The Houston 100: From Guy Clark to Don Williams
50.“South Coast of Texas,” Guy Clark, 1981.
Though this song hasn’t been recorded as much as others in Clark’s stash, it makes it on here due to both geography and the fact that it is a very great song, an ode to shrimpers, the bars they drink in, their patois, and the ragged shoreline they all call home.
49. “I’m Going to Miss Show Business,” Jimmy “T-99” Nelson, 2000. Nelson, who passed away earlier this year, got plenty of props in his lifetime as a singer. He didn’t get anything close to his just due as a songwriter, however, until Elvis Costello adopted this tune as his official tour anthem in 2003. (Elvis didn’t play it in his set, but he did have it played over the loudspeakers as the lights went up after every show.) Nelson’s genius still awaits widespread discovery.
48.“Purple Stuff,” Big Moe, 2002.
Sumptuously funky, this ode to the joys of lean (codeine cough syrup) rode Moe’s hybrid of singing and rapping and a Willy Wonka-inspired video to the national charts.
47. “Southside,” Lil’ Keke, 1998. A devastating piano figure propels this anthemic rap hit from Screwed Up Click MC Lil’ Keke. Years later, the song was hilariously parodied by Chingo Bling as “Outside.”
46. “Cherry Red,” Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, circa 1945.This Yates High grad served as a sax man for Cootie Williams and Milt Larkin before striking out on his own around the outbreak of World War 2. Vinson sported a honking tenor sax and a unique, wheezy, shouting voice, showcased well on this tune and others such as “Kidney Stew Blues,” “Old Maid Boogie” and “Cleanhead Blues.” Throughout his career, his music was a fascinating hybrid of blues, bebop, swing, and early rock and roll, often replete with salacious lyrics.
45. “Survivor,” Destiny’s Child, 2001. Destiny’s Child’s signature tune won a Grammy and topped charts in five countries.
44.“Slippin’ Around,” Floyd Tillman, 1949.
Country and western’s very first cheatin’ song, believe it or not. Tillman was also a pioneer of the electric guitar and an enormous influence on the vocals and songwriting of Willie Nelson and a host of other legends. Tillman is probably the most important country musician to have ever called Houston home for more than a few years.
43. “Merry Christmas Baby,” Charles Brown, 1947. More suave, boozy blues from Brown. This one was eventually covered by both Bruce Springsteen and Chuck Berry and is now firmly ensconced in the Yuletide Canon.
42. “Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This,” Rodney Crowell, 1978. The title track to Crowell’s debut album, features forlorn words from a modern-day desperado raised on Houston’s own rough-and-tumble Wayside Drive.
41. “If I Needed You,” Emmylou Harris and Don Williams, 1981. Another Van Zandt song, this one done to perfection by laid-back crooner Williams and Emmylou, the goddess Athena of Americana. Legend has it the tune came to Van Zandt in a codeine-infused dream.