In sunbaked Terlingua, Texas (pop., a few hundred), residents joke that there is a musician under every rock. Located ten miles from Mexico in one of the remotest corners of the United States, the town had a recording studio before it had a school, a well-stocked grocery store, or even a water utility. Open jam sessions are a daily ritual, and some songwriters make a living from their craft despite being thousands of miles from New York or Nashville. Why does such a tiny and isolated place ring with singing and guitars?
Based on more than two years of on-the-ground research, On the Porch tells the story of this small but remarkable community. Chase Peeler invites us into the music, introducing us to a cast of characters as unique as the town itself. He reveals how novices and experts perform together—a rarity in contemporary America. He recounts the devastation brought on by a border closure and describes how music is once again uniting people across the Rio Grande. He considers the impact of gentrification in an off-the-grid paradise, and how this threatens to transform a precarious musical ecosystem. On the Porch is a celebration of human musicality, of the role that music plays and can play in our lives, both in Terlingua and beyond.
W. Chase Peeler holds a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Colorado Boulder, where he has also taught. A multi-instrumentalist and native West Texan, he continues to write and perform from his home in southwest Colorado.
Interesting and compelling...Peeler’s sentences soar most when he’s describing the landscape of Terlingua, so much so that it’s impossible not to daydream about seeking out this incredible town.
On the Porch makes the case that Terlingua’s famous community porch is home to one of the most important and unique musical scenes in the state...As commercial tourism continues to grow in the region, there are some who worry that Terlingua’s musical culture could fade away. For those of us with our own porch stories, this book is a comforting testament that, whatever comes, these musicians and their music will always be remembered.
Chase Peeler has crafted a rich chapter in the history of Terlingua and the Big Bend, a volume that will endure as a testament—like adobe and pictographs, like Butch Hancock songs and Donald Judd boxes, like the rivers and mountains themselves—to the thriving and creative spirit that animates that rugged and beautiful corner of the world.
~Jason Mellard, Director, Center for Texas Music History, Texas State University, and author of Progressive Country: How the 1970s Transformed the Texan in Popular Culture
Prologue: On the Porch Introduction: Hundred Miles from Nowhere 1. Starlight and Stage Lights 2. In the Incubator 3. The Austin Effect 4. Voices From Both Sides 5. Getting Fatter Epilogue: Green Chile Stew
Chase Peeler on Life and Music in Terlingua, Texas
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