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Stephen F. Austin State University

Bringing Back Cowboy Music (September 2011)

Bringing Back Country Music

By Bob Bowman


In Center the other night, an elderly man in the audience was bemoaning the lack of old-fashioned cowboy music in East Texas.
"How old are you?" I asked politely.
"Well, I'm somewhere between eighty and dead," he laughed.
That explains the lack of cowboy music. Musicians today seldom play the music older folks remember best.
But, thankfully, I was able to recommend at least one place where the old cowboy music is still played with enthusiasm.
At the Camp Street Cafe and Store in Crockett, brothers Guy and Pipp Gillette perform traditional cowboy songs in a downtown building once owned by their grandfather, rancher Hoyt Porter.
Some of the music they play today originated during the time of the Civil war and blends in songs performed by cowhands and medicine show performers.
When Guy and Pipp are not performing, they're running a ranch near Lovelady. The property was also owned by Hoyt Porter and, as youngsters, the Gillettes punched cows on the ranch.
While Guy and Pipp are best known today for their cowboy ballads--and specially for their skill in playing cow bones as an accent sound for their music--they were largely influenced by the Beatles.
The sons of a New York photographer, they saw the Beetles perform on an Ed Sullivan show in the 1960s and knew immediately they wanted to become musicians, too.
So they joined one of Guy's classmates at an acting studio and formed a rock and roll band known as the Roadrunners. Their singer was Diane Keaton, the actress.
The Roadrunners played up and down the East Coast for years. But when their grandfather passed away, Guy and Pipp decided to come back to the ranch they loved as young men in 1983.
After the Camp Street building was renovated in 1998 and reopened as the Camp Street Cafe, Guy and Pipp became popular all over Texas as musicians who had a special knack for cowboy songs.
As an early Crockett business, Hoyt Porter's Camp Street building housed a variety of businesses, including a cafe and pool hall. In the 1940s, a legendary blues musician often came to the cafe to play for tips. His name was Lightin' Hopkins. A statue of Lightin' stands near the Camp Street Cafe and Store.
When Guy and Pipp decided to reopen the tin building as a music venue, they started with performers they had known on the road. Today, the Camp Street Cafe is a popular venue for musicians all over Texas.
But some of the biggest crowds come to Crockett to hear Guy and Pipp bring back the sounds of cowboys on the range.
For a schedule of the Gillettes' performances, call 936-544-8656 in Crockett.

(Bob Bowman is the author of 51 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)