Music of Texas

From Academic Kids

Template:USstatesmusic Texas has long been a center for musical innovation. Texans have pioneered musical developments in Tex Mex and Tejano music, punk rock, mariachi, country music and the blues. Famous Texan musicians and groups include Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Lyle Lovett, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Selena Quintanilla, and ZZ Top.


Country music

Texan honky tonk country musicians like Alvin Crow and Bob Wills helped invent Western swing and other genres of country. Some, like Marcia Ball, combine country with Cajun influences. The first popular Texan country song was "I'm Walking the Floor Over You" by Ernest Tubbs, a song which set the stage for the rise of stars like Lefty Frizell, Johnny Horton and George Jones.

Ponty Bone, Joe Ely, Lloyd Maines, Butch Hancock, Terry Allen, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Tommy Hancock, among others, helped invent the 1960s Lubbock sound, based out of Lubbock, Texas. Outlaw country was another offshoot that had roots in Texas, with Texans like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson leading the movement, ably supported by writers like Billy Joe Shaver. It was this scene, based out of Austin, that inspired performers like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, whose poetic narratives owed much to the folk tradition and who proved enormously influential on such artists as Nanci Griffith and Steve Earle as part of the later alternative country scene.

Tex Ritter and Jim Reeves both grew up in Panola County in East Texas.

Modern musicians like George Strait continue to carry on the tradition of country music in Texas. (Strait is a graduate of Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas).

Within country music, the works of singers such as Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, Cory Morrow and others are often dubbed "Texas music". Brian Burns, a product of Central Texas, sometimes called The Last True Texas Troubador, has achieved note especially through his historical ballads about Texas.

Texas blues

Main article: Texas blues

The blues originated in the Mississippi Delta and had spread to Texas by the beginning of the 20th century. African American workers at lumber camps, oilfields and other locations loved the music, and avidly attended local performances. When the Great Depression hit, many of these musicians moved to cities like Houston and Galveston, where they created a style known as Texas blues. Blind Lemon Jefferson was the first major artist of the field, and he was followed by legends like Blind Willie Johnson and Big Mama Thornton. By the 1970s, Texas blues had lost its popularity, but was revived by the blues rock stylings of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, who set the stage for the 80s revival led by Stevie Ray Vaughan.


The first major Texan musical star was Buddy Holly, a very famous rock and roll musician from the 1950s. He was followed by Bobby Fuller and rockabilly star Ronnie Dawson. In the next decade, Doug Sahm's Sir Douglas Quintet released several innovative performings, as did psychedelic rock underground legends 13th Floor Elevators, led by Roky Erickson. More recently, Texas, especially the city of Austin, has produced garage rock, punk and indie rock bands like Lift to Experience, Butthole Surfers and The Mars Volta.

Punk rock

Texas has long had a distinctive punk rock sound spread across copious cities, especially Austin and Dallas. Austin in particular was considered a significant punk city; major venues there in the late '70s-early '80s included the Continental Club on south Congress and the (now defunct) Club Foot on Guadalupe. Later punk group Bowling for Soup was also formed in Wichita Falls.

Alternative rock

Several alternative rock bands from Texas also reached a level of popularity during the late 1980s and early 1990s. These included bands like Toadies (whose biggest hit, Possum Kingdom, was named for a lake west of Dallas) and Tripping Daisy.


Ragtime composer, Scott Joplin, was born in 1868 near Texarkana.

Sacred or Religious Music

Sacred Music has a long tradition in the state of Texas. The East Texas Musical Convention was organized in 1855, and is the oldest Sacred Harp convention in Texas, and the second oldest the United States. The Southwest Texas Sacred Harp Convention was organized in 1900.

Sacred Harp and other books in four shape notation were the forerunners of seven shape note gospel music. According to the Handbook of Texas, "The first Texas community singing using the seven shape note tradition reportedly occurred in the latter part of December 1879. Itinerant teachers representing the A. J. Showalter Company of Dalton, Georgia -- including company founder A. J. Showalter -- ventured west to Giddings in East Texas and conducted a rural music school that lasted for several weeks." Texas has been home to several gospel music convention publishers, including the National Music Company, Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company (founded in 1924 by V. O. Stamps, who later partnered with J. R. Baxter), and the Stamps Quartet Music Company (founded by Frank Stamps). Convention gospel music and community singings still occur in a number of Texas towns, including Mineral Wells, Brownfield, Jacksonville, Seymour, and Stephenville.

Tex Mex and Tejano

Tex Mex and Tejano music was invented by Mexican communities in Texas in the early part of the 20th century. Santiago Almeida, Flaco Jimenez, and Narciso Martinez remain perhaps the most influential performers; they helped to invent conjunto, an accordion-based style. The most popular was the superstar Selena Quintanilla, who added influences from Colombian cumbia before her early death.



Austin, Texas's liberal community helped popularize bands like The Police and Elvis Costello in the American midwest. Tex-Mex/New Wave act Joe King Carrasco & the Crowns gained some national fame. Local punk and New Wave bands in the late 1970s included The Huns and The Skunks, along with The Textones, Terminal Mind, The Violators, The Delinquents, D-Day, Delta, The Next and Standing Waves. These bands soon clashed with an influx of hardcore punk bands like Sharon Tate's Baby, The Dicks, The Offenders, The Inserts, Big Boys and MDC Stains.

Austin, especially through its central music scene on Sixth Street, has been dubbed The Live Music Capital of the World. The Tejano Artist Music Museum and Texas Music Hall of Fame are also located here. The Austin/Georgetown area is home to the fall session of the Southwest Texas Sacred Harp Singing Convention.


The Texas Country Music Hall of Fame is located in Carthage, Texas.


Dallas is a conservative town, and never took well to punk rock of any kind. Two notable hardcore punk acts included Stickmen With Rayguns and The Hugh Beaumont Experience. Earlier pioneers included the Vomit Pigs and The Scuds. The nearby town of Denton has a small music scene largely due to the presence of the University of North Texas. Brave Combo has been a mainstay since 1979. Other Denton bands have included Ten Hands and Little Jack Melody.

El Paso

El Paso's Tex Mex-flavored The Plugz and Ed Ivey's Rhythm Pigs launched a small scene.


Houston's most influential punk bands were the hardcore Really Red and DRI. Culturcide, Mydolls, Verbal Abuse, Stark Raving Mad, Dresden 45, Legionaire's Disease, The Hates and The Degenerates also played.


Lubbock has been the crossroads of many famous musicians with country roots. Ranging from The Flatlanders, to Waylon Jennings, to Lubbock's native son Buddy Holly. The city has numerous honky tonks and bars with live music playing seven nights a week.

San Antonio

Known primarily for Tex Mex and heavy metal, San Antonio is known for the Butthole Surfers, a hardcore band that broke into the mainstream in the mid-1990s. The Tejano Conjunto Festival is an annual three-day event celebrating conjunto music.

Professional organizations

  • Association of Texas Small School Bands
  • Heart of Texas Music Association
  • Texas Association of Music Schools
  • Texas Music Educators Association


  • American Hardcore: A Tribal History, by Steven Blush. Feral House. 2001. ISBN 0-922915-717-7
  • The Handbook of Texas Music, Roy R. Barkley, Douglas E. Barnett, Cathy Brigham, editors. Texas State Historical Association. 2003. ISBN 0876111940
  • The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working-Class Music, by Manuel Peņa. University of Texas Press. 1985. ISBN 029278080X

External links


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