A Musical Guide to Post-Secession Texas: "Rio Grande"

In the fourth in our continuing series on the music of the five states of Texas, we examine the fictional state of Rio Grande, comprising San Antonio and Corpus Christi, South and West Texas, and the Valley. See Part 1 ("Palo Duro") here, Part 2 ("Trinity") here and Part 3 ("New Texas") here.

Rio Grande

Capital: San Antonio

Patron Saint: Doug Sahm

Lesser Icons: Selena, Freddy Fender, Butthole Surfers, the Jimenez family, the Ayala family, Steve Jordan, Mingo Saldivar, Lydia Mendoza, Bobby Fuller Four, At the Drive In/Sparta/Mars Volta, Juan Gabriel, Al Jourgensen, Tom Russell, Bruce and Charlie Robison, Pissing Razors, Girl In a Coma, Don Tosti, Moe Bandy, Rosie Flores, Tish Hinojosa, Adolph Hofner, Emilio Navaira, George Strait, Kris Kristofferson, Rigo Tovar, Juan Gotti, Radney Foster, Johnny Rodriguez, Don Williams, Valerio Longoria, Narciso Martinez, Los Lonely Boys

Bastard Sons: It's hard to find any.

State Song: "Volver, Volver"

Other Notable Songs: "Hey Baby, Qué Paso" "Seguin," "Nuevo Laredo," "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone?" Doug Sahm/Sir Douglas Quintet/Texas Tornados; "San Antonio Rose," Bob Wills; "Ay te Dejo En San Antonio," Santiago Jimenez/Los Lobos; "San Antonio Girl," Steve Earle; "San Antonio Girl," Lyle Lovett; "Rain," "The Wedding Song," "Desperate Times," Charlie Robison; "By the Banks of the Old Bandera," Rodney Crowell; "Bandera Waltz," Bruce Robison; "South Coast of Texas," Guy Clark; "Pachuco Boogie," Don Tosti; "El Paso," Marty Robbins; "Streets of Laredo," "Texas Rangers," trad. cowboy songs; "Rio Grande Blood," Ministry; numerous songs called "Rio Grande" and "Laredo" by dozens of artists.

Notes: The west and south of Texas is the Lone Star State of Hollywood myth, of senoritas and gunfighters, Comanches and cattle drives. Marty Robbins' "El Paso" sounds like an episode of Gunsmoke on vinyl.

It is also a mélange of not two cultures - Anglo and Mexican, as it is often presented - but many. Anglos had almost nothing to do with the formation of Tejano and conjunto music, unless you count Germans and Czechs as Anglos, which you could in the sense that they weren't Hispanic.

But in the sense that their culture and music was very different from the run-of-the-mill Texas Scotch-Irish fiddle-scratcher, calling them Anglos is silly. There are also echoes of Irish songs in many of the region's cowboy ballads and a strong blues and R&B influence, beginning with the "Pachuco Boogie" of El Paso's Don Tosti - the first million-selling Latin record in America - and continuing right down to today with the Latin rap of Eagle Pass' Juan Gotti, who won a Latin Grammy with No Sett Trippin' a few years back.

San Antonio is one of the only American cities with an instantly recognizable musical sound all of its own. New Orleans is another.

Sir Douglas Quintet, the most "Texan" successful rock band, is from San Antonio, as is the most successful weird Texas rock band, the Butthole Surfers. Nowadays, the Mars Volta is giving the Surfers a run for their money.

Monday, we'll conclude right here at home, with a look at the Southeast Texas state of "Brazoria."

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax