When the list of nominees eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class of 2016 is released on Thursday, the announcement will probably be met with a resounding “who cares?” This chorus will come from young people who see 2015 inductees Green Day as a classic-rock band, disgruntled Nine Inch Nails fans who will read Trent Reznor’s almost-certain nomination as some sort of twisted insult, and the usual skeptics who see only Rock Hall Foundation chairman Jann Wenner playing favorites. To that we say, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts got in last year, so how bad could it be?
A spot in the Hall does mean something to a lot of people; look no further than what happened with Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. For years one of the most popular bands to come out of the ‘80s, who almost single-handedly revived hard-hitting blues-rock in an era awash in synth-pop and hair-metal, went ignored; supposedly they weren’t even on the Hall’s nominating ballot the year before last. But after a well-placed Texas Monthly article in June 2014, Stevie’s fans started a campaign to put him in the Hall that ended up with older brother Jimmie Vaughan onstage at Cleveland’s Public Hall telling the crowd, “I can see him walking up there all humble and shy with his quiet, sweet voice, and he’d be so proud.”
Stevie’s induction pointed out something else: how few Texans are in the Hall. There’s Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Janis Joplin, ZZ Top and now Stevie. A select few others — Freddie King, T-Bone Walker, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys — have been inducted as “Early Influences.” Bill Haley of “Rock Around the Clock” fame spent the last few years of his life in Harlingen, and Sly Stone grew up in Dallas before heading off to the Bay Area. But that’s pretty much it, about a dozen acts among a little more than 200 inductees, from a state with more than 26 million people and a musical culture as vibrant and diverse as anywhere on the planet.
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This is the sort of thing that leads certain people in this part of the world to suspect that the Hall’s nominating committee might be a little biased, especially when you consider how long it took some of the Texans who did get in to do it. ZZ Top, who released their first album in 1970, were eligible for nine years before their 2004 induction. Vaughan and Double Trouble took six. We’d say don’t get us started about the Texans who aren’t in there, except that’s exactly why we're here. To quote the Hall’s Web site, its mission is to “recognize the contributions of those who have had a significant impact on the evolution, development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” How much the following performers fit the definition of “rock and roll” may be up for debate in a few cases, but not to us. Besides, there’s no disputing the impact they’ve made.
Furthermore, where great Texas musical artists are concerned, this is just the low-hanging fruit. Start really beating the bushes and we could be here for days.
ROKY ERICKSON/THIRTEENTH FLOOR ELEVATORS
If life had not had other plans for Roky Erickson, there's a good chance he and the Elevators both might have been in the Hall for a long time by now. The Elevators’ primal jug-band blues uncorked the genie of psychedelic rock, and after some truly horrific treatment at the hands of the Texas state mental-health system, Erickson rebounded by writing both monster mash notes and songs so poignant they could melt glass.
Belongs With: Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa, ZZ Top
THE GETO BOYS
Calling the Geto Boys the Run-DMC of the South isn't that big of an exaggeration; once their classic lineup started clicking, they scared polite society like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis did back in the Fifties. Plus Willie D writes a weekly column for the Press, so there's always the remote chance he'll mention us in his acceptance speech.
Belongs With: Run-DMC, Parliament-Funkadelic, Isaac Hayes
An acquired taste who happens to be a melodic genius, Johnston is as prolific as he is unique. The price of his lifelong battle with bipolar disorder has been high, but this is the rare “outsider” musician whose songs connect with people on the most fundamental emotional levels — love, fear, heartbreak, rage and joy.
Belongs With: Cat Stevens, Ramones, Nirvana
Iconic songwriter, progressive pot proponent and headband model he may be, but anyone who thinks Willie isn’t also a huge rock star hasn’t listened to “Bloody Mary Morning” enough times.
Belongs With: Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman
If it took ZZ Top nine years to get in, believe it or not, Pantera may be the member of today’s field that actually stands the best chance of induction. Arlington’s Cowboys from Hell helped shove not just metal but rock in general in a darker, heavier direction, and the Hall is bound to pick up on that someday. It just may take another 25 years.
Belongs With: Metallica, Black Sabbath, Cream
Too many poor souls are probably doomed to think about Doug Sahm as the guy who sang “She’s About a Mover,” if they think about him at all. He only started off as a country-music child prodigy, charted alongside The Beatles at the height of the British Invasion, could croon Gulf Coast R&B as well as Guitar Slim himself, and spent his latter days as a global ambassador of Tex-Mex rock and roll with the Texas Tornados. What else did he need to do?
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Belongs With: Allen Toussaint, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Sly & the Family Stone
TOWNES VAN ZANDT
In theory, the late, great Townes Van Zandt has no business being in the Hall: He was too young to count as an “early influence,” his songs way too slow to qualify as rock and roll. In practice, he was Keith Richards with a poet's ear. R.I.P.
Belongs With: Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Neil Young