By Chris Gray and Matthew Keever
HONORABLE MENTION: SUNNY SWEENEY Thus far mainstream success has eluded Sunny Sweeney, but not for lack of either talent or trying. According to her Facebook page, Sweeney (a former standup comic) has now played the Grand Ole Opry 41 times but continues to reside in Austin, where she did an acoustic set at Waterloo Records last month to celebrate the release of her third LP, Provoked. Both Country Weekly and NPR have come calling since then, so Sweeney -- also a 2013 nominee for the CMA's New Female Vocalist -- can't possibly stay under the radar much longer.
Facebook fans: 106K
10. PAT GREEN In 2001, Pat Green's Three Days carried the San Antonio-born musician to immediate fame. His rapid rise to stardom was then entrenched by his follow-up albums, including 2012's Songs We Wish We'd Written II, which was recorded at Houston's own Sugar Hill Studios. A polarizing figure in the country genre, Green now resides in Fort Worth with his family.
Facebook fans: 186K
9. ROBERT EARL KEEN The beloved Texas singer-songwriter -- whose wit is drier than a furnace fan in Scottsdale, Arizona -- grew up in the Sharpstown area of Houston, but these days celebrates Merry Christmas with the family in the picturesque Hill Country town of Kerrville, where his home reportedly overlooks a golf course. As he told Rocks Off in December 2012, one of Keen's kids went to Tivy High with none other than Johnny Football himself.
Facebook fans: 220K
8. LYLE LOVETT Residing just outside of Houston proper, Lyle Lovett calls Klein home. Born and raised in the Bayou City, where his parents worked for Humble Oil Co. (later Exxon), Lovett has traveled far and wide but still chooses to live near his old stomping grounds. His kin have resided in the Klein area since the 1840s, and many extended family members still live there, which keeps the four-time Grammy Award winning singer and actor nearby.
Facebook fans: 239K
7. CASEY DONAHEW BAND Over the past 12 years, the Casey Donahew Band has become a staple of the Texas bar circuit. And despite garnering plenty of attention, the group has stuck to its roots and kept it about the music. Burleson-based Donahew and crew manage to write true country music, influenced by the likes of Garth Brooks and even the Rolling Stones, with enough satirical lyricism to keep listener's attention and force a few smiles from even the most cynical concertgoers.
Facebook fans: 298K
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6. KEVIN FOWLER Kevin Fowler pulled off one of the great bait-and-switches in Texas-music history when he went from headbanging in the esteemed Dangerous Toys to twanging it up as of his 2000 album Beer, Bait & Ammo. Six more albums have followed through this year's How Country Are Ya!, and have been successful enough that Fowler is now a Hill Country land baron. His 130-acre spread near Wimberley, Rustic Ranch, includes a 19th-century cabin, fully restored farmhouse and authentic Texas dance hall. It's also available for weddings, parties and other events, so book yours now!
Facebook fans: 356K
5. RANDY ROGERS BAND Randy Rogers Band's followers on Twitter can be forgiven for thinking the group's real home is their tour bus. (The band might even agree.) But on the rare occasions that bus is not eating up the miles, Rogers and crew hang their hats in the San Marcos area. That way if he needs to workshop some new material, he can always drop in on Cheatham Street, the legendary ice house that has also nurtured the careers of George Strait, Terri Hendrix and Scott H. Biram. It also helps to be close to River Rose, the boutique Mrs. Rogers recently opened in nearby New Braunfels.
Facebook fans: 418K
4. RANDY TRAVIS Having sold more than four million copies, 1986 Storms of Life solidified Randy Travis' spot in the country music hierarchy. Relocating to the countryside outside of Dallas some time ago, he has added to his already impressive catalog in recent years, despite a bout of legal trouble in the early 2010s and then a serious health scare last year. Perhaps he can channel these new storms of life into some more good tunes and, as country music is wont to do, turn heartache and pain into a story of overcoming the odds. In the meantime, Texas is proud to call him one more interesting character one of ours.
Facebook fans: 833K
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3. ELI YOUNG BAND As hands down the most successful act to cross over from Texas country to the mainstream variety, the Eli Young Band is another group that doesn't spend much time in their own beds. Currently touring behind their second hit album in a row, 10,000 Towns, the quartet has precious little down time, but singer Mike Eli tweeted about a favorite Tex-Mex joint while the band was recording in their old hometown of Denton last month. Also, when we asked the band's publicist to confirm their Lone Star residency Thursday afternoon, she responded with a hearty "yes sir!"
Facebook fans: 1.5M
2. WILLIE NELSON Even at 81, the Red Headed Stranger continues to elate fans, and not just with his music. Sure, he's been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. And yes, he's the Honorary Chairman of the Texas Music Project. But his activism can't be ignored, either. Residing in the hills of Spicewood, just northwest of Austin, Willie keeps close to the capital in case Rick Perry needs his wise advice on marijuana legislation or biodiesel.
Facebook fans: 4.05M
1. GEORGE STRAIT King George was born a stone's throw south of San Antonio, and the Lone Star State is proud to remain his home base. The Grammy-winning Country Music Hall of Famer's twangy charm has endured for nearly 35 years, and even his latest release, Love is Everything, displays continued appeal. This cowboy may have hung up his touring boots, but if he ever decides to put them back on, local fans won't have to wait long for him to visit Houston.
Facebook fans: 7.5M
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