Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends
of West Texas Music
"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."
Chris Oglesby Interviews
"An Important American
Downé: What Im mainly doing now; Theres
an art distributor; a company called Progressive Editions - Theyre based
in Canada. What they do is they got an army of reps who go out
and blanket all the galleries in the states. What I do is
I wholesale all of my paintings directly to this company; Im
down at the bottom on the wholesale chain; I sell to them and
they - in turn - go out and they wholesale to galleries.
But I didnt do that for years. I used to work directly with galleries here, there, and all over. We did all the shipping directly to em.
I guess what happened is after 8 or 9 years of living over
in New Mexico and doing everything....We did all the publishing
and posters through our studio. We had a whole gallery front
and a warehouse, much more of a - quote - "professional
set-up," if you will...Whatever.
I dont really know what you call this series I'm workin'
on now. I mean, Im self-taught; So as far as "proper
terms of art" and all that, Ive never taken the time
to even figger out why "whats called what. "
I did that Southwest stuff when I was in Santa Fe
not knockin it, because it was great for me. I did fantastic
with it. But it ran its course for me.
Chris: So was that really your first work?
Downé: Pretty much.
Chris: I remember that art show you were doing out at University Plaza [in Lubbock] back around that time - '88 or so.
Downé: Melissa and I had just left Lubbock at
that time, taking off to Santa Fe.
The gallery scene is a real cruddy scene in my opinion
Youre up against that resentment from the gallery directors; at least thats what we always felt.
Chris: And thats the only way you can make a living is to deal with that.
Downé: Yea. You had to hound these guys. And
of course, they would always just blow you off.
Chris: You were talking about that first art show in Lubbock at the University Plaza.
Downé: We had already moved to Santa Fe; This
was back in 1987. Of course we was broke as all get-out, cause
I wasnt workin. We thought, "Hey, Lets
do an art show back in Lubbock."
Theres not a school that tells you what you do to be an artist. I mean, you can go to Tech but its two totally different things. I mean as far actually getting out and leafrning the business yknow, its not like getting on with a law firm or a big company.
Chris: I remember yall hung out together all the time over there at "Grit Corner" at J.T Hutchinson.
Downé: Is that right? I hadnt heard "Grit Corner" in a long time. [NOTE: A "Grit" is basically a Lubbock FFA/cowboy-type who dips snuff and wears a big-brimmed hat, dirces a big pickup listening to both AC/DC & George Strait; "Grit Corner" was where all the Grits hung out at JT Hutchinson Jr. High. chris]
Downé: [Laughing] Anyway, we got a hold of Shane,
and he had just gotten some insurance money at the time, from
a death in the family, so we knew he had a little bit of money
right then. We said, "Alright, you put up five hundred bucks
to rent this big room out at The Plaza and print up some
invitations. And if we sell anything, you get back - blah,
We went back to Santa Fe, and then within about six months of being in Santa Fe we had made a trip over to Scotsdale in Arizona. I hooked up with a gallery there that wanted to give my work a try. So they gave me a show, a one-man exhibition and sold everything. It was just a fairy tale deal.
From there on in...It literally was just unheard of; I just hit it at the right time with the right theme. They sold out all the work, and they had done an ad in a national art magazine, in Southwest Art.
And word travels pretty fast in the art community. Galleries keep their ear to the ground for "Whos Hot?" Thats the term.
Once that happened - literally within 8 months, I bet - we were showing in 20-some-odd galleries. I mean they were just like flies. When you "HIT" like that, I mean theyre just calling from everywhere. Wherever theres art galleries around the States, theyre just calling constantly, "Can we carry your work? Can we carry your work?"
Chris: I remember, I realized I had made a big mistake when I didnt buy something at that University Plaza show, when I was at some mall, and I was flipping through some Southwest prints and I saw "Downé Burns Important American Artist" on all these prints. Here hes an "Important American Artist," and I was one of the Seven Dwarves with him. [In a school play at Roscoe Wilson Elementary, Downé played Doc and I played Sneezy. chris]
Downé: Thats right! Youve got a good memory!
Chris: That was my first acting role.
Downé: That was my last.
Chris: Growing up at Roscoe Wilson and Hutch, you and Shane Bowers were big cowboys - "Grits" - and I just never would have guessed that you would have ended up an artist.
You told me you were self-taught; How did you start doing that? I know that your parents owned that graphics print store over there on University. Are your parents artists? How did this all start?
Downé: Dad is a self-taught artist.
Chris: His name is Doreman, right?
Downé: Yea. Doreman Burns. When I was a kid, he always painted - but he just did it for himself, for his own enjoyment. So I was around it, but I didnt do much when I was a kid. He had a little room in the house converted to his studio, and I drew a little bit when hed be back there.
Before we had the gift store there on University See, we owned that building - We owned and ran B&B Music.
Chris: I remember that now! It was a record store. I bought my first 45 there.
Downé: It was a record store; right. Back in that era of Fat Dawgs and all of that, B&B Music was THE record store in that area around the university.
So my biggest influence throughout the years was the music. I just grew up around all that music. The record store was there from 68 to 82 And that was my biggest influence. I just grew up around so much music!
Everything from Jazz to Rock-n-Roll to Country It was just being in that record store.
Then I was naturally exposed to all the locals just trying to get on their feet at that time - Joe Ely, Jay Boy Adams See, at that time B&B Music was really THE top record store in town. So when all the bands would come to town, we sold the tickets - for Pat Benatar or Foghat or whoever - And at that time it was still real common to get in-store record signings, when they were here to play at the Coliseum. So I always got to meet whatever big act was here in town.
Thats what Ive said over all the years: I know....I look back; It was the Music. I mean, in the back of my mind, music created a real creative environment that I grew up in. Especially growing up from both sides of it like I did - I saw the marketing side that the musicians went through.
When I was a kid I thought I would go into music, to make a long story short. But once I graduated high school and I realized I couldnt really sing and I couldnt play an instrument....And dad had always painted, so Bingo! I had determined that I was gonna do something creative so I thought, "Ill just paint!"
I mean it was as simple as that; I just thought, "Okay. Im gonna be an artist." I can draw a little bit. So I just started painting. I asked Mom & Dad if I could convert one side of their garage into my studio. Of course, Mom thought I had lost my mind. And Dad was like "Go for it! Cool, you can do it."
Of course, everybody here in Lubbock goes over to Santa Fe
for vacations. Its not a far-off place to us. Because we'd
go skiing there, Id been over there many, many times and
seen the galleries.
Because if youre gonna be in art Well, the three art capitals are Santa Fe, New York, and Paris.
Chris: So Santa Fe was close, right in the backyard. Now, did your whole family move over there at that time your folks and everybody?
Downé: Yea. Once Melissa and I took off over
there and - like I said - within a year had so much success at
And Dad was sick of the retail business. He had gotten
out of the record business and had gotten into that college gift-store,
and still he was getting tired of the whole rat-race.
Breck ended up going over to Santa Fe, too. [Breck is Downés younger sister] Breck ended up with a greeting card company. She designed a line of hand-painted greeting cards.
Chris: She hand-paints them?
Downé: Yea. She did that for like five years. Breck just sold that business about 2 years ago. She just wanted to be a homemaker with her two kids, and didnt want to do that any more.
Chris: So they were all individual hand-painted cards?
Downé: Once they got the company really running, they started silk-screening the majority of it which again is a laborsome process...and then shed go in and highlight em, yknow, hand-paint em. Shed paint thousands of cards. She just got tired of it, and a lady around Austin has some sort of art business; they crossed paths and she made her an offer to buy it. And Breck was like, "Its yours. Im outa' here. Im tired of doing it."
Chris: Do you wanta talk about you teaching yourself art? Or do you wanta talk about your art itself? You said you dont really know how to categorize it.
Downé: When I got into the painting, my approach to it; I was never for lack of a better term "artsy-fartsy." That side of the whole art scene is such a big side and to music also, art in general that so many people get into the WHOLE scene; like "Were into the art. Were all pretty laid back. Real free-spirits." You know? That side of it is real big in Santa Fe.
I was never "the Artist" from that standpoint. That didnt appeal to me.
Chris: You felt more like "the Cowboy" or "the Grit"?
Downé: Yea. And I used that as my marketing theme. I really took a whole different approach. When I got into it, I had that music background - as far as seeing it marketed.
My idea right off the bat was, "If I ever start making any money at this, Im gonna advertise. Im gonna put every penny I make into it."
I wanted to come up with "an image" for myself as "Downé Burns: The Artist" which had never been done. I just looked at the art world, comparing it the music cause thats just what I knew I just saw how all the glitz and glamour - how they did that.
Chris: You mean a performance, basically.
Downé: Yea. So that was my concept.
Do you like the interviews you have been reading on virtualubbock.com?
Buy the book by author Christopher Oglesby
Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air:
Legends of West Texas Music
"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." - University of Texas Press
2007 Chris Oglesby
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