Amos Staggs, Joey Green, and Earl Musick opine on Texas Music. Photo by Jeff Prince.

A New York guy killed Texas Music. Yes, friends, the disintegration of this state’s edgy brand of country rock can be traced back to New York-born Texas-transplant Jerry Jeff Walker. He showed up in Austin in the early 1970s at about the same time Willie, Waylon, and the boys were establishing a genre referred to alternately as Outlaw, Cosmic Cowboy, Progressive Country, or just plain Texas Music. Walker was unique, a carefree roustabout who sang silly party songs about Sangria and getting by on getting by. He wrote beautiful tearjerkers, but that’s not what his young fans wanted. Willie and Waylon were for crying in your beer. Walker was for laughing while chugging the whole six-pack. His crowd wanted dumbed-down hell-raising anthems. For a while, Walker cranked them out obligingly but eventually grew to resent fans who only wanted to party and yell.

Robert Earl Keen Jr. followed in the 1980s, tapping into Walker’s party anthem vibe but with deeper writing (“Swerving in My Lane,” “The Road Goes on Forever”). The rowdies were inflamed. Keen, in turn, spawned Pat Green to cater to the peach-fuzz crowd in the 1990s. Keen’s writing was deeper, but Green had stage presence for days and a huge voice and personality. He forged a reputation the old-fashioned way, playing open-mic nights, music festival campfire circles, and small clubs around Texas. But unlike the early Outlaws, Green was a college kid at Texas Tech University. He had parents willing to front him money to make an album produced by Lloyd Maines (Keen, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Charlie Robison). And Green was a marketing genius adept at securing corporate sponsors and marketing himself and selling product online. He sold so many CDs himself that a Nashville label felt comfortable investing in him in 2001. Green inspired a slew of imitators, many of whom mastered the online marketing but fell short on the songcraft. Walker, Keen, and Green prompted waves of singers and songwriters yearning to be the life of the party. Each new wave dumbed down the music and lyrics a little more. Then along from Oklahoma came Red Dirt, a similar type of rowdy country but with an even more Neanderthal approach.

Eventually, artists, their songs, their fans, and the scene devolved into an embarrassing, twangy idiocracy. New artists bought their way onto radio charts and overcame lack of talent by flexing their thumbs on social media and turning gigs into party events. Music became an afterthought. The number of hacks is far greater today than in yesteryear. But the percentage is probably the same. Back then, there were a hundred bands, and half of them sucked. Now there are a thousand bands. If half of them are merely imitative of one another’s lowest-common-denominator leanings, that’s 500 useless, unoriginal bands polluting the soundscape instead of 50 – and they all have social media and cheap recording equipment.

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One of  Walker’s earliest rowdy anthems was “Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother,” released in 1973. Ray Wylie Hubbard wrote it from the perspective of a longhaired musician getting hassled by rednecks in a bar. Many years later, Hubbard wrote “Screw You, We’re From Texas” as a tongue-in-cheek ode to Outlaw artists. In that song, the characters displaying the redneckery are the longhaired musicians themselves.

I got on my cowboy boots, jeans, and Hawaiian shirt
Mirrored sunglasses and a mobile phone
I guess I look like some Port Aransas dope dealer who’s out on bail
Just trying to get home
But I ain’t in jail, and I got me a guitar, and I got a little band that’s
hotter than a rocket
Sometimes we’re sloppy

We’re always loud
Tonight we’re just ornery and locked in the pocket

So screw you, we’re from Texas
Screw you, we’re from Texas
Screw you, we’re from Texas

We’re from Texas, baby, so screw you

Predictably, the song became an anthem for the 2000s’ version of Outlaw fans, who embraced as their rallying cry the obnoxiousness alluded to in the song. Hubbard performed it in 2010 in Nashville and prefaced by saying that “the problem with irony is, not everybody gets it.”

Earlier this month in The Guardian, Steve Earle brutally disparaged today’s country music: “The best stuff coming out of Nashville is all by the women except for Chris Stapleton. He’s great. The guys just want to sing about getting fucked up. They’re just doing hip-hop for people who are afraid of black people.”

Earle’s sentiments could just as easily apply to today’s Texas Music. And his thoughts are nothing new. In 1976, with Outlaw music beginning to gain attention outside of Texas, Fort Worth native and now-legendary blues singer Delbert McClinton was already scorning the posers he saw onstage and off. “Whenever a bunch of bullshit comes in, there’s a bunch of people that start playing bullshit music,” he told the original Texas Music magazine. “I’m sick and tired of somebody saying, ‘I’m a cowboy from Texas, gimme a longneck. I can’t drink nothing but longnecks.’ It’s like the hippie cult before that and the surfing cult before that.”

And that’s where the scene remains today –– a large mound of crap with flowers springing from the muck once in a while. With these thoughts in mind, I spoke with three Fort Worth singer-songwriters who have devoted their lives to Texas Music. The youngest, Joey Green, 34, recently relocated to Nashville to ply his songwriting trade. The oldest, Amos Staggs, just turned 70. He continues writing, recording, and playing live shows, often alongside Earl Musick, 69, who owns a recording studio, record label, and publishing company. – Jeff Prince

Weekly: What is the state of the union regarding Texas Music?

Joey Green: It was created to counter the culture of mainstream. For me, it was the very end of the Jerry Jeff phenomenon, and Pat Green revived it. Now it’s just a clusterfuck of bullshit.

Earl Musick: Quality seems to be put on the backburner. It’s, “I want to get to the top as fast as I can.” Payola. Buying your name. Getting on these charts. Getting airplay. If you got enough money, you can make a name for yourself.

Amos Staggs: You go to these companies. They have a menu and say, “Do you want to be in the Top 10?” Uh, yeah. “How long do you want to be there?” Oh, this long. “Well, that costs this much.” Those people who run those machines, I know them. They came from Nashville. They worked in the machine in Nashville and came here and opened a machine just like it on a smaller financial scale. The same thing goes on in Nashville, but you better not show up there at some record company … if you don’t have a couple million dollars in your pocket.

Green: The saddest part about the scene is it’s not even about the music anymore. It’s how many internet radio stations there are, how many paper spins can I get? I got to pay this much money to get on this chart. Everybody is playing a game in a system that was built to disregard the system. Now it’s become its own system, its own little Nashville. We can blame program directors, radio promoters, and talent buyers in Texas for that. It’s creating a scene where the bullshit rises to the top.

Musick: It’s been going this way for about 10 years.

Staggs: A package of Kool-Aid is pretty good when you mix it with a quart of water. But you mix it with 50 gallons of water, and it gets pretty diluted. The Kool-Aid was red, then pink, and now it looks almost clear.

Green: When it started out for me, the way to get around forking out your own money was to sign a distribution deal with either Smith Music [Group], Winding Road Music, or somebody along those lines. It’s a 60-40 deal – you get 60, they get 40 – which is not a bad deal. The radio promotion was in-house. But if they pushed a single, and it didn’t hit, they shelved you just like a major label would. Hiring your own radio promo guy could cost anywhere from $1,000 to $4,500, depending on the clout of the radio guy. The top guys … charge $8,000 to $10,000 for each song, for the life of the single, which is about 22 weeks. You want the guy who is going to get you in front of radio program directors who will open the envelope and know it’s decent shit – or he is getting all the free golf and Starbucks he wants to play these artists on this promoter’s label. Then he’ll book you a radio tour, which will cost you about $2,000 [in travel expenses]. You go visit all these radio stations. Half the time they don’t even know you’re coming. That’s when you know you are getting screwed by your radio promoter. I paid a guy $4,500 … from Nashville. He got us to No. 90 on [a Texas radio chart] which is a made-up chart. If you buy a click ad on that chart, every time somebody clicks it, it counts as a spin for you. If you wanted to sit at home and not even go play, you could just sit there and click, and it counts as spins. It doesn’t make any sense. There are guys who have had No. 1 after No. 1 song on that chart, but they can’t draw flies [to gigs] because they are paper spins. You can go from a $500 band to a $3,500 band with two songs on the chart and enough money behind you.

Staggs: Real kind of left the room. The kind of songs we are writing and the kind of songs I hear on the current Texas Music scene don’t have much to do with one another. There are people hell-bent on being a star as long as Daddy’s well holds out. You can buy airtime and a bus and all that, but you can’t buy talent or charisma. Otherwise it’s just smoke and mirrors.

Weekly: Can a talented performer make it today without getting in the machine and paying the right people?

Green: It would almost be impossible now for there not to be someone else’s hand in the pot. Good luck not having to pay somebody. I love Cody Jinks’ stuff. I’ve always thought he was great. But he could still be bartending at While Elephant Saloon if the right person didn’t think that way. He hooked up with the right manager up in Nashville, a guy that used to work for Kid Rock, and he knew just what to do with Cody at the right time. Cody Jinks is a prime example of somebody who found the right management company and took him out of Texas to even make him big in Texas.

Musick: Maren [Morris’] parents bought her enough recognition that her talent got a chance to take over. She is talented.

Staggs: My hat is off to anybody who will load up, leave the house, and get out there and take a swing at it. It’s not easy to do. It’s easier if you are traveling in a Prevost [recreational vehicle] than a minivan. But it’s hard. It’s always been hard.

Green: Austin Allsup [the Fort Worth artist who made the Top 10 on The Voice but still has trouble drawing local crowds] doesn’t appeal to the lets-get-rowdy-and-purposely-ignorant crowd. It ain’t party-drinking songs. He doesn’t wear a backwards ballcap. He doesn’t say, “Let’s get high and make noise!” He used to. We were all kids once.

Weekly: What changes have you seen as a studio owner, Earl?

Musick: There has been a ton of studio fall-off because anybody can buy a computer, a piece of software, and a $60 microphone and make a record. You don’t have to have studios anymore. That’s fine with me. I’ve got to really like somebody’s music to fool with it, because it takes up so much of my time.

Staggs: Earl and I used to send cassette tapes by the boxloads to different places. That’s what we’re still doing.

Green: We had [radio] success with “Natchitoches Blues.” Without that, I’d probably still be playing every gig for $500 or $600. That’s your ceiling unless you can get that one song that people relate to and latch on to. I didn’t even pay anyone for that song. I sent it out myself with handwritten notes and had program directors calling me. That was a cool, organic thing that happened.

Weekly: How tough is it to make a living at Texas Music?

Green: [Paying radio promoters] is just one cylinder, and you’re in a V8. You’ve got to have a publicist, a booking agent to follow up and pursue leads in towns, a manager to connect everybody, a webmaster. You are looking at an overhead of $6,000 a month to even be legitimate. You’ve still got to travel and pay a band. You’re trying to keep all of that going and the quality of your gigs up, and nobody wants to pay you. They say, “We’ll give you the door.” Some venues take good care of you. Some don’t. I’ve scaled down to a trio – me, bass, and drums – to keep my overhead low. This is my job. I’m printing t-shirts on the side to pay for things. Even now, saving up $1,000 to try and get into a studio is like an act of Congress. It costs a lot of money to even try to do this.


    • Dead on, Donna. More than relevant and if you add the socio-economical factors to it, more than true. To quote James Murphy “You Can’t Make It Here Anymore.” Thanks for sharing that Grant Peeples song!

  1. I find this story to be a huge piece of crap…just like much of the Texas music scene today. There are plenty of organic artist that draw good crowds and make good music. As a consumer you have to be wise enough to cut through the crap and support those whose sound you like…nothing has changed about that whether it was Willis Alan Ramsey in 1972 or Josh Abbott in 2012. If it sounds good, folks can dance to it, drink with it, or sing along to it, it will sell. Period. Further the whole idea that there is any one sound or one look to “Texas” music is ridiculous. As one of the most diverse populations in the USA it is non-sensical to suggest such. I agree with the sentiments with regard to the overhead and buying spins, but other than that, the article is completely bogus.

    • Sept WAR came and left in the same car he slept in, Josh left in a million dollar Prevost… but neither are as angry as you sound…

    • These guys just seem butt hurt because their own careers have taken off. Good music is just good music. I look at people like Koe wetzel, whom I’m sure these people despise, but he got to where he was by word of mouth and grinding it out in clubs. You can’t fault him for that. people wouldn’t listen if it weren’t good or did feel something from the music. Yes the genre is very diverse and it sometime can be college partyville but hey quite looking down your noses.

  2. I’m a songwriter living in Nashville – I enjoyed this thoughtful interview of these guys and I can certainly feel their frustration – I completely empathize – I would only add this – everything they said about the economics of today’s music business can be said of the entire American culture at large – these are incredibly cynical times we live in – Oscar Wilde defined the cynic as “knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing” – when economics is the driving force in any art form, that art form will only be as good as it has to be – in my cranky old view, America has lost it’s love affair with excellence, if, in deed, it ever had one – still, I believe somewhere , out of view of all this, someone is doing something wonderful – pray we get to hear, see, experience it –

    • Ha! Hope you are well Beland. I met you years ago when I was out with an artist and you were with Bare. Tom Brumley was playing with us at the time. I think you had hip surgery or were going in for. I remember listening to you and Tom tell old stories on the bus that afternoon. Again, hope you are well.

  3. Joey I am proud you’ve got the guts to say it. From the Regional Radio Report, to the radio promoters you nailed it. Cost alot of cash to run in that click, hell the head man at RRR is radio promoter. Look at the Annual Awards, same stations, same venues, same events same artist. Same old payola…..

    • And who is benefiting from all the so called “same old payola”? And would it not make sense that it’s pretty much the same nominees and winners most years? Each station, venue, artist and event has the same opportunity to obtain votes from their fanbase. Without the emergence of new events, stations, etc, there will continually be “the same…”. So is it not up to each category to push and work to grow their base in order to obtain what votes it takes to win in any of the multiple award shows we have in Texas?

  4. Walt Wilkins is doing just fine. He has built a following out of the demographic that is the ideal opposite of what you describe here; thoughtful, intelligent people that are willing to support Great instead of feeding The Machine.

    They’re harder to find, extremely difficult to market to (since they’re clearly discerning consumers of quality songwriting), and certainly don’t mind kicking up heels and knocking one back with others of their Tribe, but have limited interest in being in a crowd whose intention is to get drunk, with music in the background that they don’t hear, but brag about being there to their friends.

    Walt is a tall peak on the graph of a community of talented songwriters that have connected on a higher level with people that are there to Listen; Susan Gibson, Kevin Welch, Davis Raines, all play shows that bring something rare and valuable to the Concert experience.

    How do you get in this club? The venues that they play have developed their own following by carefully curating each show until the local audiences trust them to the point that even if they’re not familiar with a particular name, they know that something good will happen, and they’re happy to buy a ticket to support the venue, the artist, and the Real Music scene.

    Please forgive the shameless plug, but Walt will be at the Paramount Theater in Abilene on July 28th, and the City of Abilene is rolling out the red carpet for visitors who come in to see him; special hotel and restaurant rates, and all manner of tourist welcoming events. Be encouraged; there is still a place for Quality.

    • I second this statement – Walt Wilkins and The Mystiqueros are definitely an exception that even more proves the reality of mediocrity mentioned in this article. What Nashville’s Bro-Country, is Texas’ Country Music / Red Dirt scene.

  5. The article has valid points in longevity, desire, courage, changes due to technology and the corruptness of the Texas charts. However, in as far as one artist cutting down another – that is the evil of ego. As a radio personality, program director and GM in Texas, I am of the assumption that the longer you do something, the least you know about it. It baffles me how trends evolve (kind of how schools of fish move) and how those with half a business sense learn to ride the wave, all the time criticizing it under their breath. Music is art. As in all things art it is in the eyes of the beholder, in this case in the heart and ears of the beholder. Artist need to stop criticizing that, that is not of their making. It is, and has been too prevalent in our business.

      • when a big act gets into trouble they still have access to the press What is the FIRST thing they do? They blame the manager good or bad! I have been behind the scenes with very famous and very unknown I don’t believe everything in this article and the reason they are bitching about the charts???? Hmmmm…. they aren’t on them! plain and simple now are there politics? Hell yes… my solution and by the way I as a veteran know and understand charts DO LIKE the TEXAS Chart and totallly understand how to jump in and participate… SOLUTION? Quit Bitchin’ and start Pickin! Get in the game or GET THE HELL OUT! What I am saying is there are alot of SATISFIED people PLAYING THE TEXAS CHART GAME…. a Little Secret…. ready? THEY ARE HAVING THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES AND ENJOYING THE HELL OUT OF IT! It’s more than ok not to be on any chart, whatever but don’t make fun of the people on the chart and/or people trying! GET REAL!

  6. Texas Country Music Association is a non profit organization dedicated to the advancement and recognition of Texas Country Music Artists. The Texas Country Music Awards takes place this year in Carthage Texas on September 28. The voting for finalists is now until the end of July, and is fan-driven.
    I invite anyone to join and become a part of unifying the Texas Country Music scene with a platform that is endorsed by Mark Chesnutt, our spokesperson, and will be hosted by Brandon Rhyder.
    The event will be filmed by Austin Unplugged, and Houston’s Own Country. This a first step to the plans we have to address the changes this industry has experienced and is a platform designed to give recognition and exposure to those who are plugging away tirelessly to be heard.

    Please go to for more information.

  7. Cold Dog Soup and Rainbow Pie is all it takes to get me by.
    Fool my belly till the day I die, Cold Dog Soup and Rainbow Pie.
    Guy Clark

  8. I am an old guy outside the inner circle of “Texas Music”, but I have been a fan of “real” music for 55 years. Real music for that many years has made me sing, dance, cry, think, rejoice, and repent. Maybe real music is cyclical. Looking back over all those years, there were lean times and fat times. there was so much real music in the 50’s, 60’s, and much of the70’s that great artists got lost in the mix. I today can look back at any of those eras’ and find over looked or never heard recordings that just blow my socks off. There has also been times where music that affects my heart, mind, and body is few and far between, but it is there. I just have to look farther. Maybe this is how the art is meant to be. I believe there will always be some great stuff out there, just more fluff to wade through to find it.

  9. I’ve been recording bands for over 15 years. Consistently I see artist achieve to the level they aspire to. That doesn’t mean they are all selling out large venues. But, they get to the level they’re willing to work for. Just being able to make a living doing music full time is an achievement in itself. It can be done, but it ain’t no job for wussies’.

  10. This reads like grumpy old men who’ve forgotten what was going on. I was around then too, but I’m not so grumpy.

    First of all, Willie and Waylon were country singers who rebelled against the homogenized music that came out of Nashville. They wanted control over their art and finally got it. And the world’s a better place for it.

    Though very supportive, they weren’t really part of the cosmic cowboy/progressive country/redneck rock thing. Waylon said Bob Wills is the still king, but these guys were Dylan-inspired folksingers who occasionally picked up the tempo and an electric guitar. Very often, they played solo in small venues, not with big bands in honky tonks or arenas. And a lot of them were damned good.

    I’m talking about BW Stevenson, Michael Murphy (before he became Michael Martin Murphy), Rusty Weir, Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Shake Russell, Dana Cooper, and, yes, Jerry Jeff Walker. And those that are still with us continue to do the same thing they did 45-odd years ago.

    So as you can see, Jerry Jeff was just one one of many in the scene. He didn’t create it, and he never got big enough to kill it. To be honest, it was blues and then punk that elbowed their way into the consciousness in Texas. A bunch of them were damned good, too.

    It’s true that a lot of Texas music sucks these days. However, it mostly comes from guys and gals bent on becoming country stars. But away from the bright lights, we keep getting wave after wave of great musicians singing folky songs with a Texas twang. Y’all need to get out more.

  11. Whiskeydent, you shot your argument in the heart when you said Willie and Waylon didn’t have much to do with progressive country. They were the co-godfathers, the poster children of the movement as elected by popular opinion. That’s why Austin built a statue for Willie but not one for, uh, Dana Cooper. The definitive book of that era, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock, was supposed to feature Willie on the cover but he cut his hair and beard prior to the photo shoot, prompting the publisher to switch to Murphey, according to author Jan Reid. Willie was on the cover of the first edition of the original Texas Music magazine in 1976. Walker was on the second cover. Walker was bigger than those other guys you mentioned from my recollection, although Wier and Murphey were big, too. The idea that Walker killed Texas Music was written tongue-in-cheek. The fact that you didn’t get that is no surprise. The article says Walker’s, Robert Earl Keen’s and Pat Green’s imitators were the “death” of the genre. As for your opinion that “y’all need to get out more,” you have no idea how often we get out. If that is your way of saying we have overlooked some of the artists that you like, that might be correct. I don’t know which artists you like. But I’ve listened to Texas country for decades and continue to listen. I don’t hear “wave after wave of great musicians singing folky songs with a Texas twang” but I hear some. I’ve admittedly listened to less of it in recent years after the bands and albums became so hit or miss and mostly miss, but I still hear good stuff. The article never said there weren’t good artists out there. It said hacks, posers, and wannabes have shit the pond with help from radio promoters.

    • Sorry, I disagree. W&W were groundbreakers, but they were still country singers who were played heavily on country radio. The progressive country guys were folk singers who got played on KOKE and not much anywhere else. Regardless, I love them all.

      • Dallas/Fort Worth had a similar radio station — 92.5 KAFM — that played all those great progressive country artists in the 1970s. I loved them, too.

    • Must have been snark since anybody listening in person to Jerry Jeff in those days knew he was way to wasted to do any destroying other than his liver. Amazing he could stand up on stage sometimes much less sing and remember the word of his songs and the songs he truly wished he had written (Stuck on LA Freeway for one).

  12. Missed it by a mile. A country mile at that. Your entitled to your opinion but there is some really good stuff out there. A struggling musician from SC recently visited and was “blown away” by the Texas music he heard. “Different from anything I’ve ever heard.” And Cody Jinks…the man paid his dues and didn’t succumb to those who wanted him to do it differently. His writing and music is genuine as the day is long. Thanks for your opinion. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    • Okay, but he’s from Mississippi and records in Nashville. I love Jason Eady but I wouldn’t put him in this category. Or am I wrong about the definition of Texas country?

      • He’s pretty widely thought of as fitting in the Texas country genre. Jerry Jeff is from New York but he’s still one of, if not the first guys people think of when they think of Texas country.

  13. P.S. This article is complete garbage. Saying Jerry Jeff killed texas music is garbage. The writer(s) of this article are garbage. They sound salty as hell. Pretty clear to me that a lot of no-names still don’t like “outsiders” singing “their” music, even if it beats the hell out of what they can come up with.

  14. This is so silly…

    Some make it, some don’t.

    RRB had NO money on startup; Koe Wetzel has had little startup capital. Yet they sell out rooms on popularity and believability.

    Some people are better at certain things…

    Go cry a river to John Moreland about how it’s not fair.

    Give me a break.

  15. Seems like the solution is simple.
    If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it.
    If you do like it, then support it.
    The music business isn’t treating you the way you want to be treated, find a new business.
    The sound of Texas music is changing and evolving. All music does over time, and why wouldn’t we want it to?

  16. Texas regional radio chart is the biggest load of crap ever. Their website looks like a scam in of itself; Funny because its true. Why people buy anything from them or the people that report to them will always make me wonder. It is exactly what National radio does with out the cleverness. More than half the bands on the “top 100” have never been heard of. They have just bought their way into the chart. I’m not saying that their is not any truth to the chart, however i am saying if daddy is rich it doesn’t hurt.

    However thats about all I agree with the article. The rest of it sounds like jealousy or bitterness. The scene isn’t dead or dying. 12 years ago there were 200 bands, now there are easily 2,000. With the advent of spotify, facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat, and other social media outlets its easier than ever to get heard. Not to mention recording engineers have tools to make anyone or any band sound 10 times better than they are for cheaper than you can imagine.

    If you don’t like a band don’t spend your time trash talking them, go spend it supporting a band you do like. Shitting on someone else’s parade doesn’t make you any better; It just lets everyone see your face while you shit.

    • It’s amusing that after your bitter sounding first paragraph you focus your words on “bitterness and jealousy” and “trash talking” etc. Are you radio that hasn’t gotten your way or an artist that just can’t cut it in the biz?

  17. If you write damn good song you can make a damn good living. Don’t need $6,000 a month to do that. Seems pretty simple to me.

    • AGREE….yes it does take money to make money, but I assure you there are plenty of well knowns that don’t spend NEAR that much to do their job!

  18. Time was when I was proud of the label “Texas Music”, but now I cringe…Amos nails it: It’s like a trickle-down fountain with increasingly larger basins, meaning the further you get from the original inspiration the more dilute it gets, and yeah Amos, it’s clear now.
    Re the biz: There’s the “Clay Blaker business model” of touring Texas incessantly, building good will and reputation and writing solid tunes. If you’re lucky like Clay, you find a George Strait to record a few of your tunes and retire to an island, if not, what they hey–you make a living and still manage to sleep in your own bed a few nights every week. Bugs Henderson was a classic example, with Walt Wilkins, Tommy Alverson and Max Stalling currently out there gigging, recording excellent music and hoping for a George…Trouble is, there’s no instant gratification–takes years of hard work and a good head for business. The process itself is difficult enough that it does it’s own culling–the less talented fall out, but the truly talented and dedicated survive. Even Saint Willie had a long string of lean unsuccessful years before he started to make anything close to a living.
    Today’s current hotspot seems to be the Pacific Northwest, but there’s outstanding music all around–check out Zephaniah O’Hora from New York City–while Texas is moribund. Here’s hoping we have a resurgence, but it won’t come through commercial radio. God Bless the few remaining independent radio stations who at least shelter what spark remains.

  19. I am just a guy who likes what he likes and I always thought that was “Texas” music. I don’t listen to the radio much and mostly pick up new music from conversations like this one. I actually picked up some old ones that have fallen off of the radar, so thank you all for that. The bottom line is, to some degree, money kills art. It gets harder and harder to relate to the guy who’s down to his last $20 and has to decide if he’s buying diapers or a 12 pack, if you have “representation” to take care of your money. “Texas” music will go thru some up and down cycles but it will never die because Texas hardly changes. There will always be someone out there in a clapped out Dodge Craftsman making music for bologna and hoping for prime rib. Some will find their lucky star, some will be too good to ignore, some will go back home and sell cars. Yes, there’s a lot of shit out there, but life weeds them out pretty quickly. If there’s 100x more crappy bands out there, there’s probably at least 10x more decent bands. Thanks for caring.

  20. I’m not sure who should be fired first. Prince or the Editor in chief. This is the poorest attempt at hiding personal scorn I have ever seen. The fact that joey green is presented as the the voice of the younger generation is hysterical in itself. What a terrible display of want to be journalism

  21. Man what a short sided article. If you want to have a discussion concerning Texas Music you have to at least talk to the godfather of Texas Music, Larry Joe Taylor. Every year his Texas Music Festival presents new and old Texas artist to thousands of fans that travel from around the world just to experience what we call “Texas Music”. It is for this reason I am one of his sponsors and why I advertise on Fort Worth’s Red Dirt radio. I guess these guys are jealous of Roger Creager and Kevin Fowler? Do yourself a favor and take the advice I once heard Larry give a young artist. He said, and I paraphrase, there are thousands of good musicians with good music out there, but not all of them are entertainers. After Rusty Weir’s death, Larry had a bronze bust of Rusty’s likeness commissioned in his honor that greets every artist as they take the main stage at Melody Mountain to remind them they are Entertainers first.

    So do yourself a favor and buy a cd from Zane Williams, Kyle Park, Randy Rodgers, William Clark Green, The Tejas Brothers or Double D and many many more, you will find that “Texas Country” is going to be in good hands for a long long time!

    • I have attended many, many Larry Joe festivals, beginning with the third one (held in Mingus). I observed and wrote about the unveiling of the Rusty Weir bronze statue for Fort Worth Weekly. I have written about Taylor and most of the other artists you mentioned, as well as Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen, and Pat Green. Last year, I contributed a chapter on Texas Music festivals, including the LJT fest, that was included in “Pickers & Poets: The Ruthlessly Poetic Singer Songwriters of Texas,” published by Texas A&M Press.

      I don’t mind that you disagree with my article. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Mine doesn’t always jibe with everyone else’s, and that’s fine. But anyone who thinks I pulled this story out of my ass without any forethought or knowledge of the topic would be wrong.

  22. I agree with the underlying point of the article. The Music Row machine has indeed been replicated in Texas, at times, ironically enough, by the bands wearing Fuck Nashville shirts on stage. There are magnificent songwriters in this state who can’t get a song through the machine and into any consistent rotation. Increasingly, without rotation, they can’t get booked into certain venues. That’s where the vicious money cycle manifests itself. So on those points, this article is on the money. It could have been written more clearly, and targeted the fundamental challenges more directly. But then it wouldn’t have drawn all the controversy or spawned all the traffic that it has. Somewhere a marketing director is pretty happy with how it turned out.

    But the point it’s making is true.

    And given that one of the guys interviewed has had songs recorded by artists as diverse as Red Stegall, Carlos Santana, and Garth Brooks…. it’s a bit disheartening to see commenters across social media asserting that none of the interviewees understands the business. Says here maybe it’s the listeners that don’t understand it, or know the history of it. And well trained listeners like that are exactly what radio programmers love to pitch to advertisers. (To be clear on this point, there are a couple radio stations in the Metroplex and others around the state who work hard to walk the line between the machine’s uniformity and the importance of getting worthwhile artists heard. I’m not talking about those stations; I’m referring to the industry level confluence of charts and airplay and how that interaction tends to kill spontaneity and originality – same here as on Music Row)

    So much outstanding music in this state, so many artists that remember just how broad Texas music is. Who realize that a Texas/Red Dirt sound is a problem in and of itself, because Texas (or Outlaw/progressive if one prefers) was never definable by a sound. Janis did not sound like Buddy Holly. Waylon did not sound like Tompall. Et cetera and so on. But turn on the radio today, and there’s an awful lot of acts that sound similar. While plenty more who are individual and unique, writing great songs and delivering them their own way, can’t get heard.

    I believe that’s what this article intended to ultimately say. I wish it had done a more effective job of saying it.

  23. The heart and soul of Texas music is alive and well. One has to make an effort to go out and support local bands, and out of every dozen or so you’ll find a jewel. The Texas jewels shine like no others. We’ll have the Texas music scene we all want if we’ll simply find some jewels and support them. Happy hunting!

  24. If the real point your trying to make is this new generation and the so called red dirt country couldn’t hold a candle to Walker,Ely,Townes,Delbert or any of those guys in the 70s,you hit the nail on the head

  25. Brilliant! What happened to Texas music? Simple. The same thing that happened to mainstream country music: the ridiculous but overwhelming idea held by music biz weasels that the only way to modernize it is to turn it into something entirely different. Or as the empty suits at the Nashville labels — who can’t stand any sound that doesn’t originate on the West Coast — say, “Expand its audience.” It’s a shame, but that’s the world we lived in today.

  26. This whole subject is fascinating to me. I came across this article by way of the Austin 360/Statesman response. I don’t agree with all of it, but I’m not in the business, I’m just a fan and one who got into the genre thanks in large part to Cory Morrow and Pat Green, on the downhill side of both their heydays. So let me add my half cent here from the prospective of a dedicated modern KOKE listener who is too young to have seen Willie in his prime years and too old for the “scene” surrounding a lot of the artists disparaged (and to some extent championed – Morris, for example) here. My taste has changed as I’ve aged out of drinking songs, and radio doesn’t seem to want to keep up with that. It sucks, but I recognize that I’m not in the key demographic, either. Someone said above, money ruins art. So yeah, the music is going to trend toward what sells, and I’m not necessarily buying, so there’s going to be a split. I’m not going out to bars to see shows (I would need a babysitter and I hate downtown Austin and excuses ad infinitum). I go to maybe one a year, and I’m likely to see a band I’ve been listening to for awhile instead of seeing something new, and I’m not going to a bar to do it. This means I’m missing out on 99% of Texas country. I have to search for what I want to hear, and usually that means I’m relying on charts or going down the rabbit hole on “related searches” on digital platforms. I end up sticking to the familiar or getting into the popular (though NOT pop) because I don’t have the physical or financial bandwidth to do more. I doubt I’m unique, and that’s got to be a contributing factor here. Some talent is going to rise to the top and get the attention, and that’s more likely to attract fans like me who only wish we could do the Saxon Pub on Tuesday nights. New guys are gonna get lost in that push-and-pull, they just are, no matter what.

    Another thing, just anecdotally. About ten years ago I met an artist from College Station. It was a fundraiser and he was basically playing background music, but he was a solid guitarist and his stuff was all original. I asked him afterwards how I could follow him, because he wasn’t of the caliber reaching radio, and he told me that unless I did the fairs in the small towns between Austin and Houston, I wasn’t likely to see him anywhere soon. It cost more to play one show in Austin than he could make in a year of selling records and merch, he said. All these years later, I googled his name and he’s gone into real estate. He was definitely talented, but it was also clear, this is just the way of things. Does it suck, yes. How to fix it – damned if I know. I’ll leave that to y’all. But yeah, thinking about that musician and his slightly defeated look when I asked where I could see him play, y’all have a very good point to make.

  27. Has anything really changed? Back when Beeb Birtles and I ran our indie label around 2000-2005 we were working with Pete Benz and working Texas radio. They were kind to us and we managed to get Pete in the top 10 a few times, but a PD summed it up best when I asked him to give Pete a listen. “He’s different and fresh” I told him. “Different ain’t good” he responded, “It’s not about the music, it’s about keeping the listener here until the next commercial”. So, it’s still the same: Follow the Money

    • Horrible article. You have to look a little bit under the surface. Theres still more talent in Texas than anywhere. I do agree that the newest generation of acts are starting to get very Nashville pop country. It’s an easy target to finally have something to criticize about the music.

  28. In spite of the obvious brooding and at least a little cheekiness, I enjoyed the article and how it presented some insight into how “inorganic” radio has become in the 21st century. It didn’t just happen overnight. It’s a business model that has apparently benefitted many artists, record companies, radio stations, advertisers, clubs, etc. If indeed there are 2,000 bands and solo artists trying to make it in Texas or even 1,000, I can’t imagine that half of them will have the kind of success that will sustain their careers even with the many ways they have to get themselves and their music out there. I do not listen to today’s country or pop music stations. I haven’t for years. It’s music for someone else’s ears and if they like it, good for them.

    That’s not to say that I don’t like to hear a good singer-songwriter in country or any genre who is singing something that sounds and makes me feel good. I just find them elsewhere these days. (Just who are Walt Wilkins & the Mystiqueros, and why have I never heard of them?! I intend to find out.)

    I used to put much more stock into chart hits and followed them more than 99 percent of music fans, but I’ve also become distrustful of them over the years and feel like too few “entities” have a say in what actually gets on charts and radios. I do appreciate newer ventures like the Americana Music Association, but I’m also holding out hope that artists, Texans and others like Radney Foster, The Mavericks, and Alison Krauss won’t be excluded because of past success or being regarded as being beyond their prime. If they aren’t “Americana” enough, then I just don’t know that I’ll want to listen to that much longer either.