Lubbock Lights … the annual concert, not this website … celebrates West Texas music next Thursday

Editor’s note: When we created the Lubbock Lights website, we liked the name because it had a funky tie to our region’s history … referring to the 1951 Lubbock Lights incident. But  it had a double meaning … there are many lights of opinion and commentary. Our friends at Texas Tech kinda teased us about “stealing” the name of their annual concert. It never crossed our mind because the phrase has been out there so long.  For the record, there is no connection between the Lubbock Lights concert and our site and we hope they have a great night of music on the 25th.

Attraction: Fifth-annual Lubbock Lights concert, celebrating musical heritage of the South Plains.
Headliners: Bob Livingston, Gary P. Nunn (pictured above) and Lloyd Maines performing and discussing their music. Grammy Award-winning producer and musician Maines is invited to return each year. He has been termed the Lubbock Lights “godfather.”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, April 25.
Where: Allen Theatre, on campus at Texas Tech Student Union Building (SUB).
Sponsored by: Office of the President at Texas Tech University.
Tickets: General admission tickets $23 (includes service charge). Tech students with a valid ID can request one free ticket at the information desk at the East SUB.
Outlets: Tickets are on sale at all Select-A-Seat outlets.
Information: 770-2000, Select-A-Seat.

Jo Moore, representing the Office of the President at Texas Tech, which sponsors each year’s Lubbock Lights concert, confirmed that West Texas native Lloyd Maines is invited to appear at each year’s concert. She dubbed him the Lubbock Lights “godfather.”

And Maines could not be more excited about co-headlining with Bob Livingston and Gary P. Nunn at this year’s attraction, 8 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at the Allen Theatre on campus in the Tech Student Union Building.

“This year,” said Maines, “should be extra special. These guys (Livingston and Nunn) were very important in creating the Texas Music sound in the 1970s and still carry that torch now, almost 50 years later. I have been fortunate to have produced several records on Bob and Gary, as The Lost Gonzo Band and individually. A good experience.”

Both Livingston and Nunn also played on Michael Martin Murphey’s “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” the title cut for Murphey’s first album, released in May 1972.

“It is important to feature West Texas artists who have taken their music to the world. Everyone who has been featured (on Lubbock Lights) has had good success with their music, and has gotten a good amount of national, and in most cases, worldwide acclaim,” said Maines, who has appeared at every Lubbock Lights concert,

He used a tour memory to make his point.

“I recall that, in 1989, The Maines Brothers Band toured Switzerland. When we were in Zurich, there was a ‘country bar’ near our hotel. I asked the bar manager who was their favorite country singer in Switzerland. I thought he would say Waylon (Jennings) or Willie (Nelson).

“Instead, he answered, ‘Without a doubt, Gary P. Nunn.’”

Andy Wilkinson, Lubbock’s award-winning singer-songwriter, poet and playwright, also has been around Lubbock Lights from its birth.

“Just over five years ago, Duane Nellis, then Texas Tech president, had the idea to create a music event to honor the wealth of talent from our region. I was invited to begin discussions on how such an event might be structured. Those discussions soon involved a committee of folks, both on campus and in the community at large,” said Wilkinson.

From the beginning, added Wilkinson, the concept was to not only honor the visiting talent as performers, but also highlight the creative process by asking spotlighted entertainers to attend a “Creative Process luncheon” and then conduct outreach classes with students at Tech and at local high schools.

Maines said this week, “From the time we hit town, we are handed a very full and very tight schedule. We visit and speak and play at city high schools and classes at Texas Tech. We pretty much wing it every day. That’s what makes it a lot of fun.”

Looking back to the first year, Wilkinson added, “Choosing a name for the event proved to be a huge challenge. We wanted something memorable, but also a name that reflected the core idea of the event. We were lucky to settle on Lubbock Lights, both in tribute to those mysterious UFOs that brought Lubbock national attention in the early 1950s, but also as a tribute to the lights that came from Lubbock, the musicians themselves.

The spotlight at the very first Lubbock Lights concert in 2015 was on Maines, his touring partner Terri Hendrix, and West Texas singer-songwriters Wade Bowen and Butch Hancock.

Wilkinson noted, “Nellis left Texas Tech after the first Lubbock Lights event. But the new Tech president, Lawrence Schovanec – himself a big fan of Lubbock music – insisted Lubbock Lights continue, and has been a whole-hearted supporter since. This year marks our fifth presentation and, considering the terrific amount of talent from our city and region, we will have no difficulty in staging many more to come.”

After a successful opening event, the Lubbock Lights attractions continued with an amazing concept:

# 2016 – A song-by-song concert reproduction of “Lubbock … on Everything,” the iconic 1979 double album by West Texas singer, songwriter, visual artist and piano player Terry Allen. The music originally was recorded in 1978 at Lubbock’s Caldwell Studios, engineered and mastered by Don Caldwell and Lloyd Maines. In 1978, band and orchestral instruments, not to mention the Monterey High School marching band, were used to create an album that Rolling Stone magazine called “essential” and “one of the Top 100 albums of all time.” It was Allen’s first recording with a band.

During the days before the 2016 Lubbock Lights show, Allen told me, “Lubbock had been the oldest nemesis in my life. To have such an incredibly great experience in recording … in Lubbock … was a pivotal moment. I had been so vocally antagonistic about Lubbock. I left Lubbock with a vengeance. And I scape-goated Lubbock with a vengeance, happy to get away. But when we listened to all my songs, it dawned on me. All these songs I’d written really were about me caring about Lubbock.”

Other featured Lubbock Lights headliners, thus far:

# 2017 – Sonny Curtis and Joe Ely, with Maines.

# 2018 – Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Amanda Shire and Maines.

Moore said, “I’ve been on the (Lubbock Lights) committee since the beginning, but it came under my management umbrella last year.”

Keeping Maines involved, she added, was a no-brainer. Moore said, “Lloyd is the glue, the mainstay, the kingpin, if you will, for Lubbock Lights and we plan on him returning every year the event is held.”

Maines worked on more than 4,000 recordings in 40 years, and made more appearances than anyone else in the history of the “Austin City Limits” program.

Ever humble, he remarked, “As far as being the ‘godfather’ of Lubbock Lights, I’m not sure what that means. Yes, they’ve asked me to be the musical common denominator every year – but that’s maybe because I can accompany artists without any rehearsal.

“It’s probably because I’ve done so much studio work.”

Moore confirmed each Lubbock Lights concert is recorded – “but only for archival purposes.”

This year’s spotlighted artists – Livingston from Lubbock, Nunn from Brownfield – no doubt have many stories to share about their years in The Lost Gonzo Band, an ensemble that performed and recorded with both Michael Martin Murphey and Jerry Jeff Walker. The Gonzos also carved out three albums on their own.

On his own, Livingston was hired by the U.S. State Department to share Texas music, and his own, with audiences on a global scale. One highlight found him performing a multi-cultural presentation called “Cowboys and Indians,” exploring musical connections between the American West and east India. Livingston is writing his autobiography for Texas Tech Press.

Nunn, composer of the Texas anthem “The London Homesick Blues,” also was named ambassador for Texas music by two governors, Mark White and Rick Perry.