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?
3. Psychedelic Rock/Noise: Hot, humid and loaded with chemicals, Texas has been a breeding ground for mind-expanding rock from the mid-'60s right up to the present day, as demonstrated by the long list of bands from the Thirteenth Floor Elevators and Red Krayola to the Black Angels. And Texans are as creative as we are cantankerous, which anyone familiar with Indian Jewelry, Rusted Shut, and Richard Ramirez would tell you if they could hear what you're saying.
2. Chopped & Screwed Rap: A full decade after he passed, DJ Screw's syrupy sound continues to run the streets of H-Town via a long list of believers including Trae Tha Truth, Lil Keke, Paul Wall and the almighty Bun B. Even though it's been a few years since the sound had its moment in the national spotlight, Screw music is a critical part of the arsenals of hip-hop superstars like Drake and Lil Wayne. Southside for life indeed.
1. Electric Guitar Blues: Almost from the minute T-Bone Walker hopped onstage at the Bronze Peacock, this state has been six strings down. Walker touched off a true Texas flood of hot-shit guitarists, from Albert Collins, Freddie King and Juke Boy Bonner through ZZ Top and the Vaughan Brothers, who took it live and worldwide in the '70s and '80s. Today old-schoolers like Little Joe Washington and young Turks like Los Lonely Boys and Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights keep the torch lit by singeing their strings.
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