“Bright Lights, Little City” is a space for our friends, staff and customers to share anecdotes about the city we love. This month, we’re proud to share a piece by Chris Oglesby.
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In Which: Billy F. Gibbons Performs at My Book Release Party.
From the first weekend I moved to this little city in summer 1990, I became more aware of a deep arterial connection between Austin and my west Texas hometown Lubbock. I had read an article by Austin journalist Molly Ivins observing how Lubbock is a good place to be from (implying “no longer there”) and why many of Lubbock’s more creative denizens tend to migrate to Austin. I noticed this phenomenon right away firsthand.
Like many peers in the slacker days of early 1990s Austin, my first bed in Austin was a futon couch belonging to fellow Lubbock expatriates, and my first weekend we went down to 6th Street, which was less lively then. I proclaimed, “I wish we’d see someone we know,” and within minutes a good friend from Lubbock passed by like he owned the street. And so it began. Austin is a little city.
The Lubbock Game evolved in Austin among my fellow flatland expatriates, and the Game goes like this: We ask “Do you know where he/she is from?” (RE: musician/actor/artist/etc whom we’re watching or listening to at the moment) And the cognoscente groan emphatically, “Lubbock.” The answer is always Lubbock.
The apparently large percentage of Austin’s influential artists who admit publicly, “When I lived in Lubbock…,” is uncanny. Examples include Flatanders Joe Ely, Butch Hancock & Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Greater Tuna co-creator Jaston Williams, Lost Gonzos Bob Livingston and Gary P. Nunn, The Texana Dames cosmic dance band, A-List producer & pedal-steel player Lloyd Maines, blues legend Angela Strehli, songwriter Kimmie Rhodes, and okay you get the idea, right? Austin is a little city.
Long story short: this obsession for years living in Austin led to me receiving a contract with University of Texas Press to publish a book from my writings & interviews with many of those Lubbock-area artists who deeply influence Austin culture and beyond. The book is entitled “Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music.” The title is based on something Jimmie Gilmore supposedly said to someone else, and I now confess that it’s way too long for a book title; almost no one remembers it or says it right. I later told Terry Allen that I wished I had named the book “Dirt” and he agreed that Dirt is a better name. Anyway…
Back to Austin, September 2006: University of Texas Press publishes my book (ISBN: 978-0-292-71434-2), it receives an appropriate amount of good reviews from critics. I got an award for research. The musicians involved seem to like the book, as do the straight folk back in Lubbock, which is no humble balancing feat.
So this is when Bob Livingston, of legendary Lost Gonzo Band fame (think: “Home with the Armadillo”, Jerry Jeff Walker, Cosmic Cowboy Michael Martin Murphey, Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Redneck Mother”, etc.), contacts me with his idea, “Chris, if you can find a place with a stage and backline, I bet if you have a book signing party several of us musicians would show up to play.” I reply that I agree it’s a good idea but I don’t want to ask such a favor of the artists. However Gonzo Bob assures me, if I find the right place he’ll corral them and musicians will come. Austin is a little city.
Stubb’s BBQ & Live Music downtown on Red River arguably is one of Austin’s all-time premiere music venues, and do you know where the titular founder C.B. “Stubb” Stubblefield came to Austin from, and where the co-founders of Stubb’s BBQ grew up? Did you guess Lubbock? Good for you. So that is how I’ve known the founders of Stubb’s most my life and felt free to ask; nonetheless, I am immensely grateful when they offer the downstairs stage and bar, along with paid sound-crew, for a Sunday night book-signing party at Stubb’s. Generous indeed. Austin is a little city.
Sunday November 12, 2006. One of those events that is impossible to describe to anyone who was not there but in short it was like a huge all-star family reunion of anyone in Austin with connections to Lubbock, a joyful fellowship of artists who hail from the Hub City. Many artists who had never performed together had the opportunity to do so. Mighty hugs, huge authentic laughs, spontaneous dancing. Gonzo Bob took over as de facto stage manager while I autographed copies of the book provided by UT Press (Full disclosure, my editor at UT Press is Allison Faust, who comes from…did you guess Lubbock?) Impromptu performances by Connie, Traci, and Charlene Hancock of the Texana Dames with patriarch Tom X Hancock; Flatlander Jimmie Dale Gilmore sang with his son Colin Gilmore; Zydeco star Ponty Bone rocked his accordion; songwriter/guitarist David Halley rolled on guitar; Legendary sidemen supported throughout the night: fiddler Richard Bowden, guitarist John X Reed, keyboardist Dee Purkeypile; performance artist and national treasure Jo Carol Pierce, and international award-winning poet Paul Bullock, did their things.
Enter Billy Gibbons and Billy Bob Thornton. Okay, before I forget, Stu Cook drummer for Creedence Clearwater Revival was also hanging around in the crowd this night but never got on stage as far as I know. (I do not make this up; Austin is a little city.) Southern rock veteran Jay Boy Adams is another artist who graces my book with his stories. In the 1970’ & 80’s, the Jay Boy Adams Band toured with and opened for ZZ Top, and Jay doubled as Billy Gibbons’ guitar tech while ZZ Top was onstage. November 2006, Gibbons was in Austin to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Texas Grammy voters with his friend Billy Bob Thornton there to present. So Jay invites them to attend our little book-signing party. Bob Livingston says to me, “Billy Gibbons wants to play.” I say, “Let him.” There happened to be a film crew on site for some unknown serendipitous reason, so if you don’t believe me, here is a link to video:
Afterwards, Jay horse-collars me outside of Stubb’s and says to me endearingly, “What did you think of that, you little fucker?” I said “Well, there’s when I got married and now that is the second greatest thing that ever happened to me.” Thank God, Austin is a little city.
Artist Christopher J. Oglesby creates paintings in Austin Texas; please visit his website www.prettycoolart.com
Oglesby also created www.virtualubbock.com dedicated to West Texas music & culture; authored a book about creativity & numerous magazine articles about life in Texas; and he has produced more than 100 successful music events in Austin and beyond.