Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b George Hancock, 12 July 1945, Lubbock TX) Singer-songwriter; guitar, harmonica. He began playing as a child; later dropped out of architectural school and worked for his farmer father (also named George, he published Go-Devils, Flies And Blackeyed Peas '85, a memoir of growing up on West Texas plains). Butch's muse was activated while driving tractors; influenced by rock'n'roll in the '50s, then by folk music, he wrote his first songs after hearing Peter, Paul and Mary. He performed locally, by 1970 forming the Flatlanders in Lubbock with Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and others; they made an album for Shelby Singleton's Plantation label, unreleased until 1980 in the UK, later as More A Legend Than A Band '90 on Rounder. They revived the band over 30 years after that first album.

Butch lived in an abandoned jailhouse in Clarendon TX 1973-5, wrote innumerable songs, then relocated to Austin for 20 years. His albums on his own Rainlight label began with a solo set, West Texas Waltzes And Dust-Blown Tractor Tunes '78, followed by two-disc The Wind's Dominion '79, backed by Ely, Gilmore, Ponty Bone (accordion), various Maines Brothers, etc. Most of these helped out on Diamond Hill '80; then two LPs recorded on the same day in '81 at the Alamo Lounge in Austin: 1981: A Spare Odyssey was a solo set and Firewater (Seeks Its Own Level) with a band. A recording hiatus ended with Yella Rose '85, with back-up vocalist Marce Lacouture, probably his most commercial (rockish) offering to date; Split And Slide II (Apocalypse Now, Pay Later) '86 is a solo set. (The original story of Split and Slide is on The Winds Dominion; they are the Gog and Magog of country rock.)

Influenced by Bob Dylan ('Who isn't?' he said cheerfully), Hancock's lyrics combine humour, carefully considered West Texas attitudes and a journalist's perception: 'Words are visual, like architecture. You can do anything you want with 'em: you can paint with 'em, go bowlin' with 'em...' (His paintings have been exhibited in Austin.) 'Standin' At The Big Hotel' was covered by Jerry Jeff Walker, 'She Never Spoke Spanish To Me' by Ely, others by Alvin Crow, Doug Sahm, Emmylou Harris and others. In Texas Hancock's performing style was usually folkish; gigs in London in '86, some shared with Wes McGhee, some with a pick-up band, proved that his songs and delivery make excellent down-home rock'n'roll. That year Cause Of The Cactus came out with Lacouture; by then Butch had fans all over the world who don't care any more than he does about major labels or chart success. He worked as a video cameraman and producer on a regional Texas show, 'Dixie Bar And Bus Stop' '85-8, still painting and dabbling in architecture, everything related to everything else, regarding it all as 'one big ball of wax.'

A series of 14 numbered cassettes were duplicated in real time '90 and called No 2 Alike, all recorded live in six nights with lots of guests; he called it his Tape of the Month Club, selling them by post from his gallery/retail outlet Lubbock or Leave It, opened in downtown Austin in 1991. (He has since moved to Terlingua TX: Austin is a wonderful town, but with a lot of distractions and interruptions.) Compilations Own And Own and Own The Way Over Here appeared on CD (the first on Demon UK, both on Sugar Hill USA; 'Own' was a take on the Texas pronunciation of 'On'.) Two Roads '92 by Butch and Jimmie Dale, recorded live in Australia, was on Virgin UK, Caroline USA; he contributed to Terry Allen's musical show Chippy '94, and Butch's first original CD in some years was Junkyard In The Sun '94 (aka Eats Away The Night on Glitterhouse) was a studio set backed by a quartet. You Coulda Walked Around The World '97 on Rainlight was another set of story-songs, produced by Ely. The next album was War and Peace 2007, then Seven Cities of Gold, scheduled for July 2012.