Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, Willie Nelson and Roky Erickson
by Scott Newton
Willie: Hi, I’m Waylon Jennings.
Gibby: And I’m Bonnie Raitt. I don’t know, I just want to say that it’s an honor to meet you.
Willie: Well, thank you.
Gibby: My father kissed Jessica Lange. He played a producer in the Patsy Cline Story. You wrote that really great song, “Crazy.” I was sitting with some record executives and we were trying to get a deal in some restaurant on I-35 and they said, “Why do you want to live in Texas? Why do you live here?” So I said, “Because Willie Nelson lives here.” So they said, “Well, he’s never written anything.” I’m not going to say what label it was. You might even have been on it.
Willie: It wouldn’t surprise me.
Gibby: Willie, you wrote a song called “Crazy” and they denied it. One was German so I couldn’t really blame him that much and as it turned out he had signed three bands and all the singers of these three bands had died. So it’s lucky that he didn’t know that you wrote “Crazy” (Both Laugh) There’s also another one I’d love to hear something about, “The Red-Headed Stranger.” Is that a song about a man that shoots a woman for touching his horse?
Willie: Yeah, it was originally a song called Red Headed Stranger and it was a record written by Arthur “Guitar Ruby” Smith and I used to be a disc jockey up in Fort Worth at KCNC and I had a children’s program each day. My show ran from noon until 3pm, but I had a fifteen minute program each day from o1:00 until 1:15 where I played children’s music so the mothers could get their little kids to take a nap you know. That was back in the radio of the 50′s. There was this song called “The Red Headed Stranger” and I played it every day on my show and it was one of the most requested songs. I sang it to my kids at night with the first family that I had and so everyone just associated me and that song. “The Red Headed Stranger.” And then, I had a chance to do my first album and I had artistic control (so they say), so I did the Red Headed Stranger Album. I did it in about 12 or 15 hours and it cost like ten or twelve thousand dollars to complete.
Gibby: That was a lot of money.
Willie: Well, back then it was really a little because there were people eatin’ up one-hundred thousand dollars in the studio pretty quick, you know. So they felt like if you didn’t spend that much on it, it wasn’t worth a shit. That’s kind of the way they looked at it. I built this town (Willie World) after the album came out. It did pretty well. “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain” came out of it. …And I built this town because I always had in the back of my mind that it would make great music.
Gibby: What was it back in the 50′s, it seemed like these murder ballads were a thing that was going back then.
Willie: Oh, there was a few going around. … one called the “Knoxville Girl.”
Gibby: Everything was dark back then. There was a song (a husband and a wife wrote it) about moonshine and goin’ up on a hill and like strangers don’t come around here because you won’t come down. There’s some dark shit that came around during that period. I don’t know. I look back at the high school yearbooks from back in the 50′s and I don’t know, maybe I’m queer but the women look ugly and men look good-looking. Maybe it’s just the current style. What are you working on now?
Willie: I’m writing a movie.
Gibby: That’s bad ass! So am I.
Willie: And I’m touring: I’m going to St. Louis, Mississippi, Kansas City. I’ve been in the studio doing some work. I used to have a band called the Offenders.
Gibby: Wow! Funny you should mention that. A friend of mine that I saw yesterday sand in a band called the Offenders. His name is JJ and he just got out of jail. He had been out of jail for an hour and a half and I saw him walking down the street and I went over to his house and bought him a twelve-pack of Shiner Bock. He went in for 71 days on parole violation for some misunderstanding about moving a block away and he had no legal representation. I gave him one of those childproof lighters to light his cigarette with and he stood there for a long time because he had been in longer, well seven months is longer than childproof lighters.
Willie: I still can’t make ‘em work.
Gibby: Yeah, only the little ones survived.
Willie: Anyway, I went in the studio with this other band the other day and we did another album and we called it the Repeat Offenders.
Gibby: What did ya’ll do?
Willie: Mostly original stuff. Stuff I’ve written over the years. There was a song that came out, one of my songs, and I had the songbook in the studio and we just went from page one. I think we did 36 songs.
Gibby: Wow! Shit man. How many of them are brand new?
Willie: The songs themselves? It’s mainly stuff that I’ve had around for a long time.
Gibby: Are these mainly shit you’ve written? [mocking himself:] “Shit you’ve written,” excuse me.
Willie: Shit. Old crap.
Gibby: Embarrassed? [Both laugh.]
Willie: Some old rehash stuff.
Gibby: What was it like in the early 70′s, mid 70′s, 1973, 1974 when the picnic shit began? How did that start? You know, my folks wouldn’t let me go to that. All of a sudden, I don’t know, I grew up in Dallas which isn’t really part of Texas.
Willie: Well you remember when the first Woodstock came along?
Gibby: Yeah yeah, Dallas International Motor Speedway or whatever.
Willie: A little bit after that I moved back to Texas and did the Red Headed Stranger album and things kinda started happening. I decided to put together a Woodstock in Texas and someone had beat me to it. It was called the First Dripping Springs Reunion, do you remember that one?
Willie: All these promoters got together and put on this huge show with a whole lot of great country acts in it.
Gibby: What city were they from?
Willie: All the bands were from Austin and the promoters were from Dallas. They lost a lot of money on it, but it sure was a great time.
Gibby: Good for them. [Both laugh]
Willie: It was a great idea,, so I stole or picked up on their ideas. They had it in March and the weather and kind of windy, so I moved it to the 4th of July when it would be hot. I figured that with all the marijuana and the beer, it would cool everybody out. So that was the first 4th of July picnic.
Gibby: You’re the Perry Farrell of country music. I don’t know if you’ll get that one.
Willie: No, I don’t know who that is.
Gibby: That’s OK, don’t worry about it, he looks like the devil without a tail. He’s one of those weird guys. But that period, that was a weird period. It was in that transitional period. It kinda went from LSD to methamphetamines, you know what I mean? Shit got weird. There was a lot of dangerous people running around. These rumrunners and shit, but you had one of the picnics out on MoPac [Missouri Pacific Highway] didn’t you, when MoPac was being built?
Willie: We had one in Liberty Hill, we had one in South Meadows Parkway, one over at Manor Downs, one over in Dripping Springs, and a three-day one in College Station.
Gibby: I’ll bet they sold out of beer at all the convenience stores for 100 miles around.
Willie: We’re going to do one this year in Luckenbach.
Gibby: Oh really? That place was up for sale a while back.
Willie: Well I hope they don’t sell it before the 4th of July.
Gibby: You know what? It was almost affordable to us at the time for the Butthole Surfers, and we figured we’d hold Luckenbach, Texas for ransom and take it hostage. [Both Laugh.]
Willie: We’ll kidnap ‘em.
Gibby: No shit. Butthole Surfers almost bought Luckenbach, and it comes with a fuckin’ post office and a bunch of mud. Yeah, speaking of which, that was a wild guy, that Hondo Crouch.
[Hondo Crouch was the owner/mayor of Luckenbach who was also a poet and artist. Basically he is a part of Texas Folklore.]
Willie: He was a good guy: a poet, a romantic, and he loved Luckenbach.
Gibby: I heard he could hold his breath underwater for a long time.
Willie: Yeah, I never did see him do it. That’s a good thing to know how to do.
Gibby: He was a great swimmer, wasn’t he?
Willie: I think that’s what he did in his younger days. I didn’t know him until Luckenbach was almost happening. Jerry Jeff [Walker] went out there and did his thing kin Luckenbach and it kinda got to be the spot. Then the song, “Luckenbach,” came long and we had a world championship domino tournament. Actually, it was a match. Me and one of my friends, Zeke Marlon, against these three old timers form Luckenbach who conveniently kicked our ass.
Gibby: Oh did they? Those motherfuckers.
Willie: I asked one of them, he was about eighty years old. I said, “How long have you been playing dominoes?” And he said, “I ain’t ever stopped.” Do you remember Beech Cook?
Gibby: That was a crew, man. Tell me a story about Hondo. Do you know a good story about him?
Willie: What is this for by the way?
Gibby [accentuates voice]: These little fucking twerp kids from Houston having this fucking magazine called Thora-Zine.
Willie: It will never last. [Both Laugh.]
Gibby: Not with assholes like us involved in it.