Johnny Tull – who’s now a big time lawyer in Dallas – had this band. It was like a jug band, is basically what it was. We played church functions…I mean, we were kids; we were in junior high school.

And I went to Mackenzie Junior High with David Halley…I was, I guess, a year older than David…

Chris: I didn’t realize that Belly grew up in Lubbock.

Bob: Oh, Yea! His father Arthur was one of Lubbock’s first big-time oil people. See, Papa Jelly Belly - a lot of people don’t realize - was a multi-dog millionaire. He just recently died but he was very, very, very wealthy because he took over his father’s oil business for awhile. Then he moved out to Vegas and died of a heart attack.

So church was big for me. Here I was, this good guy that played football; I was gonna go play in college but I had a bad senior year.
But I played guitar in assemblies whenever I could.

I graduated and I went to Tech. I didn’t know what I was gonna do, and I joined a fraternity. There’s NOTHING to do in Lubbock! My girlfriend was Penny Pearson, who is Tony Pearson’s sister; Tony played in The Flatlanders. Her dad was Bobby Layne’s best friend. So I’d play these private parties and Bobby Layne would tip me twenty bucks to play "Your Cheatin’ Heart" or something.
So I’m playing and getting into it and writing songs. I join a fraternity – S.A.E. – to just have something to do ‘cause my girlfriend dumped me bigger’n Dallas when she got to college. She joined a sorority as a freshman, and they dated all the seniors and juniors, y’know. The guys are just swooping down on ‘em, and all us freshmen didn’t have shit. I just thought, "Screw her!" and I joined a fraternity, because you had a place to go and party and drink beer.

I had never, ever drunk beer in high school, and by the time I got to Tech we were having these parties out in the cotton fields and getting so drunk. I was the champion beer drinker; suddenly I was pouring it down my throat…Insane! Insane!

So I went through all that crap and by the time I was a sophomore…Remember Ron’s Ice Cream? On College Avenue? [NOTE: I believe the building he’s talking about is what was for years known as J. Patrick O’Malley’s and is now called Fat Daddy’s - chris] Down this alley there was a folk club called Alice’s Restaurant...Well, across from that and in the basement of Ron’s was this other little facility. I went and talked to Ron and said, "Let’s open up a little folk club." He says, "Okay. You got it, You can do it here for free. I’ll split the door with you," or something like that.

That was called The Attic. We’re talking about 1968. So I would play there for the frat guys. The frat guys would come down every Friday and Saturday and drink beer ‘til they went crazy…They'd bring in there own beer and eat pizza. I would play like "Proud Mary," and I learned others…
What I did was, I went to see Ely - who was a "Folky" at this time. He was playing solo…Ely’s was Lubbock’s Dylan, y’know. When he got away from his Rock band, he got into folk, he got into Dylan, he got into Country…

Chris: So you’re saying Joe Ely was really was one of the first ones in Lubbock doing that?

Bob: Oh yea! Absolutely! I mean, you had people like Tommy Hancock playing Country music, but that was real short-haired, pure-dee grade-A Country music; Nobody knew he was droppin’ Acid every day!
But then there was Ely with his long hair; Like I say, he was Lubbock’s Dylan, sort of. So when I went to see him play, he was playing this guitar with seashells glued on it, that ol’ Gibson he’s got…
You know that big apartment building on Avenue Q?

Chris: Altura Towers?

Bob: Yea. It seems to me that there was a club in Altura Tower, because it was in that area that I saw him first. He was sitting down playing, and he had a high-hat, and he would play, "I got the blues for my baby by the San Francisco Bay," and "Candyman," all that stuff…old folky, kinda jug-bandy stuff, but cool songs; bluesy, kinda folky…and he played that high-hat. I was like, "Yea, That’s so cool!"

So when I opened my club, I went down to the pawnshop and I bought a high-hat. I had this Rickenbacher amplifier of my brothers and this electric guitar. I would plug that sucker in and I would play to all the frat guys who came down there.

Well, I became more and more friendly with Ely, so I started booking him every Sunday night at this club. The frat guys would come down there to listen and say, "What is this shit? Come on! Play "Proud Mary!" I’d stand up - And I was a big guy at that time; I had just finished playing football and I was BIG; I weighed like 240 pounds - I was in a frat, and was just as craze-o as any of ‘em, but I LOVED music. Here was Ely - who, to me, was God - And I would get up and threaten their lives if they didn’t shut up.
So pretty soon, his followers started coming in there.

Chris: So was this a little bit before the Flatlanders? A year or so?

Bob: Yea. It was right before the time that they started doing that. He started showing up with like 15 – 20 people, and he would say, "This is my lighting director. These are my background singers. These are my moral support." He’d get all these people in Free, which at that point I didn’t even care; I just wanted to hear him play. So he’d pack the audience with his own people…I mean the place only held like 30 people. It was in a real small basement. He’d get up there and he’d sing and I would just flip out listening to him. Of course, he was doing some Buddy Holly things…Buddy was long gone but still definitely with everybody.

My brother was in a band. His name is Don Livingston and he played in a band called The Raiders with Charlie Hatchett…who was one of the first lead guitar player guys in Lubbock…and Gary Blakely and Stan Smith, who went on to be in The Sparkles... Do you know them?
They were the greatest Rock-n-Roll band of all times! Better than The Beatles! It’s unfortunate that they broke up.

Chris: Wasn’t Gary P. Nunn in that band?

Bob: Yea. But Gary was not in the original. It was Lucky Floyd, Bobby Smith, who ended up being in the Lost Gonzo Band later…a guy named Stan Smith, and the rhythm guitar player…I can’t remember his name. But they were a four piece; They played The Music Box and The Swinger; Those were the clubs. They were out on 19th Street, where it hits the Brownfield Highway. I saw the Turtles there and Buffalo Springfield at the Music Box. The Sparkles would always play there, and I got to get up and sing with them every once in awhile and sing "Get Off My Cloud" or something like that. But they were THE band. Lucky Floyd was the drummer and one of the greatest singers. The Sparkles were IT.

And here’s the deal about Lubbock music: at that time, the fraternities supported it. They were the only people that would pay any sort of money. There were not that many clubs. If you could get a good ‘frat-band’ you made money.

All the Sparkles did was play music. That was amazing to be able to only play music for aliving, and not have to have another job; They were a working band. They would come down to Austin, and they were the TOP party band at the University of Texas in that time. It was cover stuff, but also one of their big hits was called "Do the Hip;" It was a dance. Those records are worth tons of money today, if you can find ‘em. Usually you find ‘em in Germany or something like that. People know more about Lubbock music in Germany than we know about it.

Chris: It seems that way.

Bob: So there were these bands that were so good they blew your mind! So music started sinking in.

The reasons that I think why people come to music there: Lubbock, number one, was dry. You couldn’t have any fun. You couldn’t have long hair or you’d get killed, y’know. I could tell you some great stories about hair and fraternities and rednecks and stuff. The Vietnam War was happening but Lubbock was…They put a pinch on it. It was "Nope. You can’t do that or do this!" So you joined a frat, if you could, or you just became "weird" - a kind of an outcast. I wasn’t ready to become an outcast. I joined a fraternity so I could get girls.

Everything was so flat, and just hard-angles! But music seemed to round these flat edges off in Lubbock. It was like you could soften things with your music. It’s like you could come into your own little world and make it anything you want. And we didn’t know about the rest of the world. We just knew the pictures that we saw on TV, and it was so different that we wanted to try to imitate that, to a certain extent.

Music was big in the circles that I ran in, and they certainly weren’t leftists or alienated. All the high school kids went to the Music Box and the Village Swinger every weekend, and they danced their asses off. These were Dance Bands, again. Otis Reading was big with the college people then. They loved "Black music." Even the rednecks…Like Robbie Layne was sort of a redneck and people like Tonky Murphey, Beau Boren, Grist Sands, Busty Underwood…These names! Where do you hear names like this? These guys were all rednecks but the just loved music! Busty Underwood was one of my best friends and was the quarterback of the football team and one of the richest guys in Lubbock. We both bought Gibson J-45's at the same time and he and I had a duo and played a few funny gigs. We used to play high school assemblies together at Lubbock High. He still has his guitar, mine's long gone.
We’d all drive all the way down to San Antonio and go to Eastwood Country Club which is the Black club…And we’d go to Ft. Worth to the Cave.

Chris: So this was just "starving for things that you can’t get there."

Bob: It was starving for things. I’ve talked to Ely about this; He always said, "I love Lubbock. I’m not ashamed of it at all. I always tell people I’m from Lubbock. I’ll always live here." And of course he moved.

Here’s a story about Ely: He was living in Austin, and my brother – who’s a musician also – was playing on the San Antonio River, down there on what’s the River Walk now. 
So.. Ely cooked my first artichoke…I went out to his house, this little cabin on Lake Austin in the woods, the coolest little place you could find. I said, "I got this gig for you." So he cooked me my first artichoke and said, "You get down to the heart, put it in your mouth, and then you have an orgasm!" And I can’t eat an artichoke to this day without remembering how Ely described this thing, how to eat it, y’know. So that was about as bon vivant as you could be back then: knowing how to eat an artichoke! We were from Lubbock and didn’t know shit, so you come to Austin and you learn something!

Chris: So why were you down here again?

Bob: I wasn’t really living anywhere then. I was just kinda hanging out. I would live from week to week in places. I went down to this place called The River Roost down on the river, and I was subbing for my brother’s gig because he moved to California; and then I had to leave and go someplace else.
And they said, "Do you know anybody else that can play?"
So I take the club owner and we go up to Ely’s little cabin. And Ely comes out and he’s all kinda nervous and shy and weird, got kinda long hair and he’s real skinny, and he’s wearing nothing but a pair of blue jeans cut-off shorts. I said, "Play some stuff for him, Joe."
So he stands there like this: [Bob is balancing on his left leg with his right foot upon his left knee, right knee facing to his side]…like a crane. He plays this song, and the guy kinda freaked out, like "That’s weird!" he says, "Y’know, he’s real good but he’s just kinda goofy looking. He looks like a hippie."
And I said, "No, No! I can dress him up; He can shine up real good! Don’t worry about it!" Because I wanted Ely to get this, because it was a good payin’ gig, and he looked to me like he was starving to death, y’know.
What had happened to me was…I’m sorry to jump around here, but I’m giving you a chronology…I drew number 309, a great number for the draft, and immediately left for Colorado. I said, "I know what I’m gonna do," and quit school. I was sort of discovered by a guy named Randy Fred who was an agent in L.A. and he heard me playing in an after-ski joint in Aspen.

Chris: When you say you knew what you wanted to do…

Bob: I just wanted to make records, to be a musician full-time. I didn’t know where I was gonna go, but I just headed out.

Chris: And Aspen was a place where you could get some work and it’s a nice place to live?

Bob: It was a place to get some work. My brother was there and he said, "Look, come up and you can play some after-ski joints and we can do a duo together." My brother was one of the first guys that made tons of money doing this, playing in these ski-joints.
My brother was Jesse Taylor’s first guitar teacher.

Chris: Wow!

Bob: He taught a ton of people. The way he would teach guitar is he would just teach them the songs, like Otis Reading, blah, blah, blah…So vicariously, he learned millions of songs. He had been in this Rock-n-Roll band but when he became a folk singer in lounges, he found out he could make a lot of money if he knew "cover" material.
Like you would come in with your girlfriend and he had never seen you before; He comes up at the break and introduces himself to you, and asks, "Is there a song you’d like me to play for you?"
"What about Solitary Man by Neil Diamond?" And he’d say, "I don’t know that song, but you come back tomorrow and I’ll know it!"
And he would go and buy that record, learn it, and the next night you would come in and he would remember you’re name and say, "I’ve got that song for you!" So they would come back every night and also they would tip him. 
And he didn’t drink, so when they asked to buy him a drink, he’d say to the bartender, "The usual!" and they would give him a Coke and he would keep the difference of the price of the drink. He would make an extra fifty or sixty a night just in drinks being bought for him. Plus he was being paid a couple of hundred, plus he was making hundred dollar tips. Back then, that was large money! So I kinda got in on that.

I went out to California to make a living, when this guy "discovered" me and said, "I can get you a record deal, Boy." I go out to California. The year is probably ’69. I get a record deal with Capitol Records. I moved up to Wrightwood, California in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountians, and the reason I move there is: I’m driving down the L.A. Freeway - like the song - and I see a hitchhiker. He’s from Germany or something. I said I’m from Texas. And he said, [Bob, in a fake German accent], "Oh, Really? I know only one other person from Texas and his name is Mike Murphey. He’s a singer, too."
Before I had made it to California, I had hung out in Red River, New Mexico every summer when I was in college; I would go up there and play for drinks and tips in the bars. Ray Wylie Hubbard was in this band called Three Faces West, and they were THE thing in this area, the top folk group in Texas. All these great folkies played there in Red River, like Murphey, Steve Fromholz, B.W. Stephenson...
So I say to this hitchhiker, "If you ever see Mike Murphey again, give him my card." I never expected to hear from him again. I had never met Murphey but knew his songs like "Wild Fire" because Three Faces West would do ‘em, and I thought they were just the greatest songs I ever heard.
  So that night, I get a call from Murphey! He says, "I’m living in this place called Wrightwood. Come up, I’d love to talk to you and meet you."
I go up and he says, "Bob, you gotta move here." I had a record deal. Murphey was playing in a band called Tex with Herb Steiner, the steel guitar player. So it was this great band, but they had no record deal. Murphey had had some people record his songs, like The Monkees and Patty Page; He was a writer for Screen Gems but he had no record deal.
Well, I end up not ever recording the deal but they gave me all this money. So I moved up to Wrightwood and started writing songs. Murphey and I formed a publishing company called the Mountain Music Farm with Roger Miller and Guy Clark.
We started writing songs and got paid a little bit, but not much ever happened with the company. But Murphey and I went on the road, and Murphey asked me if I could play bass.

The reason this is important is: Up to this point, I was a folk singer and I was writing songs. I had my club in Lubbock, moved to California, got a record deal on my own, it sort of fell through, money’s getting low, not knowing what I was gonna do, and Murphey says, "I got a tour back in Texas; Come and play bass with me." I said, "I don’t know how to play bass." He said, "Here! You’ll learn. It’s easy," and hands me this bass.
    From that point, I stepped back from being out front to playing bass.
We went to Dallas, Texas and this guy Bob Johnson, the guy that produced Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Johnny Cash, Flatt & Scruggs - I mean you name it - This fellow named Marty Caldwell that we knew in Dallas says, "I know that guy." So I said, "If you know him Marty, then have him come to see us!" and by God he did!
One little Saturday afternoon, we were in The Rubyat in Dallas and we played for Bob Johnson. We went to Nashville the next week and cut Geronimo’s Cadillac, Murphey’s first record.
    So at that point, I’m playing behind Murphey. Meanwhile, Gary Nunn had joined the Sparkles.

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