Ray Wylie Hubbard to Play at the Chico Women’s Club
By Phil Reser
Story by Phil Reser
Photos courtesy of Ray Wylie Hubbard
TEXAS SINGER and songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard has spent his life in constant pursuit of new artistic challenges, reinventing and redefining his musical identity every step of the way.
He started his journey as a folk singer in the 1960s before falling in with the wild and wooly cosmic/outlaw Texas country scene of the ’70s, in large part by penning the immortal “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother,” which Jerry Jeff Walker recorded.
“I’ve never been a country singer or songwriter, ever,” he says. “I was brought up in folk music back in the late ‘60s down here in Texas. I wrote that song as kind of an anti-‘Okie from Muskogee’ song. I had long hair and leather pants. What I had going at that time was a kind of folk-rock band, hoping to be more Buffalo Springfield with a little Gram Parsons thrown in, but we never could get a deal. We went to Nashville and recorded a record. The record label said, ‘Well, country radio’s not going to play this.’ So they put steel guitars and background singers on all the tracks and it wasn’t our record anymore and we hated it. We didn’t tour to support it. We kind of hung around in Texas playing and then I guess that whole scene kind of passed.”
Although Hubbard performed and recorded throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, his career as it stands today actually began in the
‘90s. During that decade, he recorded acclaimed albums, receivedpraise and awards from his peers, entertained his audiences with his storytelling and cemented his standing as one of the most respected artists on the modern Americana music scene.
“I’m one of these old cats who loves books. I read biography, autobiographies, mythology and even poetry. You won’t stagnate if you’re always exposed to other writers. As a songwriter, you have to be like a shark that never sleeps. You’re always looking for ideas. I feel really fortunate I’m not writing because I have a publishing deal, and I’m not writing because I have to give 12 songs a year to some publishing company or to get someone to record them.”
He has 17 albums, including his most recent, “Tell the Devil I’m Gettin’ There as Fast as I Can.” Deriving inspiration from Biblical stories and mythology, Hubbard put together a collection of songs with lyrical richness and a bluesman’s heavy grooves, a style that continues to be all his own. He’s joined on the album by guests Lucinda Williams, Eric Church, Patty Griffin and Bright Light Social Hour.
“I started the record off with the song, ‘God Looked Around,’ where I tell the story of Genesis and the fall of man and why snakes don’t talk any more. And then I kind of go into some of my influences, like Spider John Koerner, Dave ‘Snaker’ Ray and Tony ‘Little Sun’ Glover. And ‘Tell the Devil I’m Gettin’ There as Fast as I Can’ is kind of my rock ‘n’ roll fable. It’s about the idea of a rock ‘n’ roll cat throwing an amp in a car and going and playing – and then falling in love with a tattooed woman who really knows how to cuss.”
In his autobiography, “A Life Well Lived,” Hubbard shares road stories, hanging out with Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King and a whole bunch of song lyrics and cool pictures that were taken along the way. When he delivered the book to his publishers in Austin, he says they almost didn’t know what to make of it. “I said, ‘Here’s my book,’ and they said, ‘Where’s your table of contents?’ I went, ‘Huh?’ And they said, ‘Don’t you have a table of contents?’ I said to them, ‘You know, I never thought about it.’ So I went that night and wrote the table of contents and when I returned, I said, ‘I did a table of contents but I’m not going to do an index, because if I do, all my musician buddies will flip it to the back and see if their name is mentioned, go to that page, read about them and put the book back.” •
Ray Wylie Hubbard • Sept. 21, Chico Women’s Club