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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Basic Biittner

Monday, October 17, 2011

Travelin' Man, part 2 (continued)

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Just one of the "Outlaws" - Dan poses near a sign outside of the late Waylon Jennings' boyhood hometown, Littlefield, Texas. Photo by Doug Whitney
Saturday morning (Sept.3) we headed 90 miles east to Lubbock, Texas, birthplace of Buddy Holly (and Mac Davis) and home of Texas Tech University. On the way we made a brief stop in the small town of Littlefield, which is - as a sign outside of town states - "The hometown of Waylon Jennings." Since Jennings was always a favorite of ours, we headed into town to see where he came from. Littlefield is a small (current population about 6,000) Texas town which bears a resemblance to the town depicted in the film "The Last Picture Show." Not much "there" there, as they say. On the other hand, I think it's great that a kid from a small town such as Littlefield can make it big on the "world stage."

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The Eyes Have It - Dan Whitney poses at the distinctively unique "yard ornament" outside of the front entrance of the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas. Photo by Doug Whitney
Littlefield is about 30 miles north of Lubbock, which houses the Buddy Holly Center, a nice little museum showcasing the life and career of Lubbock's favorite son, with Buddy Holly's guitars, school report cards and yearbooks, eyeglasses and similar fare. As you can see from one of the photos I've included, the Holly Center has a very distinctive look to its front exterior - a giant pair of Holly's trademark horn-rimmed glasses. We also went to the West Texas Wall of Fame, where such West Texas music greats as Holly, Jennings, Mac Davis, Roy Orbison, and Bob Wills are honored with a plaque on a wall, which is located on the Buddy and Maria Elena Holly Plaza, which also boasts a statue of Buddy Holly playing his Fender Stratocaster guitar.

We returned to Clovis in time for that night's show, and we also partook of a meal of taquitas at the Foxy Drive-In, a genuine old-fashioned drive-in, complete with outside car speakers and poodle skirted waitresses. According to Doug, Holly and his band members (who were in their late teens or early 20's) used to head to the Foxy for taquitas when they had a break at the studio, which was only about three blocks away.

This year's Saturday night headliner at the Clovis Center was the band Lonestar. We watched them for a little bit, and from where I sat, they looked like they were about 15 years old. The lead singer said they'd been together for 19 years, though, so I guess they were a little older than I thought.

Opening for Lonestar on Saturday night was an up-and-coming young country singer named Will Banister, who, along with doing uncanny impersonations of George Jones, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, was also a fine singer "in his own voice." Guitar legend Tommy Allsup, who will be 80 years old in November, also performed, and he brought David Bigham of the Roses up on stage to sing his part when he played "It's So Easy," a Holly record on which both Allsup and Bigham had performed.

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Me and my Buddy - Dan Whitney with the statue of Buddy Holly located near the West Texas Wall of Fame (in the background) in Lubbock, Texas. Photo by Doug Whitney.
Tommy has played behind many great performers and he also served as a producer of many country records for Liberty Records. He plays a role in the legend of Buddy Holly, too. The Crickets and Holly had split from each other just prior to the Winter Dance Tour in 1959, and Allsup, who had played lead guitar on some of Holly's records and Waylon Jennings (on bass) were Holly's backup band on the tour. Their drummer was hospitalized with frost- bitten toes, brought on by many nights on a freezing bus, and Ritchie Valens was actually their drummer at the Clear Lake show.

When the time came for the three - Holly, Allsup and Jennings - to take a small airplane to Fargo, Jennings gave up his seat to The Big Bopper, who was suffering from the flu, and Allsup reluctantly agreed to a coin flip with Valens for the third seat. Allsup lost the toss - but, of course, he also didn't lose his life that night. He now owns a bar which he named "Heads Up," and recently wrote an autobiography (which he autographed for us) entitled "Lucky Flip."

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"It's So Easy" revisited - Guitar legend Tommy Allsup (left), who played a memorable lead guitar on Buddy Holly's recording of "It's So Easy," called David Bigham (right, at microphone), who sang backup on the record, to the stage in Clovis on Saturday night and the two performed the tune for an appreciative crowd. Photo by Doug Whitney
The next morning was Sunday (9/11), and we headed to a Gospel Sing-along at the Petty Museum. What an inspiration! The entire group (congregation?) sang a number of Gospel favorites from a book that was passed out, and we were led by George Tomsco,the leader of the Fireballs, with Tommy Allsup joining him on guitar. The Fireballs' bass player and drummer also played, as did a third guitar player named Kenny Gardels. I wasn't familiar with him, but he may have been the most inspirational thing in an inspiration-filled service.

How about this setting - The 10th anniversary of 9/11; a brief message about that terrible day and its aftermath; great hymns like 'How Great Thou Art" and "I'll Fly Away; and instrumental accompaniment by legendary musicians.

It was inspirational enough just to hear the 71- year- old Tomsco and Clark and the 79-year-old Allsup producing such sweet sounds on their instruments, not to mention the middle-aged keyboard player, whose name was Paul (didn't catch the last name), who accompanied several groups throughout the week, but the most inspiration came from Gardels, who remained seated as he played rhythm guitar (with a few lead riffs thrown in). That was perfectly acceptable, though, because he was hooked up to an oxygen tank as he played. As it turns out, Gardels, who is a local performer and recording artist, is battling cancer.

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Singing the Gospel in Clovis - Led by (left to right at the top of the photo) Tommy Allsup, George Tomsco and Stan Clark, a "congregation" of Buddy Holly afficianados sang old Gospel hymns at Sunday morning's Gospel Sing-Along. Photo by Doug Whitney
We couldn't have had a more inspirational ending to a great three-day musical weekend. I was supposed to fly home that evening, but my connecting flight was delayed. Fortunately for me, Doug had planned to stay in Albuquerque that night anyway before beginning his long drive home to Phoenix, so I made "Plan B" arrangements to fly out Monday morning rather than Sunday. I called my wife and she agreed to pick me up in Omaha after work on Monday. I decided it was for the best, since I really wasn't too crazy about flying on 9/11 anyway.

Our extra night in Albuquerque did allow us to eat at the Standard Diner, a converted gas station which was featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," and I give it - and the trip - five stars on a scale of four.

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A "3D' Delight in Albuquerque - On our last night in Albuquerque we ate a the Standrd Diner, featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." Photo by Dan Whitney
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An inspiration - Kevin Gardels (foreground) plays his Stratocaster at Sunday's Gospel Sing-Along at the Norman and Vi Petty Museum. Photo by Doug Whitney

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner