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  Texas : Features : Columns : "Letters from Central Texas"

YOKO ON THE LLANOS

by Clay Coppedge
Elsewhere I have written about being "loco on the Llanos" because in its purely linear form it has a nice alliterative quality. It is not, however, a true alliteration because "Llanos" is actually pronounced "Yanos."

So the true alliteration would have to be "Yoko on the Llanos" which doesn't look as good on the page but at least is spoken as a true alliteration, for whatever that's worth.
The only Yoko I could think of was Yoko Ono but the notion always seemed a wee bit absurd. Yoko on the Llanos? I don't think so. Then I read Joe Carr and Alan Munde's book "Prairie Nights to Neon Lights: The Story of Country Music in West Texas" and the idea didn't seem all that absurd, though it retains a wistful "what if" quality that often accompanies any consideration of Buddy Holly, rock and roll and how it all relates back to my hometown of Lubbock.

In their book, Carr and Munde projected a mildly profound possibility, one that never occurred to me. All of us who grew up in Lubbock in the sixties realized that the Hub City was something less than bursting with pride over its contribution to rock and roll history as the hometown of Buddy Holly. The way it seems now, from the other end of Texas, is that it took an F5 tornado to get the city to considered paying some kind of homage to Holly.
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Buddy Holly didn't live long enough to bring his lasting influence on Lubbock home with him. His death in a plane crash in February of 1959 cut his life and career way too short, and left people in Lubbock to wonder what Holly would have done in Lubbock had he lived.
One theory mentioned in the Carr and Munde book, put forth by music store and recording studio owner Don Caldwell, is that Holly might have opened a recording studio in Lubbock and if he had, the Beatles might have gone there to record an album. At the very least it's reasonable to assume that the Fab Four would have dropped in on Lubbock for a visit to one of their inspirations. They named their band the Beatles largely as a tribute to Holly's band, the Crickets.

That's not to say we would have had an album called "Loop 289" instead of "Abbey Road" but we might have had a song about the Hi-D-Ho" after the legendary drive-in. It could have happened.
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For Yoko Ono to be in Lubbock the imagined recording session would have taken place late in the Beatles' career. What Yoko's perceptions of the Llanos would have been is anybody's guess. What, for instance, would she have made of Prairie Dog Town in McKenzie Park? She might have said something like, "Look, John. The prairie dogs are barking daisies at the sky."

A Beatles' visit pre-Yoko might have given us a song called "Nowhere Land" instead of "Nowhere Man."

"Driving across a table top
Nothing's there and it never stops
Nowhere land can you see me at all?"

Something like that.
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John would have been witty and clever. Paul would have been a hit with the women folk, but he might have run afoul of the same Lubbock rednecks who tried to beat up Elvis when he played Lubbock in the mid-fifties. My recollection is that people weren't any less prone to jealousy or violence in the 60s than they were in the 50s, especially when it came to their women folk.

George would have taken in the vast expanses and tuned into the mystical hallucinatory vibe of the South Plains but he wouldn't have said much about it, except with him music, unless he decided to study mysticism with Tommy X Hancock instead of the yogi he hooked up with in India. He might have traded the sitar for a steel guitar or a banjo, and I think we all would have much better off for it.

Ringo? Ringo would probably have enjoyed Lubbock more than the other three combined -- four if you count Yoko. He probably would have played a couple of sets with Hancock or Wilburn Roach and consumed mass quantities of alcohol at the Cotton Club. He probably would have had the best time of any of them but he might have remembered the least.

So what that it didn't happen? It could have.

In a reluctant nod to reality, if the Beatles had come to the real world of Lubbock, Texas in the late 1960s or seventies they would have probably been arrested for drugs and maybe even beaten up. Mistakes would have been made and town's image possibly sullied on an international stage.

That this is a likely scenario we have to look no farther than the Southwest 70 Peace Festival that took place, sort of, in a field outside of Lubbock and resulted in a record number of arrests but very few live performances.

But that's another story.


Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas"
October 21 , 2007 Column

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