A Musical Guide to Post-Secession Texas: "Palo Duro"

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As any proud Texan can tell you, the Lone Star State is entitled constitutionally to split into five states if it so wishes. The scenario has rarely been more in the news than it has relatively recently, when Gov. Rick Perry played to the wingnut gallery in an attempt to outflank primary opponent Kay Bailey Hutchison on the right discussed secession as a viable possibility.

But Rocks Off doesn't care a whit about any of that political BS. We do care about the music. Which of the Five States of Texas would have the best past, present and future sounds? What would be the official State Song of each of these Texas-ettes? Who are the signature artists?

First, let's define the 5 states. Above is a little map Rocks Off drew with about as much care as the British took in drawing up countries within their empire, by which we mean we did it in Google Maps in approximately 45 seconds. The Five States are as follows:

Palo Duro: What is now called the Panhandle. Lubbock would be the capital. Amarillo and Midland/Odessa are the other major cities.

Rio Grande: The southernmost counties in Texas, in a swath from Padre Island to El Paso and the New Mexican border. San Antonio is the capital.

New Texas: Austin and the Hill Country, with Austin as the capital.

Brazoria: Southeast Texas. Houston is the capital.

Trinity: Dallas is the capital of this northeastern state.

[Note: We lifted two of our state names from the political blog , which covered this topic exhaustively during the last election cycle. We adjusted some of the borders somewhat.]

Palo Duro

Patron Saint: Bob Wills

Lesser Icons: Buddy Holly, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Woody Guthrie (partially raised in Pampa), Terry Allen, Delbert McClinton, Lloyd and Natalie Maines, the Gatlin Brothers, Lee Roy Parnell, Don Walser, Kimmie Rhodes Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, Mac Davis

Bastard Sons: The Gatlin Brothers. Also Pat Green and Cory Morrow. While not from the area, these two guys were apparently so lame they had to actually learn guitar and write stupid songs about Texas in order to get laid, even - and this is vital - at Tech. So the Panhandle was formative to them. And then there was the cheesy disco-country that was the permed Mac Davis' stock-in-trade.

State Song: "Levelland," by James McMurtry. We chose this one because it sidesteps the Amarillo-Lubbock rivalry and its very title is most descriptive of the entire area.

Other Notable Songs: "Abilene," "Amarillo By Morning," "Lubbock or Leave It," "Amarillo Highway," "Amarillo Sky," "Leavin' Amarillo" "Route 66," "Brownsville Girl," "Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas"

Notes: There have been numerous academic papers written, long-winded interview answers orated and documentaries made about just how such a dreary, dusty and seemingly culturally square part of Texas has managed to produce such a rich musical heritage.

Usually people waffle on about non-stop wind and huge skies - which makes sense. Russia is also flat, and that immense country has produced more than its share of wordsmiths, and often Palo Duro artists are known as much for their lyrics as their grooves.

What puzzles us is that Lubbock and Lubbock alone has produced so much of the area's talent. Midland's Wikipedia entry lists not a single popular musician among its notable present and former residents, while Amarillo claims only rockabilly pioneer Buddy Knox.

Odessa proudly claims the Gatlin Brothers and an obscure doo-wop group called the Velvets. Meanwhile Lubbock has produced Holly, the Flatlanders (Ely, Gilmore and Hancock), McClinton, Davis, the Maines family and so on.

Meanwhile, while artists demand that fans "Lubbock or Leave It," Billy Joe Shaver claims that Amarillo "ain't worth passin' through" and gives the whole town a hearty "screw you," while in "Brownsville Girl," Bob Dylan calls Amarillo the "land of the living dead." Can Lubbock really be that much cooler than Amarillo?

So that's a wrap for Palo Duro. Tomorrow we'll examine the formerly Texan state of Trinity.

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John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax