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."
JBA: Okay. I'm gonna go all the way back to my first trip to Lubbock. And I've got to preface this just a little bit: When I was growing up, I was very small I'm still not that big but I was very small; I weighed about a hundred pounds when I graduated from high school. But in about the 7th grade I started boxing. I was just tiny but I boxed. And I've gotta just tell you that to set this story up
When I came to Lubbock and met my friend Tom
Jones, I told you about earlier, and I said, "Tell
me about the guitar players here." And he said, "Well,
about the best guitar player in town is a guy named Jesse Taylor."
Chris: I know what you're talking about. Yea.
JBA: Well, there was a vacant lot right next door to it. It's nighttime, okay? So we drive down 16th Street and we pull in this parking lot by this little convenience store there, and to the side in this vacant lot, there is a boxing ring that's been set up out there. They've got cedar posts in the ground and the rails around the boxing ring are two garden hoses nailed y'know, for the ropes. And stretched across the top is an extension cord with one light bulb hanging over it. We pull up there, and there's a whole crowd of people around this homemade boxing ring. In the ring there's two guys just beating the shit out of each other, and the one that's doing the most beating is Jesse Taylor.
So we go over and wait until the fight's over, and Jesse climbs
out of the ring and goes right over to a cooler and gets him
a beer and he says, [in a friendly,
quiet voice] "Hey Tom. How you doin'?"
So that's where I met Jesse. [Laughs]
Chris: He is such a classic paradox of a guy. He is just this big scary looking guy, and he is such a really nice guy.
JBA: Oh, he's such a great guy! I just love him to death!
So now I gotta tell you my greatest Lloyd Maines story. Alright, remember I told you earlier that Lloyd only came out and played certain dates? And Lloyd had a dollar amount that he needed when he left town, because he took a leave of absence from his band that night playing; they always worked on the weekends.
And let me tell ya': Lloyd was chicken-fried. I mean he was "country boy" all the way. I mean, he had seen very little of the country, and really Lloyd kinda had tunnel-vision in those days; He knew who Buck Owens was, and Merle Haggard and Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, y'know All the great Country icons, he was into. But he knew nothing about Bad Company and The Rolling Stones The only reason he knew anything about ZZ Top was because of my affiliation with them.
JBA: Oh, he really didn't! So I'm out on tour with ZZ, and our next stop -- which Lloyd is flying in to play with me - is the ZZ Top Bar-BQ & Barn Dance at Memorial Stadium in Austin. It sold out; there's eighty thousand people there!
Chris: That was the biggest crowd ever at Memorial Stadium, wasn't it?
JBA: Biggest crowd ever! And Lloyd was just like, "Gah! I can't believe this!" I remember him saying, "I went out in the crowd to get a barbecue sandwich a minute ago, and it took me two hours to get it! And there were people smokin' pot right there out in the open, and there was girls that didn't have on bras !" He comes back with his eyes this big and he's thinking, "My God, what is this? I don't know if I like this too much."
We set our gear up and while we're getting ready to play
band that had played prior to us is a band called Bad Company;
It was their first U.S date. And I don't know if you remember
who produced Bad Company or not
I'm talkin' about
the rockin' little four-piece band with Paul Rogers in
Well, their producer was Jimmie Page - And Page
was with 'em.
So we play our set and Page is standing over there the whole time watching every move Lloyd's making! I mean, Chris, he's standing not ten feet from him, just eyein' him like a hawk!
After we finished playing, Lloyd's tearin' his steel down,
he's got it upside down in the case taking the rods off and getting
ready to pack it up. Page walks over and I said, "Lloyd,
I want to introduce you to someone. Lloyd, this is Jimmie Page;
Jimmie Page - Lloyd Maines."
So they visited awhile and Page said, "Thanks a lot."
They say their good-byes and he walks off, and Lloyd turns
to me and he said, "Where's that guy from, Jay Boy?"
So that's my Lloyd Maines story, and I challenge someone to come with a better one than that!
JBA: He is "from Lubbock," and there is not
a pretentious bone in his body! I tell you what: What you see
is what you get, and what you get is the very best that there
Chris: Do you want to talk some more about the community of Lubbock and those musicians? West Texas and how it's influenced your music and what you were doing creatively?
JBA: You know Chris, a lot of people have tried to figure out what the big deal with Lubbock is; "Why did so many players and so many artists and musicians, writers -- you name it - come from that part of the world?"
Chris: You as an artist and a musician acknowledge that too, right?
JBA: I do acknowledge that; Yes, I most definitely do. I mean, I think some of the most incredible players I know are from there. I think one of the greatest .I love slide-guitar. I am HUGE fan of Duane Allman, Dickie Betts, Ry Cooder, David Lindley, LeeRoy Parnell, Warren Haynes great slide-guitar players from all over America. But there's a great slide-player from Lubbock, Texas, and he was a great player twenty years ago. His name is Mike Carraway. They just don't come better than Carraway! I mean, he is so good! He is just an incredible player.
Chris: Do you have any sort of explanation of why Lloyd Maines and Jesse Taylor, Mike Carraway, Bobby Keys .I mean, why do you think that is? Where do these guys come from?
JBA: I don't know.
Chris: I don't think anybody "knows," but
JBA: I wish I did. And I wish I had the answer for
you but, Kid, I don't have it. I just don't have it. I don't
Chris: What about you personally? How was coming back to Lubbock affecting your writing, your style - being with these musicians?
JBA: First off, I have never been a "commercial"
writer. The songs that I write are songs that for some reason
or another, the subject matter -- the theme of my story - has
nine times out of ten been something that touched me personally.
I feel like my songs have always been songs that need a setup.
I'll give you an example:
Chris: From Colorado City?
JBA: Yea. And I didn't even know he was a harmonica player when I was growing up, and now looking back I see that he was an excellent musician all along that played me, because he taught me too much about music.
So if I was gonna do a song that I wrote about him, I would have to set it up like I just did. And it's like [goes for his guitar; begins picking and singing the following]:
See. Now, the rest of that song - Is it gonna be a picture that you're gonna understand unless I set it up and told the story about why I wrote the song in the first place?
So I'm kinda rambling the way you did earlier when I asked you about the interview. Like I said, "You're asked what time it is and you build a clock." Well, I think that goes with being from West Texas. I think that you and I That's just something that is just attributed to us from our upbringing, maybe.
But I don't know if it's the fact Is it that there's, "Nothing else to do out there?" Well, the answer to that is "No," because there's plenty to do. There's plenty to do in West Texas. There's plenty to do in Lubbock. So what is it? I don't know, Man! I don't know.
Chris: And I don't know if it's possible to figure
out what any ONE tangible thing that would be
A LOT of things, but I think to identify something:
Now, people tell stories all over the world, but there is really a strong community of storytellers out there in West Texas. Maybe it is from the heritage of the people that settled out there of getting together and that's all there was to do, was sit around and share personal stories with somebody else. And I don't know if that's unique to West Texas in America but it's common there in Lubbock.
JBA: I think that our part of the world is a wholesome community; it's a wholesome part of the world. We've got the farmer, the rancher, the businessman, they're all combined there. The one thing that I can say about West Texas is that it's very genuine. There's not a lot of phonies out there.
JBA: And I feel that. always - as far as Lubbock is concerned You have to remember that -- through both the beginning of my career as well as Ely's career -- I mean, we were salmon's in the stream. We were swimming against a very swift, powerful music stream, working against us. When we were starting our careers, what we had to fight in the playlists on the radio stations was Disco and The Beegees and all of that stuff.
West Texas, in general, always supported good music and you had to be very eclectic; Ely was; I was. I mean, we did a little bit of everything. We did Folk music, we did Rock, we did Blues; We did it all. You have to be very versatile. You couldn't pull something stupid and ignorant out of your musical repertoire and pull it on Lubbock, because they were exposed to too many things.
I can remember shows that would come through town -- I'm talking about the big touring bands - They would always be sayin', "Aw Man, we don't want to go to Lubbock and play." Well you know, the ones that were really good that were playing stuff that had some substance to it, they didn't have a hard time coming to Lubbock. But the ones that didn't, had a problem in Lubbock.
Chris: Yea. No one was gonna waste their time with it.
The best music - and this isn't unique to Lubbock; This is
true for everybody
And when I say "best" I mean
what people identify with in their hearts and souls - is that
kind of genuine music that is coming from someone trying to tell
a story as opposed to present "an image," I guess -
an ego boot for the singer - and it tells a story in some way
that touches people. I think that's what The Beatles did,
and Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen, and all that
Otherwise I mean, you're just not gonna survive as a Pop Band in Lubbock.
JBA: You can't. You're right. But if you're lucky enough
to touch a nerve with the things that you write
It's wonderful. For me, you still have to set the tune up and
you've got to communicate with your audience, and I never had
that problem of not being able to communicate and connect with
a West Texas audience.
LeeRoy Parnell and I went over and played with the Texas Tornadoes right after Doug Sahm died, and I've never seen anything like it in my life. I mean, it was like playing in Lubbock every night we played!
Chris: It's really fascinating how big the people from Lubbock are in Europe, and also Australia. I think maybe it's an honesty in the music that is the type of thing that, because the way radio is now, you don't hear anything like that one the radio; the way it's designed for the lowest common denominator of 13 year old girls. You don't get exciting, different, innovative stuff very much on the radio anymore. But in Europe, I guess, they can hear it because they have deejays that will play it.
JBA: In West Texas, as well, you've got a common denominator with everyone: with Mexican people, Black people, White people, all from the stand point of I mean they all have something in common, I've learned. In my small town of Colorado City, you could not pick and choose your friends via social level, because if you did you would be lucky if you had one or two friends
Chris: You'd be very lonely. Right.
JBA: You'd be a lonely guy. I think that the social level is not so practiced, I guess, as If you grow up in Houston or you grow up in Austin and your dad's a doctor or you're middle-class or low-class, the social paths of that bunch seems to be separated by a big, wide line.
Chris: I think that's one of the things about West Texas, is that really the only thing you have out there is other people to communicate with. You don't have any other support system out there. There's nothing out there! The environment is not supporting you really; it's these relationships with other people that are keeping you alive. And I think that's one of the things that has contributed to the art which has come out of Lubbock Especially music, because it's an interactive art form.
JBA: I could never get past that point, as far as my
writing is concerned, to just sit down and say, "Okay, I'm
gonna write a commercial song." I mean, all I could do was
hope that maybe some day I would stumble on one that would turn
out to be commercial.
This goes on and on, down through the years. But anyway, I gotta have a nerve that hits me. I mean, I just can't sit down and say, "Well, I'm gonna write a hit song."
But I think the most important thing out of all of this is your question about West Texas. I mean, I can't just say "about Lubbock" because all of these people are not from Lubbock. I mean, Lloyd's from Idalou and
Chris: Lubbock is just the "Capital of West Texas."
JBA: It is the Capital of West Texas. There has been so much talent come out of there, and really when you get right down to it, none of it has been very commercial. Buddy Holly wasn't commercial when he came out of there.
Chris: He was "weird sounding." [Laughs]
JBA: I mean he had a relative amount of success while he was alive but it really came years later. Waylon Jennings is so far from being "commercial" it's laughable and the guy's just God! What a talent! Mac Davis: The closet thing he ever got to being commercial was "Lubbock in My Rearview Mirror" and the guy's gone on to do Broadway and movies. And look what Ely's done: Ely's sustaining power has just been incredible! He's not commercial; his voice is not commercial, his music is not commercial but he has got such a strong live performance and has such charisma and such a cult following, it's just incredible!
Chris: Joe Ely's gotta be one of the most famous un-famous people or un-famous famous people in the world.
JBA: He is about the most famous "unknown" that I know. And God, he hasn't changed a bit. Just about everyone who's left Lubbock is still just about as easy-going haven't changed much.
Chris: To finish up pretty quick: You've been playing a little bit lately; Have you just been doing that for fun?
JBA: Well, a funny thing happened about four years ago: My buddy LeeRoy Parnell, who was leasing a bus from me at the time, was doing a show in San Antonio. My wife is a huge LeeRoy fan and has been for many years So we go down to hear him play that night, and toward the end of his set Y'know, his brother Rob Roy is just a killer harmonica player And there were some other guys, a couple of other guitar players that he invited up on stage to play.
We're sitting out in the crowd and LeeRoy was talking about
how he was gonna have another guitar player up there later on.
He said, "I was a big fan of his back when
" does all this bullshit talking about this
guitar player, and I'm sitting there thinking, "God Man!
Who's gonna come up and play?"
Chris: You didn't know?
JBA: Oh, I had no idea! And I hadn't had a guitar in my hand in months! So I kind of sheepishly walk on stage and play.
That night I told Lee Roy, "Buddy, this is not gonna
happen to me again!" Because I was just totally intimidated.
And the next day, I opened up the vault with the mothballs in
it and took the guitars out and sent my amp up to my guitar tech
up in Lubbock to clean it up and get it goin' right, and I started
practicing and playing again.
Lee Roy really sort of built the fire under me to get me started writing again.
Chris: Have you written anything recently?
JBA: Yea. I write weekly.
Chris: I'm just sitting here thinking of LeeRoy, Rob Roy, and Jay Boy all up on stage at the same time.
JBA: [Laughs] That's got a ring to it, dudn't it?
2007 Chris Oglesby
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