Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University

Tom Blackburn:

An Inventory of His Papers, 1976-2006, at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library

Descriptive Summary

Creator Blackburn, Tom
Title: Tom Blackburn Papers,
Dates: 1976-2006
Abstract: The collection is focused on guitarist and songwriter Tom Blackburn, particularly the years in Lubbock, Texas. Included are brief histories of various bands Blackburn was involved with and recordings of each band, some on video and many on digital audio.
Collection # AV 0075
Quantity: 5 boxes (7.0 linear feet)
Language English.
Repository: Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University

Biographical Sketch

Tommy Dean Blackburn was born May 14, 1960 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The family moved to the Phillippines, San Antonio, Texas, and Colorado Springs, Colorado before arriving in Lubbock, Texas in 1972 when Blackburn was 12. In April of 1974, Blackburn saw Deep Purple's infamous performance at the California Jam on TV. He was so influenced by "Smoke on the Water", which has since been included in Rolling Stone's 500 of the greatest songs of all time and Total Guitar's Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever, that he pretended to play guitar using a yard stick with fret marks drawn on it. His family gave him a guitar for Christmas and Blackburn began to play by ear.

Igneous was Blackburn's first band, formed in ninth grade, and he was also first chair bass violin in the Coronado High School orchestra during this time. In 1980, while a student at Texas Tech University (1979-1981), Blackburn helped form Dune with keyboardist Mark Murray. Dune was an instrumental jazz/rock fusion band influenced by Gentle Giant, King Crimson, and Emerson Lake and Palmer. They enjoyed success in competition with other local bands and consequently opened for the touring Jeff Lorber Fusion Band.

Blackburn next studied Studio Engineering at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, and joined the experimental rock ensemble. Exhibiting the same kind of envelope-pushing behavior as other West Texas musicians before them, the ensemble was banned for several years after their performance of Pink Floyd's "Young Lust" for the school's spring concert. Many different collaborations with other musicians followed, the most successful one being Asparagus Nightmares with former bandmates from Igneous and Dune. Asparagus Nightmares played originals citing influence by Yes, Brand X, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Talking Heads, and Peter Gabriel, developing a style they called Upbeat Relief. In September of 1985 they began recording at Don Caldwell Studios in Lubbock, Texas. The resulting album sold well in local record stores and aired regularly as far away as Q102 in Dallas, Texas, and Asparagus Nightmares opened for The Minutemen. The album also came to the attention of musician/artist Terry Allen, who used the album to accompany his Eucalyptus Trees sculpture exhibit at University of California San Diego. The band then experienced personnel changes due to graduation and soon dissolved.

Since that time Blackburn has moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. While in Albuquerque he enjoyed working with an improvisational jazz group called the Electric Beatniks, a Celtic band, and an African band. In Portland he started an instrumental fusion band, Odin's Itch, and joined a generative music project, Dialectic Flowers. In Seattle he joined a swing band, Purple Passion, and helped form a Ska/Surf/Punk band called the Royal T's. As of this writing in 2017 Blackburn has plans to return to Albuquerque and rejoin the Electric Beatniks.

Scope and Content

The collection retains the organization Blackburn gave it, including a series of folders entitled Tom Blackburn Bands that contain both manuscript and cassette tapes or CDs pertaining to each individual band. Box #4 contains 17 VHS tapes. Oversize items, such as posters, and artifacts, such as band logo T-shirts, have been removed to Box #5. The collection is in good condition and is part of the Crossroads of Music archive.


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research. Copyright is retained by the authors of items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by U.S. copyright law. Audio and visual recordings may need to be reformatted prior to use and require advance notice to the Reference Librarian.

Index Terms

The subject headings used by the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library are derived from the Library of Congress and/or locally developed.
Subjects (Persons)
Abernathy, Kyle.
Blackburn, Tom.
Curry, Marlin.
Matos, Mark.
Murray, Mark.
Ray, Johnny.
Snow, Marihelen.
Weiner, Robert G., 1966-
Subjects (Organizations)
Abbey Road.
Asparagus Nightmares (Musical group)
Don Caldwell Studios.
Electric Beatniks (Musical group)
Elektra (Musical group)
Kitchen Club.
Lubbock Arts Festival.
Main Street Saloon.
West Texas Music News.
Wickersham Project.
Subjects (Places)
Lubbock (Tex.)
Fusion (Music)
Guitar music (Jazz)
Jazz-rock (Music)
Texas music.

Related Material

For related materials located in the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, see the following collections:

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Tom Blackburn Papers, 1976-2006, Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas


Accession number(s):

Gift, 2013

Processed by

Cynthia Curry

Collection Inventory


box folder
1 1 Artwork: Comic books, Unfinished Business, by Xero and A. M. Frank, Poe-Boy Comics #1, by Anthony Poe, pen sketch by Kyle Petit, August 1986 and undated
2 Biographical Statements: Biography of the Asparagus Nightmares, undated
3 Business Records: Credit Vouchers, 1986
Legal Materials
box folder
1 4 BMI Contracts, 1985-1987
5 Consignment Contracts, 1985-1986
box folder
1 6 Posters/flyers, handmade, undated
7 Random surveys, undated
8 Set lists, undated
9 Newsletters: West Texas Music News, Lubbock, Texas, 1985-1986
10 Newspaper articles: Lubbock Avalanche Journal, University Daily of Texas Tech University, 1985-1999
box folder
1 11 Asparagus Nightmares masterlist, lyrics, undated
12 Asparagus Nightmares recording notes, set lists, Fuzzy Gumbo, Warren Commission, lyrics, Dead Cat, Philosophic Wax, set lists, Cosmic Fugue, song arrangements, undated
13 Sheet music, undated
box folder
1 14 Blackburn's guitars, undated
15 Performance photographs, 1987-1989 and undated
Printed Materials
box folder
1 16 Business cards, one autographed by Eric Johnson, undated
17 Gear manual, undated
18 Robert Weiner: The Grateful Dead and the Deadheads, 1997 and undated
19 Lubbock Arts Festival, programs, letters, 1986-1988
20 Receipts: Gear purchased in Lubbock, Texas, 1976-1989
Tom Blackburn bands (may include promo items, audio cassettes/CDs)
box folder
1 21 Art Deco/Audio Deco, 1998 and undated
22 Asparagus Nightmares, 1985 and undated
23 Baba Ganoush, 1995-1996 and undated
24 Christmas tapes, 1985 and undated
25 Common Thread, 2002
26 Cosmic Fuque, 1989
27 Dead Cat, 1991
box folder
2 1 Dave, Tom, Jeff, film project, 1998
2 Dune, 1979 and undated
3 Earth Dragon, 1997-1998 and undated
4 Electric Beatniks, 1998-2003
5 Elektra, manuscripts, 1993 and undated
6 Elektra, audio cassette tapes and CD, 1999-2005
7 Fascist Capitalists, 1981-1982
8 Igneous, 1982-1990
9 Inca Roads, 1996 and undated
box folder
3 1 Judge Dredd, Fuzzy Gumbo, Say Uncle, 1988 and undated
2 Various loop song ideas, 1981-1982
3 Mesquite-O-Bytes, 1994 and undated
4 Philosophic Wax, 1987 and undated
5 Purple Passion, 2005-2006
6 The Royal Ts, 2005 and undated
7 Third Uncle, 1985 and undated
8 Tom and Marlin, recorded at Marlin Curry's studio in Lubbock, Texas, 1991
9 Various artists, undated
10 The Wickersham Project, Kelly Sinclair, Lotus Eaters, Invisible Tribe, 1992 and undated
11 The Wickersham Project, Kelly, Heather, Cameron, Lotus Eaters, Invisible Tribe, 1993 and undated
12 The Wickersham Project, Benefit Concert for India Earthquake Victim Relief, 1994
13 The Wickersham Project, Correspondence, Lyrics, 1999 and undated
14 The Wickersham Project, Jason Joseph materials, 1993-1998, and undated
15 The Wickersham Project, Newsletters, 1993-1997
16 The Wickersham Project, Newspaper clippings, 1993 and undated
17 The Wickersham Project, notes, set lists, 1993 and undated
18 The Wickersham Project, posters, flyers, programs, 1993 and undated


box item
5 22 "Astronaut Edwin E. Aldin, Jr., walks on the surface of the Moon", 2 copies, undated
23 Astronaut image, undated
24 "Sorry Girls…I'm Gay", undated
box item
5 25 Igneous, undated
26 Meat Puppets, undated
27 Salon of the Ignored, Lubbock Arts Festival, 1995
28 Sparcaid, 1992

Oversize materials

Posters (See also digital collection)
box item
5 1 Asparagus Nightmares: No Frill Bar and Grill, undated
0 Asparagus Nightmares: "If your dreams aren't Nightmares…you're in urgent need of Upbeat Relief (32 copies), undated
34 Elektra: An Evening with Elektra, undated
35 Elektra: Last Gasp of the Twentieth Century, A 1990s Mystery Musical Tour, 1994
36 Elektra: Last Gasp of the Twentieth Century Part III, The Final Phase, 1995
37 Mesquite-O-Bytes, Spirit House, undated
38 The Royal Ts: An Evening of Ska/Funk/and More (2 copies), undated
39 The Royal Ts: An Evening of Ska/Rocksteady/Reggae, undated
0 The Royal Ts: Come Skank to the sounds of the Royal Ts (2 copies), undated
42 The Warren Commission: "Tom" written on the back, undated
43 The Warren Commission, undated
44 The Wickersham Project, Steps of the Pilgrim, A bold debut from Jason Joseph, undated
45 The Wickersham Project: February 26th, undated
46 The Wickersham Project: August 28th, undated
47 The Wickersham Project: September 25th, undated
48 The Wickersham Project: October 30th, undated
49 The Wickersham Project: November 20th, undated
50 Various Ensembles: Meat Puppets, undated
51 Various Ensembles: Music Mediocraties, "Kyle Pettit Flyer Ideas for P-Wax" written on back, undated
52 Various Ensembles: Songs of the Band "Van Gogh's Ear", February 20, 1996
53 Various Ensembles: South Plains College presents The Experimental Rock Ensemble, 1983

Audio Visual Materials (See also digital files.)

VHS tapes
box item
4 1 Ace TV, Wickersham Project, Daybreak Coffee, July 24, 1993 and August 28, 1993
2 Alternative music, March 18, 1996
3 Alternative music, October 28, undated
4 1: Asparagus Nightmares, Theatre of the Airwaves, Live at Fat Dawg's; 2: FMX Rock Fight, December 12, 1985 and March 22, 1986
5 Baba Ganoosh, Lubbock Arts Festival, Salon of the Ignored, April 28-30, 1995
6 Blue Tang, living room camcorder, January 22, 1996
7 Concert at Godbold Cultural Center, Tom Blackburn, Marlin Curry, Marihelen Snow, Sara Waters, Don Caldwell, September 11, 1995
8 1: Dead Cat; 2: West C. A. Backing WWIII; 3: Mesquite-O-Bytes; 4: Main Street Saloon, March 12, 1991-April 3, 1992, and undated
9 Invisible Tribe, Lotus Eaters, undated
10 Lotus Eaters, Liz Paschal's living room, September 19, 1992
11 Lubbock music, Rob,undated
12 Marihelen Snow, Tom Blackburn, Elektra and Friends. September 11, 1995
13 1: Mesquite-O-Bytes, South Plains College; 2: 3160 News Shot Recycling; 3: 3380 Kitchen Club, November 14, 1991 and undated
14 Mesquite-O-Bytes, undated
15 1: Philosophic Wax, Lubbock Arts Festival; 2: Sweat Dreams-Timing; 3: Mesquite-O-Bytes, South Plains College, 1988 and October 30, 1992
16 The Warren Commission, Lubbock Arts Festival, April 14, 1990
17 The Wickersham Project, Daybreak Coffee Roasters, undated