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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
Joe Ely
driving around Austin; 6/9/98
Joe Ely had heard about my Lubbock book project and sent word through a mutual friend to come to the opening celebration of "Another Sanity," an exhibit of the multi-talented musician's visual art works. The private reception was at Austin's Wild About Music Gallery and was being catered by my friend John Scott, then President and co-owner of Stubb's Barbecue & Live Music, which is now recognized as one of Austin's most outstanding entertainment venues. Stubb's Austin is a fitting legacy to the legendary original Stubb's Bar-BQ on East Broadway in Lubbock, where Ely well-spent his youth.

When John Scott introduced us, we were standing directly in front of the original artwork for a The Honky Angel Tour concert poster, designed by Ely himself. I mentioned to Ely, "I was at that Lubbock show at Fast & Cool. I guess Fat Dawg's had only recenly shut down."
Fast & Cool was located then in the site of the famous Fat Dawg's Saloon, for years one of the finest music venues in Lubbock. I had seen untold number of Ely shows at the Dawg, and sorely bemoaned the saloon's demise.
"Yea, that must have been '89 or '91," Ely responded.
"It was '88," I was sure because it was my Senior year at Texas Tech.
"Man, '88 doesn't seem that long ago! We're thinking of doing another Tour of Texas'thing like that again soon." Joe Ely, the Lord of the Highway, was born to tour Texas.

"I saw you play on the roof of that old barn out at Coyote Country Club," I added, mentioning another event from those days, a party which occurred out in the middle of the flat cotton fields southeast of Lubbock, where the bands performed on the vaulted roof of an old barn.
Just then Ely was turning to greet another former Lubbockian but upon mention of the Coyote Country Club event, Joe laughed with the memory. "I still have nightmares about falling off that barn roof - just sliding right off - ever since that show!"

We agreed to get together after the ado of South by Southwest was finished in order to talk about the enigma and paradox that is our hometown Lubock, Texas.

I was to meet Joe at the Austin Pizza House, near the "Y" at Oak Hill, near Joe's home. He was making preparations for his tour promoting the new Twisting In the Wind album and was running around town trying to get everything together.

I was sitting outside on the porch when Joe drove up in his 4x4 Landcruiser. "Hey, is it alright if we do this in the car? You don't mind driving around with me do you?"

"Let's go," I said and hopped into his truck. We then headed for the Short Stop drive-thru so Joe could get a chicken sandwich for the roadtrip ahead.

[Chatting at the Short Stop drive-thru]
: I was trying to hold down two jobs. I had to wash dishes in this place over on 34th Street at this place called the Chicken Box. So every day after school I would do that. Then I was getting my band together at that time, so I would go out at night after washing dishes, I would go out & play. I was probably fourteen when I had that job. Then I started my little band, so pretty soon it became obvious that music was a damn sight more fun than washing dishes at the Chicken Box.

You know Tom & Bingo's Bar BQ? And the Chicken Box was across the street. Funny…ol' Chicken Box Johnny, he ran that place and used to go over every night and lose all his money gambling to Tom & Bingo at their BarBQ place across the street. We used to go over there and watch them gamble all night.

But Lubbock was like that. It was a hard-hit-on place. When you was living there, you just thought it was normal, but when you look back on it, for people to eke out a living there, it was damn impossible: This ol' place on some prairie that had not really meant for a town to be there. It just kinda' accidentally opened up.

Chris: So I'd like just any stories or feelings about you growing up in Lubbock, the impressions Lubbock gave you that drove you on.
I'm kind of interested in and hope to hear stories about Stubb since he's not around. I'm obviously wanting to talk about the Tornado Jam.

Joe: Yea, an interesting little side note in it all was the Tornado Jam; the fact that the City agreed to do it thinking it was going to be a little thing, you know, two or three hundred people out at Buddy Holly Park. The first year eight thousand people came. The second year thirty thousand people came. The third year: forty or fifty thousand. It was unbelievable!

Chris: What year was it that the Cadillac ended up in the river?

Joe: Well, the second year this guy brought his girlfriend to the Tornado Jam; they came out in the afternoon. Her boyfriend had borrowed her daddy's Roll Royce to come out there, so they could kinda' stud around. Her daddy was a lawyer, Harley Huff, and he had the only Rolls Royce in Lubbock. So he had borrowed that car from his girlfriend's daddy to drive it out there to - you know - look cool.
And I REMEMBER this man! We were doing a sound check, late afternoon - middle afternoon - I look over and here comes this Rolls; it parks over faced toward the creek and the two people get out and start walking over to the stage. And I notice that car just roll just a tiny bit. I thought somebody else was in it; I couldn't see. It was pretty far from the stage.
So I start kinda' walking over there 'cause I wanted to go over and see that car, anyway. And it started rolling a little faster and pretty soon I yell at those people.
I said, "Is that your car?" And they turn around, and by then it had started pickin' up speed. They'd forgot to set the parking brake and that Rolls rolled into Buddy Holly River, or whatever it's called.
And I'll never forget: I ran down to it--they were in a panic, just screaming, running down. I ran down to it, and I remember it went in head first and then it flipped over like a big bubble. It just flipped, and then it turned, and just that angel on the hood was the only thing sticking out of the water. It was the most amazing sight.

Chris: That's just classic. You couldn't dream something like that up.

Joe: And then the next year, Steve Moss, who was in charge of kinda' promoting & video-taping the thing, he just thought, "Well, let's kinda' set up a tradition, so he went and bought a Cadillac and just rolled it in the lake himself. So it was kind of a fake thing.

Chris: Alright, 'cause I thought it was a Cadillac…

Joe: Yea, well it was in the paper. The Cadillac was in the paper, the Rolls never was. The next year ol' Steve just bought a Cadillac, and rolled it, an old 'Seventies Cadillac and rolled it in there.

Chris: That's an even better story. I've never heard that. Thank you.

Joe: Yea, I got a picture of the tow-truck pulling the Cadillac out. I've got my hand on the side of it like it was a big fish.

Chris: So when you were at Monterey [High School], did you leave town right after Monterey or were trying to do your music in Lubbock?

Joe: I was doing music in Lubbock. I was playing at the Koko Palace and a couple of ol' sleazy clubs out on the strip; The Rendezvous, and I can't even remember the others. There was a few Rock-n-Roll clubs, one called The Music Box and one called the Linger Longer where…

Chris: [Laughs]

Joe: Yea, terrible aren't they?

Chris: [Still laughing] Those aren't there anymore.

Joe: No. Yea, thank goodness. They were pretty horrible ol' places, those kinda' Rock-n-Roll clubs where kids went out. We went out there and played.

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