October 03, 2009

Two Memories

By Johnny Hughes © 2009

Part I: Magic Hippie Moments

Being a hippie always came natural to me. Texas Monthly once quoted me saying, "We were hippies before there were hippies." It is hard to describe that inner feeling of hope for all Americans that came with 1968. I did my share of protest marching, acid, voter registering, Mary Jane, hair growing, woman chasing, and feeling downright euphoric most of the time.

George and Annie's wedding around that time was so symbolic of the sheer fun of the hippie culture. It was one of many covered dish suppers, which usually included campfires, pot, roasted goat, acid, venison, and every imaginable conception of hippie veggie casseroles. Ole. Half the crowd brought spoiled dogs who got along with each other famously. George and Annie were married in the backyard of this legendary hippie house on the edge of Yellow House Canyon. Some of the strongest pot in America was grown nearby. One of the ladies that lived there ended up with thirty-four dogs at one time.The house was very small, so the whole party was outdoors. It was ten degrees. If the West Texas wind had really been blowing, we'd be there still. There were three big fires. At one time Joe Ely and Butch Hancock were jumping over the fires with their guitars, and barely making it.

The wedding was held right at sundown in God's own, flat West Texas. There was a straight preacher and his wife, and a regular Christian ceremony, except joints were passed around to everyone. This was at a time marijuana was a felony in Texas.

It was a glorious wedding ceremony, with all the hippie girls decked out in their long-dress finest, flowers, beads, no bras, and hugs with smells of Herbal Essence. Everybody was bundled up. Outdoor parties in ten degree weather were uncommon, even for hippies.

The most magic moment came right after the wedding. An empty, long freight train came by on the tracks a couple of hundred yards away. The sun was right on the horizon behind the train. The doors to the cars were open, giving this flashing psychedelic effect. All these hippies cheered and jumped and danced and hugged and cried. We were different. We were on to something. We were the future.

I wrote some funny stuff or tried to for the Catalyst, the underground newspaper that no one took seriously except the FBI, the Tech Administration, the Lubbock Police, and the Navel Reserve. There was this other writer there that I admired but we were standoffish. We stood by each other at the fire and told non-verbal jokes, and laughed and laughed.

Late that night, two uncharacteristically straight guys came in with newish leather belts, burr hair-cuts, and a cop look. Me and the wife hooked 'em up that dirt, country road as fast as the hippie Volvo was willing to go. Given the times, the Volvo got a vote, like the dog, Tito, and the cat, Watergate.

Another old friend from those days passed away, Carol Jean. In my prayers and imagination, Carol Jean will be arriving in heaven to a scene much like that wedding. There will be big roaring camp fires.

Carol Jean's great love, Willie Sands is singing, "Wreck on the Highway," like he always did. Tiny McFarland is beating on his Levis to keep time. Jesse Taylor is one of those guys on guitar. Charlie Nall is cooking the goat, with George and Little Freddie helping. I can't make out all those people around the fire. Carol Jean walks right up and joins the singing.

Everybody is so happy to welcome Carol Jean.


Part II: Remembering Jesse "Guitar" Taylor

....So, when the Joe Ely Band first hit Nashville, after a bit of nipping, Jesse had them drive him to the Nashville Police Station, where he could piss on the door. I was the manager. By the time I arrived, they had stolen a giant, green Tanqueray sign, larger than a man, made of playboard. MCA put me up in a fancy joint, and the band in a $9 day motel in Murfeesboro, Tennessee run by a hillbilly woman who had been to prison for selling downers. When I asked how the band ended up in her joint, she said, "They couldn't find nobody to good deal them, so I good dealed them my own self."

Jesse was a gentle man, and like Joe, he was home on the highway. He always had a paperback going, many which reminded me of the beatnik, hippie days.

I was alone awhile yesterday with Jesse Taylor's art and my crystal-clear memories. He always got the dice wrong in his drawings, showing a six and an ace at the same time. Once in San Francisco, Jesse played lucky and won all my money shooting craps, and I had a terrifying walk through 4 a.m. China town back to my MCA-selected fancy joint which had a whirlpool and a real, but small, palm tree.

Last night, at the Underwood Center, and later at Tornado Gallery, Jesse was honored in Lubbock. Pictures are available on Tony Greer, Jennifer Greer, and Larry Simmons pages, and on Tornado Gallery's page.

Once, Jesse jumped off that main bridge in Austin. Long ago, circa 1977, Joey, Jesse, and some girl were arrested outside Sweetwater (see Letter to Laredo) for a little bag of pot. As usual, I was called in the middle of the night, when I was higher than a hawk's nest, and drunker than Cooter Brown. Joe explained the deal, and he and I both knew Jesse had a handful of warrants out, and unresolved entanglements with Texas laws. The band was to play the Cotton Club that night. I got the Sheriff on the phone, and agreed that Joe would plead guilty, and I'd send Bo with $2,500 cash. I knew it was Jesse's dope, and Joe did not smoke dope. One cannot describe the bond these two guys had, from teenage years to a million miles of world travel. Marijuana was still a minor felony in Texas, so Joe caught a year's probation. A dangerous year when he was traveling the high roads and back roads with all manner of outlaw. I went with Joe to Sweetwater to see the world's most boring probation officer. The only artifact on his desk, in his tiny cubicle, was a baseball he had purchased when he attended a big league baseball game. It sounded like the only time he ventured out of Sweetwater.

Joe Ely showed a lot of love, to take a felony fall for your road partner.

At Jesse's funeral, John Reed and Bobbie Earl were eloquent. The Texanna Dames, Ponty Bone, and John were perfect with the music. At the graveside, Jimmie, Butch, and Terry Allen all spoke, and it was very moving. Jimmie Dale said, "Jesse was our bodyguard." Amen to that.

I knew Jesse was my backup in every joint I walked in, and no matter how awful I acted. I recall one great night where the Clash and the Joe Ely Band played Lubbock, and there was an after hours party. Along about dawn, this fellow had a choke hold on me. He had done some time in prison for killing some feller who probably needed killing . Jesse was there in a flash. A flash!

I was in Austin when Stubbs was closed by the health department. Stubbs was quoted in the newspaper as saying, "Cock roaches are God's doings." Stubbs told Jade, Sasha, and I about all the support, and donations. George Thorogood sent a big check. Stubbs said, "One man in Chicago has taken to his bed, and won't get up until Stubbs is re-opened."

Jesse Taylor showed up alone, and began a thorough and needed cleaning of the kitchen. Jesse had so much character. I almost helped.

Here is what one radio station in Rhode Island played as a tribute to Jesse Taylor:
.... Remembering Jesse "Guitar" Taylor ...

Jesse Taylor, et al - High Tide In Hub City / Big Guitars From Texas (Rykodisc)
Taylor & Reed - Sensitive Parts / Southside Guitar (South Congress)
Joe Ely - Musta Notta Gotta Lotta / same (MCA)
Joe Ely - Johnny's Blues / Joe Ely (MCA)
Terry Allen - Flatland Farmer / Lubbock (On Everything (Fate)
Ponte Bone & Squeezetones - Pigalle Blues / My, My Look at This (Amazing)
Joe Ely - Not Fade Away / Live Shots (MCA)
Taylor & Reed - Don't Give Up / Southside Guitar (South Congress)


Club listings backdrop: Taylor & Reed - Don't Give Up / Southside Guitar (South Congress)

Johnny Hughes, author of the novel, Texas Poker Wisdom.

No comments: