Lonesome Onry and Mean

Lonesome Onry and Mean: Hoyle Nix and Big Spring's Stampede Club

There's an old saying in West Texas about Midland and Odessa, two oil towns only 20 miles apart in the middle of nowhere: raise your kids in Midland, raise hell in Odessa. True enough, Midland has all the soul of a loaf of Rainbow bread - come on, George W. Bush was raised there. Odessa, with its rows of bars up and down Highway 80 and the Andrews Highway, has always been thought of as a den of iniquity.

But in spite of all of Odessa's sinful pleasures, I still remember my parents making the 60-mile drive from Odessa to Big Spring to go dancing at the Stampede Club on the occasional Saturday. What brought people from all across the plains to Big Spring on Saturday night was fiddler and Stampede owner Hoyle Nix, "the other Bob Wills." Nix and Wills were cronies and, along with Milton Brown, the premier practitioners of Western Swing, that wonderful combination of jazz, pop and 'Western' music.

And I don't mean 'premier' as in best in West Texas. I mean in the world.

The Stampede has been in the Nix family since its inception and is operated these days by Nix's son, Jody. Jody Nix played his first professional gig as a drummer in his dad's band. He was eight years old. Along with 83-year-old Waco resident Johnny Gimble, Jody Nix is considered one of the few remaining masters of Western Swing fiddling.

There should be a state historical landmark in front of the Stampede Club, commemorating its place in the cultural history of West Texas as well as the extraordinary talent of Hoyle Nix.

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William Michael Smith