The largest city in northwest Texas, Lubbock (pop. 252,506) is a busy agricultural center, best known for having given the world Buddy Holly, whose songs (“Peggy Sue,” “That’ll Be The Day,” “Rave On”) helped pave the way for rock ’n’ roll. Music fans make the trip downtown to pay homage at the statue of Buddy and to learn about his brief but influential life in the Buddy Holly Center (1801 Crickets Ave., 806/775-3560, Tues.-Sat. 10am-5pm, Sun. 1pm-5pm, $8), just west of I-27, off 19th Street. Across the street is a statue of Buddy and a “West Texas Walk of Fame,” remembering the lives and times of Lubbock’s other musical boys and girls made good, including Bob Wills, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Tanya Tucker, Terry Allen, and Joe Ely.
Buddy Holly’s tragic sudden death at age 22 in a 1959 plane crash also took the lives of fellow American rock-and-roll pioneers Ritchie Valens and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and inspired the Don McLean song “American Pie,” remembering “the day the music died.” Holly is buried near the entrance of Lubbock Cemetery, at the east end of 31st Street (his gravestone uses the “real” spelling of his family name, “Buddy Holley”).
Albany (pop. 1,983), one of the more interesting-looking towns in this part of Texas, started as a stagecoach stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail in 1854. It’s still a tiny place, but it has a lively feel, the oldest county courthouse in the state, and more surprisingly, a small but intriguing Old Jail Art Center (201 S. 2nd St., 325/762-2269, Tues.-Sat., free) in the Old City Jail. A big surprise in the middle of the ranch lands, the museum contains an outstanding permanent collection of art by Modigliani, Renoir, and others, and also displays Chinese ceramics from the Tang and Ming dynasties, among others. If you’re here the last two full weekends in June, make plans to see a production of the oldest outdoor musical in Texas, the Fort Griffin Fandangle (325/762-3838, around $15), which began as a school play in 1938 and has grown to involve a cast of some 300 mostly local performers and live longhorn steer.
Coming from the west, US-80/180 makes one last small-town stop in Weatherford (pop. 29,969), where an opulent old courthouse anchors a lively town square. For a last taste of small-town Americana before or after a trip across Dallas, stop for breakfast, a bite of chicken-fried steak, or just a cup of coffee at the Weatherford Downtown Café (101 W. Church St., 817/594-8717), a block south of the square.