Legendary Stardust Cowboy by
of us, especially those of us who grew up in a small town, might have developed
an inferiority complex in regards to that town. My hometown, Lubbock,
was and is a fair-sized city but it had that small town image and feel when I
was growing up there.
out there on the wide-open plains as it is, Lubbock
made what seemed to me unfair fodder for comedians. One funny guy went on the
“Tonight Show” and said, “Played a date in Lubbock
the other night. Lub-bock. Lub-bock. Sounds like a frog in heat
on a wet rock.”
When Johnny Carson performed in Lubbock,
Life magazine showed up to report that area was flat, the town was conservative
(no booze in the city limits) and down-to-earth but not necessarily in a good
Aside from being the hometown of Buddy Holly, performers even cooler
than Carson, including a young Elvis Presley played in Lubbock.
The story we always heard was that a bunch of jealous rednecks beat up Elvis and
set fire to his Cadillac after seeing how their girlfriends reacted to his performance
at the Cotton Club. It’s a great story and I hope it really happened because I
have told it many times to many groups of people and swore it was the truth.
the most embarrassing moment from a hometown perspective was when Lubbock’s
very own Legendary Stardust Cowboy played on “Laugh-In” in 1968. The Legendary
Stardust Cowboy (real name Norman Carl Odam) showed up for his TV debut wearing
a buckskin jacket, cowboy boots with spurs, audacious yellow chaps and a 10-gallon
cowboy hat. He looked like Hoss
Cartwright on acid and was identified right there on national TV with his
then, I have learned that the song he “sang” has a title (“Paralyzed”) and even
some lyrics that have to do with that universal experience of opening your refrigerator
and finding “my baby staring right back at me.” Mostly, it was Ledge banging out
one chord over and over while screaming, yelping and whooping incoherently into
the microphone for several excruciating minutes. Spin magazine has listed it as
one the greatest moments ever in rock and roll TV but a lot of us didn’t see it
| In the wake of his
TV debut, those of us who did not know he lurked in our Lubbock
midst were told how ol’ Stardust had always been contrary to ordinary, he was
known to hang out on the steps at Monterey High School and bang out the same chord
over and over again, sort of like he did on “Laugh-In.” Then he might hop in his
blue Chevy Biscayne with “NASA Presents The Stardust Cowboy” painted on the side
and take a spin through the Hi-D-Ho.|
Buddy Holly before him, Ledge had to leave Lubbock
to get his shot at the big time. He headed for New York because he wanted to be
on “The Tonight Show” but he went by way of Fort
Worth where, through a peculiar set of events, he ended up recording “Paralyzed”
with the legendary T-Bone Burnett, who was about 20 years old at the time.
got a peek inside Mr. Stardust’s personality when his second record, “I Took A
Trip,” was accompanied by a short autobiography that sort of explained the whole
Stardust Cowboy thing by relating twin fascinations with outer space and with
After relating that the first song he ever wrote was a rewrite
of “Cotton Fields” which he called “Peach Orchards he wrote, “Later on, I was
sitting in my backyard thinking about cowboys and stardust in outer space. I put
them together and came up with Stardust Cowboy. After that I added ‘legendary’
which means that I am a legend in my own time.” Oh, and he claimed to have written
more space songs than anybody.
One of those songs
attracted attention from another unconventional sort, David Bowie, who recorded
Ledge’s “I Took A Gemini Trip” and took the name of his Ziggy Stardust character
partly from our very own Legendary Stardust Cowboy.
Ledge enjoyed an unlikely resurgence in the 1980s. He toured Australia, appeared
on TV in that country and worked as a security guard in California, where he also
recorded a couple of more albums. Today you can still hear “Paralyzed” on several
compilations by Dr. Demento, which translates to something like lasting fame for
the Legendary Stardust Cowboy.
© Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas"
June 3, 2009 Column