Straight Outta Lubbock: Parade of Great Musicians

1979. Pink Floyd premiere a live version of “The Wall.” Sony introduces the Walkman. And Lubbock creates the West Texas Walk of Fame, with Buddy Holly as the first inductee.

Today, more than 70 singers, songwriters, artists, poets and entertainers have been inducted. The list boasts well-known Lubbock-native musicians, such as Mac Davis, Joe Ely and Delbert McClinton. The most recent honoree is Lubbock-born Dixie Chicks member Natalie Maines.

Sydney Cox, a senior communications major, saw Dixie Chick's Natalie Maines on Sept. 17. Cox's family is friends with the Maines's.

Sydney Cox, a senior communications major, saw Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines on Sept. 17. Cox’s and Maines’s families are friends. Picture provided by Cox.

Many of these talented musicians, such as folk rocker John Denver, found their way to the South Plains through education. Country singers Cory Morrow, Wade BowenPat Green, William Clark Green and Josh Abbott attended Texas Tech, leaving the impression there must be something in the air—other than the occasional smell of manure—that turns out so many famous musicians.

“People say, ‘Oh, well, there’s nothing else to do here,’ and I just think that’s crap,” said Andy Wilkinson, artist in residence at the Texas Tech Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library. “You don’t do music because there’s nothing else to do. You do music because you quit doing the other things you should be doing and make music anyway.”

Born and raised in Lubbock, Wilkinson himself was inducted into the West Texas Walk of Fame last year. Along with working as artist in residence, he is a well-known local musician, writer, producer and lover of the arts.

Wilkinson emphasized the notion that West Texas is the frontier: a place where people are encouraged to do what they do well.

“One of the important things about a frontier is that people are valued not for who they are, not for where they come from, not even for what they own,” he said. “They are valued for what they can do.”

Texas country singer and songwriter Cory Morrow said he credits Lubbock for being the place where he formed the idea of pursuing music as a career, the place where it all started.

Originally from Houston, Morrow attended Tech from 1991 to 1994. After switching majors from business management to accounting to marketing, he never made it to graduation.

“It didn’t seem like any of those were fitting well with where my heart was,” he said.

Picture provided by Pat Green's media team.

Picture provided by Pat Green’s media team.

Morrow’s story began when he got a guitar at 14 and started taking lessons. At Tech, he joined the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and was eventually introduced to a Farm House fraternity member who shared the same passion for playing the guitar—a young man named Pat Green.

“We started hanging out pretty much every night at David Henry’s house,” Morrow said. “And we would stay up until the sun came up trying to learn songs, trying to write songs, and it just sort of developed.”

Morrow recalled spending a lot of time with Green—sitting on the floor, scribbling in their notebooks and listening to all genres of music from Green’s massive CD collection, which Morrow said used to be stacked across an entire wall, from floor to ceiling.

“I don’t know if it was necessarily Lubbock itself,” he said. “Or, it may have been meant to be that all of these guys got up there and started playing music instead of going to class.”

The country singer said living in Lubbock influenced his songwriting. For example, the long trek to West Texas inspired one of his first hits, “Texas Time Travelin.'”

“I think when I first started writing, you know, you don’t have a lot of life experience, so you kind of have to get creative and talk about what you know,” Morrow said. “What we knew back then was drinking beers and eating burgers.”

He said some of his most indelible Tech memories come from nights spent in the Depot District, watching country musicians Robert Earl Keen, Jack Ingram and Joe Ely perform when they passed through town.

“We were just mesmerized by them,” Morrow said. “We would go watch them and see the people respond to them and listen and take mental notes. We wanted to be like them, you know. We thought that was just so amazing what they were doing.”

He recalled playing his first paid gig at Bash Riprocks alongside Green, in a small room crammed with customers on penny pitcher night. The two musicians read lyrics and chords from their notebooks as they tried to harmonize—although neither actually knew how to do so.

“It was a mess, but we knew that there was something about it that we loved,” Morrow said.

Wade Bowen started his first full-time band, West 84, while attending Tech.

“I loved Lubbock,” he said. “I loved the town. I loved how nice everyone was, how much they got behind the university. I think that all translated into me starting a band and having the confidence to do it because we had good friends and people that were willing to accept us and give us a chance in the bars.”

The Hub@TTU's graduate managing editor, Sarah Self-Walbrick, interviewed Wade Bowen when he performed at the Lubbock Lights event in April. Picture provided by Self-Walbrick.

The Hub@TTU’s graduate managing editor, Sarah Self-Walbrick, interviewed Wade Bowen when he performed at the Lubbock Lights event in April. Picture provided by Self-Walbrick.

Bowen, a native of Waco, Texas, earned a public relations degree with a minor in marketing. He spent the last couple of years in college begging professors to let him out of class so he could play shows all over the state, he said.

While in town, Bowen set the anchor in a newly opened bar on Buddy Holly Avenue.

“Lubbock was really cool to me for a lot of reasons,” he said. “But mainly, with the Blue Light starting up at about the same time I did, I was very lucky to have a home from the get go.”

Bowen recalled his favorite memory in Lubbock: the night he recorded a live album at the Blue Light Live in November 2002 following an exciting football game between the Red Raiders and the Longhorns. Tech’s head coach Kliff Kingsbury was Tech’s quarterback at the time.

“Kliff Kingsbury had just beaten Texas that day, and he was my buddy,” Bowen said. “We went to college at the same time together, and we were fraternity brothers. So that was a lot of fun to see him actually beat Texas in the way that he did and then for us to record that night; it was a pretty cool day.”

When Bowen was not traveling, performing or attending class, he said, he spent many nights watching other local musicians perform. He described the music community as friendly and supportive.

Wilkinson, a prominent member of Lubbock’s music community, agreed.

“We have a big enough arts community to have diversity and a lot of people but not so big that you can’t know people and you feed off of one another,” he said.

Brooke Bednarz, a senior at Texas Tech, won a meet and greet with the Josh Abbott Band on Sept. 19. Picture provided by Bednarz.

Brooke Bednarz, a senior at Texas Tech, won a meet and greet with the Josh Abbott Band on Sept. 19. Picture provided by Bednarz.

Is it the music community, the welcoming and encouraging locals, the friendships made at Tech or something in the air? Musicians say they don’t know, but one thing is clear: Lubbock has made a name for itself as a uniquely inspiring place.

“Lubbock has a very soft spot in my heart because if I hadn’t gone all the way up there to go to school, I don’t know what would have happened,” Morrow said.

About Nicole Crites

Entertainment Director - Senior journalism major from Fort Worth, TX

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