virtualubbock - Interview

What's New?

About Us
Contact Us

buy the book

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."

buy the book

"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
Sharon Ely
Austin, TX; 10/15/00

Sharon: I told Joe I was coming over here to meet with you and have some tea, and we were gonna talk about Lubbock. I didn’t know what questions you were gonna ask me or anything, but I presumed you were gonna say something like people always say, "Why is Lubbock the way it is?" or "Why does Lubbock even exist?"

Chris: That’s the general idea.

Sharon: "Why? Why, why, why, why?"
So this is a little story that goes with what I’m fixin’ta say:
I was at the stove the other day. I was cooking, and I was chopping these carrots to put in to sauté, and one of ‘em fell off and rolled down onto floor underneath the icebox. Which means that when that carrot is there underneath the icebox, that can start a whole new world - of insects or whatever. Or it could even attract a little mouse. And then there you are: The mouse feeds a little and then the whole thing…Well, that’s sort of like a theory, I think, some people have about how the world began.
But it’s also I think how Lubbock began. Joe said that somebody was going through there in a covered wagon and their wheel broke and got stuck, and they could never get out. And that’s how come Lubbock is where it is. [Laughs] Because somebody got stuck there.

Chris: It’s real easy to get stuck there, too. As much as people want to get away, a lot of times people just get stuck going back there.

Sharon: I have a whole history of Lubbock, like four volumes; It’s incredible to read. And it says in there that in the beginning, this city was set up to be real protective.
You know, that’s a very harsh country up there, and during the time that all of that was being settled, it was VERY harsh landscape, and water was not very available, and food…It was just really difficult. And so when they got Lubbock somehow started settling, the people wanted it to be very protected from all outside elements and people…anything. 
And to me, always when I lived in Lubbock, it always felt like a fort. You know that circle that goes around Lubbock? [Loop 289] I always felt actually pretty safe there. And when I would go out into the world…
You know how people would always go out into the world and always come back to Lubbock?

Chris: Yea.

Sharon: It’s because it’s really safe and it’s really protected there.

Chris: It is. Lubbock is a bastion; you’re right.

Sharon: Maybe it’s not the most gorgeous place but I think one of the things that we all learned to appreciate was: Maybe it didn’t have a lot of trees but it has some of the most incredible skies I’ve ever seen. And when I moved down here, I actually missed those skies. I missed those sunsets ‘cause they were INCREDIBLE! I mean, some days we’d just go out and that was our entertainment! You know?
So I don’t know what angle you’re goin’ at with this book…

Chris: I’m trying to answer a "What causes all these artistic searchers?"…I’m trying to get to "what causes that" among that community in Lubbock. 
One of the things that I think is common among a lot of Lubbock people, I kept hearing with your name involved is "having a knack for creating events and fun situations."
Whereas people in other parts of the world might be able to just sit back and take things in, in Lubbock one really has to take charge of things if you want anything to happen.
I’ve heard a lot of stories about events you organized. I’d like to hear about some of those things: "Ways to have fun or to create in Lubbock." That ‘creative process’ is what I’m looking at. What causes somebody to get those juices flowing?

Sharon: I’ve thought about this - First of all, the thing that was really important in Lubbock was "The Group;" a group of friends. Without that group, I don’t think anybody really would have done anything what they did.
For instance, Stubbs and Paul Milosevich; He was a very close friend of Stubb’s. They together attracted groups of artists. Paul's wife Debbie Milosevich knew Terry Allen through her brother, and Debbie introduced Terry to Stubb and Paul and this whole group of people. Terry & Jo Harvey had been out in California, and they came back into this whole circle of people that were gathering. Like Jesse [Taylor]…The musicians were attracted to Stubb’s. 
Then these musicians, needless to say, attracted many girls. So there was much love there; y’know, the romance which attracted all these girls, and then all of their families and all of their friends. Like Tommy Hancock and his family were musicians, and that attracted people. That’s how all that happened.

I think people forget this but we were all 19, 20, 21 and there was a little bit of a spiritual quest going on through the music. Like Butch [Hancock] and Jimmie [Gilmore] and Tommy Hancock and Joe and all of us would jump in a van and drive over to New Mexico to go up to the Lama Foundation and learn how to Sufi dance. Steve Wesson learned to play the saw and brought it back and we’d all do this circle of Sufi dancing in Tech Terrace Park, right in front of where Paul Milosevich lived.
What happened was this "thing’ goin’ on…all this music and all this romantic conglomerated mess where everybody was falling in love with everybody else…

Chris: Was this in the late ‘60s?

Sharon: I’m talking about the ‘70s….about when I met Joe – that was in ’67 – and this whole era from ‘67 on and this whole group of people that were coming together. It was incredible! I can’t call it "Underground" because it is very difficult to be "Underground" in Lubbock. [Laughs] Except for the prairie dogs.  
I’m just kind of giving you the whole ambiance of the whole thing so you’ll know that there’s this whole group of people involved and there’s all these wonderful people. And everybody was real attracted to each other and just amazed at each other’s musical ability or their character or personality. We all really liked each other.

From the very beginning, from the first time I met Joe I was in love. There was a time "Before Joe" and a time "After Joe." When I met Joe, he had come back from L.A. and his hair was down to his waist or below. 
I had heard him play at Alice’s Restaurant, in the alley, across from the college; Its called Mesquite's now.. That was Alice’s Restaurant. That’s how long I’ve been away from there! He was playing his drums, his harmonica, and his guitar up there in the very top part. He had a little solo concert goin’ on. That’s where I first heard him and met him. 
Truly, my life changed after that; I was not the same and I fell madly in love with him. From that point on, everything that I did and everything that I created was focused towards my love for Joe. Period. That is why I am in Austin today.

Chris: Tommy Hancock was saying to me this morning a very nice thing; He said that he thought you were one of the most creative, artistic women that he knows and that sometimes you may not get enough credit for it because you’re with Joe. So what are some of your artistic endeavors or creative things you’ve done?

Sharon: [Laughs] I don’t know how he could possibly say that.

Chris: Lots of people have said that to me, so there must be something to it.

Sharon: I would just mainly do things that would be fun; I just like conjure things up in my head…
Well for instance, here’s one thing - All my group of friends had left Lubbock to go different places when I was about 22 or 21; I was in Lubbock, and I was all alone. I was living for a very short time at my parents’ house, and I suddenly realized that I had to ‘make my own friends.’ So I made five human-sized dolls. They were ‘dancing dolls’ cause I love to dance. They became the 5 Muses. There’s Gremaldi and Calliope and I can’t remember the other names. But I made these dolls, and then I had little cocktail parties. They were like my friends.
I didn’t have a whole lot of money then; So I found some sparkly, satin material in the alley. I put it on these really pretty amazing life-sized dolls; And they became my friends.
And before I knew it, by making these dolls, and just accepting that these were gonna be my little group of friends, all of a sudden everybody returned to Lubbock. I had so many friends! And they all loved my dolls! They thought it was wonderful, and we all started having parties. Before I knew it, I didn’t have any time to sew any more and make dolls because we had all these friends, doing all this stuff.
It’s sort of like "You can make your dreams happen"…sort of.

Instead of just going out and like killing myself, I decided to do something. ‘Cause loneliness is a horrible feeling and if you let it get to you, it will KILL you! I think that’s another thing in Lubbock: People would become lonely, and that’s why so many people attracted each other; Because they didn’t want to be lonely.

Did you ever see that ‘20s movie - I think it’s a silent film - called "The Wind"? It’s about this lady that’s left in this little shack that reminds me of Snyder during a dust storm…out in the fields. She’s left in this little house, and the wind starts blowing and the dust blows. And she’s there all by herself, and she literally goes crazy ‘cause she’s out in all this wind.

Chris: I’m glad you said. That loneliness is a very real thing for me. I’ve always felt that loneliness there in Lubbock. Whereas in Austin, I don't really ever feel that way.

Sharon: You look at all these things from a psychological point of view - We were all just trying to be happy…which is essentially what we are trying to do today: To be happy. And we want everybody else to be happy.

I would try to get Joe’s attention, because in the ‘70s he had attracted about 55 girlfriends. So to be attracted to somebody like that was a BIG commitment on my part. I mean, you either had to be ‘totally nuts’ or truly in love with this guy, or you just wouldn’t put up with it. So I would try to do things to attract his attention.
One of them was when they did a photo-shoot at Stubb’s Barbecue for one of his album covers. All the girls came and all the musicians were there, and I thought, "Well, I’m just gonna blend in with the wallpaper if I don’t do anything." So I wore my roller-skates over there, and played pool. Because I had roller-skates on, I got my picture taken. But it also got Joe’s attention! Because he liked to roller skate, too. He was a really good roller-skater and so was I.

Chris: And you’re so tall…

Sharon: I was REALLY tall when I walked in on those skates!

Chris: Now, talking about being at Stubb's and getting Joe's attention: Weren't you the cause of "the Great East Broadway Onion Championship of 1978." Do you wanta give your version of that story?

Sharon: I was very cocky back then. Thank God we’re not like we used to be! I guess, it caused them to write a song and have a big tournament, so fine.
There was all this group of people that had gathered at Stubb’s because Tom T. Hall was there. And they were in the backroom, playing pool - where not very many people could go. Everybody else was out in the front just sitting there, listening to the juke box…Y’know, how you kind of wait around for ‘the Big Concert’ to begin and it won’t happen?
Joe and I weren’t really a "cemented item" then. I mean, we were going with each periodically but I wasn’t really livin’ with him at the time. So I was still kinda looking for his full attention. So I went to the back and then the front, go to the back and then the front…and finally I go, "I’m just gonna go and get that white ball and hide it in my back pocket. And then they won’t be able to play pool, and they’ll HAVE to come out and play music!"
So I went back there and I snuck the cue-ball and put it in my back pocket and just kinda sashayed out of the back room into the front…thinking that they’d come on out. And they never did.
When I went back there, they had the onion sack open and they were playing pool with the onions. And I said, "Why are they playing pool with these onions?"
And Stubb said, "Oh, I don’t know. They couldn’t find the cue-ball so they just went ahead."
I realized: "That didn’t work."

: [Laughs] They were still gonna do whatever they wanted to do.

We could continue to talk about Stubb. Do you wanta talk about Stubb getting his barbecue sauce company started?

Sharon: Yea. First of all, he was not healthy. He had a complicated thing with his heart and diabetes. The whole thing was when they would give him medicine for his diabetes it would screw up his heart, and when he would take his heart medicine it would screw up his diabetes. And he didn’t understand the diet thing. He’d try but he really didn’t understand it. He was really having a difficult time down here in Austin.
Plus, he had the restaurant, and he had rats in his restaurant. And his rent at that little bitty house was like a thousand and two-hundred a month. It was just a very difficult time for him. He would come every week – because Joe is like his really close friend – and Stubbs would need money and of course we would come up with it and give it to him, almost every week. We had been audited by the IRS and trying to keep above ground.
So I thought maybe we could figger out something…There’s bound to be a way where Stubbs could make some money and he wouldn’t feel so defeated all the time by his health and his financial situation.
I knew from way back…When you taste something that tastes really good and you think, "Gah, they should bottle this!" I had always thought that about Stubb's barbecue sauce… I kept telling Stubbs that really that’s what he should do… He would make big batches of it for big barbecue parties, so I’d see that he could make these big tubs of it.
It was near Christmas and he didn’t have any Christmas money. So I said, "Let’s get some bottles. You come out, and we’ll set the whole thing up in our kitchen. My friend Kimmie Rhodes knows how to can, so we can make it safe."
So Kimmie came out and we bottled up these Mason jars. Apple computers had just come out, so Joe was experimenting with all these graphics. So he made a little label, and we printed it out. I mean, Joe’s like a genius on that computer. So he made the labels and we printed them up and cut ‘em out with little scissors, and glued ‘em on the Mason jars.
Kimmie and I got on the phone and got some customers for Stubbs, a bunch of people who wanted to buy this barbecue sauce for gifts for Christmas.
The deal was that if they bought it, they would get it delivered to their doorstep by Kimmie and me, and Stubbs would drive us over there. He was the chauffeur. We got to drive around in his Cadillac. We would deliver it to their work places. This was right before Christmas – Kimmie and I dressed up in matching white semi-formals, made out of white lace, and cowboy hats that we put little corsages on.
She’s like about 5 feet tall and I’m about 6 feet tall, so we looked very funny. When we’d deliver the barbecue sauce, we’d walk in looking like this with our boom-box playing The Chipmunk Song.
We were having a great time! And Stubbs was happy. That day, I think, we must have brought in $200 selling barbecue sauce. I gave the money to Stubbs and I said, "Stubbs, Look! This is just one day! This is what you can do with your barbecue sauce. People love it!" So he got he understood that. Because he had this handful of money, he could see the reality of it. Then the next day we went out and delivered some more - we worked all that week - and pretty soon and he had made like a thousand dollars!
Then he got the idea to open his own little factory and rented a little place over on Ben White. He started collecting whiskey bottles ‘cause he didn’t wanta buy the Mason jars. "We got these free whiskey bottles!" And they were pretty; He was a very artistic person. So he’d go get all of these whiskey bottles and put his barbecue sauce in it.

Chris: I remember them: the Jack Daniels and Crown Royal bottles….

Sharon: Yes. He had a factory goin’ over there. I gave him a desk that we had for his business. So it was kinda like half-assed bein’ done, but it was being done. He was selling his sauce to all kinds of people, or he’d give it away or whatever.
    Then suddenly John Scott appears. We were gonna have a business meeting in our backyard. And then John Scott showed up one day with his brief case. And Stubbs says, "This is our new President of my Barbecue!" 
I knew then that this was gonna take a whole different avenue and would truly become successful, which I was really happy about. I was happy to let go of whatever we had started…I just knew that it had to be done. So when John Scott came in and he knew what he was doing and could take it the highest limit…
To me, the whole thing made me so happy. And Stubb was very sick; I think he passed out at one of the grocery stores where he was doing a little demonstration – But when he got to see that barbecue sauce on those shelves, it was like his dream come true.

Chris: And its around the world now. It's pretty much the number one selling barbecue sauce around.

Sharon: I know. And Stubb always said, "I wants to feed the world!" It would make him happy.

Stubbs had his ups and downs; I think because of his illness that it made him kind of crazy. But in the sense of Buddhism, Stubb was a true bodhisattva, because he truly cared for other people. We learned a lot from him.
    I think everybody learned many lessons from him. People would come in and would be attracted to him, and something would happen. Suddenly the whole group of people would become involved in this problem and we would learn huge lessons from it.

Go to Page 2

home Interviews Stories video What's New?

About Us

Copyright 2007 Chris Oglesby
All rights reserved