The Evolution Of Texas Music
Texas is famous mostly because of its oil reserves and its love for football. Another thing that Texas is renowned for is its music. In fact, Austin, which is the capital of Texas, is considered the Live Music Capital of the world.
Indeed, Texas music spans a broad spectrum of genres that includes country music, honky-tonk & outlaw country music, blues, jazz and conjunto music. Texas music also has a rich history and has evolved numerous times over the years mainly due to the state’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Here is a brief history of two popular genres in Texas music.
1. Country Music
Most of the white Americans who settled in Texas at the start of the 19th century originated from the south where music was played on instruments such as guitars, banjos, fiddles and even the mandolin.
Country music, which emerged in the 1920’s incorporated the use of these instruments. Texas played a pioneering role in the development of commercial country music through Alexander ‘Eck’ Robertson who together with Henry Gilliland from Oklahoma were the first musicians to record country music. Even Jimmy Rogers, widely considered the first ever country music star, lived in Texas for some years before his death.
Second generation country music started in the 1930’s and went on into the 1940’s. It is during this time that Bob Wills and Milton Brown both natives of Texas developed the Western swing sound and style.
The third generation of country music emerged in the 1950’s and continued into the 1960’s. Honky-tonk music which incorporated the use of drums and had its roots in the Western swing, as well as Mexican music, emerged during this period. It enjoyed huge popularity in Texas and musicians such as Ray Price, and Lefty Frizzell excelled greatly in it.
In the 70’s Texas also influenced the development of yet another strain of country music known as outlaw country which enjoyed popularity through the 70’s and 80’s. Outlaw country borrowed heavily from the honky-tonk sound. In addition to that, Texan musicians such as Waylon Jennings, Kristoffer Kristofferson and Willie Nelson who played a key role in the growth of the sound.
Texas continued to have a major influence in country music with musicians such as Kenny Roger(whose career started in the late 50’s) and bands such as Dixie Chicks still enjoying a great wave of popularity in the United States as well as globally.
2. Texas Blues
When some of the southerners were settling in Texas, they brought their slaves along with them and in so doing, introduced African-American sounds to the Texan music scene. This Texas music mainly featured poly-rhythm and the use of bent tones popularly known as ‘blue notes.’ Soon, however, a new style of blues emerged in cities such as Houston and Galveston.
This new style was normally characterized by a lone guitarist playing and singing along to the blues. Blind Lemon Jefferson, a native of Texas by birth, was one of the pioneers of Texas Blues and because of this, was called the ‘Father of Texas Blues.’
The success of Lemon Jefferson inspired musicians such as Blind Willie Johnson who popularized gospel blues in the late 1920’s. Other country blues musicians who emerged during this time include ‘Little Hat’ Jones and Alger ‘Texas’ Alexander and T-Bone Walker who would become one of the pioneers of jump blues and electric blues in the mid-1930.
The popularity of Texas blues music re-surged in the 1970’s thanks to Jimmie Vaughan, the founder of ‘The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ and in the 1980’s through Stevie Ray Vaughan.