By Greg Ritchie
CROCKETT – You may have never wondered what the Germans think about our great Texas music. It’s just not something that comes up often in casual conversation. As it turns out, Germans love our music, from blues and country to rock and roll and swing. For one group of several dozen German music lovers, Crockett was a special place on their several-state extended tour.
And if you had never wondered how much the good “volk” in Germany love our blues, Camp Street owner and keeper of thousands of music tales “Pipp” Gillette had never thought of it either.
“Well I got a call and they said can you show us the Camp Street Cafe at 1 p.m.,” Gillette said. “I said we don’t have a show then, but I can give you some of the history of Crockett’s blue and music history and maybe play a song or two…”
As the group showed up fresh from visiting Shreveport, tour operator Werner Michels and his fellow music lovers were impressed with the downtown Crockett square and the old county courthouse as they made their way closer to Lightnin’ Hopkins himself.
“I explained that to them that is a typical structure of American small towns and they loved that,” I regret we didn’t have more time, but we will on our next trip. We will include lunch and take a trip around around town. It was my first time to Crockett myself, so I wasn’t aware of the city and what all it has.”
The group listened as Gillette walked them through the history of the area, the music, the characters and answered questions. Gillette was surprised how knowledgable others can be about our own home-grown music.
“Germans and a lot of the Europeans seemingly know more about our American music than many Americans,” Gillette lamented. “They really study it and they’re fascinated with it and a more than most Americans, many of which don’t really care.”
Michels started by offering his countrymen the standard American music tours showcasing Elvis Presley and other rock stars but found a large niche of people wanting to explore country and blues and not just in the big music venues, but in smaller places like Crockett.
Michels thanked Gillette for his hospitality and willingness to work with the group and promised to be back. As the fans gathered around the Hopkins statue for one last picture, the triple-degrees rarely felt back home began to tell as a few began to wilt in the sun and quickly headed back for the safety of the bus.
Could that be a secret to our great Texas music? Maybe you need a little heat – outside with the humidity and sun – and inside with jalapeños and cayenne – to really feel those blues and sing your heart out.
Gillette is convinced of one thing above all – Crockett and Texas are missing out by not promoting our local music to thousands of people around the world desperate to come and experience it for themselves.
“It is something we’ve wanted for years, to get the legislature to really promote and come up with a Texas Music trail. Our region is on the Forest Trail. ‘Go see the pine tree in Lufkin and then go see one in Houston County,’” Gillette laughed. “I mean, it’s just crazy. Losing millions of dollars in tourist money by not promoting a music trail, which would cover the whole state. And there’s no state in the union that can boast the number of musicians – influential musicians – in every genre of music.”
From blues and country to rock and tejano – Mr. Gillette just may be on to something. Here’s hoping this group of 30-or-so Germans are the first in a long line of thousands.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]