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
Mike Burk does not claim to be a musician or an artist;
unless you consider meat butchery an artform. However, Mike and
his beloved brother Jack Burk long have been the best
friends to the community of musicians in Lubbock. Whether promoting
outstanding musical events, working the door at the Cotton
Club or Fat Dawg's, revelling backstage at the
Tornado Jam, or
providing a private venue for after hours jam sessions, the Burk
Brothers have encouraged and provided solace to many Lubbock
musicians including Joe Ely, Bobby Keys, Cary
Swinney, and dozens more untold grateful artists.
Chris: How was South Plains College helping?
Mike: They were loaning us equipment. Pat McCutcheon from South Plains College played a big part in it; Pat heads up their Music Department. He was there at every show; a great help.
So we just issued a press release saying that we were gonna produce a live music show based on Austin City Limits called "Live at Tommy's Place." Before we had any kind of budget, before we had any kind of real ideas about it; We went ahead and issued the press release. William Kerns at the Avalanche Journal wrote it up. It hit the Lubbock paper; then it was picked up by the AP, and it went around the world!
So here we are; Were basically five people who has sat around a table and come up with an idea of a whole bunch of "Want-To" and not a whole lot of "How-To."
Chris: So what was the plan?
Mike: We were gonna do this TV show with Live music at Tommys Place which had a beautiful stage in there. Had plenty of space; Three stories I mean, just a beautiful place. The place had magic in it...Not that it ever made any money. But that place had a lot of magic.
Chris: Is that building still there?
Mike: Yea. Its known as 4-Bar-K, now. They just rent it out for parties and stuff.
Tommy Thompson built 90% of it. For this show, we went in and we did a lot of remodeling. We basically built a whole new stage and a whole new backdrop; Ol Norman Neavey of Jungle Studios donated a 32 channel soundboard for the show. And Jimmy Mason came in and did probably 90% of the show. Don Caldwell did maybe 4 or 5 shows, and then he bowed out. He was too busy and the show took up a lot of time.
Chris: How many shows did you end up doing?
Mike: I would say at least 24 shows or so; Im not sure on that, because we had a complete season of shows, and I dont know how many weeks in a season was.
There was a lot of film that was edited out and on the cuttin
room floor, just for the time factor. And nobody was getting
paid; Everybody was just devotin their time and effort;
Some things were sacrificed because people who were working on
it had to say, "I havent gotten any more time to do
this." So we were always limited by that factor.
Chris: Who were the performers?
Mike: We did...
Oh, hell. There was a bunch more bands that we did - dadgum - Im still not touchin on 'em all. Wed shoot two bands a week.
Chris: Is there any record of them?
Mike: I think Jimmy Masons still got em We got all the tapes on one inch video. Theres huge amount of tapes. Actually, they belong to the musicians. The way we wrote the contract was after a certain period of time, the tapes would default back to ownership of the musicians that had performed the show. Basically, nobody ever picked em up. [Laughs.] Theres mountains of good Lubbock stuff in there.
But anyway, after that first press release was written - and
this is kinda what spurred us on - We
hadnt even put up a show yet; And suddenly were lookin
at our names in the Australian press, the London Times, New York...Ive
had papers with my name in it from all over the world, just because
this show was from Lubbock, Texas.
Chris: Its amazing, how "Big-in-Europe" all the Lubbock artists are. Cary Swinney told me he has sold more records in Europe than he has around Lubbock.
Mike: Well, nobody here recognizes it. When its here, its so avante garde that only a few people are able to see it. But thats what catches the eye of the rest of the world: Something thats new. Not necessarily does the place where it originates catch on.
And its originated from Lubbock, Texas, the home of the Bible-Belt, basically. Were talking about Rock-n-Roll and real good Country music. Its all got its basis in the church because thats where most people learned how to play music. But then it graduated out into something much more.
Its a struggle between whatever forces it is; Where their roots come from, And then its also your "questioning your life."
Yknow; "What is talent and whats not talent?
What is art and whats not art?" Some people choose
to go one way and some people choose to go the other.
Chris: Thats one thing about Lubbock; It does cause you to make a choice.
My brother Jacks wife used to run the door at the Cotton Club. Thats how I got turned on to Joe Ely. "Come on out! Well get you in free!"
The Cotton Club was a great place.
Chris: How do you mean, "It was pure freedom"?
Mike: If you were not able to quite afford the bar - which most of the bars at that time were private clubs - the Cotton Club was "bring your own bottle." And we mighta been a little young to get in sometimes but wed have a case of beer with us...
That was mainly to go see the Maines
Brothers. They were the dance band out there. I had a
girlfriend who liked to dance to them; and thats why we
went. And towards the 70s, I was goin out there to
see Joe Ely. You'd carry
your own beer in, and dance like the dickens. And if you got
a little drunk and fell on the dance floor, then people just
danced around ya.
Mike: I saw Los Lobos at Fat Dawg's for two dollars! On a Tuesday night! The Nelsons - Donnie Allison, John Sprott and Kevin Mackey - They won MTVs amateur band "Basement Tapes" contest. MTV put the Nelsons on national tour, and Los Lobos traveled with em. Both of em toured the nation together, driving Dodge vans or something [Laughs] The night that Los Lobos played Fat Dawgs; I hadnt never heard of em but it was one of the all-time best concerts Ive ever seen in my life. And it was two dollars! And the house was not full.
Ray Vaughn played in Lubbock, Texas, so much during the
Chris: Where was that?
Mike: Over in the "Tech Ghetto."
Chris: Youre right, Everything dried up there for awhile. Do you have an opinion on why that happened?
Mike: Well, what first happened is; In the early 80s, you had "Ladies Nights." And thats where all the women could drink free. That presented the biggest club scene in Lubbock, Texas, probably. Because if youre givin it away to the women, the men are comin in and, basically, theyre payin for both sides of it. Well, they change the liquor laws right about then and stopped that from happenin. They started makin laws that shut down "Ladies Nights." That changed the whole goddamn deal, right there.
What happened towards the end of that scene; there was a few
die-hards like us who lived around "live" music. But
really, as far as anybody makin any money in the music
It just wasnt happenin.
Paul Bullock was Doug Smiths
manager at the time. Doug played the entire summer down there
at the Depot Beer
Garden and had a tremendous summer. Basically, Ronnie
come to me and said, "I know you know all the musicians
in town. Start bookin bands."
I was cuttin meat for The Depot and bookin bands down there for em; That went on for about three years .
Well, I learned where I-27 was comin through Lubbock, and made mention of that to Ronnie Thompson - that he probably needed to get more serious about this. He pulled Stubb in as a partner at first and started that other Stubb's over there by the highway. Thats kinda how the whole Depot District got started, right there.
Chris: Yea. That was a good idea.
Mike: I basically pulled out of the Depot at that time; Our negotiations broke down on our music business. And that's how it happened that I got involved with Tommy Thompson on Tommy's Place out there. That was probably about 88 or so. The TV show really started takin place in about '89
2007 Chris Oglesby
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