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Lubbock Makes Music Not Fade Away

Whether there’s a muse in the West Texas wind or some other explanation, the Lubbock area has long produced more than its share of fabled musicians. The tradition continues.
D.G. Flewellyn (center) performs with his band at Cricket’s Grill & Draft House (806/744-HOPS) near the campus of Texas Tech.

In Lubbock, music just happens—in the pickup notes floating on the ever-present wind; in the downbeats struck by the footsteps of the peoples who have been coming here for thousands of years; and in the mixing of their spirits and cultures under huge skies and unlimited horizons, creating, again and again, something new from the far-flung flotsam and jetsam of the old. Music, more reliable than the sporadic rainfall of the Llano Estacado’s high, dry flatland, permeates this place.

And while rain sustains life here, the music that continues to flow from this perhaps unlikely Panhandle source makes that life all the richer. Surpassing cotton—in esthetics, if not economics—music and musicians from the Hub City and the region it centers have been exporting their songs for three-quarters of a century. The cotton from its fields and gins may be indistinguishable from any other, but people around the world know Buddy Holly and Mac Davis and Waylon Jennings and Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock and Natalie Maines. What they may not know is that Lubbock still teems with talent, and now boasts a number of venues in which its characteristic sounds can be heard.

Since the last of the Ice Age, people have crossed the Llano Estacado along a trace the Spanish called La Pista de Aguas Vivas, the Trail of Living Waters. Beginning as a slight depression on the western edge of the Llano Estacado near the New Mexican town of Portales, it angles lazily east-southeast, deepening ever so slightly until it becomes a draw near the bright-yellow rock formation of the Casas Amarillas. At its eastern reach, just north and west of Lubbock, it forms Yellowhouse Canyon, where archeologists have spent the last half-century exploring an astounding record of 12 millennia of continuous human habitation at campsites made along its waters.

The latest of those sites was discovered last year when construction began on a new outdoor amphitheater that will soon house a historical musical drama, appropriately titled The Fires of Camp. The digs there and at other places along the Yellowhouse have surrendered thousands of bits and pieces of charred rock, flint tools, animal bones, seeds, and grains of pollen—the physical evidence of the lives lived there, of what the weather was like, of what was hunted, what was gathered. Though the ancient cultures left no hard clues, we can be certain that there was music around their fires, too.

For more information about Lubbock, its music, and other attractions, contact the Lubbock Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1301 Broadway, Ste. 200, 79401; 806/747-5232 or 800/692-4035; www.lubbocklegends.org.

The Buddy Holly Center is at 1801 Ave. G in the Depot District; 806/767-2686; www.buddyhollycenter.org.

The acclaimed documentary Lubbock Lights by Texas film writer/producer/director Amy Maner highlights the artistry of numerous Panhandle music legends. The Lubbock Regional Arts Center (511 Ave. K; 806/762-8606; www.lubbockartscenter.org) hosts a premiere July 15-17, 2004. For more information, including how to purchase the DVD, visit the Web site: www.lubbock-lights.com.

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