(When last we left Alan Rhody, he was on one of his numerous road trips, which included a gig at the Flora-Bama on the gulf coast of Florida.)
I did a three-day stint at the Flora-Bama, which I will come back to and talk about in the future. I headed west straight across Interstate 10 past New Orleans. I got as far as Beaumont, Texas, and crashed for the night. The next morning I was making a beeline for the land of the live oak and the armadillo. Ladies and gentleman, I was on my way to a new world. A world called West Texas. By way of "the hill country," that is.
I stopped off at some friends' place in Austin, then made the beautiful two-hour drive southwest to Kerrville where I was scheduled to appear on the New Folk series at the Kerrville Folk Festival. In the heart of the hill country, Rod Kennedy has created a musical event so full of fine music and great people that you simply don't want to leave. I don't mean that you think "gee, this sure has been fun." I mean that if you didn't have to go back to the real world you'd just stay there. Now eighteen days in its duration, Kerrville is not about success in a career sense, although it's become very prestigious to say you were invited to play at Kerrville in any capacity. This festival is all about music for music's sake. Evening concerts, campfire sings, "ballad tree" sessions, etc. I could go on and on, but if you get a chance, ask anyone who's ever been. Ask Louisville's Bill Ede, a past New Folk winner. If you ask Bill, though, you might want to have a few minutes on your hands. Bill's a quiet kind of guy, until you get him talking about music. He's quite knowledgeable, and the conversation might somehow work its way around to P.F. Sloan or Gene Thomas. Anyway, let me just say that if you don't mind traveling a little distance to feel completely wonderful, find a way to go to the Kerrville Folk Festival next year. You'll come back with a better outlook on life. I did.
From Kerrville, I pointed my rig northwest toward Lubbock where I had a date at Daybreak Coffee Roasters. I planned this date for two reasons really. One, to play a new area and audience while I was in the Lone Star State, and two, to visit some old friends of mine. These include Mark and Anna Paden and their two daughters Cathy and Amy, and Gary Hurt, a bass player who, along with Mark and crew, spent a few years in Nashville. Mark and Gary were in a couple of bands with me during that time. Also one more old friend, in spirit, Buddy Holly.
I stopped off in Brownwood to see Sonny Throckmorton, Hall of Fame songwriter and a man who lives life his own way, which is what I always really liked about him. I spent an evening with Sonny and his family and then headed toward Lubbock the next day. Before I left, though, I helped convince Sonny that he "needed" the 1940 Martin D-28 Herringbone guitar he was considering purchasing from an acquaintance. Hope you're still sitting on your patio playing that beauty right now, Sonny.
Besides Buddy Holly, Lubbock is the hometown of Waylon Jennings, Sonny Curtis, Mac Davis and some others that slip my mind at the moment. I've always wanted to see the town these people came from, especially Mr. Holly, a rather large influence on me. About halfway between Kerrville and the Throckmortons in Brownwood, things really started to flatten out. I drove through some little towns that would make great desolate settings for some western movies, complete with old codgers on front porches. My whole time in Texas, though, I never did see one of those little armored raccoons. A couple hours towards Lubbock the landscape took on the character of a sand-covered tabletop. Reminded me of the prairies of Manitoba with all the greenery removed. The open spaciousness of West Texas is truly magnificent.
My gig at Daybreak Coffee Roasters went real good. My buddy Mark Paden sat in on guitar and it was pure fun. I hung around Broadway Sound a bit the next day where Mark runs the board and also stays busy as a session guitarist and producer. He's presently shopping a project of himself and his daughter Cathy in Nashville. The father-daughter act of the nineties, with a young lady who sings like an angel. Look out!
Gary Hurt, my bass player and songwriter friend I mentioned earlier, promised to show me around Lubbock a little. We first stopped in front of the Civic Center where they have what they call The Walk of Fame. It's a bronze sculpture of Buddy Holly playing that Fender guitar and wearing that smile behind those famous horn rims. Encircling Buddy in a ten- or twelve-foot diameter is a series of little bronze plaques paying tribute to the other famous native sons and daughters of Lubbock I mentioned above, plus the ones I forgot.
After driving around the flat (some cobbled), numbered and lettered streets of Lubbock, with Gary pointing out some points of interest, we headed out of town toward the cemetery.
It was about 100 degrees in the shade and Gary Hurt's little beat-up pickup truck had no AC, but I was full of enthusiasm and anticipation as we chatted about Nashville, Beatles records, Buddy records and the like. I'd missed breakfast, but didn't much mind at the moment. Mark had drawn me a little map the night before and was at work at Broadway Sound. Gary said he knew where it was but hadn't been out there in a while. We drove on, following the map. Then it happened. There was a lot of construction going on. The road got real bumpy. We kept driving, not stopping to ask anyone, of course. The streets weren't making sense. My stomach was starting to grind. Gary said he was lost. We never found the cemetery and headed back into town. Stopped at a little burger joint. Gary said, "Sorry man," and dropped me off back at Mark's place and went home to see about his sick dog. I came in out of the intense heat and drank a beer and grumbled to myself for awhile, humming "Maybe Baby" and "Raining In My Heart."
I had to leave for home the next day. Mark had to work early in the studio again, so we arranged to meet for lunch before I took off. I got up and decided to go look for Buddy Holly's grave on my own this time. After getting out to the point where Gary and I had lost the trail, I made a left as Mark's map indicated. Dead end. A shabby little neighborhood, where I spotted a guy up under his car. I stopped and asked for directions. It was one of those times when even after someone tells you how to get somewhere, you still have no earthly idea. I thanked him and headed back toward the big construction area. As I desperately drove up what should've been the right way, my eye caught a little bitty sign about the size of a Pop Tart — "Lubbock Cemetery," with an arrow! I made a hard right, at too high a speed, getting a horn blown at me from behind. A couple of blocks down another Pop Tart with an arrow. I made a left that took me to a "T." A brand new stretch of road. On instinct I turned left again. Up over the torn-up street I'd come out of town on and just on the other side of the overpass, I see 39th Street on the right just like Mark's little map had said (Right.). I turn in on 39th past a line of poverty row shacks and down at the end of the little dirt street is ... THE LUBBOCK CEMETERY!
(Continued next month.