Lubbock, Texas

Making Memories and Music

An aspiring artist explores the past and present of music in Lubbock

By Katie Jackson

My mom likes to say I came out of the womb singing. Even as an infant, I could carry a tune while crying. Now as a 22-year-old, I’m starting to write my own songs.

“When I was your age, Buddy Holly was all the rage,” Grandma Helen said.

I’d just told her that my parents were taking me to Lubbock, TX, Buddy Holly’s hometown, for my 23rd birthday; my vocal coach suggested the trip. I have to admit that my first reaction was “Buddy who?” but Grandma explained that Lubbock is—and was—a mecca for budding musicians.

“Without Buddy, we might not have had the Beatles,” she told me. The Beatles? What did the most popular band in history, who were from England, have in common with this town in West Texas?

Lubbock’s favorite son

Before he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Buddy Holly was just a good ole Lubbock boy. Our first stop, the Buddy Holly Center, is located on Crickets Avenue. Dad likes to say he knows more about the Beatles than the Beatles know about the Beatles, but even he was surprised to learn Paul McCartney and John Lennon were inspired to name their band after Buddy’s band, the Crickets. At the center, we also learned that despite dying at the age of 22 in a plane crash, Buddy significantly influenced other artists like Elton John, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan—all legends who inspire my music. Prior to visiting the Buddy Holly Center, I’d never thought to ask who my legends looked up to.

With everything from his stage clothing to his fan mail and his personal record collection on display, I got an intimate look at the man whose songs and style were studied and imitated by many of the greats. I even got a good glimpse at Buddy’s iconic glasses. The glasses sat in storage as evidence for years until someone recognized whose they were. The signature pair gained its fame after Buddy wore them performing on The Ed Sullivan Show. While seeing his actual glasses was a very moving experience, the more Instagrammable frames are just outside the center. The 750-lb. sculpture is quite the spectacle, pun intended.

“despite dying at the age of 22 in a plane crash, Buddy significantly influenced other artists like Elton John, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan”

According to the song “American Pie,” February 3, 1959, was the day the music died. As Looking down at the dates on Buddy’s headstone in the Lubbock Cemetery was a somber reminder of how lucky I was to be turning 23. Buddy never got that chance. Judging by the number of visitors paying respects at his grave on this hot, June afternoon, I imagined hundreds, if not thousands, came in February when the Buddy Holly Center hosted a special event on the anniversary weekend of his death.

One advantage of visiting Lubbock in June, however, is attending the Buddy Holly Center’s Summer Showcase Concert Series. My birthday dinner was a progressive feast from several food trucks feeding the concert crowd. Between school and work, it had been way too long since I’d heard live music outdoors. Although I was worried the band would ask for requests and my mom would shout “Happy Birthday,” I wasn’t embarrassed as I watched her and Dad do the jitterbug.


Beloved by his hometown, the cemetery where Buddy Holly is buried has been designated a Historic Texas Cemetery.

The original historic landmark in Lubbock, the Fort Worth and Denver South Plains Railroad connected Lubbock to the rest of the country.

Buddy Holly’s grave continues to receive visitors and mourners over 70 years after his untimely death.

In good company

Buddy Holly may be Lubbock’s favorite son, but he’s not Lubbock’s only son. The more time we spent in Lubbock, the more we heard familiar names like Waylon Jennings, Mac Davis, William Clark Green and Flatland Cavalry—all of whom were either born and raised in Lubbock or started their careers here.

“Nature or nurture?” Mom asked on day two of our trip. She’d just discovered that the lead singer of one of her favorite bands, Dixie Chicks, was born in Lubbock. In fact, the Dixie Chicks have won so many Grammys, Natalie Maines may as well be called Lubbock’s favorite daughter. 

Walking back to our hotel after attending a Moonlight Musical performance—complete with a live orchestra in an outdoor amphitheater—we decided to put our money on nurture. I don’t know how you can grow up in a town where there is live music every night of the week and more music venues per capita than any other city in the state without music being your first language.

Since the trip to Lubbock was my birthday gift, I wasn’t expecting any presents. But before going to bed, Dad handed me an all-too-familiar shaped package. Mom shook her head when I guessed it was a Buddy Holly CD before even unwrapping it.

“Lubbock Music NOW,” I read, turning the album over to see the tracks listed on the back. Although I was surprised it wasn’t a Buddy Holly CD, I wasn’t surprised that Lubbock had its own album. Dad explained that my vocal coach had told him about Lubbock Music NOW. Every year the city releases an album featuring songs from local artists selected by the Texas Grammy Board. Most of the names were unfamiliar, but I did recognize Booga Bradshaw. My best friend, a huge hip-hop nerd, talked about meeting Booga at South by Southwest. Lubbock had birthed several rock and country artists, so why not dabble in hip-hop and rap, as well?


Looking forward to Monday

We’d only planned on staying in Lubbock through Sunday. But after finding out its most iconic music venue, The Blue Light Live, hosts songwriter nights on Mondays, I begged Mom and Dad to extend our trip.

“Life is short,” Dad said while unpacking the bag he’d just packed 20 minutes earlier. “Twenty-three years went by way too fast,” Mom agreed.

So that Monday evening, we walked by Lubbock’s beloved Buddy Holly statue downtown and followed a steady stream of musicians, songwriters, fans and longtime regulars through the doors of The Blue Light Live. Within these brick walls history was about to be made, again. If I was going to debut one of my original songs on stage, there was no better place to do it. After all, when it comes to music, Lubbock has a pretty good track record.

Make your own music-filled trip to Lubbock