Gotta Lubbock

Long Before Austin Was The Live Music Capital Of The World, A Cotton-Pickin' High Plains City Put Texas On The Map. From Buddy Holly To Jimmie Dale Gilmore, An Oral History Of The State's Most Storied Scene.

Even some Texans don’t know what to make of Lubbock. How can it be so flat? How can such a large city exist in the middle of such desolation? Why would anybody live there? People who do live there tend to smile at such obvious questions. “What you see as bleak and ugly,” says Johnny Hughes, the former manager of the Joe Ely Band, “we don’t. We see it as beautiful.”

Perhaps. Yet when most outsiders use the words “beauty” and “Lubbock” in the same sentence, they aren’t talking about the brown, blasted landscape. They’re referring to something like Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s high, lonesome voice, or Buddy Holly’s deceptively simple rock and roll, or Terry Allen’s elaborate story songs. They’re talking about Lubbock music, and a beauty that, like the terrain’s, is not typical. Indeed, the question Lubbockites get asked more than any other is, How could so much music come out of this windy wasteland? For two generations, Lubbock has produced an unsurpassed number of rock icons and country superstars, brilliant weirdos and working stiffs: Holly, Ely, Gilmore, and Allen, as well as Waylon Jennings, Natalie Maines, Butch Hancock, Tommy Hancock, Jo Carol Pierce, Norman Odam (a.k.a. the Legendary Stardust Cowboy), Delbert McClinton, Sonny Curtis, Mac Davis, John Denver (who went to Texas Tech) and Meat Loaf (who went to Lubbock Christian College). The common denominator connecting them all is “a reckless energy,” says Don Caldwell, who owns Caldwell Studios, a Lubbock recording complex. “Regardless of the style that’s being played, there’s an approach and an attack that comes with the players out here that’s real identifiable.”

How did such a gifted bunch happen to hail from the same place? One simple, unsatisfying reason is that all roads lead to Lubbock. Many musicians grew up on farms and in small towns in the Panhandle and moved to one of the biggest cities around. Long before,

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