How Texas and Alabama Match Up... Musically
For once, Rocks Off is grateful for this sinus-splitting headache (thanks, Mike Stinson!), because it gives us something to focus on besides the fact that we are crawling out of our skin waiting for kickoff tonight. At this point, sports pundits have analyzed the Longhorns and Crimson Tide to within an inch of their lives, and Rocks Off really doesn't have anything to add to that discussion except that provided UT's offensive line doesn't get steamrolled like it did in the Big 12 Championship, we have a nagging feeling the game is going to come down to a big play on special teams. Instead, we'll stick to what we're good at and see how Texas and Alabama stack up onstage (in each of five major genres) rather than on the gridiron. And no, we're not talking about Jordan Shipley's budding songwriting career.
Pop/Jazz: Alabama scores big points in both fields right off the bat thanks to Montgomery native Nat King Cole, plus two more jazz heavyweights from the Heart of Dixie in cosmic freak Sun Ra and vibraphone master Lionel Hampton. Vocally, Dinah Washington was no slouch either. Others include Count Basie Orchestra alumni Cleveland Eaton (bass) and Grover Mitchell (trombone), and guitarist Johnny Smith, who wrote and recorded "Walk, Don't Run" several years before the Ventures made it a hit. Texas more than holds its own, though, with everyone from ragtime originator Scott Joplin and Charlie Christian (a guitarist credited as one of the major influences on bebop) to saxophone legend David "Fathead" Newman and free-jazz eminence Ornette Coleman. In pop, besides Toni "Do That To Me One More Time" Tennille, Alabama seems to have a knack for turning out American Idol finalists: Bo Bice, Diana DeGarmo and 2006 winner Taylor "Soul Patrol" Hicks. To which we can't help but echo Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin ... Kellyclarkson ! Oh, and Beyonce. Edge: even (jazz); Texas (pop)
Country: Rocks Off supposes Tennessee deserves some consideration, but no two states have shaped country music more than these two. For starters, country music as we know it would not exist without Hank Williams Sr., born in Mount Olive, and singing brakeman Jimmie Rodgers, who spent much of his childhood in Geiger. Meanwhile Tammy Wynette (who literally grew up on the Mississippi/Alabama state line) was Loretta Lynn's only serious rival for the "Queen of Country Music" title in the '60s and '70s, and Alabama has also given us Emmylou Harris, Vern Gosdin ("Set 'Em Up Joe") and, well, Alabama. Son of a son of a sailor Jimmy Buffett is actually a son of Mobile. Texas, of course, counters with Bob Wills, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Ernest Tubb, George Strait, Lefty Frizzell, Kenny Rogers, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Tanya Tucker, Lee Ann Womack and Miranda Lambert... to name just a few. 'Nuff said. Edge: Texas (numbers); even (influence)
Blues/R&B/Soul: An embarrassment of riches on both sides. Alabama has Midnighter Hank Ballard ("Work With Me Annie"), Temptations linchpins Melvin Franklin and Eddie Kendricks, the Commodores and a little studio in Muscle Shoals where Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and the Staples Singers recorded some of their best-known (and best) material. Texas has just about everybody else, from Blind Lemon Jefferson to Little Joe Washington. Edge: even
Rock and Roll: It's not looking good for Alabama when the most famous rock song about the Yellowhammer State - yes, that one - is by a band from Jacksonville, Fla. Other, er, prominent Alabama-born rockers include Styx/Damn Yankees guitarist Tommy Shaw and Taking Back Sunday screamer Adam Lazzara. Texas only has a founding father without whom there would be no Beatles (Buddy Holly), the longest-running band in rock history with all its original members (ZZ Top), the only post-Sabbath metal band arguably as important as Metallica (Pantera) and some of the most influential freaks ever (Roky Erickson, Butthole Surfers, Daniel Johnston). As much as Rocks Off loves the Drive-By Truckers, we think we've made our point. Edge: Texas, in a walk
Rap: Off the top of our heads, Rocks Off could think of exactly zero Alabamian rappers, so we deferred to our rap guru Shea Serrano, who shot us back a list that included Rich Boy ("Throw Some D's On It"), G-Side, Dirty and currently incarcerated Atlanta Next Big Thing Gucci Mane. Rocks Off is willing to bet that Scarface and Bun B alone could outrap all of them with half their tongues tied behind their backs. Edge: Texas, hands down
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