A West Texas hero with hands the size of briskets, C.B. “Stubb” Stubblefield didn’t just make barbecue, he made friends. His wide, trademark smile roped anyone into the spirit of the moment, whether it was singing the blues or savoring his slow-smoked brisket with slaw and beans. C.B. was one of 12 children, so he loved a crowd right from the cradle. He learned about love, compassion, caring and sharing from his father, who was a preacher. In those days, everyone became accustomed to “makin’ do with what you got” and worked whatever odd jobs they could to make ends meet.
It wasn’t until Stubb joined the U.S. Army that he got his first chance to feed thousands. After being decorated with a Purple Heart and the Oak Leaf Cluster as a gunner and tank driver with the 96th Field Artillery Battalion (the army’s last all African-American unit), Stubb became a mess sergeant, transforming his mess hall into the first incarnation of Stubb’s Bar-B-Q restaurant.
After his tours of duty in Korea, Stubb perfected his barbecue methods and pledged to anyone who would listen, “I was born hungry; I want to feed the world.” In 1968, he started to make good on his proclamation, christening Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q in a ramshackle white stucco building in Lubbock, Texas, that was long in character but could only fit 75 patrons. Stubb put a pool table in the back, and in the corner was an old jukebox filled with Stubb’s favorite blues music.
Before long, Stubb’s “Blue Plate” specials created quite a following. Famous and soon-to-be-famous musicians like Joe Ely and Tom T. Hall came by to “play for their dinner.” As sure and steady as his cooking, Stubbs little restaurant gained national attention as a not-to-be missed blues and barbecue house.
In the mid-eighties, Stubb moved to Austin, Texas, and eventually opened his second Stubb’s Bar-B-Q restaurant. The jam sessions started up again and featured many of the same musicians, although some were more famous by now. While coming through the state capitol, presidents, governors and famous stars stopped in to experience Stubb’s brand of love and happiness.
At the request of friends, Stubb hand bottled his first sauce in Joe and Sharon Ely’s home kitchen using jam jars and whiskey bottles recycled from a honky-tonk bar in Austin. A few months later, Joe gave some bottles of sauce to Paul Shafer and the staff at Late Night with David Letterman following Joe’s performance on the show. The buzz started soon after and caught on like a West Texas brush fire. In 1991, Stubb himself appeared on David Letterman’s show, cooking barbecue, serving the audience and delivering better one-liners than the host. When Letterman asked him what made his sauce so good, Stubb famously answered, “Love and happiness.”
Today, Stubb lives on in his all-natural sauces, marinades and rubs, continuing to make people feel good all over the world. As Stubb said, “My life is in these bottles.”