Wanderlist - Musical Texas
Throughout the years, Texas cities and towns have been the inspiration for songs. In this edition of Under the Texas Sky's Wanderlist, producer Randall Maxwell and TPW magazine editor Louie Bond share the backstories behind the music and lyrics that keep Texans and the world tapping their toes from El Paso to Galveston and points in-between.
Under the Texas Sky: S2:E6: WANDERLIST — MUSICAL TEXAS
[SPONSOR] Under the Texas Sky is Brought to you in part by Toyota, a proud supporter of Texas Parks and Wildlife Programs. Toyota, Let's Go Places.
[RANDALL MAXWELL NARRATION] Ahhh, when the sun comes up on a sleepy little town down around San Antone. Such a classic hit by the Doobie Brothers. I've been around music and musicians as far back as I can remember. My dad sang and played guitar, usually train songs by Jimmie Rodgers or songs about Texas by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.
As I grew older I tended to gravitate toward those bands and artists who had a fondness for Texas. Too Smooth's Texas Hospitality, Charley Pride singing Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone, and George Strait's Amarillo By Mornin'. Heck Billy Joe Shaver even sang about my own hometown.
[MUS—WACKO FROM WACO]
[RANDALL MAXWELL NARRATION] Well, if you havenít guessed already, this edition of Wanderlist is about Texas music. More specifically, music about Texas towns. TPW Magazine Editor Louie Bond and I talk about some of those songs that both loved and lamented municipalities in Texas. Weíll also reveal some of your favorite Texas town songs that you submitted to us via our Instagram account last week.
Stay with us.
[RANDALL MAXWELL NARRATION] From Texas Parks and Wildlife, this is Under the Texas Sky's Wanderlist, produced in collaboration with Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine. I'm Randall Maxwell and with me by phone is the Editor of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine, Louie Bond.
[RANDALL & LOUIE]
[RANDALL] Hi Louie. How are you?
[LOUIE] Hey Randall. I'm doing great, how are you?
[RANDALL] I'm doing well. This week's podcast is Musical Texas. When did this first run in the magazine?
[LOUIE] Pretty recently. We ran that in March 2020. It's kind of a companion piece to one we'll be doing later this season, you and I, called Literary Texas. But this one, Musical Texas, it's about songs about Texas towns, and you know we like to go out on the road to find nature everywhere, and music's a big part of my road trips for sure. I love to listen to songs about where I'm going or maybe you know maybe some towns I'm going to pass through along the way.
[RANDALL] Absolutely, I remember as a child and my road trips. My family took vacations and you know we had actually, 8-track tapes. That's how, that's revealing too much probably. But I remember listening to Charley Pride and Bob Wills. Those road trips were a fun time all across Texas and some of the places that were even in songs.
[LOUIE] Yeah, and you know, when you get to Texas, not only are there a lot of towns with a really wide variety of personalities...cause there's so many great songs about all those towns.
[RANDALL] Absolutely and you know I'm thinking of a few right now that come to my mind. What about you?
[LOUIE] You know, I've got such an array of them from all these different decades. But I think back to when I really kind of caught fire and that was sort of in my college days when my listening expanded, so I've got some really cool ones to share with you that maybe aren't as well known to some people.
[RANDALL] Well I'm ready to get started. Are you?
[LOUIE] I am.
(Lukenbach, Texas by Waylon Jennings music sample)
[RANDALL] Ahh, such a classic Louie.
[LOUIE] Yeah Randall, I love this one. This actually was on our print Wanderlist. You know, you hear that classic line, "Out in Luckenbach, Texas, there ain't nobody feelin' no pain." I mean, that's just a really classic line. This was made popular of course by Willie and Waylon. Waylon does most of the singing. I think Willie comes in on the third verse. One thing that's really interesting about this song, and this was put out in 1977, so for me college days. It was written by Chips Moman and Bobby Emmons, and neither they nor Waylon Jennings had ever been to Luckenbach, Texas.
[RANDALL] Oh my goodness. (laughs)
[LOUIE] So that's kind of weird. But as Waylon says: "Every state has a Lukenbach. A place to get away from things," and I think that's really neat. It's like they wrote about it as though it was an imaginary town. Though it's pretty real. I mean it's not literally much of a town. Just an old general store and a post office, and a little dance floor, and people sit out under huge trees and drink beer and play dominos and listen to whoever is playing a guitar. I played at Luckenbach. I think everybody's played there by now, but back in the '70s it was kind of an inside secret you know, you had to know how to get there, and you had to know who those famous people were who were playing. But even now it's really interesting. You never know who's going to be there and it's kind of like taking a step back in time. It's really, you know, it came out at the height of the outlaw period of country music and I was friends with some singer/songwriters and part of their influence was Waylon and Willie and that whole outlaw movement, and it was when hippies and rednecks discovered they had a lot in common and they expressed it musically and enjoyed hanging out together. And you know I think that song and that whole feeling probably resonates as much today as we spend more time at home getting back to what Waylon calls the basics of life.
[RANDALL] (laughs) That's awesome. That is awesome. Yeah I've been out to Luckenbach, and just a few months ago actually. And sure enough there was somebody with their guitar, a couple of guys under the tree and had a group of people around them listening to the songs. It was great.
[LOUIE] Like time stands still.
[RANDALL] Absolutely. So, you know, we put out a question last week on our Instagram asking people to send in their favorite songs about Texas towns.
[LOUIE] You know, we got 400 plus responses which really surprised me. And a lot of them were ones that you know we had come across in our research for the print edition and ever our more extensive research for this edition. But there were some surprises in there. Can you tell us what a few of those were?
[RANDALL] Well, you know, you'd have to imagine we'd have several Amarillo By Mornings. (laughs)
[RANDALL] Just a great song by George Strait. I mean, there was smitty millz, there was ctaylord, and let me see, who else, uh, cardonmarrion. Goodness, so many people chose Amarillo By Morning including markt_mark. So we thank those individuals for sending in their songs. Another one that came up which was kind of one of my favorites. Ranger_ross submitted El Paso by Marty Robbins.
(El Paso by Marty Robbins music sample)
[LOUIE] You know, that song. It's like Homer's Odyssey or something set to music.
[RANDALL] (laughs) You know, I just love that kind of Western feel and this was one of those gunfighter ballads, and when it came out Westerns were popular on TV, and a lot of people don't know that it became a major hit on country and pop music charts. In fact it reached number one in both the country and pop music charts back in 1960.
[LOUIE] You know they tried to get him to cut that song down for radio because it's very long, but he wouldn't. And when he did try they didn't like it so it's a lot longer than a lot of radio songs were.
[RANDALL] Well it certainly had its mark. It won a Grammy Award for best Country and Western recording in 1961. Of course it remains one of Marty Robbins most well-known songs. You know they actually tried to re-do this as a song called El Paso City, which one of the Instagram users submitted. I listened to that and it's definitely like a Mac Davis version. It's updated you know, a lot more smoother. Doesn't have that kind of gritty feel that El Paso did with Marty did it.
[LOUIE] Marty Robbins has that incredible voice. It's just perfect for telling the Old West saga like that.
[RANDALL] Well another song I surely expected to see on Instagram and sure enough stopher_v submitted it, mrs_urrutia sent it, was ZZ Top's La Grange.
(La Grange by ZZ Top music sample)
[LOUIE] You know that's probably one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in any of these songs.
[RANDALL] Absolutely, you know and ZZ Top, they're really blues-based. And there's a lot of roots music, blues music in Texas.
[LOUIE] You know I found, when I kind of, you start with ZZ Top and move backwards, you find yourself really in a lot of deep, a rich vein of Texas blues tradition that inspired a lot of today's players. Dallas and Houston had incredible blues scenes in the 1930s, and a lot of them were neighborhood songs like Deep Ellum Blues which was a neighborhood in Dallas famous for its blues scene. Houston was also hopping, and by the time I got to college in Central Texas in the '70s I got fascinated with the reach of that modern music, and I heard a lot of these old blues tunes through Navasota's Mance Lipscomb. And like I said, many of these are just about their hometown, so a lot of them are about Texas towns. Some are instrumental, some with lyrics. T-Bone Walker is the guy I really want to talk about today. He's also known as Oak Cliff T-Bone, that's another name for that Dallas neighborhood. And he recorded this song called Wichita Falls Blues. And he was born in 1910, so that gives you an idea of his time period. He was of Cherokee and African-American descent. His folks were both musicians with the Dallas String Band. And Blind Lemon Jefferson who is a very famous jazz and blues guitarist was a close family friend. T-Bone left school at the ripe old age of 10 to pursue music and he kind of helped Blind Lemon Jefferson around town. At that point Blind Lemon was kind of bustin' on the street with a cup. And so T-Bone would help him around and learn from him, learn a lot of instruments and he pays homage to his mentor in this song. He actually recorded it when he was 19. And like most blues songs, it's about leaving a place because your heart's broken. The first verse is actually a variance of a Blind Lemon Jefferson song Long Lonesome Blues, and it seems to be that when I listen to them both that T-Bone's version is from a woman's perspective which is kind of weird for back then.
[LOUIE] She's driving away from Dallas, she stops at a cafe in Wichita Falls, and she has a letter that she's going to leave on the table, and she says you know maybe the waitress will send the letter to her man so he'll know why she's gone. And at one part of it I love, she says he's going to call this afternoon but I won't be there to answer.
(Wichita Falls Blues by T-Bone Walker music sample)
[LOUIE] But anyway, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, cited as an influence Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and I think you can actually hear that ZZ Top riff from La Grange and think about those old blues players, and I think that's where all that came from.
[RANDALL MAXWELL NARRATION] Weíre not done yet. Louie and I have more of our favorite songs to discuss, including some of yours sent to us via our Instagram account last week. But firstÖ
[SPONSOR] Support from Toyota allows us to bring you stories from Under the Texas Sky. Toyota has been a proud sponsor of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation since 2002, providing generous support to help the department provide outdoor programs for Texans and to conserve the wildlife of the Lone Star State.
[RANDALL MAXWELL NARRATION] This is Under the Texas Skyís Wanderlist from Texas Parks and Wildlife, I'm Randall Maxwell. Wanderlist is a collaboration with Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine. Editor Louie Bond and I have been talking about songs that feature Texas towns.
[RANDALL & LOUIE]
[RANDALL] Well, you know another song that popped up quite a bit on Instagram from users, gwen J7, theostavinoha sent it, Galveston by Glen Campbell, and that was a classic. I remember hearing that song growing up, and when I found that LP in my parentís collection, I was like wow, this is really cool.
(Galveston by Glen Campbell music sample)
[LOUIE] He sings it so passionately. I think that's part of the beauty of that song.
[RANDALL] Jimmy Webb was the songwriter. He was the son of a Baptist preacher by the way, but he also wrote Wichita Lineman which was another big hit for Glen Campbell.
[RANDALL] A lot of people probably don't know that this song was originally covered by Hawaiian singer Don Ho.
[RANDALL] That's right. In 1968 just before Glen Campbell recorded it in 1969.
(Galveston by Don Ho music sample)
[LOUIE] I had no idea. That's crazy.
[RANDALL] And also that this was kind of seen as a Vietnam War protest song due to the context of the song. And I actually looked up the video on YouTube and sure enough, the original video, Glen Campbell is wearing an Army uniform I believe, and it's a lot of cross dissolves and slow fades to another woman that's you know reading his letter from the war. It was very heavily influenced I think during the war period there.
[LOUIE] You know that sounds so right because you think about the lines of the song, I can see her standing there looking out to sea. You know he just sounds homesick and lonesome.
[RANDALL] Yeah, well it certainly was a big hit for Glen Campbell. It ranked number 8 in CMT's 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music.
[LOUIE] Wow. I think a lot of people are familiar with that one.
[RANDALL] Well, Galveston, certainly a popular place to write a song about. Another big city in Texas is San Antonio and I remember Bob Wills' Rose of San Antone.
(San Antonio Rose by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys music sample)
[RANDALL] What other songs do you recall about San Antone?
[LOUIE] I love that old Bob Wills song and it has been done by everybody. Another big favorite is Charley Pride's Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone which is now playing in my head the minute I say it.
(Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone by Charley Pride music sample)
[LOUIE] Then there's some (laughs) there's some more contemporary songs. Lyle Lovett has a song called San Antonio Girl. The Beaumonts have a song called San Antonio, and I got turned on by some younger people who have enlightened me about songs about Texas, but towns, to a new guy Noah Gundersen who has a song called San Antonio Fading. But when you think of San Antonio you have to kind of start thinking in Spanish, right?
[LOUIE] So there's no song that takes me there faster than Flaco JimÈnez's Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio. You might think you haven't heard of it. Once you hear that accordion, I think it's going to sound super familiar.
(Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio by Flaco JimÈnez music sample)
[RANDALL] You know I think I've heard that before.
[LOUIE] I know, people think they haven't but once you hear it you're like oh yeah I know that one. It was actually written by Flaco JimÈnez' famous dad Santiago JimÈnez. This guy invented Conjunto music. He really popularized it, and they're San Antonio folks themselves. The title of the song it translates literally to "I leave you in San Antonio." So kind of like our old Wichita Falls Blues song that we were talking about earlier, this singer is also leaving town because their heart is broken. But the one thing about that this song is kind of tricky, it's sung in Spanish and it is extremely peppy and danceable, especially the Los Super Seven version which I love the best, which is actually a very sad song. The narrator has spent all his money chasing his girlfriend only to find she has not one but several other lovers in Laredo. So, the chorus starts off- You really like dancing and you dance to the Compas. And most of us really don't hear the other lyrics because you know they're in Spanish and we're dancing. (laughs)
[LOUIE] It's like a sad song that you dance happily to.
[RANDALL] Aw. Well put an accordion on anything and how can you not dance.
[LOUIE] Right, it adds the happy to everything. Like T-Bone who we talked about earlier, Flaco, and that name means skinny, it was his dad's nickname too, he came from a musical family and started performing as a child. And I became familiar with his work when he played with Doug Sahm and Peter Rowan in the '60s and '70s. But he's also worked with Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, many other famous acts. And he's won a handful of Grammys himself, including one for his recording of this particular song.
[LOUIE] Randall did we have anymore great suggestions from our Instagram participants?
[RANDALL] Well you know we did, and there were so many and I'm sorry to say we can't get to all of them in just the short time we have in our podcast but, Austin was another one that came up, and that's our city of course where we are located at our headquarters, avery.heberling sent in Austin by Blake Shelton, p_brooks2020 sent in Austin by Koe Wetzel. And a shout out to ablove on Instagram for submitting one of my favorite songs, Amy's Back in Austin by Little Texas.
(Amy's Back in Austin by Little Texas music sample)
[LOUIE] You know I haven't heard that one Randall, tell me a little bit about it.
[RANDALL] Well, it was released in December of 1994, and it was nominated for a Grammy Award for best country performance by a duo or group and that was back in 1996, but you know, what's interesting about this is my daughter's name is Amy (laughs), and I also have played it in a cover band, a little country band out in Dripping Springs that I play with, and I really like the song, it's got a good beat.
[LOUIE] Well, what I want to know Randall is which Amy came first? Was it yours or theirs?
[RANDALL] Oh it was definitely theirs. (laughs)
[RANDALL] But it's such a great song, I love listening to it every time it comes on the radio, and I wish we could do more songs. There's so many. And we thank everybody who submitted theirs through Instagram. It was really great to see all of your answers. And Louie, you're going to post a few of these on the TPW Magazine Blog right?
[LOUIE] Right. You know I really went down the rabbit hole on these. I'm not kidding. I involved my whole staff. I formed a focus group with my nieces and my kids and my interns and so I have a really long list of songs. We have barely scratched the surface. So I would love to share those on our Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine Blog. You can find that at tpwmag.com. It's super easy to find, and I'll put tons of these songs and you can just go down that rabbit hole with me.
[RANDALL] Awesome. I'm sure a lot of people will. Thanks so much Louie for joining me.
[LOUIE] It's been my pleasure Randall.
[MUSóLEAVE THE LIGHTS ON HONEY]
[RANDALL MAXWELL NARRATION] We're done wandering for this podcast—but Louie Bond and I, or our executive producer, Cecilia Nasti, will be back with more fascinating stories about places to see and explore in the Lone Star State.
Before heading to any state park, historic site or natural area, call ahead.
Also, keep an eye on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Instagram account, which is @TexasParksWildlife. We'll use it to notify you of some of the Wanderlist subjects we plan to cover in the weeks ahead and give you a chance to ask questions, some of which weíll answer on the podcast.
Under the Texas Sky is a production of Texas Parks and Wildlife. We produce our Wanderlist series in partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine in the Media Production Studios in Austin, Texas. Yours truly did our sound design. Whitney Bishop does our social media. And we get distribution and web help from Susan Griswold and Ben Kailing.
Stream or download Under the Texas Sky and Under the Texas Sky's Wanderlist wherever you get your podcasts. And please leave a review while youíre there and let us know how weíre doing and what youíd like to hear.
Until next time—keep on wandering Under the Texas Sky. I'm Randall Maxwell.