by Jennie L. Lamb
Check out #IABCLI2020 • Keep Austin Weird, a Spotify playlist by IABC Southern Region.
Writing this was hard. Not for the reasons you may think, though.
Although my career has been and my identity is that of a graphic designer, I was trained in journalism and have the degree to prove it. So, it’s not that I don’t know how to write. And, it’s not that it’s hard for me to write about music, even.
It’s that I’ve been procrastinating and not wanting to face what I needed to face to make this happen.
Let’s start at the beginning.
I’m a member of the awesome committee that is bringing the IABC Southern Region “reception experience” to our fellow leaders on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 at the Westin Austin Downtown—in the Strait (as in George) room from 5:30 to 6:30 pm.
During a brainstorming session about our marketing plan for the event, I had the bright idea to put together a Spotify playlist to capitalize on our “Keep Austin Weird” theme.
Never mind that I’d never even opened the Spotify app before then, I’d figure it out and hey—I’d even write a blog to go with it explaining my song choices, I told my fellow committee members.
Detour into the Personal
You see, I grew up in Austin Texas—living on and off in the Live Music Capital of the World from the age of 2 to 26.
My parents and I, along with my dad’s parents, moved to Austin in 1975, after he finished his doctorate. He became a professor at the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin (UT). And, my mom and dad became immersed in the booming music scene of the time.
They frequented places like the Armadillo World Headquarters, Soap Creek Saloon, Don’s Depot, and The Broken Spoke. They liked all kinds of music and were privileged enough to step into the inner circles of a few musicians.
They hung out with people like Doug Sahm, Don Walser, Cornell Hurd, and Alvin Crow. In fact, they started the first Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys fan club in the late 70s.
In 1981, my parents divorced. And in 1987, my dad married my stepmother, Fran, who grew up in Austin, knew the same people and listened to the same music he continued to champion.
I also gained an amazing stepsister—Chanel. And, the Austin Music Scene was just a huge part of our family’s life—from regular live performances we attended together to the inside jokes that only we understood.
Those last few paragraphs don’t do justice to just how much this music means to me.
Music is personal and so evocative. It makes us feel and brings back memories from other places and times. It holds our lives in the lines and the circles that make up the notes and the staffs of the sheets that it’s written on.
And this music, well, it’s—quite simply—my life.
My dad died in 2011. My mom died in 2017. Chanel died in 2018.
Chanel and I were both only children who met when I was 5 and she was 12—so forget the “step” BS. Fran and Chanel are my second mom and my sister.
Did I mention that my dad moonlighted as a radio disc jockey with several weekly shows on and off since the late 70s? And that Fran, Chanel, and I carried on with what had become our family’s weekly radio show after he was gone? And, now that Chanel is gone and I’m busy with my career, that Fran is still keeping it alive for us each and every week?
While grief is a great, big, life-encompassing journey and picking out this music and trying to sum up what I feel about it has been a challenging step along that path, it’s been a cathartic step.
One more piece to this puzzle is how much music—this music—is a part of my relationship with my husband, Martin. He came (back) into my life at the tail end of my mom’s and Chanel’s. And, he didn’t get to know my dad. We actually went to high school together. So, he’s from Austin, too, and because of all of that, he gets it.
But, let’s get back to the playlist.
I sat down with my laptop and downloaded the Spotify app and two hours later, I had about 200 songs in the playlist—mostly by Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, and George Strait. I was like a kid in a candy store or a squirrel with a whole tree full of nuts and I just kept heaping on every song I found that I knew.
That music my dad championed? Well, it was Austin music, but it was mostly Western Swing. We’re talking Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, Asleep at the Wheel, and Alvin Crow, who is a bit underrepresented on Spotify, unfortunately.
Mix it with a big dose of early Outlaw Country, Texas singer-songwriters, plus some “Boogie Woogie” and conjunto thrown in for good measure, and you get the sounds of my childhood—and Martin’s.
The IABC Connection
So, I reigned myself in, closed the laptop, and came back to it another day. I started sifting through my mental list of the important artists to include and finding a definitive song for each.
I soon realized, to my privileged chagrin, that my list was a bunch of old white men, sitting in the backroom of a bar, drinking lots of beer and passing a joint!
I’ve learned so much about communication and life through my involvement with IABC. And, one of my most treasured and impactful experiences was sitting on the Ethics Committee when our association wrote its Diversity and Inclusion Statement and Code of Conduct.
So, I took a deep breath, and I went to work finding songs to include from the female, Black, and Tejano artists that also mean so much to me and Austin + Texas music and tried my best to make a place for them next to those old white men.
And you know what? Now, I’m imagining Lizzo and Willie Nelson sharing a joint and a bottle of tequila, and I’m just sitting over here smiling, and remembering, and grooving to the music.
I hope you find this music interesting.
I hope the stories move you—mine and those in the songs.
I hope you get a glimpse of the Austin Texas I grew up in and will always call home.
Cause it’s a really cool place!
While I’m sure most people will listen to this playlist on shuffle, I’ve loosely grouped the 50 songs into genres or categories. (Yes…50. I cut myself off at 50.) I’ve also tried my best to include live versions of songs, some with intros of the artist telling a story about it before playing it. I prefer live music. I did grow up in the “Live Music Capital of the World,” after all.
Also, while a few artists on this list may not have a connection to Austin, they definitely have a connection to Texas.
And finally, some of the trivia about these songs I found via internet news sources, artist websites, and Wikipedia. Some of it, I just know. (I am certainly my father’s daughter.)
I know, I know—my fellow journalists cringe at the thought of using Wikipedia as a source. But this isn’t some great journalistic work.
This is just a collection of some musical thoughts from a girl who was raised in Texas.
Take Me to Texas • George Strait • Written by B. Clark & S. McAnally
From the album Cold Beer Conversation (2015)
Strait originally recorded the song as the title theme for The History Channel’s Texas Rising mini-series about the Alamo and the fight for Texas’ independence from Mexico. Martin is the ultimate George Strait fan. The mini-series was wonderful. And, it seemed like the perfect opening song for this playlist—I mean it’s “King George!”. Plus, have I mentioned that the Southern Region “reception experience” at IABC Leadership Institute 2020 is being held in the “Strait” room at the Westin Downtown Austin at 5:30 pm on Friday, Feb. 21?
Killin’ Time • Clint Black • Written by C. Black & H. Nicolas
From the album Killin’ Time (1989)
Clint Black may have been born in New Jersey, but his family was from Texas and they moved back when he was just 1. So, he counts—totally. Often compared to Roy Rogers for his looks and manners, he rose to fame in the 90s era of country, about the time my friends and I were coming of age. This album earned Black five charting singles when it came out in May of 1989, and put him on the map! Black is forever and always my best friend, Kitt’s, favorite singer from that era and genre. And, coming from a woman who also thinks Roger Miller and Roger Moore are the bee’s knees, you know she has excellent taste! (Somehow or another, through in-laws and out-laws in Texas, she’s semi, sorta, almost, kinda related to him too—but it’s convoluted.)
Not Ready to Make Nice • Dixie Chicks • Written by M. Maguire, N. Maines, E. Robison & D. Wilson
From the album Taking the Long Way (2006)
This Grammy Award-winning Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal from 2007 is the musical answer from the Dixie Chicks to the controversy surrounding Natalie Maines’ comment that “we’re ashamed that the President of the United States was from Texas” while touring Great Britain in 2003, just before the U.S. invaded Iraq (again). The Dixie Chicks are Texas born and bred. They are strong women and fierce activists. Don’t Mess with Texas Women. Period.
The Grand Tour • George Jones • Written by C. Taylor, G. Richey & N. Wilson
From the album The Grand Tour (1974)
My Daddy’s favorite country singers were Hank Williams, Sr. and George Jones—but especially their hardcore stuff—like the Luke the Drifter music from Williams, and this song, his favorite by Jones. George Jones—a classic example of a song stylist with incredible phrasing—did some serious battles with the bottle, drugs, and his mental demons. The Possum, as he was often called, was born in Saratoga, Texas.
Why Me • Kris Kristofferson • Written by Kris Kristofferson
From the album Jesus was a Capricorn (1972)
Kris Kristofferson is right up there with Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, and Prince as one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of the 20th century. His influence and the songs he wrote that have been made into hits by other singers cannot be underestimated. He is one of Fran’s all-time favorites. Kristofferson was born in Brownsville, Texas in 1936. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Pamona College with a BA in Literature, he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, earning a postgraduate degree in English Literature along with recognition for boxing and rugby. This song is my favorite of his and is probably the most recognized one he kept for himself to sing.
Long Black Veil • Lefty Frizzel • Written by M. Wilkin & D. Dill
Released as a single only (1959)
This song—a departure from Frizzell’s usual honky-tonk sound—became an instant folk standard and has been covered many times from singers across so many genres—two of the most famous being Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen. In 2019, according to The Washington Post, Frizzell’s version of Long Black Veil was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Mama’s Broken Heart • Miranda Lambert • Written by B. Clark, S. McAnally & K. Musgraves
From the album Four the Record (2013)
Have I mentioned that women from Texas are strong and fierce? Well, let me say it again. And, Miranda is one of the best examples of this in the Neotraditional Country Music of today. This song was co-written by Kacey Musgraves, who sings another “strong Texas woman” song, The Trailer Song, also in this playlist. I think most women—especially those from Texas and the American South—at some point (or multiple points!) can relate to having their mom admonish them for letting their emotions get the best of them. But it sure is fun to go against that grain!
Crazy Arms • Ray Price • Written by C. Seals & R. Mooney
From the album For the Good Times (1970)
Ray Price is my all-time favorite country music singer. He was born in Perryville, Texas. He’s credited with moving Country Music from 2/4 to 4/4 time. Trust me, this is a big deal. Willie Nelson was in his band at the beginning of his career. He’s known for Western Swing, Honky Tonk, and finally The Nashville Sound (think “big production value” of country music from the 60s). His wife Janie Price along with his son from his first marriage, Cliff, keep his legacy alive and well today. I think he had the voice of an angel and he could’ve sung anything he ever wanted too. By the way, this is my favorite country music song of all time. It’s also a favorite of Fran’s. If you take us to a Texas dancehall and give us a beer—we might even sing it for you! Other famous people that recorded this song include Jerry Lee Lewis and Patsy Cline.
Texas (When I Die) • Tanya Tucker • Written by E. Bruce, P. Bruce & B. Borchers
From the album TNT (1978)
Tanya Tucker, from Seminole Texas, famously recorded Delta Dawn at the age of 13. And, she famously had a difficult relationship with Glen Campbell. She won her first Grammy in January 2020 for Bring My Flowers Now. But here’s Tanya at her best, in my opinion. I really love this song. I usually have it playing in my ears when I return to the Lone Star State on an airplane! It reached no. 5 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles Chart.
All of Me • Willie Nelson • Written by G. Marks & S. Simons
From the album Stardust (1978)
My Daddy loved Willie Nelson’s music. And, Stardust was one of his favorite albums. I remember it sitting apart from his other vinyl records when I was a little girl—because he played it so often. He liked the fact that Nelson had put his own spin on a handful of standards from the “great American songbook,” if you will. All of Me is my favorite song on the album. As my Daddy loved to say on the radio, “It just don’t get no better than that!” (Additional fun fact: See L.A. Freeway, also in this playlist. The Stardust album cover was painted by Susanna Clark.)
If I Could Make a Livin’ Drinkin‘ • Kevin Fowler • Written by B. Daniel, B. Kenney, B. & K. Fowler
From the album How Country Are Ya? (2014)
Kevin Fowler is as “current” Texas Country as you can get. He’s known for being a partier, and a beer drinker. He told Taste of Country: “ ‘We were just trying to write the Kevin Fowler song on the record.’ This witty and well-penned song definitely pulls that off, and he agrees, adding, ‘It sums up what I really wanted the record to be about.’” He’s one of Martin’s favorites.
Take Me Out to a Dancehall • Pat Green • Written by Pat Green
From the album Three Days (2001)
Sometimes, it takes me so long to come around to someone new—they’re usually just still new to me! This is true of Pat Green. I was late to the party—but I’m here now! He’s one of the older Texas Red Dirt guys. He’s got some game for sure. Oh, and he’s a 2017 Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame inductee. (I know this because Dr. Jim Heird—from Texas A&M, who’s the husband of our Dean at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Eleanor M. Green—was inducted in the same class.) This song is another favorite for Martin and I. Dancehalls are something we both grew up in—but we don’t get to them nearly often enough anymore. Nostalgia. *sigh*
River Song • Roger Creager • Written by Roger Creager & Trent Willmon
From the album Road Show (2014)
Another guy in the “new to me” category is Roger Creager. He’s my favorite of the Texas Country/Red Dirt artists. This song is about a beloved Texas tradition (Creager is an Aggie and they love their traditions)—floating a river. In fact, Creager welcomes fans every year for his birthday to float (in inner tubes) the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels (actually in Gruene). In July 2014, Creager and his fans attempted to break the record for the Largest Raft of Tubes or Rings in the Guinness Book of World Records!
London Homesick Blues (Home with the Armadillo) • Gary P. Nunn • Written by Gary P. Nunn
From the album Home with the Armadillo (Live at Austin City Limits) (2003)
Famously the “outro” for the Austin City Limits (ACL) television show, this song recounts a time when Nunn was in London and longing to come home. Gary P. Nunn is a mainstay in Austin and Texas singer-songwriter music circles and is set to retire within the next few years. This is a song by a Texas singer-songwriter that has also been recorded by another Texas singer-songwriter, Jerry Jeff Walker (see also L.A. Freeway, in this playlist). Jennie’s hook: See the story of Fran and ACL attached to Honky-Tonk (also in this playlist) in the Western Swing category.
L.A. Freeway • Guy Clark • Written by Guy Clark
From the album Old No. 1 (1975)
This song makes the cut because it has special meaning to the story of Martin and I. Our favorite, Roger Creager, does a great cover of this song. And, well, Martin has this thing where he gets lyrics wrong and then I correct him and he says I’ve ruined the song for him (jokingly). The chorus of this song is “If I could just get off of this L.A. Freeway without getting killed or caught…” Martin sang “killed at all” for years. Personal connections aside, Guy Clark and his wife Susanna were the grand duke and duchess of the Texas-Nashville Songwriting Movement of the 70s that gave birth to Outlaw Country. Some of her paintings grace the covers of albums from stars of the day—like Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson. She also wrote songs with their close friend Townes Van Zandt (see Pancho & Lefty, also in this playlist), who was the best man at Guy and Susanna’s wedding. Jerry Jeff Walker (see Mr. Bojangles, also in this playlist), who recorded L.A. Freeway first in 1972, before Clark recorded his own song, sang many songs by written by both of the Clarks. Guy sings his wife’s name in the lyrics of this song, in addition to the name of their friend “Skinny Dennis” Sanchez. One of my mom’s favorite songs was Homegrown Tomatoes by Guy Clark.
Mr. Bojangles • Jerry Jeff Walker • Written by Jerry Jeff Walker
From the album Mr. Bojangles (1968)
This song is one of the most evocative and history-making songs on this playlist. Written and recorded by legendary Texas singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker, it has been recorded by a long, long list of people in multiple genres—most notably by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1970 and later, Sammy Davis, Jr. who famously performed it live and on television. Walker says that the song is based on an experience in a New Orleans jail in 1965, where he met a black homeless man who used the name to evade the police. During that night in jail, the man tells a story about his dog and then does an impromptu tap dance to lighten the mood. Jennie’s hook: I’ve been sorely mistaken all these years. I truly thought this song was written by John Hartford (who wrote Gentle on My Mind). I guess an old Lamb can learn new tricks!
The Trailer Song • Kacey Musgraves • Written by B. Clark, S. McAnally, and K. Musgraves
From the album Same Trailer, Different Park (2014)
This is technically the second song for Musgraves in the playlist. She co-wrote (also with Clark and McAnally) Miranda Lambert’s Mama’s Broken Heart—and sang backing vocals for it. This song is really written from that same place of a Texas girl who’s just had enough—but this time at the hand of her nosy b—- of a neighbor in the trailer park. Good, good stuff!
Motor City Man—Live • Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison • Written by Walter Hyatt
From the Album Texas Music Scene Live Vol. I (2015)
Kelly and Bruce are married with four children—and they are as Austin as it gets! This song is originally from their second album together called Our Year. Martin and I played the CD at least a hundred times on one of our road trips, after picking it up at a show Kelly and Bruce played in Millican, TX—just down the road from our house. Want to know more? Check out Bruce’s story about the song…
Just Outside of Austin • Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real • Written by Lucas Nelson
From the album Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (2017)
What a very sweet-sounding, folksy song! And, has anyone looked and sounded more like their dad since Jacob Dylan or Julian Lennon than Lukas Nelson does? No, I don’t think they have. Legacies—he’s got one to be the keeper of, alongside his siblings, to be sure. But he’s also got his own art to be true to and that’s evident in the way he writes and sings. I went looking for more contemporary Austin music (I joke that I don’t listen to music made after 1995 if I can help it!) and stumbled upon this gem. I’m glad I did.
That’s Right (You’re Not from Texas)—Live • Lyle Lovett • Written by L. Lovett, W.A. Ramsey & A. Rogers
From the album The Best of Lyle Lovett—Live (2015)
I’ve always loved Lyle Lovett—even if he is an Aggie. He’s a cool cat and may not seem very Texan to you—but trust me—he’s the real deal! Texans take their clothes seriously. And, we will call you on it if you’re wearing your cowboy duds wrong. Oh, and listen closely to the lines about the boys from Carolina that they “showed how to swing.” Motor City Man (also in the playlist) was written by “Uncle Walt” Hyatt!
Just Call Me Lonesome • Radney Foster • Written by G. Ducas & R. Foster
From the album Del Rio, TX 1959
Originally half of the country duo Foster & Lloyd, Radney Foster was born in Del Rio, TX in 1959. This was his first hit off of his first solo album. And, it debuted the year Martin and I graduated from high school—1992. Singer-songwriters understand the importance of a legacy. That he named his debut solo album after when and where he was born—well that just makes him my kind of guy.
The Road Intro + The Road Goes on Forever (Live) • Robert Earl Keen • Written by Robert Earl Keen
From the album Best (2007)
Okay, let me just say that I hate that these are separate tracks, because that means you might not hear them one after the other, as you should. Oh well. That’s another reason for this blog and I guess it means there’s technically 51 tracks on the playlist. Keen is an Aggie—through and through. In fact, he roomed with his good buddy and fellow Texas singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett when they were students at Texas A&M (where I have been employed for the last 21 years). Singer-songwriters are storytellers, and in IABC, we love storytellers. Well, the intro to the song is a really great story about Keen going to the second ever Willie Nelson picnic. Also, he mentions that Joe Ely (who I wish had made it to the playlist, but there’s just so little time, and so much music!) and the Highwaymen had covered this, his most famous song. In Aggieland, this song is always played at weddings and dances and like the title, the song goes on forever. My dad and Fran moved to College Station before me and this song is one that my dad introduced me to so that I could begin to understand what music in Aggieland is all about. It’s not Austin, not buy a long shot. But it is so Texas and Keen is so special to Martin and me, that this song just had to make the cut. I think REK is the Guy Clark of my generation. Fran looks at me funny, rolls her eyes and says, “Ooooohhhhkaaaayyy. I guess you can think that,” when I say it. Anyway, you should check out his Americana podcast. I just love the guy—even if he is an Aggie.
I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried • Rodney Crowell • Written by Rodney Crowell
From the album Diamonds & Dirt (1988)
Talk about a pedigree—Crowell has it. He was married to Rosann Cash—daughter of Johnny Cash. He was a protégé of Guy Clark. And he’s from Houston Texas. He is just one of those amazing Texas singer-songwriters of the “second wave” and I love him lots. He’s also one of Fran’s favorites.
Sunny Came Home • Shawn Colvin • Written by Shawn Colvin
From the album A Few Small Repairs (1996)
Music from my college days—who knew she was from right there in my hometown! Colvin appears again in the playlist (see Faded Love with Asleep at the Wheel and Lyle Lovett). This song made Colvin a household name and earned her a Grammy for Song and Record of the Year. Makes a gal nostalgic for the years of Lilith Fair and cool, folk-rock women dominating the airwaves!
Who Will Go • Steve Fromholz • Written by Steve Fromholz
From the album Fathers of Texas (2001)
John Harris (of IABC Houston/Austin/Southern Region fame) and I recently struck up a little back and forth that turned into a discussion of Steve Fromholz and his Texas Trilogy songs. Fromholz was a little more on the folk side of the equation and so my family hadn’t been all that into him. But I enjoyed his performances in a couple of plays I saw in the 90s. He played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and a barkeep in a story I can’t remember the name of at The Paramount. John remembers him fondly from festivals and small shows. The only version of the Texas Trilogy songs on Spotify is Lyle Lovett’s covers—and I didn’t want this playlist to become the Lyle Lovett show. So, I found the only song I could by Fromholz on Spotify and included it. That’s cool though since I didn’t know about this album previously. It’s a series of songs by Texas singer-songwriters about the fight for Texas Independence and something I’ll be researching more as time allows. In the meantime, if you want to talk Austin music, talk to John Harris—cause he gets it, too!
Poncho & Lefty • Townes Van Zandt • Written by towns Van Zandt
From the album The Late Great Townes Van Zandt (1972)
You may know the song famously covered by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Well, they found it from Emmylou Harris’ cover. But she got it straight from one of the greatest singer-songwriters in the history of the world—Townes Van Zandt. Sometimes, the people who make the greatest music—or any kind of art—are the ones who fight the greatest battles against mental demons and addictions. Van Zandt definitely had more than his share of these issues and they ultimately killed him. His legacy and influence, though, are tremendous and far-reaching, and not just in Texas singer-songwriter circles. I’ve only scratched the surface of what you should learn about the man but here’s the best bit—one of his all-time biggest fans is Bob Dylan! Here’s a great moment of Van Zandt doing his famous song from a documentary called Heartworn Highways.
Margarita • Little Joe Y La Familia • Written by
From the album
Little Joe has said that he was influenced by Beto Villa—the originator of the “Orquesta Tejana,” a style of Texan-Mexican music that relies on trumpets and saxophones. It was the music of the middle-class Mexican-Americans in Texas—the Tejanos. (Conjunto, more closely associated with the poorer Mexican-Americans in Texas, on the other hand, relies on accordions and, is the link between the music of the early German and Mexican immigrants that both made Texas their home. I took some college credit hours in the summer before my senior year in high school and I wrote a paper that examined this. But I digress…) He grew up in a large family which was the only non-Black family in his neighborhood. He heard Black artists all day and at home it was the three Hanks—Williams, Sr., Thompson, and Snow. He has said that he loves jazz and would have preferred to have been a jazz musician. My dad made sure I knew his music as I grew up. He’s an icon in Austin and Texas—a legend in Tejano Music.
Tú Robaste Mi Corazón • Selena y los Dinos feat. Emilio Nav • Written by A.B. Quintanilla III & R. Vela
From the album Selena Live (1993)
If you don’t know who Selena is, do some research and find out. She is the “Queen of Tejano,” sometimes called the “Tejano Madonna,” and was an important influence on many of the women—in all genres—you are hearing in music today, including Beyoncé. Selena was taken from us way too soon—at the age of 23 in 1995—at the hand of her fan club president and friend. She was just about to make a cross over into singing pop songs in English. The film Selena tells the story of her life and starred Jennifer Lopez. Emilio made it big about the same time as Selena did and this is a duet they recorded, which was co-written by her brother A.B. Emilio Navaira was a Grammy award-winner who died in 2016. Their legacies in the Tejano music world are huge and while people in Texas still mourn them both, they continue to celebrate their music. In fact, the Quintanilla family has just announced plans for a big Selena 25 concert.
(Hey Baby) Que Paso • Texas Tornados • Written by A. Meyers & B. Sheffield
From the album Los Texas Tornados (1990)
This track is from their debut album—which was released in Spanish and English. Doug Sahm, Freddie Fender, Augie Meyers and Flaco Jiménez (known as the “Father of Conjunto”—he plays conjunto accordion) had all had successful careers before they came together in this configuration. Meyers had also been a member of Sahm’s Sir Douglas Quintet (see She’s About a Mover, also in this playlist). After the deaths of Fender and Sahm, the band continues on, with Shawn Sahm filling in for his dad. One of the first weekends Martin and I were together, we shocked his sons—and each other—be singing along with this song (the English version) from beginning to end. This is the Spanish version. Here’s a video the BBC made of the English version in 1992 at Gruene Hall near New Braunfels Texas.
Bidi Bidi Bom Bom • Miá • Written by S. Q. Perez & P. Astudillo
Bidi Bidi Bom Bom was originally just a soundcheck, nonsensical song that Selena and her band improvised. It is one of her signature songs and according to the musicologist Ilan Stavans, it marks the beginning of the dominance of Latin pop and is a bridge to the Tejano market. Martin says he’s always thought of the song as being about the giddy feeling you have when you first fall in love. I chose to include a cover of the song by a young Tejano star from Austin named Miá, who is the youngest person to win a Tejano Music Award. I think Selena would appreciate this since she started singing at a very young age herself.
Texas Blues/Boogie/Pop/Rock/Classic Rock
The House Is Rockin’ • Stevie Ray Vaughan • Written by D. Bramhall & S.R. Vaughan
From the album In Step (1989)
Stevie Ray Vaughan is one of Austin’s favorite sons, taken from us way too soon due to a tragic plane accident. But before he died, he kicked his drug habit and did a great album with his older brother Jimmy Vaughan—who influenced his guitar aspirations and was a member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds (see Tuff Enuff, also in this playlist). This track is quintessential Texas rock!
Tuff Enuff • The Fabulous Thunderbirds • Written by Kim Wilson (lead singer)
From the album Tuff Enuff (1986)
Produced by the legendary Dave Edmunds, this was the album in the mid-80s that put this Austin band on the map. Rock, rockabilly, old-time rock ‘n roll—my grandmother would call it “boogie-woogie!” Kim Wilson understands lyrics and style—and Jimmy Vaughan understands how to find a guitar riff. The other awesome original song on this album is Wrap It Up.
La Grange (Live from Dallas) • ZZ Top • Written by B. Gibbons, D. Hill & F. Beard
From the album Tres Hombres (1973)
If you’re familiar with the film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, starring Dolly Parton and Bert Reynolds, then you know what this song is all about—a brothel on the outskirts of La Grange, which was called the “Chicken Ranch.” However, the first time ZZ Top (the band originated in Houston) played La Grange in La Grange was during the Fayette County Fair in 2015. An additional fun fact: The line “a-how-how-how-how,” famously sung by Gibbons at the beginning of the song, is quoted from legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker’s song Boom Boom, which was featured in the original Blues Brothers movie! Music trivia? I’ve got it!
Song of Lime Juice and Despair • Shinyribs • Written by Kevin Russel (lead singer/bandleader)
From the album Texas Music Scene Live Vol. I (2015)
Again, while looking for contemporary Austin music, I came across this rocking little number! This is everything that live Austin—and Americana music—should be. It is a mash-up of Cajun, big band, swing, jazz, conjunto—and there’s even some yodeling! It makes me smile and remember “big” bands like Balcones Fault and Beto and the Fairlanes that came out of the 70s Austin music scene.
Dreams Come True • Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton & Angela Strehli • Written by Marcia Ball
From the album Dreams Come True (1990)
From the 70s through the 90s, a lot of great Texas and Austin blues artists did a lot of their gigs at Antone’s. Three of the hottest blues singers that performed regularly at the club during that heyday were Ball, Barton, and Strehli. This album came out in 1990. My dad bought it for me on cassette tape and I wore it out. Later, I bought it on CD and wore that out. Then I bought it on iTunes, and now I can enjoy it on Spotify. Good music never dies.
Phenomenal Woman • Ruthie Foster • Written by Maya Angelou (lyrics from the poem) & Laura Mvula
From the album Ruthie Foster Live at Antone’s (2011)
Ruthie Foster is from Gause Texas, which a little to the west of Hearne, which is a little to the north of Bryan/College Station. She is a blues, folk, and gospel singer from a family of gospel singers and a true Texas original. This song is word for word the 1995 poem from the amazing Maya Angelou. I heard Foster sing this song with just her guitar at the 2017 Texas Women’s Conference.
Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) • Beyoncé • Written by B. Knowles, C. Stewart, T. Nash & T. Harrell
From the album “I am…Sasha Fierce” (2008)
Women from Texas are known for being strong. Queen Bey. “Sasha Fierce!” She’s from Texas. Enough said.
Good as Hell • Lizzo • Written by Melissa Jefferson (Lizzo’s birth name) & Eric Frederic
From the EP Coconut Oil (2016)
Lizzo may have just made it big, but she’s been doing her body-positive, fabulous, flute playing, marching band groove for a lot longer than we realize. She grew up in Houston, attended Alief Elisk High School, and the University of Houston, where she studied classical music and concentrated on the flute. She’s tired of the BS and she’s letting women know they should be tired of it too. Time named her “Entertainer of the Year” for 2019. She made a big splash at the 2019 MTV Music Video Awards. And, she made her Saturday Night Live debut on Dec. 21, 2019, alongside Eddie Murphy’s return.
Piece of My Heart • Janis Joplin • Written by Jerry Ragavoy
From the album Cheap Thrills by Big Brother & the Holding Company feat. Janis Joplin
If I was going to pick my favorite Janis Joplin tune, I’d pick Me & Bobby McGee (written by the incredible Kris Kristofferson), which was my mom’s favorite. However, Joplin’s version wasn’t released until her posthumous album Pearl debuted. Some years prior to her days in California, at what would be the end of her life, she spent some time in Austin—going to UT, hanging out and singing at Threadgill’s (the original location in North Austin on Burnet Road). This tune—probably her second most recognized song—is from an earlier point in her career and seemed more appropriate for this playlist.
She’s About a Mover • Sir Douglas Quintet • Written by Doug Sahm
From the album Mendocino (1969)
This song has an awful lot of history that isn’t personal to me—and even more, that is. So, that’s what I’ll concentrate on here. My mom knew Doug Sahm (aka “Sir Douglas”) from the Austin music scene in the 70s—which she experienced with my father when they first moved to Texas. However, she remembered this song and how her oldest sister, Rita, had really loved it. Alvin Crow (see Dynamite Diana, also in the playlist) had been a later member of the Sir Douglas Quintet and is one of the keepers of the Doug Sahm legacy today—in addition to the surviving Texas Tornados (see Hey Baby, Que Paso, also in the playlist) now fronted by his son, Shawn Sahm. When I was in college at UT, I took the “History of Rock & Roll Music” as an elective, and She’s About a Mover was one of the featured songs. It was also famously on the jukebox at Texicall Grille—a restaurant haunt of my friends and family in South Austin, known for its queso fries and incredible owner, the late, great, and so very missed, Danny Young. The Austin of my youth is full of amazing and colorful characters—and this song makes me think of all of them. Oh, and it’s a sound affectionately referred to as “Tex-Mex”—so you know it’s got to be good!
You’re Gonna Miss Me (2008 Remastered Original Mono LP Verson) • 13th Floor Elevators • Written by Roky Erickson
From the album The Psychedelic Sound of the 13th Floor Elevators (2010)
So, you know how Janis Joplin spent some time in Austin before she made her way further west? Well, Roky Erickson and his band, the 13th Floor Elevators, were one of the reasons she came to town. She totally dug their vibe. And, she was influenced by Roky’s screaming/singing style. Oh, talk about an Austin character! Rocky was one. He has a rich legacy in my hometown. He was in the same age group as my parents and some of them (the collective village that raised Chanel and me) knew him from when they were growing up. Roky did a lot of drugs and fought a lot of mental demons in his 71 years. He tripped on his psychedelic rainbow and went home to Jesus on May 31, 2019, and he is very, very missed in Austin. Alvin Crow (see Dynamite Diana, also in the playlist) often plays this song at his gigs.
Big Ball’s in Cowtown • Asleep at the Wheel feat. George Strait • Written by Hoyle Nix
From the album Strait Out of the Box (1995)
When I was a young girl, I really thought Big Ball’s in Cowtown was about driving bulls (with their male anatomy, ahem) through the Fort Worth Stockyards. Turns out, it’s about a big old dance and how it might get a little rowdy in town that night. A classic Western Swing tune made famous by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys—as almost all Western Swing songs were. This combo is a match made in heaven for Martin and I—George Strait and Asleep at the Wheel. Classic!
Bob Wills Is Still the King • Asleep at The Wheel feat. Shooter Jennings, Randy Rogers, & Reckless Kelly • Written by Waylon Jennings
From the album Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (2015)
Martin and I love Waylon Jennings. Because if you don’t like Waylon, you’re wrong. Seriously. This song totally sums up just how important Bob Wills is in Texas. And to hear it sung by the, OMG, like the third wave of Outlaw Country, well, it’s pretty awesome. Especially how Shooter Jennings sounds like his dad at the beginning…
Faded Love • Asleep at The Wheel feat. Shawn Colvin & Lyle Lovett • Written by B. Wills, J. Wills, & B.J. Wills
From the album Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (2015)
Faded Love is the national anthem of Texas. And this is a really great version sung by people you wouldn’t normally think of singing a Western Swing classic ballad. But they do a really great job. This song has been covered by many, many artists.
I Lie When I Drink • Dale Watson • Written by Dale Watson
From the album El Rancho Azul (2013)
Dale Watson is a transplant from Alabama, but he’s made Austin his home. He’s the father of the new “Ameripolitan” genre. He also, god bless him, saved Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon. That alone earned my respect. This song is pure honky-tonk and a just little ridiculous. And that’s why it’s an Austin Classic!
Ida Red • Hot Club of Cowtown • Traditional Arrangement, author unknown
From the album The Best of the Hot Club of Cowtown (2008)
Who would have thought that we could find and love a band that plays Western Swing after Daddy died? Well, that band is the three-piece know as The Hot Club of Cowtown. They are so, so good, and Ida Red is a Western Swing classic that they do so, so well.
Jackpot • The Derailers • T. Villanueva & B. Hofeldt
From the album Jackpot (1996)
Originally from Oregon, Villanueva and Hofeldt came to Austin in the 90s and starting doing hardcore, old school country with a lot of twang—think Buck Owens and his harmonies with Don Rich. Good, good stuff. And really nice guys! Before he quit and moved back to Oregon to be a pastor and spend more time with his family, Villaneuva gave me an interview while I was in J school. Those were the days. Hofeldt and others are going strong and The Derailers are still alive and well in Austin.
Dynamite Diana • Alvin Crow • Written by Para Alvin Crow
From the album Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys (also known as The Blue Album) (1975)
I’ve talked about Alvin a little—in the intro and in the entry for She’s About A Mover, also in this playlist. But words fail me when I try to convey just how much this man, his music, and all of the people he’s shared a stage with, mean to my family. So, here’s some random things… one of my first memories is licking envelopes for a mailout that my parents did as the presidents of his fan club back in the day. I’m positive I learned how to dance to an Alvin Crow song at The Broken Spoke. I remember how much my dad loved Wishing for You, but how I thought West Texas Wind was better. I remember us being so excited to see him in a Blue Bell Ice Cream commercial where he said, “We eat all we can and we sell the rest.” I remember how Chanel was a little tipsy and made up a song about how much she loved to listen to Alvin “play his fiddle like no one else can in the world.” I remember how I begged for a black, satin Broken Spoke jacket and Fran and Daddy gave me one with my name embroidered on it for Christmas one year. I remember my dad getting up on stage with a plastic crab mask on his face and singing the D.K. Little number Shrimp Boat. I remember Fran getting up on stage to sing Act Naturally. I remember talking with David Walter, kidding around with “my older brother” Don Green, dancing with Ralph Cain, thinking Rick Crow was so different than his brother Alvin, trying to learn how to play the guitar from Michele Murphy, making an X with my arms over my chest when Johnny X would play Johnny Be Goode, and doing the Cotton-eyed Joe and the Schottische with Fran and Chanel on either side of me and Daddy on the end. I remember the four of us playing a word association game on a road trip. Someone said, “cows,” someone said “bovine,” and then Daddy said “Alvin Crow”—and then told us about how Alvin had been in a movie called Cows. I remember Alvin made an album called the White Trash Opera, about Pampa Texas, and he had Daddy do an intro as if he was the local DJ. And, I remember so much more. Most of all, I remember growing up listening to Alvin Crow at The Broken Spoke in Austin Texas.
Honky-Tonk (Live/Remastered) • Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown • Written by
From the album Live from Austin Texas (Remastered) (2019)
My grandfather loved to go out and dance. I remember a photo that my father took of him with Brown when they once went to see him perform in Austin. This track is from a performance at Austin City Limits—back in the days when it was still filmed at the KLRU studios on the UT campus at the corner of Guadalupe (known as “The Drag” in that stretch) and 26th Street (now renamed Dean Keeton) in what we called the “rusty building.” Later on, Fran would work there in the Office of the Dean at the College of Communication. Part of her job was to send letters to the university president’s office to get the Lone Star beer served at every taping approved! And then, I attended classes there while in J School. Here’s a video of the song from that performance.
Boogie Back to Texas (Live) • Asleep at The Wheel • Written by Ray Benson (bandleader/lead singer)
From the album Ten (1987)
“Western Swing isn’t dead—it’s just Asleep at the Wheel!” Every time Martin and I return to Texas at the end of a road trip, we play this song as we cross the state line. And, one of my good friends at work, Warren, plays classic western swing piano that’s inspired by Floyd Domino, who played with Asleep at the Wheel early in the history of the band. This song is everything that’s cool about Austin and Texas Music for me. And, it’s always a great reason to head to Austin—my hometown.