“Ladies & Gentlemen, I’m a Cook”
Article originally appeared in
The Caprock Sun, in April, 1997.
In 1968, Christopher B. “Stubbs” Stubblefield, Sr. opened the original 75 seat Stubb’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant in a small, ramshackle building at 108 East Broadway. The jukebox was filled with vintage Blues music. Owing as much to Stubb’s warm smile as to his barbecue cooking skills, the restaurant soon became the center of Lubbock’s rich musical community. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, the Sunday Jam Sessions became as legendary as the barbecue. Tom T. Hall’s song, “The Great East Broadway Onion Championship,” was written about an early-morning pool game between Tom and Joe Ely in which an onion from Stubb’s kitchen was used as a cue ball.
Stubb’s died May 27, 1995 and was buried in Lubbock. The church where his funeral was held was standing-room only. Represented there was about as diverse a funeral crowd as Lubbock is likely to ever witness, for color meant nothing to Stubb when it came to making friends.
Stubbs was more than “just a cook.” To his many friends, family and those who have only heard the stories, C.B. Stubblefield was an exceptional being. He was another of Lubbock’s legendary figures whose memory lives on in the hearts of multitudes of barbecue and music fans everywhere.
Johnny Hughes came to the Caprock Sun with an idea to publish some of the stories people have about Stubb’s. “Stubb’s would sing ‘Summertime’ until it was wintertime,” Hughes said, remembering his friend. These are some stories, some songs, if you will, that will never die, as they are remembered by some of his many friends:
Words from Terry Allen:
“At Stubb’s funeral in Lubbock, the church was full. Half the congregation was black and half was white. The speakers were his friends and kin. With Stubb’s, one was the same as the other. Color didn’t mean anything that day. This says a lot about the man who was being buried and a lot about the community he loved…the way he loved it and was loved back…From the very beginning, his café…was about good food, good music, and the common dignity of human beings enjoying being Human in the company of one another. A lot of black and white people played music with one another on the same stage for the first time at Stubb’s…a whole lot of black and white people ate food and listened to that music side-by-side for the first time at Stubb’s.”
Stubb’s Famous Quotes (submitted by Terry Allen):
- “I was born hungry; I wants to feed the world.”
- “Bar-B-Q? Makin’ do with what you got.”
- “God born me a black man and I plan to stay that-a-way.”
- “They build barb wire fences around old locomotives. I’ll be damn if they do that to me.”
- When asked how he was while in the hospital:
“My Spark plugs ain’t firing, and I got this tornado loose in my chest.”
- “I guarantee you one thing, you ain’t gonna cook no better than I can. Another thing, you not gonna love people no better than I can.”
A recent phone call to Austin caught Jesse Taylor freshly home from his 20th European tour.
These are his words:
“Did you ever hear the hitchhiking story? I lived on East Broadway at the top of the hill across from Mackenzie Park. One day, I was hitching down East Broadway. Stubbs picked me up. After driving a couple of blocks, he pulled in at Stubb’s. (Often when walking, I’d catch a glimpse inside through the open door, and I’d hear the sound of old Blues music from the jukebox, but I was always reluctant to go in. I was curious.)
“So I said to Stubbs: ‘Wow, you go into this place?’ And he said to me, ‘Sir, I won this place, and I just know there’s a barbecue sandwich and a cold beer inside that’s got your name on it.’ What started out as a ride ended up being a friendship that lasted half a lifetime.”
Laughing, Taylor says, “But one of my favorite stories about Stubbs happened one day when I was sitting at the bar. Everyone in the place was black except me. In walks this Hispanic man. He looks at the crowd and then asks Stubbs: ‘You serve Mexicans here?’
Stubbs eyed the man ominously, then answered: ‘No. We serve barbecue here.’”
You know, I’m the guy that started live music at Stubb’s Bar-B-Cue. When I told him I wanted to play music there, he asked me, ‘What kind of music?’ I told him, ‘Music just like what’s on your jukebox. I want to play Blues!’ When Stubbs died, his family gave that jukebox to Jesse Taylor.
In conclusion, Jesse said, “You know that sign…the one from the old building that said, ‘THERE WILL BE NO BAD TALK OR LOUD TALK IN THIS PLACE’? Well, I’d been hanging around Stubb’s for about 5 years when I suddenly noticed that there were three words in the sign stenciled in red and the rest were stenciled in black. The three red words were ‘bad,’ ‘loud’ and ‘place.’ From that day on, I couldn’t see that sign it didn’t say to me, ‘BAD LOUD PLACE.’ That’s what that sign said.”
She knew him well.
A story from Carol Kelly Edwards:
I worked with Stubb for almost 4 years. During that time we had several disagreements, but we always remained best of friends.
When I came back to Lubbock in September of 1987, Stubb would call me on a regular basis. We continued to keep in touch after his moved to Austin. As time passed, I realized what a special, wonderful person Stubbs really was. I also realized what a jerk I had been to him over the years.
Jerk is a mild description. I can admit that now. That’s been one of many lessons about my life Stubbs has taught me. “If you make a mistake, admit it, accept it and then make better.”
Anyway, I called him in late 1990 and I said, “Stubbs, I just want to apologize for the B— S— I said and for everything I put you through when we worked together.”
Stubbs told me, “Ma’am, what in the h— are you talking about?” I sensed something in his voice I never sensed before.
I said, “Well, you know Stubbs, when…”
And before I could continue he said, “Now you listen here, Carol Kelly, I don’t even remember any bad times between us, and I sure as h— don’t think about ‘em! When I think of you, I remember the good times, and that’s what you need to do, too! The past is the past. We got to go on and be happy!”
Then he hung up the phone. He just hung up! I sat there looking at my phone and I knew that after everything he and I had been through, he was never truly angry with me until that moment.
A few stories submitted by Paul Milosevich:
The Nashville Trip
One cold February night in 1980, Stubbs came by my house about midnight. I had seen him a few days earlier and told him I was delivering some artwork to Johnny Cash in Nashville. He said he would like to cook up some “cabrito” for Mr. Cash.
Stubbs showed up in a car I had never seen. He explained that “somebody named Chuck” loaned it to him for the trip. It had an 8-track tape player that worked if you wedged in a book of matches underneath the tape. Stubbs had a shoe box full of blues tapes and an 8mm movie camera he got at Huber’s Pawn Shop for $15. “We’re gonna make a movie of this trip,” he said. (The movie camera had film in it with some footage of a Mexican wedding in Lubbock which was the “lead-in” to the start of our Nashville trip.)
Climbing into the car, I asked Stubbs if he had a map. He said, “No.”
“Do you know how to get to Nashville?” I wondered.
“I think you go through Benjamin,” he smiled.
We hit a lot of barbecue joints between Lubbock and Nashville and Stubbs was critical of most of it. He liked some we got in Memphis (Leonard’s) and at a 7-11 in Seymour, Texas.
He told me about being in the Korean Conflict, driving a truck down a steep hill one night during a blackout, “We had to go over this rickety wooden bridge,” he said. “Nobody knew if it would hold our trucks. Paul, it was dark as this,” he said, turning off the lights. Stubbs drove about 80mph, generally, and he finished the Korean story hurtling through the blackness somewhere around Texarkana.
(Stubb did cook cabrito for Johnny Cash, slept in Jimmy Carter’s bed at Tom T. Hall’s place, was invited backstage at Opryland and the $15 movie camera worked fine.)
Another Road Trip
One winter Stubbs was driving up to Lubbock from Austin. It was warm when he left Austin, so he wasn’t worried that his heater wasn’t hooked up. A “blue norther” caught him around Sweetwater. The windshield frosted over and his feet and hands started to get numb. Again, it was about 3 am, his favorite time to drive. Stubb’s stopped at a 7-11, bought a dozen candles, lit them and spread them out across the dashboard. It must have been an eerie sight to other motorists that night, seeing this long sedan creeping down the highway with a black man peering out through a row of candles. “I had to stop 3 or 4 times to get more candles before I made it Lubbock,” Stubb explained.
Short Shots from the Milosevich collection:
- Stubbs referred to me as “Paul Milaka, my art consoler. He draws with charcoal and I cooks with it.”
- One of Stubb’s young friends offered him a ride to Albuquerque in her small compact car. “I think it was a Hunda,” Stubbs said. “I felt like King Kong in a cee-gar box.
- “Talking about a ‘high society’ woman he knew, Stubbs described her as coming “from a very permanent family here in Lubbock.”
- Stubbs was a charmer, no question about it. An insurance salesman had a meeting with Stubb in the kitchen of our Santa Fe house. He started explaining different policies to Stubbs and I excused myself. When I came back about an hour later, the insurance man had his checkbook out and was asking, “How much do you need, Stubbs?”
- A young Lubbock preacher wanted to know Stubb’s thoughts on our society’s current problems. Stubbs said, “It’s like that John Wayne movie. We’re out of control, like a cattle stampede. Somebody needs to ride out to the front of the herd and turn that leadin’ steer.”
From Lloyd Maines:
Stubbs enjoyed giving of himself. He was totally unselfish. He usually called me about once a month from Austin to tell me about his latest idea to promote a concert. Stubbs had great taste in music, but some of the great old Blues players that he booked didn’t quite have the drawing power to get big crowds, so Stubb would usually lose a lot of money.
Losing the money never seemed to ruin the moment for Stubbs. He would always sat it was the best show he’d ever seen. Stubbs had no use for greedy people, and he could smell them a mile away. Stubbs was an important person in the shaping of the music scene in West Texas and Austin. I miss his smile and his strong sense of being.
Mike Pritchard had a driving story:
Tiffany and I were out at Stubb’s one night not long after we got married. We were talking way into the night, in fact, it was around 4 a.m. when we started to leave. The van wouldn’t start. We stepped back inside and Stubbs offered to give us a ride home.
We left Stubb’s Bar-B-Que headed west on Broadway. Stubbs must have driven 60mph all the way, and that old Cadillac never slowed down for a red light or a stop sign. By the time we got to out house on 21st and University, the color had completely left our faces! Stubbs pulled into our drive and, noticing the looks of sheer terror in our eyes, tried to reassure us. Smiling, he said, “The Lord always takes care of me.” And off he went into the darkness of a very early morning, leaving the tow of us kissing the ground as we found our way to the door.
These are just a few of the stories. There are many more tales around that remind us of a man known and loved by many. Our friend is gone. The Bar-B-Que joint at 108 East Broadway has long since been leveled. This is our tribute to Stubb, our way of saying, “Stubbs, you may have gone before us, but you really never left our hearts.”
The Caprock Sun supports the efforts of the Lubbock Arts Alliance and everyone involved in the Stubbs Memorial Project. Give what you can to make this memorial a reality. It is our opportunity to give something back to the man who gave Lubbock the best he had to offer:
He was a cook.
Caprock Sun, April 1997, pp. 8-9