Top 10s

10 Great Texas Bands and Musicians

Give me a “T” for Texas. The Lone Star State talks big and delivers big in its myths and music. From Abilene to Amarillo, El Paso to Galveston, here are 10 great artists who hail from Texas, which isn’t so much a State but state of mind.

  1. Buddy Holly – In Holly’s too-short life, he perfected the art of three-chord guitar rock and influenced generations of songwriters to come. Recommended album: Buddy Holly.
  2. Stevie Ray Vaughan – Another Texas tragedy. Stevie Ray burst onto the popular music scene in 1983 with his debut album, Texas Flood. This new guitar hero took the blues and played them with an energy and charisma that hadn’t been seen since Jimi Hendrix. His death in 1990 left a hole still un-filled. Recommended album: The Sky Is Crying.
  3. ZZ Top – Two bearded guitarists, a beard-less drummer named Beard, and good ‘ol Texas boogie-rock took this trio from the Houston barrooms to the top of MTV airplay in the early ’80s. Recommended album: Tres Hombres.
  4. Willie Nelson – Nelson has straddled the fence between rock, country, reggae, swing and other music genres so successfully that he appears incapable of doing wrong. Nelson can cover Nat King Cole, Jimmy Cliff or Bob Wills with ease, cracking the songs open like an egg with his ragged voice and phrasing. Recommended album: The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories?

  5. Edgar Winter – The talented multi-instrumentalist brought “Frankenstein” to the stage, with its whirl of keyboard effects and heavy riff, and invited us all along to take a “Free Ride.” Recommended album: Edgar Winter’s White Trash.
  6. Roy Orbison – Orbison had a voice descended directly from heaven. Whether he was singing about a pretty woman, “Crying” or traveling with his Wilbury kin, Orbison’s one-of-a-kind vocals made some of the most effective and affecting music ever recorded. Recommended album: Cry Softly Lonely One.
  7. Flatlanders – The lonesome West Texas plains inspired the early 1970’s music by three then-unknown songwriters – Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock. The self-effacing debut More A Legend Than A Band, showcased Gilmore’s high, pining drawl and the best music ever played on a saw. Recommended album: More A Legend Than A Band.
  8. Janis Joplin – Joplin’s blistering, booze-soaked vocals turned tracks such as “Piece Of My Heart” into transcendent trips requiring no further mind alterations. Probably the greatest female rock singer ever. Recommended album: Pearl.
  9. Butthole Surfers – What’s in a name? In the case of Butthole Surfers, everything! The bizarre rock/punk/noise meddlings of the Surfers on “The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave” and “Sweat Loaf” could only come from crazed genius. Recommended album: Locust Abortion Technician.
  10. Michael Nesmith – Much more than just a member of The Monkees, Nesmith is one of the most under-appreciated songwriters of the 1970s. His talent was too big for the made-for-TV act, and he finally fled for the burgeoning fields of country-rock where his muse could sing truly. Recommended album: And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’.

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