Inhabitants of the Panhandle, the northernmost part of the state, call it “the real Texas”. On a map, it appears as a rectangular appendix bordering Oklahoma and New Mexico. A starkly romantic agricultural landscape strewn with tumbleweeds and mesquite trees, it fulfils the fantasy of what Texas should look like. When Coronado’s expedition passed this way in the sixteenth century, the gold-seekers drove stakes into the ground across the vast and unchanging vista, despairing of otherwise finding their way home – hence the name Llano Estacado, or staked plains, which persists today (the Panhandle is the southernmost portion of the Great Plains).
Once the buffalo – and the natives – had been driven away from what was seen as uninhabitable frontier country, the Panhandle in the 1870s began to yield great natural resources. Helium, especially in Amarillo, as well as oil and agriculture, have brought wealth to the region, which is also home to large ranches.
The Panhandle holds few actual tourist attractions – its real appeal is its barren, rural beauty. But music has deep roots in the area, too. Songwriters such as Bob Wills, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Terry Allen, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks all grew up here.Read More
Lubbock’s claim to world fame is as the birthplace of Buddy Holly. Inspired by the blues and country music of his childhood – and a seminal encounter with the young Elvis Presley, gigging in Lubbock at the Cotton Club – Buddy Holly was one of rock’n’roll’s first singer-songwriters. The Holly sound, characterized by steady strumming guitar, rapid drumming and his trademark hiccupping vocals, was made famous by hits such as Peggy Sue, Not Fade Away and That’ll Be the Day. Buddy was killed at 22 in the Iowa plane crash of February 3, 1959 (“The Day the Music Died”), that also claimed the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. Don’t leave town without visiting the Buddy Holly Center, 1801 Crickets Ave (buddyhollycenter.org), an impressive space that holds a collection of Holly memorabilia, including the black glasses he wore on the day he died.
Across the street from the center is the Buddy Holly Statue, an 8ft bronze figure that’s the focal point of the Buddy and Maria Elena Holly Plaza. Buddy’s grave is in Lubbock’s cemetery at the end of 34th Street; take the right fork inside the gate, and the grave, decorated with flowers and guitar picks, is on the left.