STEVE INSKEEP, host:
As the South by Southwest music festival continues in Austin, our series Hidden Kitchens travels to Texas. They'll introduce us to an under-the-radar kitchen legend…
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
C.B. "Stubb" Stubblefield ran a barbecue joint that fed many music icons in Texas. The Kitchen Sisters - producers Nikky Silva and Davia Nelson have this portrait of Stubb: A man with a kitchen calling.
(Soundbite of song)
Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) I was hitchhiking down the street in Lubbock one day, when a big old Cadillac came my way. The Cadillac pulled over to the side of the street, so I opened the door and I sat down in the seat. Then I looked across the car and saw the baddest man I'd ever seen…
Mr. TOM T. HALL (Musician): Stubbs, the place was about barbeque and music. You knew if you wanted to hang out with your kind of people you'd go out to Stubbs and you'd see a bunch of pickers out there. You know, it's like camels to a watering hole, and he loved musicians. He was kind of an archangel I think is what he was.
(Soundbite of music)
Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) …took me inside and now I've never been the same and I'll never forget the man and I'll never forget the name. It was the Stubb boogie, yeah, the Stubb boogie.
Mr. JIMMIE DALE GILMORE (Musician): I'm Jimmie Dale Gilmore. In Lubbock, the very first band that I ever played in was Jesse Taylor and John Reed and Joe Ely and T.J. McFarland. Jesse was a blues guitar player. He was living over in East Lubbock. Lubbock is very segregated, even now, and one day he was hitchhiking and this big, huge black man stopped and picked him up.
It was Stubb Stubblefield. He had a barbeque joint, tiny little dive over there and Jesse started hanging out with Stubb, and they just became close friends and Stubb had the best jukebox in the world. It had Howlin' Wolf and Bobby Blue Bland and, you know, Lightnin' - it was truly wonderful.
Unidentified Man #2: Ain't that good? See, we just need to have a ball. Get up girl.
Mr. GILMORE: At some point Jesse said, Stubb, could I bring a few of my friends over here and play some music? It was unusual, you know, for a white kid and a black man to become close friends.
Ms. SHARON ELY (Wife of Musician John Ely): My name is Sharon Ely and I was born in Lubbock, Texas, and then I migrated down to Austin with my husband Joe Ely. Don Caldwell would come and play his horn at Stubb's Barbeque. Terry Allen started coming down there playing.
Mr. GILMORE: Yeah.
Ms. ELY: And Stevie Ray Vaughan, even Muddy Waters, and Tom T. Hall.
Mr. GILMORE: Johnny Cash and all these people.
Ms. ELY: Well, I'll forget when Linda Ronstadt came and we took her over to Stubbs and she went in Stubbs' kitchen in the back in her little white ballerina slippers, and walked through the most barbecue sauce-encrusted floor I've ever seen.
Stubbs was born in Navasota, Texas, and his father was a Baptist preacher. And Stubbs used to cook in the army. He knew how to cook for lots of people.
Mr. GILMORE: He had this deep, beautiful voice. He just exuded love, and he would get up and he would say, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Stubb, and I'm a cook.
Mr. HANK WILLIAMS (Singer): (Singing) Well I left my home down on the rural route, (unintelligible) I'm checkin' out. And get the honky tonk blues, oh, the honky tonk blues.
Mr. GILMORE: Well he was generous to everybody, but he was generous to musicians and it provided a focal point. I mean, having the place to get together, and it was based around food, it's based around the love of these people for each other, and the kitchen - I mean, that's what it amounts to is the kitchen is the place where everybody gets together.
Ms. ELY: Stubbs would go around to all the different honky tonks, where all of you guys were playing, and he would invite all of the musicians over for Sunday dinner. He would go back to his little place and cook like turkey and dressing and he would sleep on top of his pool table.
We'd find him asleep the next day when all the musicians would come over in their sunglasses, you know, and Stubbs would actually have stayed up all night cooking. He'd do that over and over again just free, you know. He was always saying, I want to feed the world.
Mr. HALL: In Lubbock, Texas, the other night, drinking beer and about half tight, me and Paul and Jim and a guy named Al, we were drawing pictures and writing songs, sitting there talking before too long. Paul said we ought to move this party over to Stubbs.
I'm Tom T. Hall and I'm a songwriter, a country music singer. We had an organization we called the IRS, Idiots Rescuing Stubbs. Once in a while Stubbs would go out of business and we'd all get together and raise some money and put him back in business. Willy's in this club, and Wayland and people all around Texas.
Mr. GILMORE: Being Stubb, first of all, he had zero business sense.
Ms. ELY: No money. You know, so everybody tried to help him and eventually we got him to make some barbeque sauce in the kitchen and then we'd take it out and sell it for him.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. DAVID LETTERMAN (Talk Show Host): Here now to help us all the way from Austin, Texas is C.B. Stubblefield, known as Stubbs. Oh, Stubbs?
(Soundbite of cheers)
Ms. ELY: My husband, Joe Ely, was invited to go sing on David Letterman. And they got Stubbs to come and cook barbecue. He prepared it on stage.
Mr. LETTERMAN: And how, sir, did you become interested in the science, the art, the fun of barbecuing?
Mr. C.B. STUBBLEFIELD (Cook): I was born hungry, my dad said. We had to cook.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MR. STUBBLEFIELD: All of - that's not all true.
Unidentified Man #1: It was the Stub Boogie. Yeah, the Stubb Boogie.
Mr. GILMORE: Eventually Stubb ended up coming to Austin. He got his own club which still continues and is one of the main music venues here. You know, now it's been long enough that some of the young people that work there, they don't know who Stubb was. it's really great to kind of revive the memory.
Mr. HALL: I never had any Stubbs barbeque. Stubbs and I were great friends. I loved him like a brother, but I never told him that I was a vegetarian. I'll go around and eat some bread and beans, but there was just one Stubbs. He's sure to teach us a lesson of some kind.
(Soundbite of music)
Unidentified Man #1: …let it go all until the break of day. The Stubb Boogie.
MONTAGNE: Hidden Kitchens is produced by the Kitchen Sisters in collaboration with KUT Austin. You can find Stubbs' recipe for smoked brisket and Joe Ely's recipe for black-eyed peas at npr.org. And you can hear a concert put on by NPR Music this week at Stubbs.
(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
C.B. "Stubb" Stubblefield, namesake of the legendary club in Austin, Texas, had a mission to feed the world, especially the people who sang in it. When he started out in Lubbock, he generously fed and supported both black and white musicians, creating community and breaking barriers.
From 1968 to 1975 in Lubbock, Texas, C.B. "Stubb" Stubblefield ran a barbecue joint and roadhouse that was the late-night gathering place for a group of local musicians who were below-the-radar and rising: Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Muddy Waters, Johnny Cash, Tom T. Hall.
"I'll never forget when Linda Ronstadt came," Ely's wife, Sharon, recalls. "She went into Stubb's kitchen in her little white ballerina slippers and walked through the most barbecue sauce-encrusted floor I've ever seen."
Stubblefield, born poor and hungry, had a kitchen calling. He wanted to feed the world — especially the people who sang in it. He had been an Army cook in the last all-black regiment of the Korean War. Back home in Lubbock, he generously fed and supported both black and white musicians, creating community and breaking barriers.
Lubbock was very segregated back then, recalls singer/guitarist Gilmore. "One day [blues guitarist] Jesse [Taylor] was hitchhiking, and this big huge black man stopped and picked him up. It was Stubb. C.B. Stubblefield. He had a barbecue joint, a tiny little dive, and Jesse started hanging out with Stubb. ... At some point, Jesse said, 'Stubb, could I bring a few of my friends and play?' It was unusual for a white kid and a black man to become close friends."
"The place was about barbecue and music," says country music singer and songwriter Hall. "You knew if you wanted to hang out with your kind of people, you could go out to Stubb's and see a bunch of pickers out there. It was like camels to a watering hole. And he loved musicians. He was kind of an archangel."
But Stubblefield had "zero business sense," Gilmore says.
And no money, Ely adds. "Everybody tried to help him, and eventually we got him to make some barbecue sauce in the kitchen, and then we'd take it out and sell it for him."
"We had an organization we called the IRS: Idiots Rescuing Stubb," Hall says. "Once in a while Stubb would go out of business, and we'd all get together and raise some money and put him back in business."
According to Hall, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings were members of the club.
In 1985, Stubblefield moved to Austin and opened Stubb's, a legendary club with a legendary sauce, that still opens its doors to new talent pouring into town each year for the South by Southwest music conference.
When we produced the Hidden Kitchens Texas radio special, we recorded music for the hourlong program in Austin at KUT studios with Gilmore, steel guitar player Cindy Cashdollar and bass player Tom Corwin. During the recording session, Ely came by. Gilmore and the Elys are longtime friends from Lubbock. When we started talking about Hidden Kitchens Texas, the conversation quickly turned to Stubb.
"Stubb had this deep, beautiful voice," Gilmore says. "He just exuded love. He'd get up and say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Stubb, and I'm a cook.'"
"I never had any Stubb's barbecue," Hall says. "Stubb and I were great friends. I loved him like a brother. But I never told him — I was a vegetarian."
Produced by The Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, with Laura Folger and Nathan Dalton. Mixed by Jim McKee.