Miles-tones

The Five Most Texan Types Of Music

Happy San Jacinto Day, fellow Texans and people who wish they were; i.e. everyone else. If you don't know why today is special, shame on you. But since us Texans are a friendly sort, allow Rocks Off to fill you in.

On April 21, 1836, Texian forces under Gen. Sam Houston (aka "Big Drunk") launched a surprise attack on the Mexican army east of present-day Houston, near the mouth of the San Jacinto River. Though heavily outnumbered, the ragtag veterans of the Runaway Scrape won in a rout because the Mexicans were caught completely off-guard.

Legend has it that things went wrong from the start because the Mexican commander in chief, Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, dallied too long with a strategically placed Creole prostitute who became known forever after as "The Yellow Rose of Texas." The story may not even be true, but it doesn't matter because the song became so popular.

Ever since, music has been one of the principal cornerstones of Texans' identity. Recently a Boerne woman ruffled some feathers by lobbying the Texas Legislature to declare Western Swing, the durable hybrid of country blues, cowboy songs and Dixieland-derived jazz as perfected by Bob Wills, the "official music of Texas."

Now, Rocks Off loves Bob Wills as much as anyone except Ray Benson and Willie Nelson, but we're not so sure. As a lifelong student of Texas tunes ourselves, we think we can come up with several other types of music that are just as Texan as Western Swing, if not moreso.

So we did. We just hope our list doesn't piss Benson off too much, because the Asleep at the Wheel front man is one big dude.

5. Conjunto: Rocks Off certainly has no quarrel with Tejano, banda or norteno, but conjunto gets our pick because it's an almost perfect crystallization of the cross-breeding of German and Hispanic cultures that has been happening in South Central Texas for close to two centuries now. If you've ever heard Santiago Jimenez Jr. or his cousin Flaco go to town on their accordions, you'll understand.

4. Outlaw Country/Redneck Rock: Those of you who know Rocks Off personally might be a little surprised this assortment of hard-living poets isn't a little higher on the list. We're trying to be as objective as we can about this, but there's not a Texan alive who doesn't have something by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Billy Joe Shaver in their record collection. Or Joe Ely, Jerry Jeff Walker and Delbert McClinton. Or Townes Van Zandt, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Hayes Carll. Or Pat Green, Cory Morrow and Kevin Fowler. If they don't, they're not a real Texan. Get the picture?

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.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray