Category Archives: Texas

Who Will Fill the Shoes of “The King of Country”?

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 8.36.02 PMOver the weekend, I made a trip to Friendswood, TX, where I was born and raised just south of Houston. Like I usually do on my drive home, I pressed shuffle on my Spotify “country faves” and listened to my favorite songs that have accumulated over time in one playlist. The majority of my playlist is so-called Texas Country songs, including artists like Cody Johnson, Randy Rogers, Aaron Watson, and Cory Morrow. Side note – I absolutely love love love those guys and respect their passion in staying true to traditional country music, staying away from the mainstream vibe that most artists tend to evolve into.

Now back to my drive, I listened to all 109 songs in my country playlist and finally made it home.
My love for country music is definitely a result of my parents, who mostly only listen to country music, with the occasional pop hit that my 12-year-old brother likes to interrupt them with. My mom is from Dallas and spent her younger years dancing the night away at country saloons, and my dad is from Tennessee, where he quite literally has never listened to anything other than country radio. Thankfully I love country for my own reasons, but they definitely had something to do with how I started listening to the genre in the first place.

Ace-in-the-Hole-Band-with-George-Strait-Debut-at-Cheatham-Street-Warehouse-10-13-75.-Courtesy-of-Terry-Hale.1-1024x682One night while I was home, we went to dinner at our favorite Cajun restaurant to have some crawfish and beer with some family friends. Of course, the moms had a few too many and ended up on a tangent about their memories of their absolute favorite country artists, George Strait, from when he was just starting out. They talked about how much of a “heart-throb” he was, and how they would give anything in the world to meet him. My mom also reminded me of how close she’s been to him for he 100th time when he was a part of Ace in the Hole Band, “I touched George Strait’s Boot!!!! He should know me!!!” It is safe to say that like most women in their late 40’s, George Strait was her first love and to this day she would probably pass out if she could give him a hug. I don’t really know how to explain how deep her love is for him… hopefully sharing that she actually cried during his entire Cowboy Rides Away tour gives an idea.

All of the talk about George Strait’s younger days had me thinking about the guys I listen to at small concerts all over Texas, much like my mom and her friends did when George was just starting out. I can’t help but wonder if any of my favorite Texas country artists will end up being as legendary as The King himself one day. The first person that comes to mind is my all time favorite, Cody Johnson. Like George, his music strays away from mainstream and he hopes to keep traditional country in country music. Some of my favorites are Diamond In My Pocket and Ride With Me, which remind me so much of some of George Strait’s classics, like Write This Down and Blue Clear Sky.

51-atxl1While I believe in Cody and other Texas country artists’ potential to be huge one day, it doesn’t really seem possible to have 60 number 1 hits, more than any other artists in the country genre, which makes George Strait “The King”. Everyone knows who George Strait is, whether they listen to country or not. He is an icon to the country music industry and while a girl can dream, I’m not really sure that anyone has big enough feet to fill the shoes of the King of Country! George Strait’s success is what every country artist dreams of, and I hope to see one of my favorites work as hard as he did to achieve that and reach the top one-day.



Filed under Blog Post 2, George Strait, Texas

The Texas Groover

Doug Sahm

“You just can’t live in Texas if you don’t have a lot of soul.”-Doug Sahm

The first time I ever heard the music of Doug Sahm it was on a box set of one hit wonders of 60’s garage rock. It featured a hit from his band, The Sir Douglas Quintet. I would only find out years later that the genre busting career of Sir Doug could not be described in the allotted 2:25 seconds given to him on that box set.

Doug Sahm meeting Hank Williams at age 11

Doug Sahm (1941-1999) was a multi-instrumentalist/recording artist from San Antonio. He was drawn to music at a young age and quickly became a steel guitar prodigy.

On December 19, 1952, at eleven years old, he played on stage with Hank Williams Sr. at the Skyline Club in Austin in what would be Hank’s last show before his death two weeks later.

Next, the Grand Ole Opry offered Doug Sahm a spot, but his mother refused to let him go, wanting him to finish school instead. Doug continued to play clubs in Texas and in 1965, started his first successful band, The Sir Douglas Quintet. This mostly rock band came up with their name in an attempt to capitalize on the British Invasion despite their thick Texan accents and the fact that two of them were Hispanic. Their top hit, “She’s About a Mover” reached the U.S. Top 20.

Doug Sahm went solo in 1972 and released his first album Doug Sahm & Band in 1973, featuring many members of the Sir Douglas Quintet along with Bob Dylan, Dr. John, and the accordion playing Flaco Jimenez, “the father of Conjunto music”. In the 70’s and 80’s, Sahm went on several tours of the U.S. and Europe, gaining a significant following in Scandinavia.

He started the Tex-Mex super group, The Texas Tornados in 1989 with Augie Meyers, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jimenez. Their music mostly featured the country music of Texas and Northern Mexico. They won a Grammy for their first album Texas Tornados which hit #25 on the U.S. Country album charts.

Throughout his career, Doug Sahm also played on other people’s work, most notably appearing on Grateful Dead, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt albums.

On November 18, 1999, Doug Sahm died of a heart attack in New Mexico. Although this was a heavy loss, his band mates eventually reformed the Texas Tornados adding Doug’s son, Shawn as a member.

sahm-big-red-lonestar1The thing that draws me to Doug Sahm is his ability to create music that is in my point of view authentic while still being able to cross over genres consistently. He started out playing country as a kid and later adopted rhythm & blues, rock, and Tex-Mex eventually blending them all in his work. He said himself, “I’m a part of Willie Nelson’s world and at the same time I’m a part of the Grateful Dead’s.”

I personally discovered each of these phases separately. I heard the tejano rock of “She’s About a Mover” in middle school when I still mostly listened to rock music. I remember starting to listen to his more country oriented solo work when my friends and I were moving into our apartments in college. After a long day of moving in the August heat, we all collapsed on a couch and listened to Doug Sahm & Band. The next summer, at the end of a road trip to North Carolina one of my friends blasted a Texas Tornados album from the car outside of a run down carwash in Durham. We were exhausted from days of driving but as the last notes of “Una Mas Cerveza” wafted through the air we were reminded that it was time to head back home to Texas.


Filed under Country Rock, Texas

Texas Country Above All Else

91-ogWhile many would argue that Nashville, Tennessee is the heart and home of country music, my heart and my home reside in Texas, home of Texas Country Music, the source of greats like George Strait, Eli Young Band, The Dixie Chicks, Jack Ingram, Willie Nelson, Miranda Lambert, Kenny Rodgers, and, one of my personal favorites, Pat Green.

In recent years, critics have labeled Pat Green a country music sellout, interested in becoming a “mainstream hit-maker.” Well the gray clouds are clearing, and Pat is finally returning to his Texas roots. In his first original album in six years, Green admits what many of his loyal fans have known for a while: going to mainstream Nashville was a mistake. In the song Home he writes, “I was blind to the game, I sang the wrong songs and disappeared for way too long, but I’ve finally found my way home.” Even the harshest of critics are coming around to the idea that Pat Green is authentically returning home to Texas.

pat-green-home-album-coverSo what does this mean? Why does this even matter? It matters because we all know  (well at least the right people know) that Texas Country is far better than “Mainstream” Nashville Country. Texas Country is about the artist and not just how many hits he or she can produce or how quickly he or she can do so. Travis Erwin of Wide Open Country writes:

Texas Country is driven by live performances and a fan base that is intimately familiar with their favorite artists. Many of the Texas acts tour 200 or more dates a year with at least half of these dates within the Lone Star State. This gives fans an opportunity to go out and listen to their favorites several times a year. The average mainstream fan is lucky to catch their favorite performer once a year live.

When many artists are beginning to fall into the realm of pop-country, it is Texas artists who are staying true to the Honky-Tonk and Care-free “Outlaw” music that country music originated with.

A year ago I was fortunate enough to attend a small wedding in which Pat Green performed. Seeing him live was amazing. You could really tell he wanted to be there. Although he did preform some of his not so famous songs, the crowd clearly perked up as soon as he began playing his Texas classics. It was amazing hearing him sing one of my favorite songs of his Baby Doll to the bride Annie. She is a die-hard fan of Pat herself. My favorite part of the whole evening was also the sweetest. After Pat was finished performing he called over the bride and groom and handed them the signed guitar he had played with that night. It was truly a night to remember. Overall as a loyal country fan, I am glad to have Pat Green back on our side and hope that maybe he has inspired some others to stray away from the country-pop scene and return back to the tradition and spirit that Texas country embodies.


Filed under Blog Post 3, Texas

Bringing Country Music to my Gap Year program

1900584_10203519477098312_238639626_oFreshman year, I chose a different path. I had an opportunity to participate in a Gap Year  in Israel. To date, Year Course has been the most extraordinary experience of my life. During the first few days we were divided into two sections. The resulting community has become very special and close to my heart. My section of Year Course was filled with about 60 young men and women from America and Europe. The vast majority of students in Section One were from the United States. Most of them were from Northern states. There were just a few people from the South and only four of us were from Texas.  Unfortunately, this resulted in an overwhelmingly large unawareness of country music.  Nevertheless, us four Texans love this music genre, and made up for our terribly deprived cohorts. From the beginning we took it upon ourselves to introduce our fellow Year Coursers to quality country music.

At first everyone thought it was cliché that the Texans loved listening to country music. We were even ridiculed. But, the other Year Coursers quickly learned that country music is truly exceptional. The three other Texans in my section have become some of my best friends. They are the guys who lived one door down from me. I still have fond memories of them blasting a few of our favorites, Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton and Zac Brown Band. After a month of getting use to us, the other people in our building learned to enjoy the country music genre. By the end of the year, listening to country music and identifying with Texas became so admired that putting up the Hook’em sign became one of the most popular poses to make in pictures!
10411268_10203908759670133_2850066468215826711_n (1)One of the people who made fun of us Texans the most for our stereotypical taste in music was our counselor Josh. He is from Liverpool and thinks he knows a bit about music.  His attitude changed the day we introduced him to “Chicken Fried” by  the Zac Brown Band. Josh was hooked. This song became one of our Year Course anthems. We would turn it up so loudly that the entire apartment complex could hear it. Even the Brits would gather in the hallways to belt out the words!  This song truly united us as a group. Even today, every time us four Texans are together when “Chicken Fried” comes on, we will send Josh snap chat videos of us singing along.  He always replies with a smile. (Skip 0:53 into the video for beginning of the song)

PROJECTS-Rodeo-Houston-2Another example of sharing my love of country music with my new friends in Israel was when I would talk about the Houston Rodeo. “Not only is it the biggest rodeo in the world,” I would tell them, “But it’s the most fun month of the year!” Some people legitimately laughed out loud when they heard this crazy Texan talking about a Rodeo. They couldn’t believe such things existed outside of movies and television shows. But once I showed them pictures and explained the whole concept of the rodeo and the country music concerts, people became interested. A few of my friends even told me that they want to come visit me in Houston during the month of March just to attend this incredible event. Overall, I know that my Year Course community  grew closer due to the country music my friends and I shared with them. Although the country music genre is broad, at least one song brought us together and left us with memories that will last a lifetime.471374_1280x720


Filed under Blog Post 1, Music Videos, Rodeo, Texas

Houston: Large City, Tight Community

When growing up, I never would have considered Houston a community. It has a population of over two million and contains several school districts. In fact, I just met someone my age who said she grew up in Houston and went to the same community center and recreational center that I went to almost every week. However, whenever I leave the city, more so when I leave the state, I bond more closely with people from Houston. We bond over our shared favorite local restaurants and sports teams, and an irrational, yet fairly strong, dislike for Dallas. Houston’s culture may contribute to this. Houston has all the perks of the big city, but with the charm of a Texan town. Yes, we have professional sports and big businesses and too much pollution, but many of our “city things” are infused with a Texas flavor. Saltgrass Steakhouse and Rudy’s Barbecue are perfect examples of Texas chains. They look like classic barbecue or steakhouses; there are just more than two of them. When I came to college, I met so many new people that I almost subconsciously gravitated towards people from Houston. Though I think this happened coincidentally, some of my closest friends at UT right now are from my hometown. Once we established ourselves as the “Houston group”, we bonded with other Texas cliques with our love for country music. Our love for country music does not separate us from other people; it brings us closer to the different groups of people on campus.

Maybe the thing that differentiates us from the other groups is which kind of country music we enjoy. We regularly listen to Zac Brown, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Dierks Bentley. We think of it as a nice blend of old and new, but not too new. I am not a fan of Florida Georgia Line or Sam Hunt. Hunt is talented, but his music just does not sound like the country music I fell in love with. He also talks too much in his songs. When we go somewhere and they claim to play country music but “Breakup In a Small Town” by Sam Hunt comes on, this makes me long for the days of Strait and Jackson. From what I have seen, the Dallas group listens to more old Kenny Rogers and Conway Twitty and the Austin group listens to the current music. This is a sweeping generalization and based only on a small sample size, but these are just my experiences.

I did not mean to sound snobby or imply that Sam Hunt plays bad music. I just wanted to clarify the difference in country music taste between my Houston based group and some of the other groups at UT. We listen to contemporary country music as long as it still has similarities with the music of the 90’s. Sure, Zac Brown Band and Dierks Bentley have different styles than do Alan Jackson and George Strait, but their styles are closer to the classics than are Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt. Florida Georgia Line just does not sound good to me.

I think coming to the University of Texas forced me to identify more as a Houstonian than ever before. When I lived in Houston, I found smaller groups to shrink the crowd, but now Houston is the smaller group. We love country music in Houston, and my Houston friends at UT love country music just the same.


Filed under Blog Post 1, Class work, Texas