Don’t Mess With (West) Texas Women

KLRU Gala, 5-16-13

Good  news for fans of uppity women everywhere! Lubbock natives Jo Harvey Allen and the Natalie Maines will be inducted into the prestigious West Texas Walk of Fame in September.  Maines is best known as the lead singer of the once-and-perhaps-future Dixie Chicks (that’s them, above, at a rare Austin performance from 2013). And also for, oh yeah, stirring up a shitstorm of Biblical proportions with her offhand comment about George W. Bush’s Texas bonafides. Natalie’s relationship with her home town has sometimes been, ah, prickly (see “Lubbock Or Leave It” off the Chicks’ Taking the Long Way album), but there’s no disputing her musical impact.

Jo Harvey

Actress, playwright and author Jo Harvey Allen has made a lifetime out of creating indelible characters onstage and onscreen (that’s her in the John Grisham flick The Client, as well as in Fried Green Tomatoes, Tommy Lee Jones’ latest, The Homesman and, memorably, the “Lying Woman” in David Byrnes’ movie, True Stories. On her own and long with her husband, artist/songwriter Terry Allen, she’s collaborated on more plays, radio shows, art installations and miscellaneous pieces of wonderful random creativity than you can shake a stick at.

It wasn’t always a day at the beach, growing up as a creative spirit in Lubbock. As Jo Harvey recounted to my fellow blogsmith Chris Oglesby, “Terry actually ran away from Lubbock with a vengeance. But I didn’t. I went with him; But I wasn’t running away. I was very happy in Lubbock, and I wasn’t running away from anything. But it’s funny; the more exposed I was to other things, open to other things, then the more threatening I became to my family. They’ve certainly never understood.”

But she persevered, as did Natalie, and now their names are going down alongside Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Bob Wills and other West Texas immortals. And good for them. Both Natalie and Jo Harvey are emblematic of what makes West Texas women a unique breed.

From One Kitchen to the World–Stubb’s BBQ Sauce Company Sold for $100m

Stubbs & Terry at Cotton Club '84

Well, smoke my butt and call me a brisket! It was just announced yesterday that the Stubb’s line of BBQ sauces, marinades and rubs has been sold to food industry Godzilla McCormick & Co. for $100 million in cash. (That’s the man himself, above, singing “Stormy Monday” at the Cotton Club with Terry Allen on piano in 1984).

Readers of my Flatlanders book will recall that it was around 1992 that Joe and Sharon Ely who helped talk C. B. Stubblefield, aka Stubb, into bottling his barbecue sauce and marketing it around Austin. No to put too fine a point on it, but Stubb was semi-broke at the time. But BBQ sauce was his Google, his Facebook, his iPhone (like Moses, Stubb never made it into that nine-figure promised land, but he took the first step on the journey).

He cooked up his first batch in the Elys’ kitchen, bottled it in Mason jars and crossed his fingers. Sharon and her amiga, singer/songwriter Kimmie Rhodes, dolled themselves up in their best cowgirl regalia, borrowed a Cadillac, and took samples around town to hand out. As demand grew, Stubb got to scavenging whiskey bottles (Jack Daniel’s was a favorite) from behind bars and restaurants and filling them with sauce–recycling before it was cool!


Joe designed a bottle label on his home computer and Lubbock artist Paul Milosevich contributed a sketch of the maestro himself (above), and things were off to the races. Fast forward 23 years or so, and shazam–$100 million for something that started out as a labor of love among friends.

Joe Ely named Texas State Musician for 2016

Okay, this is way cool. Once-and-future Flatlander Joe Ely has been named Texas Musician of the Year for 2016 by the Texas State Legislature. There’s not much the Lege does that I approve of, but this is the rare exception. Since the Legislature only meets every two years, they also took the opportunity to announce Texas blues great Jimmie Vaughan as the Texas MOY for this year (that’s Jimmie and Joe, below, in the Capitol rotunda.

And here’s a link to an accompanying feature from Rolling Stone:

Not bad for a kid from Lubbock!

Ely and Jimmie

Happy Birthdays, dammit!

Marie Elena's wedding, 11-11 – Version 2 Jo Harvey's 65th – Version 2

Happy Birthday, as of yesterday, to Jimmie Dale Gilmore (that’s him, above, playing paparazzi at the wedding of Joe Ely’s daughter), and, today, Terry Allen (that’s him with my ownself; he’s the one grinning like he got away with something). In the words of another immortal Texan, ain’t it funny how time slips away?

On the air with Tony B.

Thanks mucho to Tony Basilio and his “Book Corner” program out of Nashville, who invited me to wax at length about the Flatlanders and the book last month. Here’s a link to the website; scroll down to my interview on April 3, and you can hear it using the player within the website page. Unusual to be on the other side of the interviewer’s mic, but fun nonetheless…


State Line

This has nothing to do with the Flatlanders, but anyway…

Earl and I were driving through West Texas the other day, and when you undertake that little jaunt, you have a lot of time on your hands.

We passed through some little town whose entire skyline was defined by the grain elevator and the lights of the rodeo arena. And just outside of town, we went past a house with a sign out front that said, “Barrels For Sale.” Middle of nowhere.

We mulled that over. “Times are tough in West Texas,” said Earl. “You gotta do what you can to get by.”

“Sure enough,” I said. “Imagine some rich guy from Houston, been driving all over the countryside needin’ a barrel. This guy here would be the answer to his prayers, I guess.”

That was a pretty funny image–a big city tycoon in desperate search of a barrel. So we started playing with it. As I mentioned, we had a lot of time and open road on our hands.

“Say,” said Earl, “I run a rodeo production outfit near Dimmit, and my rodeo clowns keep getting run over by angry bulls. Damn, if I just had something they could use to hide in. Something round, portable, maybe um…”

“A barrel!”

“That’d be just the thing,”Earl agreed.

“Hey, fella,” I said, addressing myself to the barrel magnate, “I run a monkey ranch outside of Mobeetie. I can’t keep my monkeys corralled for love or money. Crazy little bastards are runnin’ all over the place, flinging poo and masturbating like crazy. Man, if I just had something that would let me collect my monkeys in one place…and maybe have more fun doing it.”

Earl was warming up. “So I’m a guy from upstate New York. Maybe I heard about the barrel guy from my rich friend in Houston. I drive up and say, ‘Man, I got this concession up by Niagara Falls…'”

And this goes on for about 75 miles.

The Cats in the Hats

Flatlanders at BVFS

Here’s a Dr. Seuss-esque shot of the Flatlanders (L-R, Jimmie, Joe and Butch), taken by my ownself at one of Sharon Ely’s celebrated Black Velvet Fashion extravaganzas at Butch’s Lubbock or Leave It gallery in Austin, probably in the mid-90s. It was another example of make-your-own West Texas-style fun, wherein the artists and musicians and various and sundry amigos took their inspiration from cheap black velvet motel room paintings and re-imagined themselves as bullfighters, Elvis clones, vamping señoritas and bandito chieftains. As Butch sings, “Carmen must have been the Devil’s daughter/At least he taught her how to wear her clothes…”